All about Disney World 50th Anniversary Celebration (updated 2/23/21):
This year is the Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary celebration! When it was first announced and plans were initially being made there was a lot of excitement. That excitement soon turned to questions and uncertainly once the pandemic hit, but now people are (cautiously) getting excited again about the Disney World 50th. We still have some questions, but also some news and things to look forward to! I figured it would be useful to gather everything I can here.
When does the Walt Disney World 50th anniversary start?
The celebrations will begin on the actual 50th anniversary date of Disney World – October 1st, 2021.
How long will the Walt Disney World anniversary last?
Disney has officially started that the Disney World 50th anniversary dates for the celebration will start in October this year and last for 18 months.
When does the Walt Disney World 50th anniversary end?
In case you don’t feel like doing the math, 18 months after October 1st 2021 is April 1st, 2023. So we can expect the celebrations and Disney 50th anniversary events to last through the end of March 2023.
When can you book Disney for the 50th anniversary?
If you’re talking about for the beginning of the celebration – right now! Disney is currently taking bookings through mid-2022, so if you’re thinking about visiting during the first half of the Disney World 50th anniversary celebrations I’d get those reservations in soon. In fact, if you’re considering fall 2021 you probably want to do that now. And if you’re hoping to actually be there on the Disney World 50th anniversary date of October 1st, 2021, you need to book, like, yesterday (email me asap and I’ll help you book and plan your trip at no extra cost to you!).
Because I like running numbers and believe in giving realistic examples, I priced out some trips during the Disney World 50th anniversary. Keep in mind availability and pricing is all subject to change but was accurate as of February 2021. Also, these prices are for room only reservations and do not include park tickets.
If you’re looking to be there on the actual anniversary
For a long weekend trip of 3 nights (Thursday, September 30th – Sunday, October 3rd, 2021) only Coronado, Caribbean Beach, Saratoga, Riviera, Animal Kingdom (Kidani), and Old Key West are currently available. The cheapest rate is around $300/night.
If you’re just looking to spend the one night of the anniversary (September 30th-October 1st, 2021) you’ll find availability at Coronado, Caribbean Beach, Saratoga, Riviera, Animal Kingdom Lodge (Kidani), Old Key West, Boulder Ridge at Wilderness Lodge, Campsites at Fort Wilderness, Beach Club, and Yacht Club. However, some of these resorts only have their bigger room types or suites available at a rate of $1000+ a night.
If you’d like to go early on in the celebration but avoid the madness of the actual anniversary date
Consider an early or mid-November trip. I priced out some rooms for Sunday, November 7 through Saturday, November 13th, 2021. A few samples of what’s available include:
- All-Star Movies preferred room at $1,140
- Coronado Springs standard room at $1,849
- Riviera tower studio at $3,009
- Yacht Club standard room at $3,842
- Bay Lake Tower Contemporary Resort deluxe studio for $5,045
If you want to wait longer to go into the celebration
I’d take a look at early/mid-May for a time when I think more things will be open and added but more affordable than spring break season. A couple of room only pricings for Sunday, May 8th-Saturday, May 14th, 2022 include:
- Pop Century standard room at $1,348
- Coronado Springs tower room at $2,327
- Art of Animation family suite at $3,373
- Polynesian standard view at $4,672
- Contemporary Resort main tower lake view room at $4,997
There’s a lot changing at Disney (it feels like almost every day) and I’m staying up to date with the news. Planning can seem overwhelming but I’m here to help! Hopefully you’ve found my blog to be a great resource, but I can also give you personalized help for planning and booking your trip. Yes, it’s no extra cost to you – I get paid on commission from Disney. I would love to help you plan an amazing trip – contact me today to get started.
Which resort should I stay at for the 50th anniversary?
This is a pretty personalized question and will depend a lot on your preferences. A few suggestions I might make though – a monorail resort (Grand Floridian, Contemporary, or Polynesian) are great splurges if you’re planning to center a lot of your vacation around the Magic Kingdom. Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness are also nearby and only a boat ride away.
If you’re on more of a budget, I’m a big fan of the resorts on the Skyliner line – these include Pop Century, Art of Animation, and Caribbean Beach. The Skyliner takes you easily to Hollywood Studios and Epcot. Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom are still just a bus ride away.
The Riviera Resort is the newest one and it’s gorgeous and feels really high-end and deluxe. If you’re looking to truly treat yourself take a look at this one. It also has Skyliner access, and the dinner I had there was phenomenal.
Will the Disney park pass reservation system still be in place during the 50th?
Maybe. They have extended the calendar for park reservations along with their resort reservations through mid-2022. A lot of people fear this means it will stick around forever. I tend to think not. It’s a requirement for them right now because they need to adhere to social distancing guidelines. Once those concerns are gone they’ll want as many people in the parks as possible. I don’t think they want to make it more complicated and no one really benefits too much from the system. It’s an extra step for many guests and a particular annoyance for annual passholders.
