It’s time to celebrate — the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World is finally here! The "World's Most Magical Celebration" kicked off Oct. 1 across all four Disney World theme parks and will run for 18 months. We were so hoppy to see all of the new offerings and "EARidescent" decorations. Turning down Main Street felt extra magical as we walked towards Cinderella Castle. Seeing Cast Members with their new EARidescent nametags and guests all dressed up in purples and blues — it truly felt like a big party! Mickey's even got a brand-new outfit for the big 5-0. Believe it or not, Mickey's EARidescent duds are only one teeny tiny detail out of what feels like a million toadally magical details you'll find all around Walt Disney World Resort. There's truly magic waiting to dazzle you around every corner (especially at Magic Kingdom)!
What better way to celebrate a birthday than with fireworks? At Magic Kingdom, Disney Enchantment lights up the night sky with sparkling fireworks and incredible projections all the way down Main Street. The long-awaited Harmonious premiered at EPCOT, as well as Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure! Along with plenty of new and returning entertainment, there is special decor, merchandise, food and more to enjoy (we had no idea how much we needed 50th-themed Mickey bars in our lives!). Don't worry — we'll share all of the can't-miss details below!
Like any party, you’ll need time to plan. Even though the anniversary celebration continues through early 2023 (which gives you plenty of time!), we expect it to impact crowd levels all-around, particularly during typical peak periods, including the week of Thanksgiving, the week between Christmas and the new year and spring break. Disney Park Pass reservations may fill up more quickly than normal, especially for Magic Kingdom, so if you're hoping to attend this milestone celebration, you'll want to book your hotel and get a park reservation through the Disney World reservation system as soon as you nail down your dates.
So, what exactly is in store during the Walt Disney World 50th anniversary celebration? Let's get this party started!
What to Expect at Disney World’s 50th Anniversary Celebration
It is almost impossible to list all of the toadally magical touches Disney World has thoughtfully and meaningfully spread all around the resort. From pixie dust-covered Beacons of Magic, to new and wonderful entertainment options, to food worth celebrating, we've done our best to cover all of the highlights here.
Disney World 50th Anniversary Entertainment
Disney World is 50 and fabulous. Nothing screams "party" like Walt Disney World entertainment! Here are all of the fabulous entertainment offerings hoppening at each park.
At Magic Kingdom, a new nighttime spectacular kicks off the birthday celebrations. Disney Enchantment takes you through a journey filled with adventure, wonder and empowerment that inspires you to believe in magic. Catch characters from newer films such as "Onward," "Coco," "Raya and the Last Dragon" and "Soul," as well as your favorites from classic stories throughout Disney history. We felt like there was a good balance of old and new animated films represented. And of course, Lily's favorite part was "Into the Unknown" from "Frozen 2." The show features a new original song called "You Are the Magic," enhanced lighting, fireworks and, for the first time ever, projection effects that extend from Cinderella Castle all the way down Main Street, U.S.A. And don't worry — your favorite fairy can still be seen soaring through the sky! (Hi, Tink!) The show reminded us a lot of Happily Ever After, so other froggy fans should hopfully enjoy it as well. (Looking for the best spots to catch Disney Enchantment? Hop over to our full post!)
Mickey, Minnie and their friends — the EARidescent Eight — will also celebrate with a new "Mickey's Celebration Cavalcade" throughout the day, featuring the new 50th anthem, "The Magic is Calling." And there's also a short welcome show at the beginning of each day — welcome to the party!
Harmonious — the largest nighttime spectacular ever created for a Disney park — also debuted Oct. 1 at EPCOT. Harmonious celebrates how the music of Disney inspires people around the globe. Get carried away harmoniously on a stream of familiar Disney tunes reinterpreted by a diverse group of artists. It was toadally awesome to hear our favorites in the languages of their respective origins. Harmonious features huge floating set pieces, custom-built LED panels, choreographed moving fountains, lights, pyrotechnics, lasers and more. While Harmonious was visually stunning, not all viewing areas are equal, as it can be hard to see some of the barges. We'll be updating our best spots to watch EPCOT fireworks post so you know exactly where to stand! Stick around at the end for a colorful photo-op, as the barges remain lit up for about 10 minutes after the show.
