The Walt Disney World Resort, often referred to as simply Walt Disney World or Disney World, is a
theme park destination resort owned and operated by the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts segment of The Walt Disney Company. The park is located in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, outside the city limits of Orlando.
The resort opened on October 1, 1971, with the Magic Kingdom theme park and has since added Epcot, Disney-MGM Studios, and Disney's Animal Kingdom theme parks. In addition to these four main theme parks, the resort contains two water parks, six golf courses, a sports complex, an auto race track, twenty resort hotels, and numerous shopping, dining, and entertainment offerings. The 47-square-mile (122 kmē) property
is the largest theme park resort in the world. It is directly accessible via Exits 62B (World Drive), 64B (US 192 West), 65B (Osceola Parkway West), 67B (SR 536 West), and 68 (SR 535 North) of Interstate 4.
President Allen R. "Al" Weiss has overseen the resort since 1994.
Walt Disney originally envisioned what would eventually become the Walt Disney World Resort as a resort that would include a Magic Kingdom
theme park somewhat larger and more elaborate than the Magic Kingdom of Disneyland. There was also to be various housing facilities for guests of the resort, along with an industrial park, main resort terminal,
and a futuristic airport, but most importantly was Walt Disney's "Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow," or EPCOT,
as it is better known with respect as an acronym. EPCOT was also known as Progress City. However, plans for EPCOT would drastically
change after Walt Disney's death. EPCOT became EPCOT Center, the second theme park at the Walt Disney World Resort. Much later,
concepts from the original idea of EPCOT would be integrated into the community of Celebration.
Walt Disney focused most of his attention on the "Florida Project" both before and after his participation at the 1964-1965
New York World's Fair, but he died in December 15, 1966, almost five years before his vision realized.
There is no official documentation showing that the Walt Disney World Resort was originally to be spelled "Disneyworld,"
for it was already going to be far different than "Disneyland." However, Walt Disney did make reference to the Walt Disney
World Resort as both "Disney World" and "The Disney World," with both of these versions using the same font that was used
in the spelling of Disneyland.
After Walt Disney's death, the title of "Disney World" was selected and to be presented in a modern font instead of the
original Disneyland font. To reinforce the updated name and image, Disney World's official symbol was to be an oversized "D"
with the face of Mickey Mouse depicted as the lines of latitude and longitude of this new World.
While Disneyland has kept its original font, it has lost nearly all references to its official symbol. Walt Disney World
put an end to use of both its original font and official symbol at the conclusion of Walt Disney World's 25th Anniversary
Celebration in 1996. The official symbol, however, can still be found in many places around the Walt Disney World Resort as
well as in recent merchandise that uses it once again.
In the end, it was Roy O. Disney, Walt Disney's older brother, who would dedicate the Magic Kingdom of Walt Disney World
and officially proclaim "Disney World" as "Walt Disney World" in his brother's honor.
A popular misconception is that the resort exists in Orlando. In fact, the entire Walt Disney World property is outside Orlando city limits; the majority sits within southwestern Orange County, with the remainder in adjacent Osceola County to the south.
Most of Walt Disney World's Central Florida land, and all of the public areas, are located in the cities of Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista, located southwest of Orlando and a few miles northwest of Kissimmee. The land within Walt Disney World Resort is part of the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which allows the Disney corporation to exercise quasi-governmental powers over the area.
Walt Disney World Resort features four major theme parks, each with a main attraction that serves as its symbol:
There are also two water parks, Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach (a third, River Country, is permanently closed), and the Disney's Wide World of Sports athletic complex.
The Downtown Disney area, consisting of three sections (Marketplace, Pleasure Island, and West Side), contains many shopping, dining, and entertainment
venues. This includes DisneyQuest (an indoor "interactive theme park"), the House of Blues, and a permanent Cirque du Soleil show (La Nouba).
