49 years ago, Walt Disney World opened its doors in Florida

This year marks 49 years since Walt Disney World opened to the public for the first time.

After a successful opening of Disneyland, the Walt Disney Company wanted to build a second park. Disney World officially welcomed visitors on Oct. 1, 1971, with just one park -- Magic Kingdom -- and two resort hotels: the Contemporary Resort Hotel and Polynesian Village.

On opening day, Mickey Mouse led the first guest into the park, William Windsor, Jr.

The first Christmas Parade and New Year's Eve fireworks at the Cinderella Castle were held that year. 


Magic Kingdom was the first Disney World park to open on Oct. 1, 1971. (Disney Parks Blog)

Today, Walt Disney World is made up of four parks, two water parks and dozens of resort hotels. 

This year though, the pandemic's impact was one that not even the most magical place on Earth could escape. It faced its longest closure in history.

READ: For Walt Disney World, this will be the longest closure in its history

The theme park rarely shut downs, but was forced to close on March 15 to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. It was the seventh time the theme park closed. 

Walt Disney World reopened three months later with the hopes of providing an escape for guests from the reality of the unprecedented year -- but with some obvious changes, like mandatory masks


Photo from Walt Disney World

RELATED: Here's what the Disney theme parks will look like when they reopen this weekend

On the week of its reopening, one of Disney World's "Imagineers" shared a video detailing the planning, designing and original opening of the park. It can be viewed below: