Walt Disney World has come a long way since Oct. 1, 1971. The resort celebrates its 40th anniversary Saturday with a 15-hour celebration at the iconic Magic Kingdom park, where it all started.
In 1971, there was just the Magic Kingdom, Fort Wilderness campground and two hotels (the Contemporary and Polynesian) connected by the Monorail. Now, there are four theme parks, two water parks, 30 themed resort hotels and much more. Whether or not the sprawling, 30,000-acre complex southwest of Orlando is the true realization of Walt Disney’s vision (see video below) is debatable, but it’s impressive nonetheless.
My first visit was in late 1972, and I still remember the joy and wonder of that day. I’m looking forward to the surprises Disney says are in store for guests on its birthday, although I’ve grown to appreciate Disney World for many different reasons.
One of the best times to visit Walt Disney World is during a taste-tempting six weeks every fall when the 1.2-mile promenade of World Showcase at the Epcot theme park is transformed into a foodie’s dream come true at the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival.
Already home to dozens of restaurants and bars spread throughout pavilions representing 11 countries, the picturesque promenade around the 40-acre World Showcase Lagoon will be engulfed this year by 30 “international marketplaces” featuring food and beverages from six continents.
Every year, new countries and themes are added to the eclectic mix of food, wine, craft beers and cocktails. For the 16th annual event, it’s exciting to see two island locales among the three new festival marketplace booths. Say aloha to Hawaii and the Caribbean Islands. Perhaps it’s just a coincidence, but here’s hoping this is an outgrowth of the renewed interest in tropical and Tiki culture.