It All Started with a Mouse

The Walt Disney World Resort, also called Walt Disney World or Disney World, or simply abbreviated WDW, is an entertainment resort complex in Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista, Florida, United States, governed by the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. The resort is located within Orange and Osceola counties, and located closest to the cities of Winter Garden and Kissimmee in Greater Orlando. Opened on October 1, 1971, the resort is operated by Disney Experiences, a division of The Walt Disney Company. The property covers nearly 25,000 acres (39 sq mi; 101 km2), of which half has been developed. Walt Disney World contains four separate theme parks, two water parks, two mini-golf courses, and four golf courses. There are twenty-one Disney-operated resorts on the property, and many other resorts on and near the property. Disney World also contains the Boardwalk, The Fort Wilderness area, The ESPN Sports Complex, Disney Springs, Flamingo Crossings areas for shopping, dining, and entertainment. Designed to supplement Disneyland in Anaheim, California, which had opened in 1955, the complex was developed by Walt Disney in the 1960s. Walt wanted to build a new park because Disneyland in California was limited from expanding by the establishments that sprung up around it. "The Florida Project", as it was known, was intended to present a distinct vision with its own diverse set of attractions. Walt Disney's original plans also called for the inclusion of an "Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow" (EPCOT), a planned community intended to serve as a testbed for new city-living innovations. Walt Disney died on December 15, 1966, during the initial planning of the complex. After his death, the company wrestled with the idea of whether to bring the Disney World project to fruition; however, Walt's older brother, Roy O. Disney, came out of retirement to make sure Walt's biggest dream was realized. Construction started in 1967, with the company instead building a resort similar to Disneyland, abandoning the experimental concepts for a planned community. Magic Kingdom was the first theme park to open in the complex in 1971, followed by Epcot (known then as EPCOT Center) (1982), Disney's Hollywood Studios (known then as Disney-MGM Studios) (1989), and Disney's Animal Kingdom (1998). It was Roy who insisted the name of the entire complex be changed from Disney World to Walt Disney World, ensuring that people would remember that the project was Walt's dream. Walt Disney World is also covered by an FAA prohibited airspace zone that restricts all airspace activities without approval from the federal government of the United States, including usage of drones; this level of protection is otherwise only offered to American critical infrastructure (such as the Pantex nuclear weapons plant), military bases, the Washington, D.C., Special Flight Rules Area, Camp David, and other official presidential travels. In 2018, Walt Disney World was the most visited vacation resort in the world, with an average annual attendance of more than 58 million. The resort is the largest single-site employer in the United States, the flagship destination of Disney's worldwide corporate enterprise and has become a popular staple in American culture.