Walt Disney had opened Disneyland in California on July 17, 1955. After Disneyland's success, Walt had visions of yet another amusement park, but one on a much larger scale. Walt had not purchased enough land to do all that he'd wanted to do with Disneyland. The real world was too close to his land of make-believe. He would not make that mistake again.
In 1958, Walt had decided that he wanted his new Disneyland to be to the East. He and his brother, Roy O. Disney decided on Orlando, Florida. After all, Florida had good year-round weather, and it would be the perfect place. So, between 1964-1965, Walt purchased 27,000 acres of swampland in Florida. When it was discovered who was buying the land, the remaining land prices jumped from $183 an acre to $1,000 an acre.
Walt wanted people to feel they were in a special place when they visited his amusement parks. He stated, "I don't want the public to see the world they live in while they're in the Park. I want them to feel they're in another world." He wanted his parks to be a place where parents and children could have fun together. Like Disneyland, his new park would include the Magic Kingdom. Walt decided his new park would be called Disneyworld.
Walt's plans also included a city of tomorrow, what he called an experimental prototype community of tomorrow. In short, Walt called it EPCOT. He wanted EPCOT to include all possible scientific advances.
Unfortunately, Walt's health began to fail in 1966, but he relentlessly worked on his dream. However, on December 15, 1966, the world suffered a great loss when Mr. Walter Elias Disney passed away.
Walt would never see his beloved Disneyworld or EPCOT, but his brother, Roy, would make sure that Walt's dream was completed. Roy renamed Disneyworld to Walt Disney World. He said it would include Walt's name so that everyone would always remember that it was Walt's dream. And so it was that Walt Disney World opened to the public on October 1, 1971.
Today, Walt Disney World is one of the most beloved theme parks in Florida. It is divided into four main theme parks: the Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney's Hollywood Studios, & Disney's Animal Kingdom. It also has two water parks - Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. You can also find tons of entertainment, shopping, and dining at either Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney) or Disney's Boardwalk. And...there are at least twenty-one Disney resorts to choose from when you vacation at Walt Disney World.
Through more land purchases, Walt Disney World now covers 30,500 acres or about 47 square miles. It is definitely a city within itself. Walt's dream did come true!
"Walt Disney World is a tribute to the philosophy and life of Walter Elias Disney… and to the talents, the dedication, and the loyalty of the entire Disney organization that made Walt Disney’s dream come true. May Walt Disney World bring Joy and Inspiration and New Knowledge to all who come to this happy place… a Magic Kingdom where the young at heart of all ages can laugh and play and learn — together. "
Roy O. Disney
October 1, 1971