Walt Disney World Opening Day Attractions – Magic Kingdom Edition
50th-anniversary celebrations are in full swing at The Most Magical Place on Earth. And, what better way to join the party than by experiencing the many Walt Disney World opening day attractions and entertainment offerings that have been there ever since the fun first began at Magic Kingdom Park back in October 1971?
So, hop into your time machines and hold on tight as we explore all the Magic Kingdom opening day rides and shows you can still experience today.
Original Disney World Rides, Restaurants & Resorts You Can Still Enjoy at Magic Kingdom
Opening day at Walt Disney World Resort took place at Magic Kingdom Park on Friday, October 1, 1971, drawing a respectable 10,422 guests – 10,712,991 overall in that opening year. It has since gone on to become the world’s most popular theme park (sorry, Disneyland!), with close to 21,000,000 in attendance in 2019.
Although Magic Kingdom has been joined by worldlier (Epcot), flashier (Disney’s Hollywood Studios) and more adventurous (Disney’s Animal Kingdom) theme parks since that first day, a classic is a classic for a reason. Indeed, for some, Magic Kingdom is Disney World. (Speaking as a former Cast Member, I mean that quite literally. Imagine guests’ surprise/excitement/dismay for their bank accounts when they realize they actually have three more parks to explore!)
Really, as the original Disney World theme park with Cinderella Castle at center stage and a supporting cast of such iconic attractions as Jungle Cruise, Haunted Mansion and “it’s a small world,” who can blame them? But, icons don’t become icons overnight.
In fact, these beloved rides, that glorious castle and other Disney World favorites have been enchanting guests of all ages ever since opening day. (And beyond – many were inspired by or directly copied from popular attractions at Disney World’s sister resort in California, including a few from Disneyland’s opening day.)
But you know what they say: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” And, let’s be honest, with more than 17 of the park’s original 23 rides and shows still in operation, there’s a lot that’s working at Magic Kingdom.
To keep the nostalgic vibes going even after you’ve left the theme park, consider booking a stay at one of the original Disney World resorts. Located directly on Seven Seas Lagoon across from Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Contemporary Resort and Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, which first opened their doors to guests on Disney World’s opening day, are about as classic as it gets. Or, to really sink into a slower pace of life, book a campsite or cabin at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort, which opened on November 19, 1971, just a few days before Thanksgiving.
Magic Kingdom Opening Day Attractions
Magic Kingdom Park is home to some of Walt Disney World’s most popular attractions, many of which have been making magic since the park opened to guests way back in October 1971. Needless to say, there’s no shortage of time-tested, family-friendly fun to be had.
Along with Cinderella Castle, which sits at the center of the park’s hub layout and is more of a photo opportunity than an actual attraction (unless you’re going to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique or Cinderella’s Royal Table, that is), opening day rides at Magic Kingdom can be found in each of the park’s lands, including Liberty Square, the only land exclusive to Magic Kingdom.
But these next Magic Kingdom rides aren’t the only opening day attractions you can still enjoy at Walt Disney World. In addition to the rides below, guests can also enjoy some nostalgic fun in the sun on the lush fairways of Disney’s Palm and Magnolia Golf Courses, located not too far from Magic Kingdom at the Shades of Green Resort, which have been challenging pros and beginners alike for more than 50 years.
Country Bear Jamboree | Frontierland
Tap your feet and clap your hands to some twangy country tunes played by a band of Audio-Animatronic bears. Originally intended for Disney’s Mineral King Ski Resort, one of Walt Disney’s pipedreams that unfortunately never came to fruition, this knee-slapping stage show has been charming guests since October 1, 1971, inspiring duplicates at Disneyland Park (which closed in September 2001) and Tokyo Disneyland and even a 2002 film.
Dumbo the Flying Elephant | Fantasyland
There are few Disney rides more iconic than Dumbo the Flying Elephant. In fact, in addition to the six versions of the attraction at Disney Parks around the world, you’ll even find one of the ride’s adorable pachyderm pilots at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington, DC. Originally located near Prince Charming Regal Carrousel on opening day, this merry-go-round in the sky has since relocated to Storybook Circus in Magic Kingdom’s New Fantasyland expansion.
Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade | Frontierland
Sharpen your shooting skills and take aim at a darn good time over at the Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade. Designed to simulate a rootin’-tootin’ shootout in Tombstone, Arizona’s Boothill Graveyard, this shooting gallery is perfect for aspiring gunslingers. Although opening day guests originally used lead pellets to take out the attraction’s 97 targets, today, sharpshooters fire rifles outfitted with infrared lights to prevent the targets from having to be repainted each night, saving 2,000 gallons of paint yearly in the process.