Another notable aspect is the large number of hotel resort complexes on the Walt Disney World property. The non-themed
hotels are owned by private, non-Disney hospitality companies such as Starwood, Holiday Inn, and Hilton. The themed resorts
On-Site Disney Resorts
- Main article: Walt Disney World Resorts
- Disney's All-Star Movies Resort
- Disney's All-Star Music Resort
- Disney's All-Star Sports Resort
- Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge
- Disney's Beach Club Resort
- Disney's BoardWalk Inn
- Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort
- Disney's Contemporary Resort
- Disney's Coronado Springs Resort
- Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground
- Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa
- Disney's Polynesian Resort
- Disney's Pop Century Resort
- Disney's Port Orleans Resort Riverside (formerly Dixie Landings)
- Disney's Port Orleans Resort French Quarter (formerly Disney's Port Orleans Resort)
- Disney's Wilderness Lodge
- Disney's Yacht Club Resort
On-Site Disney Vacation Club Resorts
- Main article: Disney Vacation Club
- Disney's Beach Club Villas
- Disney's BoardWalk Villas
- Disney's Old Key West Resort
- Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa (formerly the Disney Institute)
- The Villas at Disney's Wilderness Lodge
On-Site Non-Disney Resorts
- Main article: Walt Disney World Resorts
- Lake Buena Vista Resort Hotel
- Doubletree Guest Suite Resort (in Walt Disney World)
- Grosvenor Resort
- The Hilton Resort (in Walt Disney World)
- Holiday Inn in the Walt Disney World Resort
- Royal Plaza
- Shades of Green (named because of its location between two golf courses; it is owned by the United States Department of Defense and used
for vacationing active and retired military personnel, their families, and DoD civilians)
- Walt Disney World Dolphin (operated by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide)
- Walt Disney World Swan (operated by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide)
- Wyndham Palace Resort & Spa
Also at Disney
The Walt Disney World resort also includes six world-class golf courses. The five 18-hole golf courses are the Magnolia,
the Palm, Lake Buena Vista, Eagle Pines, and Osprey Ridge (the last two are part of the Bonnet Creek Golf Club). There is
also a nine- hole walking course called Oak Trail, designed for young golfers. Together, they are known as Disney's "99 Holes
of golf." There are two miniature golf courses: Fantasia Gardens and Winter Summerland.
Walt Disney World paved the way for many other theme parks and attractions in the area, including SeaWorld and Universal Studios, and helped make Orlando a popular tourist destination for people from all over the world.
When the Magic Kingdom opened in 1971, the Walt Disney World Resort employed about 5,500 cast members. Today it employs
more than 58,000 cast members, spending more than $1.1 billion on payroll and $478 million on benefits each year. The largest
single-site employer in the United States, Walt Disney World Resort has more than three thousand job classifications.
The Walt Disney World Resort also sponsors and operates the Walt Disney World College Program, an internship program that has US college students live on-site and work for the Resort, providing much of the theme park
and resort "front line" cast members.
In a March 30, 2004, article in The Orlando Sentinel, Walt Disney World president Al Weiss gave some insight into how the parks are maintained:
- More than 5,000 cast members are dedicated to maintenance and engineering, including 650 horticulturists and 600 painters.
- Disney spends more than $100 million every year on maintenance at the Magic Kingdom. In 2003, $6 million was spent on
renovating its Crystal Palace restaurant. Ninety percent of guests say that the upkeep and cleanliness of the Magic Kingdom
are excellent or very good.
- The streets in the parks are steam cleaned every night.
- There are cast members permanently assigned to painting the antique carousel horses; they use genuine gold leaf.
- There is a tree farm on site so that when a mature tree needs to be replaced, a thirty-year-old tree will be available
to replace it.
There is a fleet of Disney-operated buses on property, branded Disney Transport that is free for use by resort and park guests. They are not to be confused with the Disney Cruise Line and Disney's Magical
Express buses, which are run by Mears Transportation. Taxi boats link some locations. A fleet of 12 monorails also operate
at Walt Disney World Resort linking the Magic Kingdom, EPCOT; the Contemporary, Polynesian, and Grand Floridian resorts; and
Transportation and Ticket Center. An express monorail line connecting the TTC and the Magic Kingdom also exists. Disney World's
monorail system is perhaps the most well known monorail system in North America.
Walt Disney World Resort covers a total of 47 square miles (122km2), about the size of San Francisco or twice the size of Manhattan. About one half of the property has been developed. Another quarter has been set aside as a wilderness preserve.
