The official 50th Anniversary date for Walt Disney World is October 1, 2021. But, the celebration of the 1971 opening of the Walt Disney World Resort will last much, much longer than that.
Here’s what we know so far plus some other things to be on the lookout for as we get closer to the kickoff.
When is the 50th Anniversary for Walt Disney World?
Although the official anniversary date for the opening of Walt Disney World is on October 1, the 50th Anniversary Celebration will last a lot longer than that.
Billed as “The World’s Most Magical Celebration,” Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary Celebration will last for a whopping 18 months, from October 1, 2021 until April 1, 2023.
That means you’ll have plenty of time to experience all the new and fabulous offerings.
What new things are happening for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary?
Disney has a *lot* of cool things planned. Here’s what you can expect to see starting on October 1, 2021:
Disney Enchantment (new nighttime show at Magic Kingdom)
As described by Disney, the evening event “will take you on a journey filled with adventure, wonder and empowerment.”
And, fans will be happy to learn that not only will you see lots of your favorites in this brand-new fireworks show, but Tinker Bell will also still fly through the sky.
Disney Enchantment will also include music, enhanced lighting, fireworks, and for the first time projections extending from Cinderella Castle down Main Street, U.S.A.
A new original song has also been created by GRAMMY winner Philip Lawrence for the show. Hear a sneak peek of the new song, titled “You Are the Magic,” in this behind-the-scenes clip.
Be sure to also catch the live stream of Disney Enchantment on Thursday, Sept. 30 on the Disney Parks Blog beginning at 10:15 p.m. EST before the nighttime spectacular debuts on Oct.1.
You can check Disney Enchantment times on the official Walt Disney World website or in the My Disney Experience app.
Harmonious (new nighttime show at Epcot)
Unsurprisingly, after the original opening was delayed by over a year, Disney has finally announced that the new nighttime spectacular “Harmonious” will make its debut for the kickoff of the Anniversary Celebration on October 1.
This new show replaces Illuminations and the temporary show called “Epcot Forever,” and according to Disney, “It’s a grand, powerful tribute to the stories and songs that unite us, embracing new technical magic that incorporates pyrotechnics, choreographed moving fountains, lighting and media in new ways.”
Disney also released a behind-the-scenes look at the soundtrack for Harmonious, which you can watch below.
You can find Harmonious showtimes on the official Walt Disney World website or in the My Disney Experience app.
FYI: You can watch a live stream of Harmonious on Wednesday, Sept. 29 on the Disney Parks Blog beginning at 9 p.m. EST before the nighttime spectacular debuts on Oct.1.
Disney KiteTails (daytime show at Animal Kingdom)
After the short-lived Rivers of Light was scrapped, we thought that the Discovery River Amphitheater at Animal Kingdom would remain empty. But, we were wrong!
This new daytime show will incorporate performers flying windcatchers and 3D kites, with some stretching to 30 feet long. They will depict beloved characters, like Simba, Zazu, Baloo, and King Louie.
Check out this behind-the-scenes look of the new show.
Mickey’s Celebration Cavalcade (Magic Kingdom)
At Magic Kingdom, a new cavalcade will debut starting Oct. 1 called “Mickey’s Celebration Cavalcade.” It will run several times daily and feature Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Goofy, Pluto, and Chip ‘n’ Dale in all-new EARidescent costumes.
The cavalcade will feature the new celebration anthem “The Magic is Calling.”
This new song will also be included special live entertainment across Walt Disney World, including the Main Street Philharmonic, the Dapper Dans, the Discovery Island Drummers, and Voices of Liberty.
Mickey and Minnie go EARidescent
Who doesn’t love a new party outfit?
Mickey and Minnie will be getting some shiny new looks just in time for the celebration, too.
Described as “EARidescent,” these costumes are extremely glamorous and perfect for a 50th anniversary:
Pluto and Goofy go EARidescent
Characters at the resorts are one of our new favorite things, and we now know that we can expect the characters to continue popping up at the resort hotels for the foreseeable future.
If you are staying at on onsite Disney hotel, look for Pluto and Goofy to make surprise appearances in their new EARidescent costumes during the 50th.
Disney Fab 50 golden sculptures (at all 4 theme parks)
As first revealed by Disney, “Across all 4 theme parks, 50 characters cast in gold wait to be discovered during The World’s Most Magical Celebration!”
There are a variety of characters molded into gold statues that you’ll be able to take photos and videos of at each theme park. Here’s who you can find and where:
Cinderella Castle Hub Area
- Chip ‘n’ Dale
- Dumbo and Timothy
- Winnie the Pooh & Piglet
- Gus & Jaq
- Lady and the Tramp
- Cogsworth and Lumiere
- Cheshire Cat
- Mad Hatter
- Orange Bird
World Showcase Plaza
- Pua and Heihei
- Rocket and Groot
- Olaf and Bruni
World Showcase Walkway from Future World
Planters on Hollywood Boulevard (Near Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway)
- Woody and Bo Peep
- Joe Gardner
- Flounder and Sebastian
In Front Tree of Life
- Timon and Pumbaa
- Nemo and Dory
- Bambi and Thumper
Special 50th fall and entrance decor (Magic Kingdom)
Along Main Street and in front of Cinderella Castle, there are new special pumpkin coach decorations perfect for autumn and the 50th anniversary.
