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Complete Guide to the 50th Anniversary Celebration at Disney World

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Complete Guide to the 50th Anniversary Celebration at Disney World

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)

disney enchantment 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 do you see lots of your favorites in this brand-new fireworks show, but Tinker Bell still flies through the sky.

disney enchantment little mermaid

Disney Enchantment also includes music, enhanced lighting, fireworks, and for the first time projections extending from Cinderella Castle down Main Street, U.S.A.

A new original song was also 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.

You can check Disney Enchantment times on the official Walt Disney World website or in the My Disney Experience app.

Read all about the dessert parties available for Disney Enchantment, along with our comparison to the Spice Road Table Harmonious dining package at Epcot.

Harmonious (new nighttime show at Epcot)

harmonious epcot

Unsurprisingly, after the original opening was delayed by over a year, Disney officially debuted the new nighttime spectacular “Harmonious” on October 1.

This new show replaces Illuminations and the temporary show called “Epcot Forever,” and as described by 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.”

Here’s a taste of the Harmonious soundtrack.

You can find Harmonious showtimes on the official Walt Disney World website or in the My Disney Experience app.

Read more about how Spice Road Table’s Harmonious dining package compares to a Disney Enchantment dessert party at Magic Kingdom.

Disney KiteTails (daytime show at Animal Kingdom)

disney kitetails baloo kite

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 incorporates performers flying windcatchers and 3D kites, with some stretching to 30 feet long. They depict beloved characters, like Simba, Zazu, Baloo, and King Louie.

disney kitetails the lion king

There are two different shows, one featuring Jungle Book kites and the second with kites inspired by The Lion King. The shows alternate.

Warning: the kites don’t “crash” into the stands and water, that’s simply how they have to land them. Per Disney, “What goes up, must come down.”

disney kitetails simba kite crash landing

You can find KiteTails showtimes on the official Walt Disney World website or in the My Disney Experience app.

Mickey’s Celebration Cavalcade (Magic Kingdom)

At Magic Kingdom, a new cavalcade is currently running as of Oct. 1 called “Mickey’s Celebration Cavalcade.”

It runs several times daily (check the My Disney Experience app for times) and features Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Goofy, Pluto, and Chip ‘n’ Dale in all-new EARidescent costumes.

mickey's celebration cavalcade 50th anniversary magic kingdom

The cavalcade features the new celebration anthem “The Magic is Calling.”

This new song is also included in special live entertainment across Walt Disney World, including the Main Street Philharmonic, the Dapper Dans, the Discovery Island Drummers, and Voices of Liberty.

Read more about everywhere you can currently see characters across Walt Disney World.

Mickey, Minnie, and pals go EARidescent

Who doesn’t love a new party outfit?

Mickey and Minnie, along with their six of their closest friends (Donald, Daisy, Goofy, Pluto, and Chip ‘n’ Dale) are sporting shiny new looks just in time for the celebration.

Described as “EARidescent,” these costumes are extremely glamorous and perfect for a 50th anniversary:

let the magic begin welcome show magic kingdom

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.

pluto and goofy 50th anniversary costumes

If you are staying at on onsite Disney hotel, look for Pluto and Goofy (and possibly some of the other Fab Five characeters) 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!”

lady and the tramp fab 50 statue magic kingdom

There are a variety of characters molded into gold statues that you’re able to take photos and videos of at each theme park. Here’s who you can find and where:

Magic Kingdom

Cinderella Castle Hub Area

  • Mickey
  • Minnie
  • Pluto
  • Goofy
  • Daisy
  • Donald
  • Chip ‘n’ Dale
  • Dumbo and Timothy
  • Winnie the Pooh & Piglet
  • Gus & Jaq
  • Tinkerbell

Town Square

  • Lady and the Tramp

Fantasyland

  • Pinocchio
  • Cogsworth and Lumiere
  • Cheshire Cat
  • Mad Hatter

Tomorrowland

  • Stitch

Adventureland

  • Abu
  • Orange Bird
gold minnie fab 50 statue at magic kingdom

Epcot

World Showcase Plaza

  • Pua and Heihei
  • Rocket and Groot
  • Miguel
  • Dante
  • Olaf and Bruni

World Showcase Walkway from Future World

  • Figment
dante and miguel fab 50 statue epcot

Hollywood Studios

Planters on Hollywood Boulevard (Near Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway)

  • Woody and Bo Peep
  • Frozone
  • Edna
  • Joe Gardner
  • BB-8
  • R2-D2
  • Flounder and Sebastian
joe gardner fab 50 soul statue hollywood studios

Animal Kingdom

In Front Tree of Life

  • Simba
  • Timon and Pumbaa
  • Nemo and Dory
  • Bambi and Thumper
bambi and thumper fab 50 statue animal kingdom

Visit our Fab 50 guide for exact locations, maps, and a printable checklist.

Special 50th seasonal and entrance decor (Magic Kingdom)

Along Main Street and around the main hub, there are 50th banners and even seasonal decor with gold accents for the anniversary.

wreath magic kingdom main street gold bow

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.

mickey and minnie 50th topiary magic kingdom

Cinderella Castle update (Magic Kingdom)

Cinderella Castle has 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.

Cinderella Castle 50th

But the real magic arrives at nighttime, when the castle is transformed into a sparkling piece of magic with a dash of pixie dust.

cinderella castle beacon of magic

Check the My Disney Experience app for when the Beacon of Magic begins. It runs about every 15 minutes from start time until park closing.

