What it’s like spending 14 hours at Magic Kingdom for Disney World’s 50th-anniversary celebration

What it’s like spending 14 hours at Magic Kingdom for Disney World’s 50th-anniversary celebration

  • I attended the first day of Disney World’s 50th-anniversary celebration at Magic Kingdom.
  • I was there for 14 hours, and the crowds were much more manageable than I anticipated.
  • I walked right onto several attractions and got to spend plenty of time casually roaming the park.

I started planning my trip for Disney World’s 50th anniversary months in advance, and it took me many attempts to snag a Magic Kingdom reservation for the opening day of the celebration on October 1.

I had no idea what to expect, and I was a little nervous about how big the crowds would be, but I traveled down to Florida for what was sure to be a full day in the park. 

Here’s how my 14-hour day at Magic Kingdom went:

It was much easier to get to Magic Kingdom than I expected

shot of the seven seas lagoon at magic kingdom disney world

We took the boat from a hotel to the park.

Carly Caramanna

The entire park-arrival process was much easier and quicker than I expected.

Because we stayed off property, we took a rideshare early in the morning to the Polynesian Village Resort. From there, we used the resort’s complimentary boat service to travel to Magic Kingdom

We surprisingly arrived to find no lines at either the security check or the park entrance.

guidemap for disney world 50th anniversary next to photo of new 50th anniversary annual pass

The park had new maps and passes for the anniversary.

Carly Caramanna

As we entered, we were given a one-day-only commemorative 50th-anniversary park map.

This was also the first day that Disney World annual-pass holders were able to exchange their normal cards for the new 50th-anniversary ones at guest services. I picked mine up, and then we were ready to maneuver through the crowds down Main Street USA.

selfie of carly in the crowds on opening day of disney world 50th anniversary

We watched the sun rise over Cinderella Castle as we made our way through the crowds.

Carly Caramanna

We watched the sun rise over Cinderella Castle as the crowds eagerly awaited for the day to begin.

The new castle design immediately caught our eye during the welcome show

shot fo the crowds in front of cinderella castle on opening day of disney world 50th anniversary celebration

There were tons of people crowded around the castle.

Carly Caramanna

The crowds were pretty packed, but we were still able to catch a glimpse of the premiere of the new welcome show, “The Magic Is Calling Us,” on the castle stage. 

It was also a great opportunity to take in the new castle makeover, which was inspired by Disney legend Mary Blair — the Disney Imagineer who designed It’s a Small World.

Once a muted gray and blue, the castle is now a vibrant royal blue with shimmering pastel shades and gold accents.

new morning welcome show at disney world for 50th anniversary

The park had a new show and new costumes for the celebration.

Carly Caramanna

The welcome show featured Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, Daisy, and Chip ‘n’ Dale in their new 50th-anniversary “EARidescent” costumes.

This new shimmering color theme is everywhere around the parks right now, from the castle to food and merchandise items. 

The characters were out and about throughout the day, too

character cavalcade at disney world during 50th anniversary celebration

The characters rode by on floats throughout the day.

Carly Caramanna

I also spotted the characters donning their new wardrobes throughout the day in mini parades that Disney calls character cavalcades.

I was impressed with how frequently they ran — I was able to see them ride by multiple times during my visit.

Like the morning show, the cavalcades featured the brand-new musical anthem, “The Magic Is Calling,” which was created for the celebration.

Some of the park employees who worked on opening day in 1971 reunited for a photo in front of the castle

opening day cast members taking a photo in front of the castle during disney world 50th anniversary

These people worked in the park when it opened 50 years ago.

Carly Caramanna

One of my favorite moments of the day was watching a photo op that brought together several former cast members (Disney park employees) who worked at Magic Kingdom on opening day in 1971.

After 50 years, they all gathered in front of the castle again, and they even had employee nametags on. 

There was new 50th-anniversary merchandise to peruse, but the lines were long

people lining up down main street usa at disney world for new merchandise

Everyone was trying to buy the new merchandise.

Carly Caramanna

Specialty 50th-anniversary merchandise was available at several stores along Main Street USA. But these ended up being some of the longest lines of the day, with many guests waiting over an hour.

selfie of carly in front of the castle wearing disney world 50th anniversary minnie ears

I bought my 50th-anniversary Minnie ears ahead of time.

Carly Caramanna

I prepurchased my 50th-anniversary Minnie ears at Disney Springs to avoid waiting in these lines at Magic Kingdom.

vault collection at disney world 50th anniversary celebration

The vault collection brought back classic merchandise.

Carly Caramanna

The one merchandise collection I was interested in seeing was called the “Vault Collection.”

The retro-inspired line featured items themed to former attractions, including Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Luckily, I only had to wait about five minutes to get into the store with the collection. 

Many of the food lines were short, unless the stand was selling limited-time treats

sleepy hollow quick-service restaurant magic kingdom

There was no one in line at Sleepy Hollow.

