ORLANDO, Fla. – Whether you were there on opening day or throughout the years, Walt Disney World has brought countless people joy and created meaningful moments for those who have visited over the last 50 years.
As Walt Disney World prepares to kick off its Most Magical Celebration, News 6 viewers shared their favorite memories with us leading up to the 50th anniversary.
Starting Friday, an 18-month celebration of its 50th will bring new shows, decorations and experiences for guests throughout its parks.
Here are some of the memories that were shared with us:
My parents took my sister and I to Walt Disney World three weeks after it opened in 1971. It was a school day and my sister and I were so excited to go so soon after it opened but also because we got to skip school for the day. At noon my family and I were in a park restaurant having lunch and a man was getting settled in a chair next to mine. I got up to move my chair so he could have more room and I noticed that the man was the principal of my high school. The first time I EVER skipped school and I got BUSTED! Completely embarrassed, I said hello to him and he whispered in my ear, “It’s okay I’m playing hooky too!”
I am a native Floridian and when I was two years old my mom, dad and I were lucky enough to attend opening day for the Magic Kingdom theme park. I received my ears, as you can (see) in my photo and my mom saved them all these years and gave them to me this year. She also noted in a photo album she made for me that I rode Dumbo and “It’s a Small World” on that day. She shared that she took pictures of me with the Big Bad Wolf on that day. I suppose I must have really enjoyed it, because I came to work for Disney right out of high school in roles that include Disney Reservation Center, Traditions and Disney Cruise Line, passing on the (Magic) to our Cast Members and Guests.
My husband and I along with our six children spent Thanksgiving Day 1971 at the most magical place on earth. We still talk about the ticket books and the fun we had. We took a family picture by the entrance to Adventureland. I’ve always treasured that picture and dreamed of recreating it with our children. It seemed an impossible dream with children in Wyoming, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. In 2019, my children surprised me with a birthday party and arrangements to recreate the picture at Disney. They all worked hard to try and find outfits that were close to their original clothes. The sign from the original picture was removed from the trees but everything else is the same. Another dream come true at the most magical place on earth.
Back in 1996, my parents took us to Disney for the 25th anniversary. Being a Florida native (and also a 3-soon-to-be-4-year-old) but not living in Orlando meant there was nothing more exciting than being able to take a family trip to the parks. Being there for the 25th anniversary is one of my first and favorite memories; despite the look on my older sister’s face, as well as mine and my dad’s, it was truly one of the best family trips. Just wish my mom would’ve been in the photo instead of behind the lens. We live much closer to Orlando and Disney now, but I always remember that time and that trip fondly.
I got to go to Disney for a soft opening the day before it opened to the general public! My family has gone to Disney ever since. My husband and I have annual passes. When I was in high school I marched in their 10th (anniversary) celebration parade.
First picture was taken in July of 1972 (I’m sitting on the right side next to my uncle Carlos. Wow, I was 14 years old!) Next picture was in December of 2000. My mom, myself and my daughters. Last picture. My grandson and I in August of 2019. My husband and I are annual pass holders and we take full advantage of it. We love Disney.
Around 1964 when I was 12, my dad, a first generation Floridian in the citrus business drove me from our home in Sebring over to Kissimmee for the day to show me something. We stood in a citrus grove after over an hour of driving. My dad said, “I want to show you this. See these groves?” I was not impressed. Sebring has lots of groves, especially back then. I wondered what he was thinking driving so far to see more groves. My dad continued, “A man named Disney just bought all this land. I want you to get a good look at where we are and remember what this area looks like because when you are my age, this area will look nothing like this.” My dad understood how transformative this land purchase would be.
We’ve been counting down to its anniversary and celebrating 50 years of Magic with daily looks at the past, how Disney’s opening shaped Central Florida’s present and what’s in store for the future.first-generationthe
For complete coverage of Disney’s 50th anniversary, click here.