Experience the magic of Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary celebrations

Photos courtesy of Walt Disney World

It doesn’t matter what age you are; you’ll be delighted with Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary celebrations. For over five decades—since the fall of 1971—a trip to Walt Disney World has been synonymous with the ultimate holiday. The perfect Florida spot for a multi-generational vacation, it’s also a beloved place to take the grandkids. Then and now, it’s the entry point to a new world, “a world of fun and fantasy, where teacups spin, elephants fly and life’s cares melt away.”

Mickey Mouse will star in the “Mickey and Friends Cavalcade” when Magic Kingdom Park reopens July 11, 2020, at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. With traditional parades on temporary hiatus to support physical distancing during the park’s phased reopening, Disney characters will pop up in new and different ways throughout the day. (Kent Phillips, photographer)

Back then, 10,000 guests attended opening day, October 1, at the new destination that encompassed a single theme park, a couple of resort hotels and two golf courses. Today’s Walt Disney World covers dozens of square miles and contains four theme parks—EPCOT, Magic Kingdom Park, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, plus two water parks—Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon, along with more that 30 resort hotels.

Inside Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, Disney guests will take the controls in one of three unique and critical roles aboard the fastest ship in the galaxy when Star Wars: GalaxyÕs Edge opens May 31, 2019, at Disneyland Resort in California and Aug. 29, 2019, at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. (Disney Parks)

You’ll definitely want to stay on site. We stayed at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort. The location was perfect, so was the pool, and we all enjoyed The Chronos Club, a lounge offering snacks, drinks and great views. There’s loads to see in this wonderful world that appeals to all ages. The 50th anniversary celebrations, extending through the end of March 2023, include new attractions, nighttime shows and other magical experiences.

Our first theme-park visit was to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Highlights here include Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway at Hollywood Boulevard, Indiana Jones’ Epic Stunt Spectacular and the For the First Time in Forever Frozen Sing-along Celebration at Echo Lake, plus the rides and shows at Toy Story Land and Sunset Boulevard. If you have Star Wars fans in the family, they’ll be thrilled with Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Its big attractions are Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance and Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run.

“Disney Enchantment” at Magic Kingdom Park, debuts Oct. 1, 2021, at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The new nighttime spectacular features stunning fireworks, powerful music, enhanced lighting and, for the first time, immersive projection effects that extend from Cinderella Castle down Main Street, U.S.A. (David Roark, photographer)

The next day we headed to Magic Kingdom Park, where the Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade was a hit. Disney Enchantment, the nighttime fireworks show, was also spectacular. Disney after dark is quite something to see. During the World’s Most Magical Celebration, the landmarks at each park are transformed into Beacons of Magic:  Cinderella Castle fills its environs with dazzling luminosity and pixie dust; at EPCOT, new lights shine across Spaceship Earth; and at the Animal Kingdom, the Tree of Life glows as fireflies highlight the magic of nature.

Our next two stops were EPCOT and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park. At EPCOT, there’s a new, out-of-this-world thrill, thanks to Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. Starting in the Galaxarium, it’s the first reverse-launch Disney coaster and one of the largest fully-enclosed coasters in the world. (It’s okay to close your eyes.)

Finally, at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park, we had a predictably wild and enjoyable time, courtesy of thrill rides and shows including Festival of the Lion King and Finding Nemo: The Big Blue … and Beyond! Beginning to end, our Walt Disney World adventure was beyond special; you can bet yours will be too.