According to Disney's "MouseMail" email newsletter, during the Christmas season, one hundred fifty truckloads of holiday
decorations adorn the Walt Disney World Resort and 300,000 yards of ribbon and bows drape over 1,500 Christmas trees. A popular
attraction during the holiday season is The Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights, which displays over 5 million lights located
in Disney-MGM Studios. Walt Disney World pastry chefs use more than 1,050 pounds of honey, 100 pounds of sugar, and 50 pounds
of dark chocolate to bake gingerbread houses and other decorations for the holidays.
Park History and Development
In 1959, the Walt Disney Company, under the leadership of Walt Disney, began looking for land for a second resort to supplement Disneyland, which had opened in Anaheim in 1955. Market surveys revealed that only 2% of Disneyland's visitors came from east of the Mississippi River, where 75% of the population of the United States lived. Additionally, Walt Disney disliked the businesses that had sprung
up around Disneyland, and wanted control of a much larger area of land for the new project.
Walt Disney first flew over the Orlando site (one of many) on November 22, 1963. The airplane he traveled in would be used by future Disney executives to travel to the Resort from the company headquarters
in Burbank, California and can now be seen at the Disney-MGM Studios. He saw the good road network, including Interstate 4 and Florida's Turnpike, with McCoy Air Force Base, soon to become Orlando International Airport, to the east, and immediately fell in love with the site. When later asked why he chose it, he said, "the freeway routes,
they bisect here."
However, the decision had not been made yet; no land had been purchased. If the news of Disney's new resort was leaked,
land prices would soar. Thus everything was to be done in complete secrecy. To avoid a burst of land speculation, Disney used
various dummy corporations and cooperative individuals to acquire 27,400 acres (111 kmē) of land. The first five-acre
(20,000 mē) lot was bought on October 23, 1964, by the Ayefour Corporation (a pun on Interstate 4). In May 1965, major land transactions were being recorded a few miles southwest of Orlando in Osceola County. Two large tracts totaling $1.5 million were sold, and smaller tracts of flatlands and cattle pastures were purchased by
exotic-sounding companies such as the Latin-American Development and Management Corporation and the Reedy Creek Ranch Corporation. In addition to three huge parcels of land were many smaller parcels, referred to as "outs." Much of the land had been platted into five-acre (20,000 mē) lots in 1912 by the Munger Land Company and sold to investors. In most cases, the owners were happy to get rid of the land, which was mostly swampland. Yet another problem was the mineral rights to the land, owned by Tufts College. Without the transfer of these rights, Tufts could come in at any time and demand the removal of buildings to obtain minerals.
After most of the land had been bought, the story was leaked to the Orlando Sentinel on October 20, 1965. A press conference was soon organized for November 15. At the conference, Walt Disney explained the plans for the site, including EPCOT, the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, which was to be a futuristic city.
The Reedy Creek Drainage District was incorporated on May 13, 1966, under Florida State Statutes Chapter 298, which gives powers including eminent domain to special Drainage Districts. To create the District, only the support of the landowners within was required.
Walt Disney himself passed away in December 15, 1966 (in fact, just five years before his vision realized). From then on, his brother Roy Disney headed the project. For the past few years that the project had been in pre-production, it had been known simply as Disney
World, but Roy Disney added "Walt" to the name to make it Walt Disney World. In his own words: "Everyone has heard of the
Ford cars. But have they all heard of Henry Ford, who started it all? Walt Disney World is in memory of the man who started
it all, so people will know his name as long as Walt Disney World is here."
On February 2, 1967, Roy Disney held a press conference at the Park Theatres in Winter Park, Florida. The role of EPCOT was emphasized in the film that was played, the last one recorded by Walt Disney before his death. After
the film, it was explained that for Walt Disney World to succeed, a special district would have to be formed: the Reedy Creek Improvement District with two cities inside it, the City of Bay Lake and the City of Reedy Creek (now the City of Lake Buena Vista). In addition to the standard powers of an incorporated city, which include tax-free bonds, the Improvement District would
have total immunity from any current or future county or state land-use laws. The only areas where the District had to submit
to the county and state would be property taxes and elevator inspections.