Haunted Mansion | Liberty Square
Jump in a Doom Buggy and buckle up for a twisted tour of the Haunted Mansion, courtesy of your ghost host. A little longer and more elaborate than the original version in Disneyland’s New Orleans Square, Haunted Mansion in Magic Kingdom touts everything from waltzing ghosts to a room filled with an unending staircase à la M. C. Escher’s “Relativity.” Just be sure to watch out for hitchhiking ghosts, or else you might turn the Haunted Mansion’s 999 happy haunts into an even thousand.
“it’s a small world” | Fantasyland
Known for its slow-moving boats, annoyingly catchy theme song and a tribe of multicultural, Audio-Animatronic dolls, “it’s a small world” is a Magic Kingdom mainstay. However, while Magic Kingdom’s opening day, October 1, 1971, may be the first time “it’s a small world” made an appearance at Walt Disney World, the attraction actually made its debut seven years earlier at the 1964 New York World’s Fair.
Jungle Cruise | Adventureland
So popular it inspired a movie starring The Rock, Jungle Cruise is a must-see for any trip to Magic Kingdom. Initially imagined for Disneyland as an educational journey down the tropical rivers of the world, the riverboat-style ride eventually evolved (thank goodness!) from a realistic voyage complete with a nature documentary-style spiel to a dad joke-riddled comedy of errors led by your lighthearted skipper (sadly, not The Rock). Ride during the holiday season when the ride becomes the Jingle Cruise, with festive decorations and ho-ho-horrible puns.
Liberty Square Riverboat | Liberty Square
Ok, we admit it. The Liberty Square Riverboat isn’t technically an opening day attraction. The ride itself actually opened the day after, on October 2, 1971, while the original sternwheeler that served as the Liberty Square Riverboat, the Admiral Joe Fowler, was forced into early retirement in Fall 1980. Today, guests set sail on the Liberty Belle for a whirlwind trip around Tom Sawyer Island.
Mad Tea Party | Fantasyland
Swirl and whirl through Fantasyland in a giant-sized, arm-powered teacup in this psychedelic trip themed around Alice in Wonderland. An opening day attraction in four of the ride’s five home parks, Mad Tea Party is infamous for its tendency to cause some upset stomachs. Still, it isn’t as intense as Disneyland’s original opening day version, whose teacups had no brakes or clutches to limit their spinning speed.
Main Street Vehicles | Main Street, U.S.A.
Don’t just walk down the middle of Main Street, U.S.A. Ride up to Cinderella Castle or back to Town Square in style in a turn-of-the-19th-century fire engine, omnibus, horse-drawn trolley or jitney (a vintage-style convertible). While perhaps not the quickest way to get around, it sure is undeniably charming.
Peter Pan’s Flight | Fantasyland
We’ll be honest. Peter Pan’s Flight is another attraction on this list that was ever so slightly late to the opening day party – it actually debuted on October 3, 1971 – but it’s so close and so good that we couldn’t resist. (To be fair, the second star to the right and straight on ‘til morning sounds awfully far from Central Florida.) More than 50 years later, it’s still one of the most popular attractions in the park, drawing mind-bogglingly long lines for a dark ride. No lie, it’s almost worth it for the detailed queue alone.
Prince Charming Regal Carrousel | Fantasyland
With the same 90 wood-carved horses from Magic Kingdom’s opening day, the Prince Charming Regal Carrousel looks like it could have been plucked directly from October 1, 1971. Originally called Cinderella’s Golden Carousel, this fairytale of a merry-go-round features a lily-white herd of horses. Why? Because that’s what heroes ride, of course. For a truly royal experience, hop on Cinderella’s loyal steed, the only horse with a golden ribbon looped around its tail.
Swiss Family Treehouse | Adventureland
Looking for a temporary retreat from the crowd-filled hustle and bustle of Magic Kingdom? Explore the quaint canopies of Adventureland’s Swiss Family Treehouse. Inspired by the classic, live-action Disney film Swiss Family Robinson, this nostalgic walk-through attraction is a fun way to relax while your stomach digests that delicious DOLE Whip Float.
Tomorrowland Speedway | Tomorrowland
While Disneyland’s opening day attraction Autopia takes its inspiration from the great American road trip, the Tomorrowland Speedway at Magic Kingdom – or Grand Prix Raceway, as it was known on opening day – speeds things up a bit in terms of theme. Unfortunately, the actual ride itself is more on the leisurely side. Still, don’t be surprised if the attraction becomes a bit more popular closer to the opening of TRON Lightcycle Run thanks to the views of the much-anticipated roller coaster.