The pumpkin carriages have even replaced the beloved Mickey pumpkins. Halloween festivities run through Oct. 31, 2021.
The Magic Kingdom entrance also has some 50th anniversary additions, including Mickey and Minnie topiaries, a cake, and a “The World’s Most Magical Celebration” sign with a “50” crest in the garden in front of the train station.
Cinderella Castle update (Magic Kingdom)
Cinderella Castle will have two different looks: one during the day and another for the evening as part of the “Beacons of Magic” transformation that is happening at all 4 of the park icons.
During the day, you’ll see golden bunting and a 50th anniversary crest.
But the real magic arrives at nighttime, when the castle is transformed into a sparkling piece of magic with a dash of pixie dust.
Tower of Terror (Hollywood Studios)
The Tower of Terror will see some additional enhancements for the 50th.
Disney says this will evoke the “glimmer and shimmer of the golden age of imagination and adventure.”
Tree of Life (Animal Kingdom)
Already gorgeous at night, the new enhancements will invoke the feeling of “enchanted fireflies” that have gathered to call forth the magic of nature.
Spaceship Earth (Epcot)
The most significant changes will be Spaceship Earth which will receive a dazzling display of lights and will be part of a new permanent nighttime display that will continue beyond the scheduled 18 month celebration.
Disney says that the “Lights shine from within Spaceship Earth’s reflective panels as stardust emerges to symbolize beacons of possibility and optimism.”
Sounds lovely, doesn’t it?
Early Theme Park Entry and Extended Evening Hours
While not as exciting as a new attraction or fireworks show, Disney previously announced that the 50th will kick off the start of a couple of other resort-wide changes.
First, the previously announced Early Theme Park Entry will debut on October 1.
This new on-site benefit lets all guests of Walt Disney World Resort hotels (and other select hotels) enter all 4 theme parks 30-minutes early. This replaces the now retired Extra Magic Hours that were a staple of the Walt Disney World theme parks for years.
In addition to Early Theme Park Entry, guests of Disney Deluxe, Disney Deluxe Villa Resorts, and other select hotels (Swan, Dolphin, Swan Reserve, and Shades of Green) will have an additional opportunity to enjoy the parks outside of normal operating hours.
These new extended evening hours will be available on select nights, and at select parks.
50th Scavenger Hunt at Polynesian
As reported by Disney Food Blog, there’s a new 50th-themed scavenger hunt at Disney’s Polynesian Resort. The clues are about different attractions at Magic Kingdom. It appears this scavenger hunt could also come to other resorts on property.
There are new 50th-themed wraps on buses, the Monorail, and the Disney Skyliner. We love them!
Electrical Water Pageant
Special 50th anniversary scenes featuring a towering castle and swirling pixie dust are being added to the Electrical Water Pageant, along with a version of the celebration anthem song, “The Magic is Calling” bookending the full traditional show as it sails nightly across Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake.
Orlando International Airport Decor
For anyone flying into Orlando, you’ll be greeted with 50th decor right in the Orlando International Airport.
Keep your eyes peeled for a wide-spanning art installation in the terminal train stations featuring the Fab 50 characters. There’s even a photo opportunity with a golden teacup inspired by the Mad Tea Party attraciton.
Make sure you look at the ground outside the Magic of Disney Store in the East Hall for a glow of projected EARidescent light patterns.
This special airport decor will last through March 2022.
Disney is holding nothing back when it comes to 50th Anniversary merchandise. You’ll have lots to choose from out of several collections.
Here are some of the highlights:
Can’t wait until October 1? You can get some limited-time items right now.
Perfect for people visiting before the official celebration kicks off, you’re able to get things like mugs, Spirit Jersey’s, shirts and t-shirts, as well as Passholder exclusive items.
The Celebration Collection (available now) is where you can find fun things like mommy-and-me coordinating apparel, Dooney and Bourke purses, and the oh-so-popular Mickey-head foaming soap dispensers!
Disney Castle Collection
With lots of gold and sparkle, the Disney Castle Collection (available now) just screams “elegance”.
You’ll see a touch of Cinderella Castle in all the items in this collection!
We like to call this the “Just-take-all-my-money” collection.
Retro stuff is just so fun, and this collection consists of items inspired by the Walt Disney Archives – the ultimate source for vintage Disney stuff!
Speaking of the Vault Collection, debuting sometime in the fall, The Marketplace Co-Op at Disney Springs will receive a special overlay inspired by the Vault Collection that will take guests back to 1971.
There will be nostalgic museum-like displays that invite shoppers to learn about original Walt Disney World attractions and resorts.
There will also be special photo opportunities with vintage props including carousel horses from the Prince Charming Regal Carrousel, replicas of the Orange Bird and the Tiki sculptures, and more.
