It’s October 1, 2011, and it’s the fortieth anniversary of Walt Disney World. Twitter and Facebook are all abuzz, and the Disney Parks Blog has been posting a wealth of delightful vintage items, like the original Magic Kingdom park map (actually more of a newspaper).
1971 was a bit before my time, but I am a nostalgic at heart, and I love old school Disney experiences, especially in Magic Kingdom. (After all, my favorite attraction is Carousel of Progress.) While I agree that the Parks need to grow and change over the years, I appreciate that there is still at least one original attraction in every land, so today we’re going to go land by land and talk about an original attraction. If there was more than one original attraction still there, I chose one that you might be tempted to overlook.
So, here are six things to do in Walt Disney World if you love vintage Magic Kingdom.
1. Main Street U.S.A.: Walt Disney World Railroad
This attraction (yes, it is an attraction, not just a transportation option) was originally a D ticket (75 cents) to ride. Walt Disney loved trains, and just like Disneyland, there was no question that Magic Kingdom would be surrounded by a train. Board at Main Street U.S.A. and take the Grand Circle Tour. And if you’re inspired, learn more about Walt’s love for trains from the Carolwood Pacific Historical Society.
2. Adventureland: Swiss Family Island Tree House
This attraction is an old-school shout-out to the glory days of Disney live action films. Skip up the stairs to the charming “Swissapolka” tune and enjoy pararamic views of the Magic Kingdom. This attraction was originally a B ticket or 25 cents to experience. (You have to be ambulatory to enjoy this attraction, so if that’s an issue, feel free to substitute an excursion on the Jungle Cruise, another opening day attraction.)
3. Frontierland: Country Bear Jamboree
Bears, bluegrass, and blood on the saddle—what more is there to say? If you didn’t get the “blood on the saddle” reference, it’s been too long since you’ve visited the Jamboree. This show was originally an E ticket attraction, costing 80 cents (junior) or 90 cents (adult) to see. Even if the music isn’t your thing, it’s dark and air-conditioned and you’re sitting down.
4. Liberty Square: The Hall of Presidents
Another attraction that many now consider just an air-conditioned place to sit and nap, but it was originally an E ticket attraction. I’ll admit that as a child I thought it was boring, and it isn’t a must-see attraction for me on every trip, but do yourself a favor and experience it at least once. It’s a descendant of “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln” and an important development in the history of audio-animatronics.
5. Fantasyland: It’s A Small World
My view of this attraction (originally an E ticket) changed forever when I heard Lou Mongello’s interview with Richard Sherman, one of the Sherman Brothers who wrote so many of the songs we associate with Disney. Hearing him recite the lyrics of “It’s a Small World” . . . wow. It’s not a cheesy, repetitive children’s song to him; it’s an earnest call for peace. If you listen to the Sherman interview and want more insight into the history of this attraction, listen to Lou’s interview with Alice Davis.
6. Tomorrowland: Tomorrowland Speedway
This attraction, descended from Autopia at Disneyland, was originally called “Grand Prix Raceway” and cost a C ticket (50 cents) to ride. The track has been lengthened and shortened over the years, but it’s still essentially the same experience. You might feel a bit silly going on it without a child, but just embrace it—it’s an opportunity to drive hands-free! My favorite memory of this attraction was riding with my then three-year-old nephew, who said afterwards, “I was driving so crazy I almost went somewhere!”
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These attractions are easy to do in one day, and none of them should have long queues.
So, were you around for Magic Kingdom’s opening day? What are your favorite memories on these classic attractions?