Important: During evenings when Disney Very Merriest After Hours isn’t being held, Cinderella Castle will have holiday-themed projections that will alternate between the Beacon of Magic.

Tower of Terror (Hollywood Studios)

The Tower of Terror also has some additional enhancements for the 50th.

tower of terror beacon of magic

Check the My Disney Experience app for when the Beacon of Magic begins. It runs about every 15 minutes from start time until park closing.

Important: This Beacon of Magic alternates during Sunset Seasons Greetings, which are the seasonal projections running during the holidays.

Tree of Life (Animal Kingdom)

Already gorgeous at night, the new enhancements on the Tree of Life invoke the feeling of “enchanted fireflies” that have gathered to call forth the magic of nature.

tree of life beacon of magic

Check the My Disney Experience app for when the Beacon of Magic begins. It runs about every 15 minutes from start time until park closing.

Important: This Beacon of Magic alternates during the seasonal Tree of Life Awakenings.

Spaceship Earth (Epcot)

The most significant changes are on Spaceship Earth, which now has a dazzling display of lights and are a permanent nighttime display that continue beyond the scheduled 18 month celebration.

epcot spaceship earth beacon of magic

Spaceship Earth’s Beacon of Magic is the best (in our opinion). It’s about 3 minutes long and runs every 15 minutes from start time to park close.

Check the My Disney Experience app for when the Beacon of Magic begins.

Early Theme Park Entry and Extended Evening Hours

While not as exciting as a new attraction or fireworks show, the 50th also kicked off the start of a couple of other resort-wide changes.

First, the previously announced Early Theme Park Entry debuted on October 1.

magic kingdom early theme park entry

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) 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.

The scavenger hunt can be found at select resorts on property, including Disney’s Contemporary Resort and Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. Just ask a Cast Member working and they should be able to assist you!

Transportation Wraps

There are new 50th-themed wraps on buses, the Monorail, and the Disney Skyliner. We love them!

disney skyliner gondola 50th wrap

Electrical Water Pageant

Special 50th anniversary scenes featuring a towering castle and swirling pixie dust are now part of 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.

electrical water pageant 50th float

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 attraction.

50th tea cup photo op orlando airport

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. 

Here there’s even a 36-foot long video screen showcasing the shimmering EARidescence of the four Beacons of Magic.

This special airport decor will last through March 2022.

Merchandise

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:

Pre-Celebration Collection

pre celebration collection disney 50th merchandise

This collection was released before the official celebration began. It includes things like mugs, Spirit Jersey’s, shirts and t-shirts, as well as Passholder exclusive items.

Celebration Collection

The Celebration Collection 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!

mickey head soap dispenser foam

Disney Castle Collection

With lots of gold and sparkle, the Disney Castle Collection just screams “elegance”.

castle collection disney 50th

You’ll see a touch of Cinderella Castle in all the items in this collection!

Vault Collection

We like to call this the “Just-take-all-my-money” collection.

disney vault collection 50th anniversary merchandise tshirts

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!

disney vault collection 50th anniversary merchandise

Speaking of the Vault Collection, The Marketplace Co-Op at Disney Springs has received a special overlay inspired by the Vault Collection that takes guests back to 1971.

There are nostalgic museum-like displays that invite shoppers to learn about original Walt Disney World attractions and resorts.

orange bird 50th photo spot at disney springs

There are also 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 Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride vehicle.

Magic Kingdom’s Main Street Cinema has also received 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.

EARidescent Collection

Want to shimmer like Cinderella Castle? You’ll be able to do that in the new EARidescent Collection.

This collection houses popular items like Loungefly mini-backpacks, t-shirts, Minnie Mouse ears, and of course – a Spirit Jersey.

EARidescent Collection spirt jersey disney 50th

Food & Dining

There are more than 150 food and beverages at Walt Disney World 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.

50th anniversary cupcake

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. “

You can browse the complete 50th anniversary foodie guide online.

There is also a limited time three-course menu at California Grill that’s offered as part of “The World’s Most Magical Celebration.”

What attractions are opening soon at Walt Disney World?

Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure officially opened on October 1 as part of the 50th Anniversary Celebration.

remy's ratatouille adventure epcot

Plus, the France pavilion saw the opening of a new restaurant, La Crêperie de Paris. This new restaurant offers both a quick & table service option (reservations not required for either).

la creperie de paris france pavilion epcot

In addition, there are 2 other attractions slated for opening sometime during the 18-month party: TRON: Lightcycle Power Run and Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind.

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 debuted 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.

50th anniversary banner magic kingdom

Fall 2021

The opening days of anything at Walt Disney World are always busy, and as we saw, the “official” kickoff day was extremely busy at Magic Kingdom.

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.

March 2023

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.”

spaceship earth beacon of magic

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.

hollywood studios christmas decorations

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:

New Parade

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.

Even though one didn’t debut at the beginning of the celebration on October 1, 20201, we definitely 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.

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Aleasa Hogate

Friday 23rd of July 2021

My family stayed at the Polynesian in Oct 1972 the first year Orlando opened. We have visited and stayed at Diseyworld resorts for years and for nearly every annual event. The last time I visited was 4 years ago. I had a stroke (while visiting and have not been able to revisit. The only way I could visit now is if I can fly and be picked up at the airport and taken to one of the Disney resorts. However, I heard that is no longer possible. Is this still possible? Who can I talk with about this. Aleasa Hogate