Magic Kingdom’s Main Street Cinema will also receive a retro-inspired overlay themed to the Vault Collection.
Expect vintage photos, colors, and details including photo-worthy backdrops and props inspired by beloved attractions from Walt Disney World Resort history.
Want to shimmer like Cinderella Castle? You’ll be able to do that in the new EARidescent Collection.
This collection will house popular items like Loungefly mini-backpacks, t-shirts, Minnie Mouse ears, and of course – a Spirit Jersey.
Food & Dining
There are more than 150 food and beverages coming to Walt Disney World Resort for the 50th. That’s right — more than 150!
They won’t all be released at once, but the limited-time offerings will be available throughout the 18-month celebration beginning Oct. 1.
Per Disney, “Walt’s personal recipes, Walt Disney World Resort attractions (past and present), beloved Disney Characters, and nostalgic dishes from 1971 were inspirations for the tasty offerings created for this anniversary celebration. “
There is also a limited time three-course menu at California Grill that will be offered as part of “The World’s Most Magical Celebration” starting October 3rd.
What attractions are opening soon at Walt Disney World?
Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure officially opens on October 1 as part of the 50th Anniversary Celebration.
Plus, the France pavilion will see the opening of a new restaurant, La Crêperie de Paris. This new restaurant will offer both a quick & table service option (reservations not required for either).
And, finally, Mickey’s Philharmagic is getting spruced up for the 50th with a brand-new scene based around Disney’s popular animated movie Coco, which officially debuts on Nov. 12, 2021.
Will the 50th Anniversary at Walt Disney World be crowded?
Even before the extended closure in 2020 we thought that the 50th Anniversary would bring heavier-than-average crowds.
In fact, before the closure, we anticipated that we would see crowd trends similar to what we saw for Disneyland’s Diamond Celebration.
With the new shows and lots of pent-up desire for travel, we do expect the 50th to bring a lot of people to Walt Disney World.
The opening days and the closing days of the 50th Anniversary, along with other traditionally busy times of the year (like the holidays) will likely be very busy.
The opening days of anything at Walt Disney World are always busy, and we definitely expect the same for the 50th Anniversary Celebration.
As of right now (September 2021) Magic Kingdom and Epcot are showing zero availability for Park Pass Reservations for October 1, 2021.
That could change (especially if the capacity limits are adjusted) but for now, you are out of luck if you want to visit Magic Kingdom or Epcot on the “official” kickoff day.
As for the rest of the Fall months, the increase in the number of schools hosting Fall breaks means that in recent years, October & November have seen a dramatic uptick in visitors.
So, if crowds are your main concern, you’ll want to skip them.
Just like the opening days can be busy, the end of something big can also draw larger-than-average crowds.
That means the final weeks of the 50th may also see an uptick in crowds. This will be especially true if we hear that the special entertainment scheduled for the festivities will be ending.
If that happens, expect March 2023 to be busy as guests flock back to see something “one last time.”
Other potentially busy times
In addition to the big 50th, there are a few other things happening in the next 2 years that will also attract heavier-than-normal crowds.
Mainly, you can expect that the opening of TRON: Lightcycle Power Run at Magic Kingdom and Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind to bring lots (and lots) of people to the parks.
Whenever those opening dates are set (we anticipate that to be sometime in 2022), expect the crowds to be heavier, especially in the parks where the new attractions are located.
What are the Best Times to Visit for the 50th Anniversary Celebration?
Want to visit during the 50th but worried about the crowds?
Check out some suggested times below. And, for a complete look at our recommendations, check out our Crowd Calendar.
Early December 2021 & 2022
If you want to catch things early, but you don’t want the super-heavy crowds found in the opening days, consider the first part of December.
Things will still be busy, but they shouldn’t be anywhere near the levels of what we expect to see in October.
January and February 2022 & 2023
If you can avoid the holidays (New Year’s, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and Presidents’ Day), January and February of both 2022 and 2023 will likely be a good time to visit since you should have lower crowd levels and lovely weather.
Late April/Early May 2022
The last week of April, first part of May in 2022 should also be a good time to visit. Aim to travel in the sweet spot between the Easter crowds and early Summer guests.
What we are still waiting to hear more about?
While nothing is ever guaranteed, we do expect to hear some news about additional offerings for the 50th.
Here are some things we will be looking for:
This one is tricky. Disney has already announced a new cavalcade for the 50th, but we are still hopeful that there might possibly be a new, full-length parade in the works, too.
Unfortunately, even if there are plans for one, it doesn’t appear as if it will debut on October 1, but we have our fingers crossed that we might see one before the celebration is over.
We’ll be sure to update this guide as more 50th anniversary details are announced.
- Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary Celebration Details Are Here
- Walt Disney World Posts Park Hours For Christmas Week & Extends Even More
- Epcot’s Harmonious & New Magic Kingdom Nighttime Show Debuting For The 50th
- Walt Disney World Releases Extended Evening Theme Park Hours
- Disney’s Magical Express & Extra Magic Hours Ending At Walt Disney World