Originally published in October 2021, updated in January 2022 to reflect the latest entertainment and offerings.
The Most Magical Place on Earth, Walt Disney World, opened 50 years ago. In honor of this momentous occasion, the Most Magical Celebration on Earth is happening for 18 months! There are so many ways to enjoy this special celebration, and it can be hard to keep track of all the enhancements.
Disney has often had special campaigns that last a year or more. If you’ve been a Disney fan for a while you may recall some of them. The Millennium Celebration and the Year of a Million Dreams are some of my favorites. And the formula for these campaigns tends to be the same: a new ride or two, a new fireworks show, maybe a few new shows, new map design, merchandise, banners in each park, and specialty food and drinks.
Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary does follow this formula, and then some. If you and your sweetheart want to make the most of this celebration, I’ve got some tips and highlights for you.
Disney Fab 50 Golden Statues
One of the enhancements for Walt Disney World 50th anniversary that has garnered the most attention is the collection of golden statues at each of the four theme parks. These statues are simply adorable, and serve as fun photo locations for couples and families.
Each park has an assortment of statues to commemorate the 50th Anniversary. The collection of characters suits each theme park. As you might imagine, Magic Kingdom has the most. But don’t count out the other parks. Each park’s collection is unique, and it’s so fun to see how many you can find.
Most of the Disney character statues are near the center of the park.
50th Anniversary Character Experiences
Nothing beats seeing the Disney characters in person. While most traditional meet and greets are no longer offered, a few character meet and greet experiences have returned. These modified experiences still utilize social distancing, without autographs and hugs. This makes it easier to get that must-have selfie with Mickey Mouse at the Magic Kingdom.
To me, the best way to get your character fix is the adorable character cavalcades. Each Walt Disney World theme park has a few cavalcades, the exception being at EPCOT.
Over at Magic Kingdom a new calvacade “Disney Adventure Friends Cavalcade!” debuts February 11, 2022. Starring nearly 30 of your favorite Disney and Pixar friends, this super-sized cavalcade features Nick and Judy from “Zootopia,” Baloo and King Louie from “The Jungle Book,” José Carioca and Panchito from “The Three Caballeros,” plus Merida, Moana, The Incredibles, and more – including the Magic Kingdom debut of Miguel from “Coco” in his mariachi best.
And over at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Mickey, Minnie, and friends float along the Discovery River with a new 50th anniversary song and decorations.
Magic Kingdom Parade and Stage Show are Back
Disney “Festival of Fantasy” Parade returns to Magic Kingdom Park beginning March 9. This parade is a favorite among Disney fans, especially thanks to the fire-breathing Maleficent Dragon float. And throughout the day guests can enjoy “Mickey’s Magical Friendship Faire” which returns to the Cinderella Castle stage with a new opening and a new finale in honor of the Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary, beginning February 25, 2022.
New 50th Anniversary Park Maps and Tickets
As is tradition, each of the Walt Disney World theme park maps have been updated with a new look and logo for the 50th anniversary. Many Disney fans are making it their mission to collect one of each map, including Disney Springs.
Disney has pushed guests to use the MyDisneyExperience app and Magic Mobile function instead of using physical tickets. And yet, guests who are utilizing regular plastic tickets are now receiving special 50th anniversary ones. This also goes for Annual Passholders.
If you have a Walt Disney World annual pass, be sure to stop by Guest Relations or the Guest Experience Team in the parks. You'll need your MagicBand or Annual Pass card and photo identification, and viola — you'll soon have a new 50th Anniversary Annual Passholder card. Not only does this card look cool, but it is your active ticket media and can be used for park entrance and eligible discounts.
50th Anniversary Food and Beverage
It wouldn't be the Most Magical Celebration on Earth without special food and drink to honor the big anniversary. From each theme park to resort hotels and Disney Springs, you can tempt your tastebuds with over 150 different snacks, sweets, entrees, and drinks that honor the 50th anniversary. Some of the eats are named after past attractions and other Disney traditions.
The 50th Golden Margarita at Animal Kingdom did not blow me away, but it is a refreshing margarita that should not be overlooked by anyone who loves a classic margarita.
The Magical Beacon Cocktail is available throughout Walt Disney World property and is garnering lots of attention. It is made with 1908 Empress Gin, giving it a lovely violet hue and a light, earthy flavor. At $17 it is one of the priciest cocktails, though some bartenders will hold the glow cube if you ask them nicely, which knocks $2-$3 off the price. Overall, this is an exciting cocktail to have in the anniversary line-up because it is very different from the usual overly sweet options.
My favorite 50th anniversary cocktail at Walt Disney World, so far, is the Shimmer Over the Moon at Disney's Hollywood Studios. It is made with Ole Smoky Moonshine, Amaretto, Falernum syrup, pineapple juice, and club soda. This is like a fall-flavored tiki drink — right up my alley. It is available throughout Disney's Hollywood Studios, and I will definitely grab another next time I am in the park.
There's also a non-alcoholic specialty drink available at many Disney resort hotels. The EAR-idescent Sip-a-bration is a bit pricey at $10, but our son loved it! Premium lemonade is served in a sturdy 50th anniversary souvenir cup. Then a surprise character drop-in hangs on the side of the glass. When you're ready, drop the character into the lemonade and gently stir it around. Soon your drink will have a hint of berry flavor and beautiful, swirling sparkles.
Beacons of Magic
Another major highlight is the nighttime makeover each theme park icon has received. Each night guests are enchanted by the new glowing and EAR-idescent look each theme park icon dons.
Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom, Spaceship Earth at EPCOT, the Tower of Terror at Disney's Hollywood Studios, and the Tree of Life at Disney's Animal Kingdom each have their own special look. The runaway hit is Spaceship Earth's Beacon of Magic light display. And be sure to check out all the details of Tower of Terror's EAR-idescent look, including dancers in the grand ballroom window.
New Fireworks and Shows
It wouldn't be Walt Disney World's 50th Anniversary without fireworks. Magic Kingdom is now showing “Disney Enchantment” nightly and EPCOT has “Harmonious.” Each of these two new fireworks shows incorporates new technology and effects.
If you're looking for a way to view Disney fireworks outside the parks, we've got a guide for that.
50th Anniversary Enhancements at Disney Resort Hotels
Staying at a Disney Resort hotel is the ultimate way for you and your Disney sweetheart to celebrate together. No matter which Disney Resort hotel you select, you'll find some enhancements for the anniversary. From 50th-anniversary welcome mats and decorations to special television selections, the celebration continues at each Disney hotel. And, your room key will have a little sprinkle of 50th anniversary magic too!
Other Ways to Celebrate Walt Disney World's 50th Anniversary
- You'll find lots of 50th anniversary merchandise at each theme park, resort hotel, and Disney Springs
- Keep an eye out for Disney transportation including Monorail Gold, a few buses, and a few Disney Skyliner gondolas dressed up in 50th anniversary regalia
- There are special EAR-idescent Mickey Mouse balloons for sale at Magic Kingdom
- From shopping bags to popcorn buckets, keep an eye out for 50th Anniversary packaging
- Check out the new EAR-idescent nametags — the Cast Members sure are proud of this celebration
All images by Dani Meyering