While not specifically 50th-themed, we're still hoppy to say that EPCOT has welcomed back several of its performers just in time for the event, including the Matsuriza Taiko drummers in Japan, Sergio the comedic juggler in Italy and Alberta Bound in Canada. And hopfully, more will join them in the coming months.
Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park
A new daytime show, Disney KiteTails, premiered at Animal Kingdom for the 50th anniversary! Showing several times daily at the Discovery River Amphitheater, performers fly windcatchers and kites of all shapes and sizes, while larger three-dimensional kites, depicting Disney animal friends (including Simba, Zazu, Baloo and King Louie), soar through the sky above the water to the beat of Disney songs. There's even an all-new EARidescent flotilla featuring your favorite characters on Discovery River!
Beacons of Magic and the Electrical Water Pageant
At night during the "World's Most Magical Celebration," Cinderella Castle, along with the icons from the other three parks, transform into Beacons of Magic. Pixie dust shimmers on the castle, magical fireflies inhabit the Tree of Life at Disney's Animal Kingdom and new touches come to life on the Hollywood Tower Hotel at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Over at EPCOT, new lights shine across the reflective panels of Spaceship Earth, resembling stars in the night sky — this will be a permanent feature that stays beyond the "World's Most Magical Celebration," which makes us extra hoppy because it's our favorite! You'll hear different arrangements of the new "The Magic is Calling" anthem at each of the parks.
Even the fan-favorite Electrical Water Pageant got a 50th addition — if you're at a Bay Lake resort, keep an eye out for the caboose, a new addition just for the party.
New Experiences and Attractions for Disney World's 50th Anniversary
What better time to open new rides and attractions than during the World’s Most Magical Celebration? Over at EPCOT, Remy's Ratatouille Adventure shrinks you down to Chef Remy’s size as you race through Gusteau’s restaurant on a wild adventure. This addition to France is fun for all ages!
With an 18-month celebration ahead, there are still lots of new experiences planned to look forward to. Here’s a look at new rides and attractions set to open:
- Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind (EPCOT) — Join the Guardians of the Galaxy on an adventure across the cosmos. The storytelling coaster rotates 360 degrees to focus your attention on the action. If you were wondering where the rewind comes in, this is the first reverse launch on a Disney coaster. (Confirmed for 2022)
- PLAY! Pavilion (EPCOT) — In this digital metropolis, you’ll discover an interactive city bursting with games, activities and experiences that connect you with friends, family and beloved Disney characters like never before. Help fashion icon Edna Mode on her quest to rid the world of uninspired style, or make a splash competing in a water-balloon fight hosted by Huey, Dewey, Louie and Webby.
- Originally, TRON Lightcycle Power Run coaster was supposed to open at Magic Kingdom in time for Disney World's anniversary, but that ride does not have an opening date on the calendar just yet. The park has hit "pause" on construction so we do not expect to see that coaster opening as planned.
Disney Genie, a free planning tool within the My Disney Experience app, debuts Oct. 19, 2021. You'll have a personalized itinerary based on your interests that updates throughout the day, and it will display current AND forecasted wait times to help you predict quicker entry to rides. Therefore, Disney has announced that the FastPass+ service has been retired. In its place, there will be two paid options that use a rebranded Lightning Lane entrance. For $15 per ticket per day, guests can upgrade to the Disney Genie+ service, which will allow them to choose the next available time to arrive at a variety of attractions and experiences using the Lightning Lane entrance. Additionally, guests can make individual attraction selections for select high-demand attractions (that aren't included with Genie+) in order to use the Lightning Lane entrance. For more details, hop over to our Disney Genie guide.
