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Vacationland Magazine

Over the years, I have amassed several boxes full of Disney paper goods. This is a collection of park maps, tickets, guide books, postcards, magazines, stock reports and more. The other day, while rummaging through this unorganized assortment of goodies, I came across a Vacationland Magazine from the summer of 1974.

Vacationland Magazine

Vacationland was a free magazine that was placed in hotel and motel rooms both on and off Disney property. It was printed quarterly and highlighted the latest happenings at Disney. There were both a Disneyland and Disney World edition. Vacationland was the brainchild of Disney legend Marty Sklar.

The above edition featured stories about Pirates of the Caribbean, Magic Carpet ‘Round the World, Pioneer Hall, and Treasure Island. But instead of covering these topics, I thought it would be fun to take a look at some of the full-page advertisements that graced the pages of this magazine. The Disney Company has always been a master at getting other corporations to pay for their advertisements and this magazine is a perfect example.

Kal Kan sponsored the kennels at Walt Disney World and Disneyland for many years. The copy in the ad below reads, “Kal Kan thinks Walt Disney World should be for the whole family. So if you have pets – bring them along! They can stay at our modern Kal Kan Kennel Club. And enjoy a complimentary meal on us.”

Kal Kan dog food was later renamed Pedigree and their cat food Whiskas.

Kal Kan

For just $198 (one way), you and a fellow passenger could have your car loaded onto a train in Washington DC then ride in a comfortable reclining coach lounge seat for an overnight trip to Sanford, Florida. While on board a buffet dinner and breakfast were served along with midnight snacks. Additional occupants cost $25 each.

The Auto-Train still runs today. Sanford is about 45 miles from Walt Disney World and the drive takes about one hour. For more information, click here.


Early visitors to Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom knew all about View-Masters. These stereoscopic viewers allowed guests to see three-dimensional pictures of the parks and characters. A View-Master was always on display in the Emporium and picking one up to view the sights was irresistible.

The Imagineers have not forgotten about this magical souvenir of the past. While in the queue of Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin at the Magic Kingdom you can see a giant View-Master clicking away scenes from Buzz’s universe. And a giant disk featuring pictures of Disneyland can be seen in Toy Story Midway Mania at Disney's Hollywood Studios.


Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin

Toy Story Midway Mania

Started in 1957, Sambo’s was a coffee shop style restaurant that offered breakfast, lunch, and dinner in a casual atmosphere. At its height in 1979 the chain had 1,200 eateries. The restaurant’s moniker came from portions of the founder’s name, Sam Battistone and Newell Bohnett. However, as time progressed, the restaurant became associated with the children’s tale, “The Story of Little Black Sambo.” The story tells of a young boy, who while trying to escape a hungry tiger, is chased around a tree until the tiger is reduced to melted butter which is later used on his pancakes.

In the late 1970’s, the name Sambo became controversial. Several of the restaurants were renamed “The Jolly Tiger” and “No Place Like Sam’s.” However, between the controversy and the changing trend in American eating habits, business declined. In November, 1981 the company filed for bankruptcy and in 1982 the restaurant chain passed into history.


Gulf Oil was the official service (gas) station of Disneyland and Walt Disney World for a number of years.

Gulf Oil

Hoping to capitalize on Disney’s success, many other Florida attractions chose to advertise in Vacationland Magazine.

Marco Polo Park was located in Flagler County between Jacksonville and Daytona Beach just off of Interstate 95. The park’s theme was based on the Italian’s famous journey through the Middle and Far East. The park’s “lands” included Venice, Turkey, India, China, and Japan. Attractions included a flying chairs ride, a log flume, Ferris wheel, bumper cars and more.

The park opened in early 1971 to considerable fanfare. However, it was never profitable and two fires ravaged the park in 1975. It was temporarily closed to repair the damage and it reopened later that year under the name Passport to Fun World. But this wasn’t enough to save the park. Most folks weren’t interested in stopping at this lesser attraction with Walt Disney World beckoning further down the road.

