Disney World’s 50th Anniversary: How the Parks Are Celebrating

The Most Magical Place on Earth is celebrating its golden anniversary in 2021. Learn how you can get in on the fun.

Walt Disney World officially hits the big 5-0 on October 1, and as you would expect, the celebration is going to be a big one! For starters, the Disney World 50th anniversary celebration won’t be limited to just one day or even a single month but rather a full 18 months. That’s right—guests can celebrate Disney’s 50th anniversary from October 1, 2021, through mid-2023 in what is being called “The World’s Most Magical Celebration.”

Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse at Magic Kingdom Park are two of the “Disney Fab 50 Character Collection" appearing in all four Walt Disney World Resort theme parks in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., as part of “The World’s Most Magical Celebration,” beginning Oct. 1, 2021, in honor of the resort’s 50th anniversary.Courtesy Disney

Disney’s golden anniversary has already seen a glittering makeover to Cinderella’s Castle, and there will be new attractions launching, including the much-anticipated Ratatouille ride in EPCOT, along with new costumes for your favorite characters like Mickey and Minnie (naturally!) and lots of new 50th anniversary merchandise to collect.

Before you plan a trip to Orlando for Disney’s 50th, you’ll want to fully understand the difference between Disneyland vs. Disney World and get in on these top Disney secrets. We also give you a head start on spotting all the hidden Mickeys.

When is Disney World’s 50th anniversary? 

Disney World’s 50th anniversary officially kicks off on October 1, 2021—50 years to the day the park first opened its gates on October 1, 1971. “May Walt Disney World bring joy and inspiration and new knowledge to all who come to this happy place…a Magic Kingdom where the young at heart of all ages can laugh and play and learn together,” said Roy O. Disney, Walt’s brother, at the official dedication on October 25 of that year. (Walt Disney passed away in 1966 and did not live to see Disney World’s opening.)

The anniversary celebration will continue for 18 months.

What restrictions will still be in place? 

At the time this story went live, all guests and cast members at Disney World’s parks and resorts are required to wear masks. Up-close character meet-and-greets continue to be on hold, but you can say hi to your favorites from a safe distance.

Changes to Cinderella’s Castle

A new crest honoring the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World Resort adorns Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom Park in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.Courtesy Disney

Cinderella’s Castle, the centerpiece of the Magic Kingdom, has seen several makeovers over the years, but none quite as resplendent as its 50th anniversary look. For the occasion, the castle was given an EARidescent makeover complete with gold bunting, sparkling embellishments, and a crest in honor of the 50th anniversary.

New attractions and experiences for the anniversary

Interior view of Remy's Ratatouille Adventure at Epcot at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, FloridaCourtesy Disney

The long-awaited Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure in EPCOT’s France Pavilion will open on October 1. On the ride, which is original to Disneyland Paris, guests shrink down to Chef Remy the rat’s size, only to be chased through Gusteau’s restaurant.

In addition, there are two new nighttime “extravaganzas,” aka Disney’s special blends of fireworks, lighting effects, music, and more: Disney Enchantment at the Magic Kingdom and Harmonious on EPCOT’s World Showcase Lagoon.

New costumes for the characters 

Cinderella’s Castle isn’t the only thing getting a makeover. Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Daisy and Donald Duck, Goofy, Pluto, and Chip ‘n’ Dale will all be sporting new outfits made of sparkly EARidescent fabric highlighted with gold accents. All cast members (what Disney calls the parks’ employees) will also be wearing new name tags in honor of the Disney World 50th anniversary.

New merchandise for Disney’s 50th anniversary

The Celebration Collection is a new merchandise line that will launch as part of “The World’s Most Magical Celebration,” an 18-month extravaganza that begins Oct. 1 at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.Courtesy Disney (4)

What would a Disney anniversary celebration be without a collection of keepsakes to go along with it? Several new collections, including the Celebration Collection and the Disney Castle Collection, will debut in October and November. Must-have items include a light-up EARidescent Minnie headband, T-shirts, and collectible plush 50th anniversary characters.

How can I attend the Disney World 50th anniversary celebrations?

Disney World currently requires advance theme park reservations for all visitors. While we hear that the Magic Kingdom is fully booked on October 1, you shouldn’t have a problem visiting during the 18-month celebration.

Anne Fritz
Anne L. Fritz is senior digital editor at Reader's Digest where she writes and edits mainly travel and pet content, along with shopping guides. She has worked at Woman's Day, Life & Style, Seventeen, EverydayHealth.com, WhattoExpect.com and more. She earned a BA in Magazine Journalism from Syracuse University.