Walt Disney World is ready to celebrate its 50th anniversary on Oct. 1.
After more than a year of entertainment offerings altered by coronavirus safety measures, loads of new attractions, dining options and nighttime shows open this week.
The pandemic is still a party pooper with limits like park reservations needed in advance, masks required indoors and the absence of parades. But the theme park giant is celebrating its golden anniversary with several must-see experiences in an 18-month campaign it calls “the world’s most magical celebration.”
All these attractions will be in place on or near Oct. 1. Some are permanent changes, and the rest will be on display for the next year and a half, so you have time to catch them.
Disney Enchantment: The new high-tech nighttime finale for the Magic Kingdom combines lasers, fireworks and projections and features songs and characters from Disney movies like Alice in Wonderland, Beauty and the Beast and some new original music. The display runs from Cinderella Castle and down Main Street U.S.A.
Harmonious: The new 20-minute show of dancing fountains, lights, lasers and fireworks at Epcot takes over World Showcase Lagoon each night. Floating barges have custom-built LED panels that display iconic scenes from Disney movies like Aladdin and Mulan, with arrangements of classic Disney songs performed by choirs and artists from nine countries and in multiple languages.
Disney KiteTails: At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, a new daytime show at the Discovery River Amphitheater features three-dimensional kites. Characters like Simba and Zazu from The Lion King and Baloo and King Louie from The Jungle Book fly overhead as music plays from favorite Disney movies.
Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure: The new Epcot ride is a family-friendly attraction designed to make riders feel like they’ve shrunk down to rodent size. They scurry along in rat-shaped vehicles through a cartoon version of Paris and Gusteau’s restaurant.
Light shows: All four parks have light shows around four of the most symbolic structures, transforming them into what Disney calls “Beacons of Light.” Cinderella Castle is illuminated with a glow that sparkles with pixie dust. Epcot’s iconic sphere of Spaceship Earth has been installed with reflective panels to create images in the stardust. The Tower of Terror ride will trade spooky for sparkly. The Hollywood Tower Hotel at Disney’s Hollywood Studios will be awash in glittery lights evoking the golden age of Hollywood. And at Animal Kingdom, the Tree of Life will appear to be enchanted by fireflies that summon the spirit of Nature.
New character costumes: Mickey, Minnie and all of their friends have received a wardrobe upgrade with outfits that sparkle with custom-made fabric and gold highlights. Be on the lookout for the characters in these new duds, since Magic Kingdom has not yet resumed its traditional character meet-and-greets.
Fab 50: Each park has golden character statues known as the Fab 50. Classic characters can be found scattered throughout gardens and green spaces. Disney says the statues will be interactive using a new MagicBand+, which will become available next year. No doubt, they’ll become popular photo spots.
Cinderella Castle: One of the world’s most photographed buildings and a backdrop for countless family pictures got a major makeover this year. The castle’s body has been painted pink, navy and gold. It is adorned with jewels and royal blue ribbons as gold draping and turrets surround its towers.
New dining experiences
La Creperie de Paris: The France pavilion in Epcot has a new restaurant next to the Ratatouille ride that offers a menu inspired by France’s Brittany region. It is a traditional creperie with a focus on made-from-scratch crepes and galletes. Disney has even imported buckwheat exclusively from Brittany and three flavors of hard cider popular in the region.
Space 220: Going beyond a typical themed restaurant, this trip to space is located in Future World at Epcot, between Test Track and Mission: Space. The dining room has virtual windows that seemingly look out into space, and a prix-fixe menu for both lunch and dinner. Reservations are recommended and can be made via the My Disney Experience app.