Home » 7 Crazy Facts About One of Disney’s Most Iconic Lands

7 Crazy Facts About One of Disney’s Most Iconic Lands

The Happiest Place on Earth debuted with five lands. As you know, its first major expansion occurred in the open area to the west of Frontierland. This new themed land was a planned development that required several years to complete. And it was called Holidayland. Surprise!

Well, you can guess how well Holidayland fared. By 1961, it was closed for good, with park officials choosing to replace this themed land with something better. That place is New Orleans Square, which has two of the most iconic theme park attractions ever made as well as the most exclusive restaurant of its kind in the world. Here are several amazing facts about New Orleans Square.

The land without a ride

Image: DisneyThe total failure of Holidayland placed Walt Disney in an awkward situation. He had wanted his themed land to usurp Santa Claus Land as the preeminent yuletide destination in America. When that idea failed, he attempted to integrate a planned attraction with another new themed land.

The attraction was the Haunted Mansion, although Disney wouldn’t decide whether it was a walkthrough museum or a ride for several more years. Imagineers at WED Enterprises had understood that Disneyland would feature a haunted house since the early 1950s. By the late 1950s, park maps showed Haunted Mansion, and cast members handed out ads for it in 1961.

Image: DisneyWith Holidayland closing, the goal was to create a themed land that would mesh with Haunted Mansion. New Orleans Square is the output of this premise. It’s a sumptuous port of call with a spooky history that meshes well with the supernatural. The problem was that Haunted Mansion took forever to complete. It wouldn’t open to the public until 1969.

The awkward byproduct of these delays was that when New Orleans Square debuted in July of 1966, it lacked an attraction. Any attraction. Pirates of the Caribbean would arrive a few months later, but the early days of this themed land were disappointing. It was basically a walkthrough area that had little of interest to guests. Barely three years later, New Orleans Square would become one of the most important and trafficked parts of Disneyland. Lands need rides to succeed, and this place would introduce a pair of doozies.

Uncle Walt’s legacy

Image: DisneyWalt Disney was heavily involved with the construction of New Orleans Square. From a certain perspective, this land is his final legacy, at least at Disneyland. Fittingly, he appeared in public for the last time during the opening ceremonies for New Orleans Square.

Disney also joked that it cost more than the Louisiana Purchase, a famous land grab wherein the United States bought the Louisiana Territory for $15 million. If anything, Uncle Walt undersold the situation since New Orleans Square ultimately cost $18 million.

This themed land includes two seminal parts of Disney’s vision for the park that bears his name. The Haunted Mansion reflected his belief that Disneyland should include every kind of popular amusement destination. He wanted it to be a playground and an amusement park and museum and, yes, a haunted house. Park planners maintain this philosophy even today.

Image: DisneyMost importantly, New Orleans Square’s highlight is Pirates of the Caribbean, the unforgettable ride that later launched a blockbuster movie franchise. This attraction was the last one that Walt Disney worked on. And he worked on it harder than he ever had before due to his failing health.

Unable to visualize the ride, Disney had his Imagineers build a lift system that would carry him through the ride path, allowing him to experience Pirates of the Caribbean the way that guests would. Even during his final months, he cared deeply about the satisfaction of the guests who would visit his theme park after his death.

Two rides were almost bound together

Image: DisneySince Haunted Mansion was in the pipeline for 15 years prior to its debut, Imagineers were painfully aware of the expectations for it. Once Uncle Walt signed off on Pirates of the Caribbean, some enterprising Imagineers had an idea. They thought about the meta of Disneyland.

The themed lands at the Happiest Place on Earth have never connected, and that’s by design. Walt Disney wanted each experience to feel wholly immersive, famously growing upset when he once saw a Frontierland cowboy walking through Tomorrowland. The Imagineers shared an idea that would avoid such problematic encounters, one that would maintain the illusion of New Orleans Square.