Marco Polo Park

Circus World opened southwest of Disney World in February, 1974. It featured an IMAX theater within a building designed to look like a giant circus tent. Other attractions included a carousel, elephant rides, and a cart pulled behind a camel. The park was later sold to Mattel as part of a larger deal. Although Mattel wasn’t interested in the property, they did expand the park with a wooden roller coaster, Wild West show, a diving show, and petting zoo.

The park was sold twice and when Harcourt Brace Jovanovich took over ownership, they shut it down for a makeover. When it reopened in 1987, a new theme and name graced the property. Boardwalk and Baseball would recreate a turn-of-the-century seaside boardwalk. Unfortunately, Disney World became a wall that most tourists refused to travel past. Boardwalk and Baseball never turned a profit and on January 17, 1990 the park closed.

Circus World

Six Gun Territory was another of Florida’s many attractions that debuted before Disney came to town. Located north of Orlando between Ocala and Silver Springs, this relatively authentic recreation of the Old West featured a courthouse, hotel, jail, schoolhouse, Indian Village and a non-denominational church that actually held services on Sunday mornings. A variety of shows were also presented including a bank robbery and saloon girls.

In the 1980’s, Westerns, once a TV staple, were a dying breed. Couple this with the opening of Walt Disney World and Six Gun Territory saw sinking attendance. On Jan. 1, 1984, Six Gun Territory closed its doors for good

The Ocala area was seriously considered when Walt was scouting sites for Walt Disney World. However, Orlando’s proximity to the intersection of the Florida Turnpike and Interstate 4 gave this more southern location the edge.

Six Gun Territory

Unlike so many other Florida attractions, Lion Country Safari, located near West Palm Beach, is still going strong. Begun in 1967, investors opened similar attractions near Los Angeles, Dallas, Atlanta, Cincinnati, and Richmond. However the Florida Park is the only one that still remains in operation. A lot of this success can be attributed to its distance from Walt Disney World. South Florida attracts a different set of tourists and competition for the “theme park” dollar is less in this location.

Unlike Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney's Animal Kingdom, guests at Lion Country Safari are allowed to travel the five miles of roadway in their own vehicles. Here they see the typical assortment of African animals such as giraffes, rhinoceroses, zebras, and of course, lions. While touring at their own pace, a prerecorded narration is played describing the sights. For more information, click here.

Lion Country Safari

The advertisement for Cypress Gardens, the venerable attraction that was synonymous with Florida for many years, graced the back cover of Vacationland Magazine.

Cypress Gardens was opened by Dick and Julie Pope on January 2, 1936 as a botanical garden. In later years, it became known as the "Water Ski Capital of the World" due to the many world records broken there. But like so many other Florida attractions, Cypress Gardens fell victim to Walt Disney World’s success and as Epcot, the Disney/MGM Studios, and Disney's Animal Kingdom opened, attendance continued to decline.

The park was sold to Harcourt Brace Jovanovich and then to Anheuser-Busch. Busch continued to operate Cypress Gardens until April 1, 1995. At that time, a group of the park's managers, led by Bill Reynolds, bought the property. The 9/11 attacks hit Florida tourism hard and on April 13, 2003 Cypress Gardens closed.

In November, 2004, the park reopened as Cypress Gardens Adventure Park. The new park would feature a roller coaster, water park, and other carnival rides. However, this was not enough to compete with Disney. Over the next several years, the park continued to evolve and downsize in an effort to save money. On September 23, 2009, the park closed again. On January 15, 2010, Merlin Enternments bought Cypress Gardens and announced that they would be opening their fifth Legoland in October, 2011.

Cypress Gardens

Vacationland Magazine had other, smaller advertisements for local attractions like Gatorland. It also featured a “Highlights” section that mentioned “nearby” destinations such as Kennedy Space Center, Marineland of Florida, and Weeki Wachee Springs. But this was at a time when the Magic Kingdom was really all that Disney World had to offer. Folks needed other activities to fill out their two-week vacation. Today, it’s rare that Disney ever mentions any tourist destination other than their own. They go to great lengths to keep you on their property for your entire stay.

