The 50th Anniversary of the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida is officially underway. Dubbed “The World’s Most Magical Celebration,” the event extends into all four parks along with Disney Springs and many of the resort hotels. It will run for approximately 18 months from its launch date on October 1, 2021.
The struggles of park closures, construction pauses, capacity restrictions, and continued public health concerns have certainly cast a bit of a shadow over the celebration. Nevertheless, Disney has ultimately managed to create a pretty impressive list of offerings for the big event, from food to rides to shows and more.
If you are headed to Walt Disney World from now until the first few months of 2023, you’ll definitely need some new Disney World park touring and planning strategies for the 50th. But if you are wondering what’s new and worth checking out as you implement those strategies and make your touring plan, here is a roundup of 50 of the most significant new offerings at Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary celebration.
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50 New Offerings at Walt Disney World’s 50th
- Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure officially opens: The France pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase is the home of this new trackless dark ride replicating the popular attraction from Disneyland Paris.
- Space 220 launches: Dine 220 miles above earth in this long-awaited Epcot eatery featuring magnificent views of outer space.
- Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance goes standby: The virtual queue for Rise of the Resistance has been paused indefinitely, in favor of an old fashioned standby line. No more fastest finger at 7am on Hollywood Studios mornings, but be prepared for long queues.
- Harmonious, a new nighttime spectacular debuts: Epcot has gotten a brand new evening spectacular with music, projections, water, and fireworks.
- Disney Enchantment explodes over the Magic Kingdom: The Magic Kingdom debuted a new evening spectacular of its own for the 50th. The show features fireworks and projections, extending the full length of Main Street U.S.A. for the first time.
- Disney Genie is coming soon: Some time in Fall 2021 – exact date TBD – Disney will be launching Disney Genie. A free feature in the My Disney Experience app, Disney Genie will help guests plan their Disney day more efficiently.
- Fastpass queues are now Lightning Lanes: A big rebranding is coming to Disney’s express lines at Walt Disney World. Fastpass+ is gone, soon to be replaced with Lightning Lane. And there will be two paid ways to access these shorter lines – Disney Genie+ and Individual Attraction Selection.
- Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser sets sail: The most awaited, immersive, and expensive Disney hotel of the century has an opening date – March 1, 2022! Bookings for 2 day, 3 night “cruises” open to the general public October 28, 2021. Earlier reservations available to those with special status, like Club 33 or DVC members, annual passholders, etc.
- Early theme park entry starts: Extra Magic Hours are gone, but have now been replaced by early theme park entry. Guests at on-property and select partner hotels can access any one of the parks daily 30 minutes before official park opening. Most – but not all – attractions will be open.
- Extended evening theme park hours begin: Some Disney resort guests not only get to enter the parks early – they get to stay out late in them too. On select evenings, Magic Kingdom and Epcot will remain open for 2 hours past regular park closing. This perk is available only to guests in Disney deluxe resorts and villas as well as a very few partner hotels.
- Fab 50 character statues adorn the parks: To celebrate the 50th anniversary, Disney has commissioned golden statues of 50 characters and placed them all over the parks. From Fab 5 icons to newer characters from Pixar and Star Wars, these statues have been dubbed the Fab 50.
- MagicBand+ to debut: MagicMobile now allows guests to access many of the features of Disney MagicBands on their smartphone, but those little bands are still pretty convenient and popular. Disney is launching an upgrade to the product – MagicBand+ – in 2022 with new light up designs and several new features that interact with elements within the parks.
- Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind blasts off: A brand new coaster will definitely be coming to Epcot during the 50th, but you’ll have to wait until some time in 2022 (date TBD) to experience the thrills.
- Cinderella Castle sparkles with new colors and decor: Cinderella Castle got a darker blue paint color earlier this year, but its 50th makeover was just complete with the installation of a large 50 covering the clock.
- New designs for rooms at the Contemporary: One of the original Walt Disney World resort hotels just got a major facelift for the 50th. The Contemporary now features Incredibles-themed midcentury modern room designs.
- New look for the Contemporary lobby: The Contempo’s lobby wasn’t left out of this renovation either! The Mary Blair artwork in a midcentury modern color palette is already a big hit.
- Eat 150 new foods for the 50th: Disney chefs always bring their A game for any special event, but they are going bigger and better than ever with 150 new food offerings for this celebration. The Disney World 50th Foodie Guide has all the photos and food descriptions.