The Hall of Presidents | Liberty Square
Though named Walt Disney World, there aren’t too many unique opening day attractions around The Most Magical Place on Earth where the resort’s eponymous inspiration can truly be felt. The Hall of Presidents in Liberty Square is an exception.
Prior to his death, Walt Disney dreamed of having an attraction at Disneyland called One Nation Under God, which would feature an Audio-Animatronic cast of every United States president. Sadly, while he only lived to see the creation of his hero Abraham Lincoln, his vision lives on in The Hall of Presidents.
Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room | Adventureland
Known as Tropical Serenade when it debuted on opening day, Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room feels like you’re taking a step back in time (in a good way!) with its retro trip to the tropics. After a drawn-out stint as The Enchanted Tiki Room (Under New Management) starring Zazu from The Lion King and Aladdin’s Iago, it finally returned to all its delightfully kitschy glory in August 2011 as a slightly edited take on Disneyland’s original show, complete with a chorus of Audio-Animatronic singing birds, tiki gods and flowers.
Walt Disney World Railroad | Parkwide
Magic Kingdom isn’t just the world’s most popular theme park. It’s also home to one of the world’s most popular steam-powered railroads, seeing around 3.7 million passengers ride its pixie-dusted rails every year. Like its west-coast counterpart, the Walt Disney World Railroad is inspired by Walt Disney’s love of trains. Climb aboard for a fun way to get from Point A to Point B, or stay on for the entire 20-minute round-trip around the park.
Original Magic Kingdom Entertainment
In addition to attractions circa Magic Kingdom’s opening day, guests can still experience a handful of classic entertainment offerings from the early days of Walt Disney World, from old-fashioned performing groups to celebratory displays to somber tributes.
Electric Water Pageant
Although the Electric Water Pageant may not have been there to celebrate on October 1, 1971 for opening day, this dazzling aquatic parade was ready a few weeks later on October 24, 1971, just in time for the park’s dedication by Roy O. Disney, Walt’s older brother and business partner, and grand opening celebration the very next day. Catch the Electric Water Pageant from the entrance to Magic Kingdom or from the waterfront at any of the Magic Kingdom hotels.
Flag Retreat Ceremony
Service was an important part of Walt Disney’s and his brother Roy’s lives, as Walt was part of the American Red Cross and Roy served in the U.S. Navy during World War I. Just like every day since opening day at Walt Disney World – and Disneyland, too – the Flag Retreat salutes the dedicated commitment of the nation’s veterans and active-duty servicemembers, as well as that of its founders.
Magic Kingdom Fireworks
A fireworks show has long been the glittering exclamation point at the end of a day at a Disney Park. The longest-running of those pyrotechnic spectaculars, and the one that capped off Walt Disney World’s opening day, is the Fantasy in the Sky Fireworks, which lit up the night from 1971 to 2003 in Magic Kingdom and from 1958 to 2002 in Disneyland. Today, however, guests enjoy the immersive, projection-fueled fever dream of Disney Enchantment, a Magic Kingdom fireworks show which made its debut especially for the resort’s 50th anniversary.
Magic Kingdom Parades
While Magic Kingdom technically opened to guests on October 1, 1971, the park’s official grand opening didn’t take place until October 25, 1971. Naturally, the three-day festivities kicked off with a bang, including Magic Kingdom’s Grand Opening Parade.
While the park has seen quite a few different parades since then, no visit to the Magic Kingdom is complete without one – especially the current Festival of Fantasy Parade, which features a fire-breathing steampunk version of the dragon Maleficent and other characters from around Fantasyland.
The Dapper Dans
Nothing says Main Street, U.S.A. like The Dapper Dans, a barbershop quartet that has been serenading guests since opening day on October 1, 1971. Offering a charming mix of chimes, vaudeville humor and tight, four-part harmonies, The Dapper Dans are sure to sing and tap dance their way into your heart with an endearing mix of acapella Americana songs and beloved Disney classics.
Well, Magic Kingdom fans and nostalgia lovers, that concludes our guide to classic Disney World attractions and entertainment. What are your favorite rides from opening day that you can still enjoy today? Which do you wish you could still experience? Let us know in the comments! Then, find out how to bring pricey park admission a tiny bit closer to opening day prices with our Disney World ticket discounts.