I hope you enjoyed this walk through Florida theme park history. Believe me when I say, these are just a handful of the many mom and pop operations that vied for your tourist dollar – and most of them have succumbed to Disney’s success.

The previous post in this blog was Carousel of Progress - Part Three.

The next post in this blog is Casey’s Corner.

Comments (25)


I really enjoy your blogs about Disney (and specifically WDW) history. Thanks for sharing!

Susan Albert:

I love looking at old magazines especially the ads. Does Primetime Cafe still use View-Masters for their dessert menus? My kids always loved looking through them.

Jack's Answer:

I recently ate at 50's Primetime and I did see a Veiw-Master on another table. I have no idea if the pictures were of desserts or just generic photos.

Wendy Crober:

Hi Jack,

Thanks for all the interesting info. We're on the 10 day countdown until arrival...can't wait!


Penny from VT:

This was great, thanks.
When I was younger and living on Long Island,NY we would always take the Autotrain as my Dad did not want to drive the whole way and flying was not feasible back then. I remember going to Cyprus Gardens, Gatorland, Weeki Wachee Springs and all those other attractions. They certainly were great back in the day. Thanks for the memories.


We have a lot of old Disney Parks View Master reels. They are fabulous to look at, and see the many changes over the years. We even have reels from Weeki Wachee Springs. Hmmm...looked like a strange kinda place to me...


Thanks for the trip down memory lane! I remember so many of the places in the ads. I had forgotten about Sambo's - we used to eat at one on SOBT when I was a kid. I remember going to Circus World and Gatorland. I never made it to Cypress Gardens or Weeki Wachee. It is sad that I grew up in Orlando, but never went to so many of the places mentioned in this blog. Wonderful to see that Disney was a leader in the take your pet with you on vacation. Thanks again for another wonderful blog.

Rob Dickinson:

These magazines are the best!! My friend Ray has quite a few. He should since has has been visiting WDW since 1974 :) He has been kind enough to share a few with me and and if you think the ads are cool you should read the articles. They Rock!! Thanks Jack!!!


Thanks for the peek back into the past. My first trip to WDW was in 73 or 74 and we actually attended Circus World. The two highlights of this first trip to Florida for my Mom was riding the elephant at Circus World and sticking her feet in the atlantic ocean (in St. Augustine). My Dad delighted in asking every WDW cast member "Guess where we come from?" so he could tell them that we lived only ten or fifteen minutes away from Disneyland! He thought I was crazy wanting to drive from CA to FL to see something that was nearly identical to what we had so close to home!


hey jack
this is so cool. I love learning about the history of disney world and this is just another example of showing it in a really neat way. can't wait for your next blog and as always keep up the great work.


Loved this post, Jack.
I do love nostalgia, and Disney nostalgia is even better!

Sidenote: there is still one Sambo's left. A Sambo's (I believe the original) remains in Santa Barbara, CA. I've been told that a grandson of the original team owns it.

Jack's Comment:

You're correct. The original Sambo's is still in operation. Thanks for setting the record straight.

Marlene Barron:

I've been a long time fan of Jack's blog but never took the time to write a comment until I read his recent blog highlighting the 1974 edition of Vacationland Magazine. His words and pictures brought back some very happy memories of family trips to the Orlando area when our kids were young. My husband and I took our son (then age 3) to Disney World in 1980 and since the only Disney theme park at that time was the Magic Kingdom, there was plenty of time to check out alternate attractions. We all loved Circus World-so much so that we visited twice during our 2 week holiday. Our son still has the viewmaster that he purchased during that holiday. We returned in 1983 with a second child and returned to Circus World, spent a day at Cypress Gardens and lunched at Sambos while shopping along the stretch of road that now leads to Universal Studios. Epcot had recently opened so we took time to enjoy the new theme park. Our next trip came in 1987. The Boardwalk and Baseball was a fun day (but we all agreed that Cirucus World was so much better) but Magic Kingdom and Epcot took up most of our time. Then things changed for us...for our visit in 1991 we choose to stay on-site at the newly opened Caribbean Beach Resort which was more affordable than other on-site accomodations. Since 1991 we have visited 6 additional times and have always opted to stay on-site because of the convenience of getting to the parks in the morning. Still I must admit that I do miss the off-site fun and since Disney no longer advertises off-site attractions I don't often know what I am missing.

