Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom has undergone an awful lot of changes in the last few years. The Hub has been expanded to give guests more room to walk, gather, and see the fireworks and parades. New Fantasyland has brought Disney animated classics to life in some pretty remarkable attractions, shows, and restaurants. Storybook Circus has even doubled down on Dumbo and given previously hot and sweaty parents a cool, air-conditioned area to wait to board the iconic attraction with their little ones. With all of those changes, you might think the Magic Kingdom is completely different than how it was on it’s Opening Day of October 1, 1971. Amazingly, it’s really not! There are 15 Opening Day “attractions” still in operation today that are extremely similar to the way they looked on that day almost 45 years ago! Here’s a look at the Timelessness of The Magic Kingdom.
Country Bear Jamboree – With it’s Disneyland counterpart long since put into a permanent hibernation (get it?!), the Magic Kingdom’s Country Bears are still packing in the people for their shows several times each day. Admittedly this is one I often skipped as an adult without kids, but once my kids saw it once it’s become a “must-see” for us on every trip! The next time you walk through the lobby on your way into the show, look down at the floor. You’ll see claw marks from all of the bears who have walked through before!
Dapper Dans – Disneyland’s famous foursome became a permanent fixture at the Magic Kingdom on it’s opening day and I, for one, couldn’t be happier about it! Each and every time I’m in the park and I see them out doing a set I just have to stop and watch and listen to every song. The Dapper Dans and their music instantly transport you back in time to the turn of the century and really set the mood for your walk down Main Street USA.
Dumbo the Flying Elephant – Hopefully you won’t view my including this one as cheating since the attraction has been moved and changed quite a bit since opening day! Is there a more classic, iconic, or instantly identifiable attraction anywhere in the world than Dumbo? There’s a reason it’s included in almost every commercial Disney puts on television. There’s nothing like flying through the air on Dumbo, even if you don’t have children to take along for the ride!
Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade – When the Magic Kingdom opened in 1971, this attraction actually used guns that fired real pellets at metal targets! Could you imagine anything like that being okay in 2016?! And the pellet guns weren’t removed because of the danger or liability problems either; it was actually due to the fact that the targets would need to be re-painted every night after guests struck them with the pellets all day long. With all of the new security and rules being put into place in the Disney parks, this one may not stick around very long, so make sure you give it a shot (another bad pun) on your next trip!
Jungle Cruise – When Disneyland’s version of the World Famous Jungle Cruise was in production in the 50’s, Walt Disney actually wanted to have live animals on the attraction. After someone (presumably Disney’s legal department) talked him out of it, audio animatronic animals were created to populate the banks and rivers of the classic voyage through the jungles of the world. Originally a little more on the serious side, the Jungle Cruise is now loaded with “bad” jokes, puns, and still has a long line almost every day!
Mad Tea Party – What’s better than a ride where you can spin around in a circle for three minutes until you feel like you’re going to get sick? Well, I can probably name a few things, but the Mad Tea Party is always one attraction that I ride each and every time I’m in the Magic Kingdom. Just don’t ride after eating a big cheeseburger from Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe. Trust me!
Peter Pan’s Flight – The quintessential Disney attraction, Peter Pan’s Flight is still one of the most popular stops for kids of all ages, even after 45 years of operation. Show me a person who doesn’t want to climb aboard a pirate ship, fly over the streets of London, and fly off to Neverland, and I’ll show you a person with no soul! One of the longest waits in all of the parks recently got a little easier to handle, however, with the newly-imagined interactive (and air conditioned!) queue. This one is still worth using a FastPass reservation on, in my opinion, but if you get to ride twice during a trip, the new queue is totally worth checking out!
Prince Charming Regal Carrousel – All of these attractions I’ve written about date back to October 1, 1971, but did you know that this carousel is actually the oldest attraction in the Magic Kingdom? The carousel was originally built by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company in 1917! The Disney Company purchased the carousel for Walt Disney World (then only a concept and called Disney World) from Olympic Park in Irvington, New Jersey in 1966. The horses were painstakingly restored to their former glory, and the carousel was installed in it’s permanent home in the Magic Kingdom for generations of guests to enjoy.
Swiss Family Treehouse – I recently walked through the Swiss Family Treehouse with my five year old daughter. It was her first ever walkthrough and my first in years. She loved it! Seeing it through her eyes gave me a whole new appreciation for the old Adventureland tree. She was amazed at the bedrooms, the kitchen, and the clever water system that the Robinson family installed to provide themselves fresh drinking water in all parts of their home. If you’ve never walked through or haven’t in a while, check it out with your kids on your next trip. If you don’t have kids, stand close to someone else’s (but not too close! You don’t want to freak them out!)
The Hall of Presidents – Originally a concept meant for Disneyland called “One Nation Under God,” The Hall of Presidents actually ended up inspiring the entire land of Liberty Square in the Magic Kingdom. The audio-animatronics are still pretty fascinating to see in action, especially the very lifelike clone of President Obama who gives a very inspirational speech. Go for President Obama but stay to check out the past presidents whispering to each other, fidgeting, and acting extremely alive in the background!
The Haunted Mansion – This is one that has been changed a lot since opening day, but all of the changes have made The Haunted Mansion an even better, more immersive experience. From the Ghost Host who acts as the narrator to the Hitchhiking Ghosts who “will follow you home” as you exit, this is easily one of the best experiences Disney has ever created. After you ride it I’m sure you’ll listen to Little Leota who reminds you to “Hurry baa’aack!”
Tomorrowland Speedway – Reminiscent of Disneyland’s Autopia that has been operating since the California theme park’s opening day in 1955, the Tomorrowland Speedway hasn’t changed all that much since it first debuted. The best part about this one is that kids are allowed to drive, which my kids always get a kick out of! As a matter of fact, my wife has a blast driving these cars around the guided track as well since she doesn’t drive in real life (I actually prefer when my kids drive, though, as she’s a little bit of a lead foot!)
Walt Disney World Railroad – Every Magic Kingdom-like Disney park around the world is surrounded by a railroad due mostly in part to Walt Disney’s love of all things train-related. It’s always fun to take the “Grand Circle Tour” around the Magic Kingdom but here’s a tip for you: at the end of your day when your feet are killing you from walking around the Magic Kingdom all day, why not hop on the WDW Railroad in Frontierland or at Storybook Circus? It’s a nice way to skip that long walk to the front of the park!
Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room – If I had written this a few years ago I’d be writing about all of the unpopular changes that were made to “The Enchanted Tiki Room: Under New Management.” Luckily, Zazu and Iago were evicted and the Tiki Room was returned to it’s original glory. All of the great, classic, original music is there and the room really makes you feel like you went back in time to the Magic Kingdom in the 70’s.
It’s a small world – You know it, you love it: it’s a small world is an absolute must-do for every true Disney fan! It’s a right of passage for anyone who goes to the Magic Kingdom or Disneyland to ride this world-famous “happiest cruise that’s ever sailed.” Yes, the song will get stuck in your head. Yes, sometimes your boat will slow down and you’ll have to wait a little extra bit before getting off the attraction. Yes, you should still do it!
I’m sure the Magic Kingdom will continue to grow and evolve over the years and there’s no guarantee that all of these attractions will last another 45 years, but I hope that most of them do. In my opinion these are still some of the best experiences that you can have in all of Walt Disney World and they should be left as close to their original forms as possible. Sure, Disney will always sell guests on the latest and greatest attractions, but to me, there’s nothing quite like experiencing some classic Disney nostalgia.
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