The Ghost Host was the key to this concept

Image: DisneyThe central attractions at this themed land would tie together! The concept wasn’t very difficult to orchestrate. One of the original backstories for Haunted Mansion would involve a dread pirate. This devious fellow earned his vast fortune plundering the innocent. Then, he retired to his mansion with a new bride.

The newlywed husband asked only that his bride never check the attic, the place where he kept his many keepsakes from the pirate life. It was a classic Pandora’s Box situation. She checked, he killed her, she tormented him from the afterlife, and he killed himself. He may (or may not) be the Ghost Host. Disney’s always been a bit cagey about what’s canon in the storyline.

Remnants still remain in New Orleans Square…and beyond!

Image: DisneyLet’s assume for a moment that Imagineers had taken this premise as gospel truth. It would have easily tied back into Pirates of the Caribbean, as one of those characters could be the Ghost Host. Disney had settled on an actual pirate, Jean Lafitte, he of Lafitte’s Landing on the Disneyland attraction. They built a full backstory for the man, complete with a New Orleans Square shop that was once called Lafitte’s Silver Shop.

Disney wasn’t content to stop at Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean, either. Their meta tie-in would stretch all the way to Tom Sawyer Island in Frontierland. You know it as Pirate’s Lair, and it includes Lafitte’s Tavern, a place that is not coincidentally visible from New Orleans Square.

All of this was part of a meta theme that Disney ultimately dropped. They couldn’t sell their boss on the grand unification premise. So, the park has several lingering signs of a connection that doesn’t technically exist. Perhaps the most famous remnant of this aborted attempt is the Rivers of America plaque that’s dated 1764. Had New Orleans Square’s two rides connected more thoroughly, it would have been a crypt for Jean Lafitte. The family of one of the Imagineers has collated several of the speculative pictures from the project here. Ah, what might have been.

New Orleans Square has seriously upscale but hidden stuff

Image: DisneyAre you familiar with Club 33? How about the Disneyland Dream Suite? The most exclusive restaurant AND hotel suite at Disneyland are located in New Orleans Square!

Club 33 has made a lot of headlines recently for its impending arrival at Walt Disney World. The Disneyland version is more than 50 years old, though! This exclusive restaurant takes its name from its address, 33 Royal Street in New Orleans Square. Walt Disney himself came up with the idea of this place after taking note of the executive lounges at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. His solution was the ultimate velvet rope eatery at Disneyland, a place that many visitors don’t even know exist!

To eat here, you’ll need to pay a hefty price. I’m not talking about the average of $100 per person for a meal, either. People who want to eat at Club 33 must purchase a membership that costs a minimum of $25,000. They’ll have to pay an annual fee of $10,000, too. Guests willingly do this, at least the ones who are aware of the possibility and can get past the multi-year wait-list. The ones who are blissfully unaware dine at Blue Bayou instead. Meals here are generally $50 per person or more, which seems expensive…unless you know about Club 33.

The most expensive meal at Disneyland isn’t at Club 33…

Image: DisneyRemarkably, Club 33 seems like a deal compared to the Disneyland Dream Suite. This hotel room located within the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction wasn’t even available to book. Instead, guests had to win it in contests, making it a literally priceless Disney experience. The suite was once intended to host titans of industry, but when Disney renovated Club 33 in 2014, they ended the practice of allowing guests to spend the night.

The Disneyland Dream Suite has since become 21 Royal, a meal hosted in the suite. When you book this room for a party of up to 12, you get to spend five hours in the hidden treasure of Disney hotel rooms. It’s an inimitable experience that only a handful of people in the world can say that they’ve done.

Image: DisneyThe catch is that you have to pay $15,000 for these five hours, making it the ultimate upsell at the Happiest Place on Earth. Seriously, you could buy a full membership to Club 33 for less than the cost of two meals at 21 Royal. If you want to fantasize about how the other half lives at Disneyland, you should visit the official site. New Orleans Square certainly caters to the wealthiest guests, but it does so with offerings hidden in plain sight in this otherwise humble pirate abode.