Was a Disney Theme Park Almost Built in St. Louis?

Disneyland and Walt Disney World are two of the most popular theme park destinations in the world. But, did you know Florida wasn’t the only spot Disney looked at when planning to expand its theme park presence outside of California? Walt Disney looked to St. Louis, Missouri as a candidate for a new theme park.

Disney presented plans to build a 5-story indoor theme park in St. Louis in the early 1960s. Those plans from 1963 called for Disney’s indoor theme park to be built in downtown St. Louis near the Gateway Arch and the Mississippi river. (Fun and totally unrealistic AI art of an outdoor St. Louis theme park above)

According to the Orlando Sentinel, the indoor park was going to be called Walt Disney’s Riverfront Square. The plans called for familiar rides like the Pirates of the Caribbean, the Haunted Mansion, and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad to be built in the St. Louis park. None of these iconic attractions existed at the time, but, as Disney fans know, they all went on to become staples at Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

Exterior of the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland.
The Haunted Mansion at Disneyland.

Walt Disney himself even met with St. Louis Mayor Raymond Tucker. So, why aren’t Disney fans flocking to St. Louis today?

It all came down to money. Rumors suggested that the deal fell apart because Anheuser-Busch wanted beer sold in the parks, but the truth lies in St. Louis and Disney being unable to agree on finances. Disney wanted St. Louis to pay for the construction of the large building that would house the attractions, and St. Louis balked. Thus, there’s no Midwest Disney destination.

It’s unfortunate a St. Louis Disney theme park was never built. A Midwest Disney theme park in the same state as Walt Disney’s hometown makes a lot of sense. The climate in St. Louis obviously isn’t as ideal as that of California or Florida, but Disney already had that figured out with its indoor concept. Boutique theme park experiences are also becoming a more popular trend. Universal is building a family-focused theme park in Frisco, Texas and may have plans for other smaller-scale theme parks in other destinations.

Will Disney ever explore the Midwest or any other U.S. destination for a new theme park? It seems unlikely given their expansion opportunities currently available at Disneyland and especially at Walt Disney World.

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David
David
David is a Disney travel expert who created Notes from Neverland in 2018 after visiting Disney theme parks countless times. Previously, David spent way too much time writing about sports, and was featured in Sports Illustrated, MSN, Yahoo!, and in many other publications. Learn more or contact us.

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