This year marks a major anniversary for Disney World, it’s their 50th anniversary. On October 1, 1971, Disney World opened its gates for the very first time. And, with 2020 behind us, folks are planning their journeys to the magical land to celebrate with the big cheese himself.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, much of the anniversary plans are up in the air for Disney, but planning a trip to celebrate is still possible so long as you’re willing to be flexible. No matter what happens between now and October, Disney always celebrates anniversaries with pixie dust aplenty.
And don’t forget that Disney anniversary celebrations are often a year to 18 months long, so a trip in early 2022 is likely to have the same magic in store as September/October 2021. Whatever your comfort level in visiting the parks now or later may be, the 50th anniversary will be a celebration worth waiting for.
What is Disney planning?
The glamorous makeover of Cinderella’s Castle and Magic Kingdom entrance signs last year were just a few of the preparations for the park’s big 5-0. Unlike the 25th anniversary, there are no plans to transform the castle into an oversized birthday cake. Instead, it appears the park is embracing the golden anniversary with all the glam you’d expect of Disney.
Despite the changes made because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Disney is still referring to the celebration as “The Most Magical Celebration on Earth,” so whatever they can do they’re going to do it big.
In addition to specialty snacks, beverages, merchandise, and celebration pins, Disney set out to make 50 enhancements and changes as part of their 50th-anniversary celebration. While some of those projects are delayed slightly due to the pandemic, most should be finished by the time the celebrations are coming to a close.
Some of those updates include:
Revamping Splash Mountain as a “Princess and the Frog” ride
A “Wreck-It Ralph” attraction where Stitch’s Great Escape used to be (by 2022)
Disney World Railroad refurbishment
Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind completion (sometime in 2022)
The TRON Lightcycle Coaster completion (sometime in 2022)
Woody’s Roundup Rodeo BBQ Restaurant
Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure completion
Alongside the Magic Kingdom’s big anniversary, a few resorts are also celebrating their 50th anniversaries as well. The Contemporary Resort, Fort Wilderness Resort and Campgrounds, and The Polynesian Resort and Villas are also celebrating the same anniversary. Plus the Polynesian is getting a Moana-inspired makeover.
Whether or not a big parade or fireworks are in the works for the party is yet to be determined. Parades and fireworks are not currently being done at Disney World because of the pandemic, so details on those festivities will come at a later date.
How do I plan around so much uncertainty?
Disney World’s 50th is coming at a difficult time for most folks to travel or be in large crowds. Because they can’t plan major festivities it can be hard to justify planning a trip or, if you do, negotiating how to make your trip as magical as possible. But all things are possible if you have a dream.
If you aren’t already, follow the Disney Parks Blog throughout this year for their tips, insights, and news about the upcoming celebration. As a branch of Disney, complete with Disney staffers, you’ll be getting the word straight from the Mouse himself. When celebration festivities start coming together, the blog will have a treasure trove of information.
Travel plan as you normally would, but be sure to have safety nets in place. Do you need insurance? Are your flights able to be rescheduled? Don’t set these plans and forget them or you might be stuck later on. Check-in with your credit card company before paying off your trip, many offer travel insurance that could save you a lot of hassle down the road.
While you might be tempted to pay off the trip and save a few bucks by using discount gift cards, do think twice. If you need to cancel and have your payments reversed you will be compensated back with gift cards. That isn’t a big deal if you’re planning on going back soon, but you might not want to receive thousands of dollars worth of gift cards.
Don’t forget that these celebrations won’t be over until at least the holiday season in 2022, if not longer because of the pandemic. If you aren’t comfortable going in the early days of the celebration, just wait a while longer. And always check the Disney resorts site for discounts!
When should I go?
The first few months of this celebration are going to be extremely crowded. Think Christmas week every day for three months. If the crowds don’t bother you, going when the celebration kicks off in September/October (perhaps even as early as August) will be exciting for you. The parks will be abuzz with new renovations, refurbishments and Disney fans galore.
If you don’t mind waiting, the best time to visit is always in the off-season. January and February are beautiful months to visit the parks. The temperatures are tolerable, the crowds are significantly smaller (the smallest you’ll probably ever see at the parks) and more attractions will be open. Because of construction delays, several attractions like TRON and the Guardians of the Galaxy rides won’t be open until 2022 anyway. Plus resorts and tickets tend to be cheaper in these off months.
Ultimately it’s up to you when to attend the 50th anniversary. If you don’t mind changing plans, plan to your heart’s content. Life is always more magical when you have something to look forward to.
And who wouldn’t want to celebrate a golden anniversary in the most magical place on earth?