As of right now park pass availability at Magic Kingdom is completely booked for the actual Disney World anniversary date of October 1st, 2021. However, Disney has been known to increase availability when they can so I would keep checking. I am sure ideally they want as many people there as they can, but if you’re looking to go during this time I would make your reservation now so you can be ready to jump on it if that does open back up. Or hit up one of the other parks on the 1st and visit Magic Kingdom the day after when the crowds won’t be quite so bad.
What will Disney World do for the 50th anniversary celebration?
Disney has released a few details and peeks at what’s to come, but they are still holding back on many major announcements – probably due to figuring out timelines and when they can open things more fully. What we know for certain is that the castle will get a new look, there will be projections at night on all of the major icons in the 4 parks, Mickey and Minnie will have new outfits, and there will be merchandise and food items along with their 50th anniversary theme of “EARidescence.” It’s also extremely likely that a number of new attractions, restaurants, and entertainment options that have been in the works will make their debut, which I will detail more below.
Which Disney attractions will be opening for the 50th?
Disney has stayed quiet on when they are opening certain attractions that (pre-pandemic) had been announced to open in time for October 2021. However, we will start to see these things open as Disney did mention “new entertainment and attractions” in their latest update. Now, it’s mostly speculation, but I can at least give you my own ideas and impressions. I think Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure will definitely open before or on October 1st 2021. The ride was originally supposed to be opening summer 2020, so it was mostly done when Disney shut down and they’ve had plenty of time to finish it – they are most likely just waiting for the best time to debut it. Also, since other things they were hoping to have open by then may not open in time, I’m guessing they might save it to make it their big “anniversary opening” attraction.
The other two major rides that will open AT SOME POINT during the 50th include TRON Lightcycle Power Run in Magic Kingdom and Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind in Epcot. Just based on construction and Disney being unsure about when they can get rid of social distancing, I don’t see them opening by October 1st of this year. I would guess they might target March 2022 for at least one of these to take advantage of the spring break crowds, and then possibly late May for the other to kick off Memorial Day weekend and the summer. Depending on progress it’s not impossible that they save Guardians of the Galaxy for October 1st, 2022 (which would be the 51st anniversary of Disney World and the 40th anniversary of Epcot).
The Play Pavilion at Epcot was previously announced for 2021, but due to the fact that this is an interactive area/activity that involves a lot of touching, I think they may save that until 2022 when people aren’t as worried. We’ll probably also see a lot of smaller additions or updates to attractions, like the updates that were already announced for the Jungle Cruise. MAYBE the Splash Mountain update. I think that will take some time but I also think they want to get it done sooner rather than later for the PR.
What Disney entertainment will be opening for the 50th?
If I have to put my money on one thing, it would be HarmonioUS – the new fireworks and nighttime spectacular coming to Epcot. They’ve been doing a lot of work on it so I think it will definitely be ready in time. Epcot also makes the most sense for re-introducing a fireworks show from a safety perspective, since they have the most space to spread out and socially distance around the lagoon. Like Ratatouille I think there’s a chance it opens before October 1st, but if not then they’re probably saving it for that date.
In terms of other entertainment, we really haven’t gotten much on that front. We know Mickey and Minnie will have fancy new outfits, so other characters might as well. At some point I’d expect to see a parade, whether it’s a brand new one or they bring in an older, beloved parade. Until that point I think we’ll get themed character cavalcades (like the holiday ones they did this past year), smaller entertainment groups performing from further away areas, etc.
What Disney restaurants will be opening for the 50th?
The two major ones that were previously announced include Space 220 in Epcot and Roundup Rodeo BBQ in Hollywood Studios. Space 220 was originally supposed to open in 2019, and then got pushed back to “winter 2019 or early 2020” – it never opened by the shutdown in mid-March and hasn’t been mentioned since. Presumably it’s almost done or ready to go, so I think it will be opening sooner rather than later. Roundup Rodeo is intended for Toy Story Land and was first announced in April 2019. So they had almost a year to work on it before the pandemic. I think they’ll make that a priority as well since it’s probably pretty far along and Hollywood Studios could definitely use another restaurant.
There will also be plenty of specialty food items for the Disney World 50th anniversary, and I have a feeling they’re going to be beautiful. The more instagram-able, the better. At the 2019 D23 convention they showed a few preview photos and we spotted things like iridescent cupcakes, sparkling beverages, and fancy coffee drinks.
What Disney World 50th anniversary merchandise will be available?
We don’t have much yet but you can be sure there will be a ton of it. Expect lots of rainbow, iridescent, sparkly things. We saw a brief preview of magic bands and balloons in that style. All of the typical stuff – ears, loungefly bags, mugs, etc. We’ve also seen the silver castle logo they’re using which is really pretty and will probably appear on plenty of shirts, hats, etc.
