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.


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