Becky Hecker:

Hi Jack, Really enjoyed this blog ... in 1974 I was a child, but living out of the country so it was interesting to see what was going on in Florida at the time. My kids especially enjoyed the advertisement for the auto train ... their biggest wish is to ride it for themselves. Thanks for the history lesson ... as always a fun & interesting blog!

Hermes Chiong:

Thanks for bringing back some 70's memories!


Ethan Shuster:

Just for the record, in case some don't know, they still make Viewmasters today, but I think another company owns them:



That was another fantastic article. You deserve credit and praise for the amount of effort you put into your postings.

I remember being 16 and making my first trip to Disney World. At that time they only had the Magic Kingdom so we made some other day trips and one of them was to Cyprus Gardens. I can still picture the beautiful Southern Bells they had walking around the park.


Jenny Sperandeo:

Wow Jack! My grandparents had that magazine! I also remember Circus World (I was afraid of the clowns), and I had that same Disney View Master. Memories...Thanks for bringing some great ones back!


Circus World!! I wonder what happened to that! I have super 8 video of myself on my first trip to the World in '76 and included in that is me at Circus World atop an elephant and within a tiger cage "pulling" apart the bars to escape! I also remember Wichee Walki (sp??) vividly, too. I guess they are still in operation?

What a cool trip to the past!

Joe Shelby:

Having grown up in Florida, '70 to '84 (give or take gaps due to military moving by my dad), I know and went to most of the places you mentioned including Sambos (there were 2 in Orange Park, both became Dennys, and now only one of the two buildings even exists last I drove through).

I even have pictures of Marco Polo Park in its prime, late '73, taken on my mum's Kodak 110. By '84 you could still see the long steel poles of the roller coaster (still painted the original bright red) through the trees when driving down '95.


We haven't forgotten about the view masters either. My wife still has the Disneyland view master that appears at TSM. I believe it may even be numbered #1.

Suzanne :

Thanks Jack for the good laugh at the adds! So remeber some of these places! Been to Cypress Gardens, and to Circus world! Really thought I was going to be a clown after I had my face painted when I was 10 years old! Sad that so many of these places have closed. But, I know my family does not drive to Florida, like we did when I was a kid. Disney has us, and our money, with "Magical express" all my kids have seen of Florida is the airport, and the interstate! Guess sometime we need to rent a car and stay a few more days and visit some of the other sites! Thanks again Jack!


Thanks for the memories. The Vactionland Magazine reminds me of the wonderful times we had when Park first opened. Note the absence of "baby strollers" on the cover. My daughter, 3 at the time, either walked, or we carried her. It's alot different now.


I love your blog entries - very informative with loads of colorful pictures. This entry brought me back to my childhood and the one year (1968-1969) that we lived in Florida. Disney World was not quite built yet, but the ads for Lion Country Safari and Cypress Gardens sparked some fond memories of places we visited during our year there!

Rebecca Solomon:

I remember visiting in 1978 and going to River COuntry. When did that open?

Jack's Answer:

It opened on June 20, 1976 and ceased operations on November 2, 2001

Genie Toner:

Hi, just wanted to say that Weeki Wachee Springs is still open. It recently became a Florida State Park. It still has the mermaid show and river cruise. It now also has a water park with a few slides that dump you out into the springs. It is 1 hr and 45 min from Disney property.


I don't think I ever had Disney slides for my View Master as a kid but I definately had Lonesome Ghosts for my Movie Viewer! In addition to the places the View Master can be found around the parks it also makes an appearance in Lilo & Stitch--Pleaky has the Grand Councilwoman & Jumba 'educate themselves' about Earth

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on January 22, 2011 5:00 AM.

The previous post in this blog was Carousel of Progress - Part Three.

The next post in this blog is Casey’s Corner.

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