- Loads of 50th anniversary merchandise is on sale: Not to be outdone, the merchandise team has created a massive number of new looks and lines for the 50th – some already here and more coming soon. If you want a souvenir (or ten) from the anniversary, you can surely find something to take home.
- Mears Connect to replace Magical Express: Disney is retiring its Magical Express service at the end of 2021, so guests arriving by air will need to find new ground transportation options to on-property hotels. Thankfully Mears will be offering a similar paid service called Mears Connect in 2022.
- Mickey and Minnie get EARidescent costumes: Mickey, Minnie, and several other character friends have festive new costumes for the 50th in what Disney is calling “EARidescent” colors – sparkling purples and blues.
- Beacons of Magic illuminate the skies in all four parks: The centerpiece of each park – Cinderella Castle in Magic Kingdom, Spaceship Earth in Epcot, Tower of Terror in Hollywood Studios, and the Tree of Life in Animal Kingdom – will light up each evening in the EARidescent colors of the 50th. Spaceship Earth’s light show in particular is already garnering rave views.
- Disney hotel rooms will be Alexa-powered: Disney-themed Amazon Echo devices are coming to on-property hotel rooms next year. “Hey Disney” will be able to give guests park hours, info on when the next bus will arrive at their resort, and more.
- New dining offerings at California Grill: The popular eatery atop the Contemporary has launched a new 3 course meal offering to celebrate the 50th (started October 3). The restaurant also hosts Celebration at the Top: 50th Flavors & Fireworks at Disney’s Contemporary Resort – an evening cocktail party with hors d’oeuvres, drinks, and Magic Kingdom fireworks views.
- The Monorails, Skyliner, and buses get wrapped: Several of Disney’s transportation systems – the iconic Disney monorails, the new Disney Skyliner, and the shuttle buses – each have vehicles wrapped with 50th decor.
- The Monorails also light up the night: While we thought the monorail wraps were going to be the major upgrade for the 50th, Disney had an extra surprise up its sleeve right as the 50th anniversary started. New neon lighting has been added to the undercarriage of each monorail matching its color, making the monorails a sight to behold at night.
- All Stars resort renovations ongoing: The All Star resorts have been getting new room designs the past few years like Pop Century that include two queen beds (one regular and one murphy). Movies and Music have fully completed their room renovations, and Movies is just finishing up a lobby renovation through October 2021. All Star Sports remains closed with no reopening date set, but expect it to return with some updates soon.
- Reimagined Main Street Confectionery opens: Main Street USA’s iconic candy and sweet shop just finished a major overhaul and expansion bringing in a bright look alongside period touches.
- RIP Primeval Whirl: While most things for the 50th are new additions, change and growth sometimes mean the removal of the old. Primeval Whirl, an attraction in Animal Kingdom’s Dinoland that was always a bit controversial, has finally been put out of its misery. No news yet on what will replace it.
- Disney KiteTails soars over Animal Kingdom: A daytime show has debuted in the pavilion that used to host Rivers of Light in Animal Kingdom. This show features kites and soaring inflatable characters pulled by jet skis and is already shaping up to have a serious cult following.
- Steakhouse 71 replaces the Wave: The throwback Steakhouse 55 at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim may be gone for good, but its legacy lives on now on the other Disney coast. Steakhouse 71 just opened in the space formerly occupied by the Wave at the Contemporary and celebrates Disney history with a high end steakhouse menu.
- Let the Magic Begin welcome show returns: The welcome show that opens the Magic Kingdom every morning is now officially back for the rope drop faithful. Arrive early to gather at the hub to see characters make a short appearance on the stage in front of Cinderella Castle.
- La Creperie de Paris opens in an expanded France Pavilion: The opening of Remy’s Ratatoille Adventure is only part of the story of what’s happening in the France pavilion in Epcot. The pavilion is much larger, and added a new eatery – La Creperie de Paris.
- Epcot introduces its new neighborhoods: Epcot’s Future World has now officially become three new lands – World Celebration, World Discovery, and World Nature. These three join World Showcase to create four neighborhoods in the park as the transformation of Epcot continues.
- Epcot’s welcome plaza gets an updated look: Epcot has been a construction zone for much of the past several years, but the entrance is done and looking great. Gone are the Leave a Legacy monuments, replaced with a new fountain along with pylons that harken back to an earlier Epcot era. Look for new lighting, flags, music and more.
- Dreamers Point is coming: Also in Epcot, a new area called Dreamers Point will be opening behind Spaceship Earth in World Celebration. The area will feature a new statue of Walt and Mickey. Dates still TBD!