The laws forming the District and the two Cities was signed into law on May 12, 1967. The Florida Supreme Court ruled in 1968 that the District was allowed to issue tax-exempt bonds for public projects within the district, despite the sole beneficiary
being The Walt Disney Company.
Construction of drainage canals was soon begun by the Improvement District, and Disney built the first roads and the Magic
Kingdom. Disney's Contemporary Resort, Disney's Polynesian Resort, and Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground were also completed in time for the park's opening on October 1, 1971.
On opening day, Roy Disney gave an opening dedication, after which he asked Walt's widow, Lillian, what she thought of Walt Disney World. She replied, "I think Walt would have approved."
Walt Disney World even had its own aircraft runway located just east of the Magic Kingdom parking lot. When Walt Disney World opened in 1971, Shawnee Airlines began regular
passenger service from Orlando's McCoy Airport directly to Disney World's STOLport (Short Take Off and Landing Aircraft) on a daily basis. The actual flight time was only a few minutes. Today, the runway
is mostly used as a staging area for buses and is no longer used for flights.
Park History and Development Timeline
Magic Your Way
Disney's "Magic Your Way" park ticket pricing, introduced in January 2005, is intended to make guests choose to spend more
days on Disney property instead of visiting competing theme parks in the area; additional days at Disney can be much less
expensive than a day at another park.
2006 One Park Per Day (No Hopping - No Plus Options)
||Adult ticket price (in US dollars)
||. The price increase to add this day|
"Magic Your Way" also offers options such as the Park Hopper Option ($40 per ticket, allowing a guest to visit more than
one park per day), the Water Park Fun & More Option ($50 per ticket, giving a guest between 2 and 5 visits to water parks,
Pleasure Island, DisneyQuest, or Disney's Wide World of Sports), and the No Expiration Option (between $10 for a two-day ticket
and $135 for a ten-day ticket, without which the ticket will expire 14 days after its first use).
As part of the "Magic
Your Way" package, Disney also created a service entitled "Disney's Magical Express" whereby guests staying on the Disney
property will be able to take Disney transportation directly from the Orlando airport to their hotels, while their luggage
is picked up (with participating airlines) and delivered to their rooms for them.
The Annual Passes at Walt Disney World allow guests to have unlimited access to the parks during the year time period of
their pass. There are a few levels of the Annual Passes including different prices for children.
- Premium Annual Passport - This allows guests to have unlimited access to The Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney MGM Studios,
Animal Kingdom, Pleasure Island, Blizzard Beach, Typhoon Lagoon, DisneyQuest, and Disney's Wide World of Sports complex. Complimentary
parking is included.
- Annual Passport - This allows guests to have unlimited access to The Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney MGM Studios,
and Animal Kingdom. Complimentary parking is included.
- Florida Resident Seasonal Pass - This allows guests to have limited access to The Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney
MGM Studios, and Animal Kingdom. The ticket has black out dates that are around Christmas/New Years, Easter, most of June
to August and Thanksgiving. Parking is not included. This is for Florida residents only and requires proof of residency.
- Florida Resident Epcot After 4 Annual Pass - This allows guests unlimited access to Epcot after 4pm. Parking is
not included. This is for Florida residents only and requires proof of residency.
The trade magazine Amusement Business reports these attendance figures for the four theme parks in 2005, as quoted
by the Orlando Sentinel:
- Magic Kingdom, 16.2 million visitors
- Epcot, 9.9 million visitors
- Disney-MGM Studios, 8.6 million visitors
- Disney's Animal Kingdom, 8.2 million visitors
The Walt Disney Company made history by closing its Florida theme parks for the first time during Hurricane Floyd in 1999, which ended up missing the area.
The parks closed partway through the day on September 11, 2001 in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks. The parks re-opened the following day under heightened security.
Hurricanes Charley and Frances came through the area in summer 2004. The parks were closed for each. 
As a result of Hurricane Wilma (which remained well south of the area), all the four theme parks, Typhoon Lagoon water park (Blizzard Beach water park already
being closed for maintenance), resort amenities (Downtown Disney, the golf courses) and Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground
were closed at the start of October 24, 2005. The Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Downtown Disney re-opened at 1:00pm. All remaining amenities re-opened at the scheduled time
on October 25, 2005.