Debuting in 2022 is the MagicBand+, the newest iteration of the popular wristband technology. MagicBand+ will continue to function like the current MagicBands, allowing for park and room entry, retail, dining, PhotoPass and more. The new versions will now come with color-changing lights, vibrations and gesture recognition. You'll be able to interact with the 50th-anniversary character statues, find virtual bounties at Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge and see your band light up in sync to the nighttime spectaculars, Disney Enchantment and Harmonious. Discounted prices will be available for resort hotel guests as well as new and renewing annual passholders.
New Restaurants and Lodging for Disney World's 50th Anniversary
You can also expect a new restaurant and an out-of-this-world hotel opening just in time for "The World's Most Magical Celebration!"
- Space 220 restaurant (EPCOT) — The highly-anticipated restaurant in the Mission: SPACE Pavilion opened Sept. 20, 2021, in time for the 50th anniversary. Dine in a stellar space station with a view into outer space. Enjoy amazing daytime and nighttime views of Earth from 220 miles away.
- Le Crêperie de Paris (EPCOT) — Alongside Remy's Ratatouille Adventure, the restaurant offers sweet and savory crepes. You can sit down inside to eat it leisurely or grab one to-go from the pick-up window (now open!).
- Steakhouse 71 (Disney's Contemporary Resort) — Located on the first floor where The Wave ... of American Flavors used to be, Steakhouse 71 serves up nostalgia with its 1970s decor and a menu inspired by some of Walt Disney's favorite dishes (now open!).
- Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser — Debuting March 1, 2022, Disney World is launching a new vacation experience where guests can check-in for a two-night adventure aboard a glamorous starship. Once onboard, guests interact with characters and become active participants in the stories that take place around them on their galactic journey.
A new perk for Walt Disney World Resort hotel guests debuted for the celebration, as well. Early Theme Park Entry allows hotel guests to enter any theme park 30 minutes early, every day. Woohoo! We recently tried out this resort benefit at Magic Kingdom. The park allowed all guests into the park and then those staying at a resort could line up at either the Fantasyland or Tomorrowland entrances for a 30-minute head start. We just needed our MagicBand or ticket scanned and we were in. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train or Space Mountain, here we come! Deluxe and Villa hotel guests will also have access to special extended evening hours in the parks. No matter which Disney hotel you're staying at, you can also look forward to some Disney pals dropping by to say hello in their party attire, such as Goofy and Pluto!
Disney World 50th Anniversary Décor
Talk about a glow-up! Cinderella Castle already got a fresh new paint job in 2020 in preparation for the Disney World 50th anniversary celebration, with glimmering jewels and golden bunting following shortly after. With extra trimmings and a 50th crest, the castle is all wrapped up for the party! Similar decorations, banners and new paint can be found throughout the resort.
Mickey and Minnie also don special birthday outfits! Their sparkling new look is custom-made out of "EARidescent" fabric with gold highlights. SUPER CUTE! Their pals Donald Duck, Daisy, Goofy, Pluto and Chip 'n' Dale also get their shimmer on. You can see them in the Mickey Celebration Cavalcade multiple times throughout the day or randomly see them waving to guests from atop the train station.
Mickey and friends are also featured in special golden sculptures, among 50 total characters, that are displayed across all four theme parks. From the "EARidescent Eight" (Mickey and friends) to Winnie the Pooh and Edna Mode, there are characters from more than 90 years of Disney movies. While most are displayed prominently, some statues can be tricky to find or may show up in an unexpected place, so keep your eyes high and low! We love how the statue of Woody and Bo Peep is actually toy-sized, though it was easy to walk right by them at Hollywood Studios. Stitch can be spotted hanging from the iconic purple wall at Magic Kingdom — just to name a few! Often times there is a PhotoPass photographer available at the Mickey and Minnie statues at Magic Kingdom for a fun frog family photo.