- Creations Shop opens its doors: The long awaited successor to Mouse Gear in Epcot has opened after a full renovation. Creations Shop is the flagship store in the park, featuring some exclusive Epcot merchandise.
- Coco is coming to Mickey’s PhilharMagic: A new scene featuring characters from the Pixar movie Coco will debut in Mickey’s PhilharMagic when it returns on November 12, 2021.
- A new float joins the Electrical Water Pageant: The pageant of lights that cruises the Seven Seas Lagoon from 9:00pm to 10:30 nightly has a new float with the 50th logo on it. Listen for new music as well.
- Evening dessert parties galore launch: Want to watch an evening show in a prime viewing position? Disney probably has a dessert party for that! See the full list of dessert party options before and after Harmonious in Epcot and Disney Enchantment in Magic Kingdom on the Disney Parks Blog here.
- Club Cool reopens, unveiling new flavors: Coca-Cola’s Club Cool in Epcot is a favorite where guests can try Coke products from around the world. It just finished a renovation and has reopened with some new flavors sure to both delight and disgust.
- Epcot entertainment ramps back up: During the recent Epcot construction, the park has been criticized for being a little light on the entertainment front. A lot of that is back now, including Matsuriza – the drummers in the Japan pavilion, the band Alberta Bound in the Canada pavilion, and Sergio the hilarious mime in the Italy pavilion. One more show is coming back soon too – look for Canada Far and Wide on November 12, 2021.
- New Annual Passes have gone on sale: Just before the 50th launch, Disney World revamped its annual passholder program. New passes are finally on sale with rebranded names and some modified rules and restrictions, including a reservation requirement in place indefinitely.
- Updated park pass reservation system: IT upgrades under the hood sometimes get overlooked, but they are essential to the guest experience. On September 8, 2021 when new APs went on sale, the park pass reservation system got a related overhaul of its own that allows guests to more seamlessly view park availability before purchasing tickets and making reservations with passes.
- Jungle Cruise updates are complete: The iconic Jungle Cruise attraction got a minor overhaul to remove some of the culturally insensitive elements of old. Look for a few new jokes from your favorite skipper as well as a fresh new paint look for the entire attraction.
- New Cirque du Soleil show, Drawn to Life, to debut: Disney Springs has been home to a show from Cirque du Soleil regularly for many years. A new show that was originally set to debut in 2020 finally will open for the first time on November 18, 2021.
- A new pre-show is out for MuppetVision 3D: A new special featuring the Muppets is coming October 8, 2021 to Disney+ – Muppets Haunted Mansion. Look for a new pre-show featuring the special before the MuppetVision 3D show in Hollywood Studios.
- Citricos shows off Mary Poppins inspired decor: Citricos, one of the fine dining spots in the Grand Floridian, just finished a renovation. The restaurant now features decor inspired by scenes from Mary Poppins Returns as well as a new menu.
- Grand Floridian Villas are expanding: In 2022, Disney will add 200 DVC studio villas to the Grand Floridian resort. All the DVC units in the resort will also be getting a fresh new room design.
- Mickey’s Celebration Cavalcade rolls by: Disney World has been showing smaller character cavalcades in lieu of bigger parades since the reopening last summer. For the anniversary, there is a special new cavalcade with characters and dancers in the EARidescent 50th costumes and colors multiple times daily on Main Street U.S.A. in the Magic Kingdom.
- Watch from home with The Most Magical Story: 50 Years of Walt Disney World: Can’t visit the 50th in person or maybe can’t go just yet? You can relive 50 years of Disney World history by streaming this documentary that originally aired on ABC on the October 1 anniversary. It’s now available on Hulu and releases October 8, 2021 on Disney+.
More New & Still to Come at Disney World’s 50th?
Although this top 50 includes all the major announcements so far, there are surely a few more surprises in store for the 50th. After all, the celebration continues over 18 months. And nothing at Disney stays the same for that long! In particular, Disney has yet to announce the opening dates or further news about these new offerings, so watch them closely:
- TRON Lightcycles (Magic Kingdom) – This anticipated new coaster recreates the popular ride from Shanghai Disney. Its
- Play! Pavilion (Epcot): This pavilion will replace the Wonders of Life pavilion, anchoring the World Discovery area of Epcot.
- Moana: Journey of Water (Epcot): Set to debut in Epcot’s World Nature, we know little about this attraction except its theme.
- Roundup Rodeo BBQ Restaurant (Hollywood Studios): A table service restaurant is coming to Toy Story Land. Construction has been underway for awhile but no date has been announced.