What are some of the Disney World 50th anniversary rumors?
Well, a lot of the speculation I discussed above could also be counted as rumors since they aren’t confirmed by Disney. However, they are things that I think are based on a lot of probable evidence; specifically that most of them are things that Disney had initially announced and intended to do before the shutdown occurred and pushed everything back. There are some rumors that are more just theories – some more likely to be true than others. Take them all with a grain of salt. A few that I’ve heard:
- Disney will bring in the Paint the Night parade from Disneyland to the Magic Kingdom
- Fastpass+ will be replaced by a new, similar system (possibly something you pay for or that is included with Disney resort reservations but not regular tickets; possibly similar to Disneyland’s MaxPass system)
- The Gran Fiesta Tour in Epcot will be re-themed to Coco
- More virtual queues will be introduced for major attractions
- Muppets. I’ve read maybe 5 different Muppet rumors about them being added to or getting a new attraction – possibly to spice up the Hall of Presidents
- A new nighttime show added to Animal Kingdom to replace Rivers of Light
- A Mandalorian/baby Yoda addition to Star Tours
- Stitch’s Great Escape will finally be replaced by… something (A Wreck-It Ralph attraction?)
- Happily Ever After will be replaced by a new fireworks show in Magic Kingdom
I’ve more or less listed these rumors in the order that I personally think they are most likely to happen. Then again, I’ve been wrong before!
Will the Star Wars hotel be open in time for the 50th?
At this point most of my answers could probably just be replaced with the shrugging emoji, because the truth is no one really knows right now. What we do know is that the Star Wars Hotel (Galactic Cruiser) was scheduled to open sometime in 2021. Disney still seemed somewhat optimistic about that happening even a few months ago. But I think if they want to actually get people booked and planning trips for it they have to announce something or open reservations relatively soon. Especially at the rumored price point, it’s not necessarily going to be a last minute trip.
So I don’t think it will be open in time for the beginning of the anniversary, but I think it will open at some point during the 18 month celebration. If you want my complete and utter guess – I’d go with an opening date of May 4th, 2022.
What will crowds be like for Disney’s 50th anniversary?
If you’re talking about the actual anniversary date of October 1st – high. Very crowded. As many people are they will let Disney allow. However you want to phrase it, that day in Magic Kingdom will be packed. If you’re looking to visit the other parks that day it will either be empty because everyone is at Magic Kingdom, or really busy because people booked trips wanting to go to Magic Kingdom but it was at capacity. Currently park pass availability is already booked up for that date at Magic Kingdom (see above) but that could very well change before we hit the fall.
For the rest of the 18 month celebration, it’s really hard to say because so much has changed. I used to be able to predict fairly well what crowds might be like during a certain time. I still think many of these things will be true. Major holidays like Christmas, Easter, spring break, and Thanksgiving will be crowded. Anything people can turn into a long weekend like President’s Day or Memorial Day. The summer has been a lot less crowded lately and I actually think that will become more and more true in the next few years. People typically went during the summer because of work and school obligations, but as more people are seeing flexibility in their ability to work from home (and varying opinions on pulling kids out of school) they’ll avoid the very hot months of June, July, and August.
If you’re looking for the least crowded times to visit during Disney World’s 50th anniversary celebration, I would suggest early November 2021, January and early February 2022, and May-September 2022. No guarantees though!
The first thing I will tell you is that Disney does not want either of these things in their parks – but they are complying with safety measures both to keep guests and cast safe and to avoid any possible bad PR. When these things disappear is almost completely reliant on the vaccination schedule of the country. The CEO, Bob Chapek, said at the most recent earnings call “[capacity] is really going to be determined by the rate of vaccination of the public” and that he sees “some level” of social distancing and masks through 2021. But he also said “Do we believe we’ll be in the same state of 6 foot social distancing and mask wearing in 2022? Absolutely not.”
As soon as health officials or someone high up, like Dr. Fauci or President Biden, say that they believe enough people have been vaccinated to achieve herd immunity, I think Disney gets rid of social distancing, increases park capacity, and makes masks optional. Hand sanitizer? That’ll probably stick around, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing!
How can I plan my Disney World 50th anniversary trip?
Hopefully all of this information has helped you a little bit in figuring out when you want to go during the Disney World anniversary in 2021 or 2022 (or even early 2023!). If you’re ready to start planning there are a few things you can do! Contact me or your travel agent for free travel planning services. Investigate Disney’s official website. Check out my 2021 trip planning printables on Etsy (2022 coming soon!). And then GET EXCITED! It’s going to be a truly magical, once in a lifetime experience no matter what.
What are you most looking forward to during Disney’s 50th anniversary celebration?