The celebration can now begin as soon as the airplane lands with the special 50th-anniversary decor at the Orlando International Airport. Special art, "EARidescent" light projections and photo opportunities dazzle passengers before even leaving the airport. (And if you're flying Southwest, there's even a chance that the party will begin before you land on a special 50th-themed plane. Cool!)
Disney World 50th Anniversary Celebration Merchandise, Food and More
No party is complete unless guests eat treats and depart with a goodie bag. In this case, it's a bag full of purchased "souvenEARS" from the event. You can find most 50th merchandise at the Emporium at Magic Kingdom or World of Disney at Disney Springs. Creations Shop at EPCOT and Island Mercantile also have a small selection of 50th merch. With multiple collections highlighting the 50th logo, the new castle look, retro-themed designs and, of course, the "EARidescent" color scheme, there's something for everyone. Clothing, hats, ears, pins, plushes, frames, sippers, popcorn buckets — oh my! As you might imagine, these specialty items are in high demand. Keep an eye out for boards outside of retail locations showcasing which items are in stock and which are sold out.
Disney World Resort hotel guests can find new refillable cups just for the occasion and even special, limited edition MagicBands themed to each resort (those Fort Wilderness beauties — sign us up!).
In October 2020, Disney World announced a special 50th celebration license plate for Florida-registered car owners. Proceeds of the license plate go to Make-A-Wish of Central and Northern Florida.
What's a party without cake? There are so many 50th-themed treats all around the resort — it's going to take the entire 18 months just to eat them all! You can find special food, desserts and drinks at each of the theme parks, hotels and Disney Springs. The Disney culinary and mixology teams have created more than 150 sips and bites, taking inspiration from Walt Disney's personal recipes, Disney World attractions, characters and nostalgic dishes from 1971.
From hand-dipped Mickey premium ice cream bars to decadent chocolate mousse, and Filet Mignon with Walt's Hash to the EARidescent Sip-a-bration (nonalcoholic lemonade and strawberry punch served in a souvenir cup), your taste buds will have a party of their own.
How to Plan for Disney World's 50th Anniversary Celebration
Hop over to our post on planning a Walt Disney World trip in 2021 for the most updated details about park reservations, park operations updates and more. Like we mentioned earlier, the Disney Park Pass reservation system is set to be in place until early 2023. That means you need to make your hotel and your park reservations in addition to general park admission. Having hotel reservations without park reservations will leave you out of the park.
Park hopping returned Jan. 1, 2021, so take that into consideration if you're planning a 50th-anniversary trip! You only need to make a Park Pass reservation for the first park you plan on visiting; since the second park is subject to capacity limitations, we'd suggest making your Disney Park Pass reservation for the park you'd most like to visit if you'll be hopping. Remember, Magic Kingdom is the most in-demand park for this soiree, so if it's a must-do for your fam, we recommend making a park reservation to secure your spot rather than planning to hop over.
Here are some of our other tips and tricks when heading to the 50th:
- Large celebrations do tend to attract crowds. If you have your heart set on visiting during peak times, you should start planning now and lock in your park reservations! For the best availability, book early.
- We highly recommend placing your mobile order well in advance, especially for lunchtime.
- Though at first ride wait times remained low, they have since returned back to typical fall levels. We recommend early morning or evening to maximize ride time. We also will wait and see if the start of Disney Genie on Oct. 19 significantly affects ride wait times.
- Magic Kingdom has the most festivities in store, and as such, will likely remain the most crowded of the parks. (Pssst ... if seeing Enchantment isn't a must for you, or you've already seen it, fireworks time is a great time to hop on rides!)
- Staying on-site? During peak times, we recommend arriving to the bus stop well ahead of when you actually want to depart, just in case buses are running behind or the first bus fills up. We also recommend driving yourself when possible or using Uber.
The "World's Most Magical Celebration" lasts 18 magical months, and we can't wait to keep this party going — keep hopping back, as we'll continue to add details as more are released. Hoppy 50th, Disney World!
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