Carly Caramanna

Lines at many quick-service food stands and kiosks were minimal throughout the day, making it easy to grab a quick bottle of water or snack.

When we walked by the popular Sleepy Hollow refreshment stand next to the castle, there was no one in line at all.

special 50th anniversary rice krispy treats at disney world

There were a ton of specialty treats for the anniversary.

Carly Caramanna

But the lines were longer at locations with new anniversary-themed food and drink items.

Mobile ordering was available at some locations, but those ended up being the longest waits of the day.

I ordered lunch from Casey’s Corner on the mobile app, but because the restaurant featured several new 50th-anniversary items, it took over an hour for my meal to be prepared.

I couldn’t believe how short the wait times were for the rides

screenshot of the my disney experience app showing wait times for magic kingdom rides

Most rides were practically walk-ons.

Carly Caramanna

The biggest surprise was that attraction wait times were short throughout the entire day. Most of them were listed between five and 15 minutes.

Many guests were busy waiting for specialty things like merchandise and food or staking out early spots for the new firework show.

I loved being able to experience the attractions that were at the park on opening day in 1971, like Peter Pan’s Flight and Country Bear Jamboree, with minimal waits.

We had fun searching around the park for the new character statues

new mad hatter statue in front of teacup ride disney world 50th anniversary

There are 50 statues scattered across the four parks.

Carly Caramanna

Because we were able to fly through the attraction lines, we had more free time to take everything in and explore the park at a relaxing pace. 

We spent time wandering around looking at the new gold character statues. Disney’s Fab 50 Character Collection features 50 beloved characters scattered throughout the four parks.

It was fun to hunt them down because some of them are more hidden away than others. 

The Casey’s Corner pianists were an entertainment highlight of the day

casey's corner pianist at disney world 50th anniversary celebration

We got to watch them play for the first time in over a year.

Carly Caramanna

Entertainment has been cut short amid Disney’s coronavirus-pandemic restrictions, but October 1 marked the return of an absolute fan-favorite: The Casey’s Corner pianists.

We got to watch Randy Morris make his return to the bench after over a year and a half, which was extra special because he also performed 50 years ago on Magic Kingdom’s opening day. 

I had a hard time making a dinner reservation, but I finally found one a few days before my trip

plate of dinner at diamond horseshoe at magic kingdom

We ate at the Diamond Horseshoe restaurant.

Carly Caramanna

It was tough to snag dinner reservations in advance, but I was eventually able to book a table a few days ahead of time.

We ended up at Diamond Horseshoe Revue, which was an opening-day restaurant at the park.

The food is served family-style, and it ended up being one of my favorite dining experiences I’ve ever had at Magic Kingdom.

People camped out all day for spots for the new firework show, but I opted to ride more attractions

people crowding to watch the magic kingdom fireworks 50th anniversary celebration

People started staking out spots early in the day.

Carly Caramanna

The 50th anniversary also marked the premiere of a brand-new firework show, “Disney Enchantment.”

Guests started camping out in front of the castle early in the day to secure their spots. The main area in front of the castle was almost entirely full three hours before the start of the show. 

space mountain entrance lit up at night magic kingdom

There was no one in line for Space Mountain.

Carly Caramanna

Since the nighttime show is running for the whole 18-month-long celebration, I opted to ride attractions with no wait times instead of camping out for hours.

We walked right onto Space Mountain with absolutely no one else in the queue. 

construction work on tron rollercoaster at disney world

We got a great view of the Tron construction.

Carly Caramanna

We also walked onto the PeopleMover which offered a prime viewing of the construction for the highly anticipated Tron Lightcycle Power Run coaster. 

castle at disney world lit up at night during 50th anniversary celebration

We had a great view of the castle all lit up at night.

Carly Caramanna

Hanging out in Tomorrowland also gave us a great view of Cinderella Castle stunningly lit up for the evening. 

The crowds for the fireworks stretched all the way to the entrance of the park

main street usa magic kingdom crowded with people during the new fireworks show 50th anniversary

The crowds reached all the way to the entrance to the park.

Carly Caramanna

Just over an hour ahead of the fireworks show, the crowds stretched all the way down Main Street and to the park’s entrance. 

I’ve been to Disney World hundreds of times, but this was one of my best days in the parks

cast member handing out commemorative posters on opening day of 50th anniversary celebration disney world

We got to take home a special poster for coming on the opening day of the event.

Carly Caramanna

To top off the nice day, as we exited the park, we were handed complimentary commemorative posters that were only available for visitors on October 1. 

I went into this experience with low expectations and was just happy to be in the park on its 50th birthday. But all of my initial hesitations went right to the wayside because this was one of the best days I’ve ever had at Disney World in my 500-plus visits.

Being able to walk right on several attractions, spend time casually exploring the park, and enjoy sit-down meals was a nice change of pace from my often-hectic park days. The celebration is running for the next 18 months, so I didn’t feel the need to experience all the special things they had to offer in one go.


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