With the arrival of Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary on October 1, 2021, I wondered … what was it like visiting Walt Disney World in the first few weeks or months?
While it is not possible to reproduce EVERY part of that experience, I managed to put together a sample tour plan for October 1st that smells of Disney nostalgia … from skin-covered bears to fireworks. If you want to customize the plan for yourself, you can find it here, or let me walk you through it below.
Walk in Walt’s footsteps
Starting, of course, by going under these flats on Main Street, USA, you will enter Walt’s recreation of his hometown, Marceline, Missouri. Be sure to catch some of the hidden surprises along this picturesque street, look in the shop windows and greet the cast members ready to welcome you or serenade you. Maybe even choose a Mickey balloon with your favorite color to set the scene for your retro Disney day.
Then (as all good Disney attendees do!), Go left. Listen to the rhythms of the jungle and smell the aromas of distant places as you enter Adventureland. Here, you’ll get some of the best views of the Magic Kingdom from the top of the Swiss Robinson Treehouse family, some of the craziest jokes aboard your Jungle Cruise ship, and of course listen to Walt’s “boys” doing it in the Enchanted Tiki Room. If you have time, don’t forget to stop at Sunshine Tree Terrace for something sweet, cold and preferably orange.
He then heads to Frontierland, where twang reigns. While * some of us * have never taken the time to see Country Bear Jamboree, Walt Disney World guests enjoyed these hair-covered slow speakers, which rip and turn from the ceiling from day one. And even though the Frontierland Mountains weren’t there then, you can imagine the splendor of the skirts over the high kicks in Diamond Horseshoe Revue magazine.
Head to Liberty Square for a history lesson at the Presidents Hall, which now includes the 46 presidents of 45 audio-animatronics (just one AA for Grover Cleveland, of course). Lincoln never seemed so … animatronic. Climb aboard the Liberty Square Riverboat, which opened just one day after the park’s debut, and then eat at one of Magic Kingdom’s most beloved restaurants: the Liberty Tree Tavern. Fill in plenty of American classics before getting on your destruction buggy at Haunted Mansion. Because eating a big meal before making a creepy trip always works, right?
Okay, deadly fools, it’s time to walk to Fantasyland to get a little more … cheerful. Peter Pan and his little world will transport you directly to your childhood with fairy dust magic, brightly colored games and this song this has been stuck in their heads since 1964. Don’t forget to check out Prince Charming’s Regal Carrousel … and Dumbo … and tea cups. This takes a lot of laps, so take it easy a bit and enjoy the scenery before proceeding to Tomorrowland to take the driving test.
Believe it or not, today there is a unique Walt Disney World attraction in the Magic Kingdom: Tomorrowland Speedway. But I won’t tell you if you cheat a bit with the jump to the Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover or the Carousel of Progress, which were introduced to the park in 1975. I dare you not to feel sentimental at the Carousel of Progress.
At this point in the day, you’re probably ready for a break, so I suggest you head back to your resort using the exalted Disney World monorail system. You have made a great choice at Disney’s Polynesian Village or Contemporary Resorts. Stroll through the bar, take a dip in the swimming pool or take the opportunity to visit the history of your resort before returning to the park for dinner and fireworks.
Dinner and show
Ready for a quiet lunch in the south in beautiful Victorian surroundings? The exterior of Crystal Palace hasn’t changed much since it opened in 1971, but luckily you won’t have to experience it in the cafeteria style, as it was originally opened. Enjoy the views of Main Street, the United States and the castle in this buffet and let yourself be poetic about what kind of seventies fare the park’s visitors would have been adding to the trays.
You probably didn’t see people camping at fireworks sites on opening night, but you may want to find yours soon, as the current version of Disney World’s fireworks, Enchantment, will be a coveted offer that premieres here. ‘October 1st. Once you find your place, however, you can clearly imagine how spectacular those first fireworks shows must have been. Enchantment will take you back to 2021 with its modern lighting and projection effects just in time to end your explosion of Walt Disney World’s past.
Some of your favorite Walt Disney World attractions and experiences in this retro travel plan? How do you plan to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World?