Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary Celebration – Oct 1, 2021

When the world, and Disney, shutdown I had a #pandemiclifelongdream of being IN Magic Kingdom the day it’s doors reopened. I am soooo glad I was able to make that dream come true as it was such a special day and one I will always remember!

When I learned that the 50th Anniversary of Walt Disney World would be on October 1st, 2021 I blocked it off on the calendar because I knew it’d be my next #lifelongdream to be there as well.

It is such a tricky time with Disney planning and with the park passes and limited hotel availability I had to JUMP on it to book my room and grab my park pass for Magic Kingdom on Oct 1st!

Our rental house was booked on September 30th so I booked the cheapest on property room I could find (as that would also allow me to have a park pass for MK without “wasting” one of my annual pass days by having to hold it for a long time). Yall. I paid $250 for ONE night in an All Star Movies room (the junkiest rooms on property) located 15 minutes from Magic Kingdom. C-RAZY. Our rental house goes for wayyyy cheaper per night, has 6 bedrooms and is less than 15 min from the parks!

I headed down solo and listened to Dr Death on the way down. Love a good podcast to pass the time and it’s become a solo-trip tradition. I got checked in and didn’t even take my bags to the room – I changed into my bathing suit and hit the POOL.

I really was needing some down time to decompress from a bunch of stuff going on at home and it was SO nice to have this trip planned. Such perfect timing. I was able to lay in the sun and read a good book. Then Rachael arrived and we drove together to get Claire!

This trip came together so organically – I had planned to come solo and do a solo trip for the 50th. Then Rachael ended up planning to come to the 50th with her parents and we talked about meeting up. THEN we started chatting with Claire and thought why not make the 50th a trip together?! I already had a room booked and Rach and I were both already planning on being there. Claire has an annual pass too and was able to make the trip!

Claire and I have known each other since elementary school but became really close in middle school. She’s always been so important to me and is like a theme song in my life story. I feel like she’s such a core part of what makes me ME in so many ways.

Rachael and I also have known each other since early childhood, we lived super close to each other growing up but didn’t become friendly really until high school and didn’t become CLOSE friends until adulthood. She’s my “it doesn’t matter how much time goes by” friend. We just “get” each other and always pick up where we leave off.

It was SUCH a blessing to all three be able to be there together and to reunite and reconnect at such a special event! It has been SO LONG since I’ve seen Claire – Zach sees her and her sweet fam more than I do as he’s stayed at their house a couple times when traveling and I’ve seen her husband more than I’ve seen her as he’s stayed with us a few times while traveling too. It was about dang time that we get to actually SEE EACH OTHER πŸ™‚

Got to see the updated Disney entry – it looks good!

Rach headed to dinner with her parents and Claire and I had the evening together. Rach had already had plans to stay with her parents on the trip so Claire bunked up with me in the All Stars room. I was NOT in the head space to be travel planning and it worked out so, so well that Claire picked up my slack. She planned the BEST evening together!!!

We headed over to the Grand Floridian for dinner at the Grand Floridian Cafe and it was FANTASTIC. I got the apple salad and the lobster burger and Claire had the buttermilk fried chicken. It was SO GOOD. Of course the strawberry soup is a must have as well and is a great dessert.

I enjoyed looking around at the different chocolate creations too!

It was a beautiful evening with the most perfect weather. We enjoyed a gorgeous walk from the Grand Floridian to Magic Kingdom πŸ™‚

I’ve never done that walk before and I LOVED IT. We had such a great chance to catch up a bit and take in all the different sites on the way.

And we even saw a cute little bunny too! It was a great idea to visit MK the night before the 50th kicked off. A lot of the decorations were already up and we were able to experience it with less crowds and really appreciate it without rushing.

RIP Happily Ever After tooooooooo

Disney recently redid the Confectionary and we were able to walk around and check that out as well as see the new set up for merch. I regret now not scooping up some more of the merch at that moment because it was NUTS the next day.

It was also great to get to see all the 50th touches at the Emporium and again, crowd free, as the line to enter the Emporium was EPICALLY long allll day the next day.

Magic Kingdom closed early for a media event in honor of the 50th so we enjoyed our evening on Main Street and then enjoyed a beautiful boat ride back to the Grand Floridan (another first for me!)

We took some time there to walk around a bit and see all the details there as well as some of the special merch available exclusively at that resort.

We wanted to get to bed early for our BIG DAY!

Truthfully though I can nevvvvver sleep the night before a big day at Disney. I’m always too excited!

We got some super cute pics at MK together! Thankful for friends that are the FOREVER kind πŸ™‚ We’ve literally grown up together!

SUCH a pretty time of day! I’m never entering the park during the “golden hour” so these were rare photos for me!

Went to bed at 11 and had to get up at 5 to get ready! Another reason we were excited/planned on staying on property during this trip was that the on site guests started to get early access to the parks beginning on October 1st.

We HEAVILY debated what to do about leaving in the morning to get to MK. We didn’t want to wake up crazy early to then not be allowed to enter the park (as has happened to me before…) and we didn’t want to oversleep and miss being there or miss taking advantage of our early entry access.

We ended up getting up at 5 and getting there as quick as we could get. Again, we PAID a LOT to stay on property and Disney said that on OCT 1 on property guests would be granted early entry. Well they lied.

We did not get in earlier than other guests. We were there well before our early entry time and the park was PACKED with people. It was NUTS.

It was not the same vibe AT ALL as the reopening morning was for me. NOT magical. AT ALL. It was, in fact, the opposite of magic. It was gross and icky.

We entered into MK with massive crowds in CRAZY long lines. For merch. Lines for merch. I saw videos of magical music playing and people fighting with fists over merchandise. It set the tone for the day. The vibe of the guests was NOT “wow this is such an awesome opportunity to be here, so magical” it was “GIVE ME EVERYTHING I WANT AND GIVE IT TO ME NOW.”

I honestly held back tears. It was just something I’d been excited for and after SUCH a magical experience at the reopening I think I was just expecting too much (which we all know too high of expectations lead to disappointments!).

We were gifted a beautiful special edition park map. But that was it. No details on ANYTHING. It was a cluster of people trying to figure things out. We saw lots of media taking place (including Good Morning America filming) and I felt like Disney focused more on THAT than they did on the actual people in the actual park!

We were able to meet up with Rach pretty quickly and decided to hang out in the hub and wait for the welcoming show. Which was also very lack luster.

We didn’t have anything really planned or mapped out for the day. We all LOVE Disney. And we all love each other! There was no “must do” thing. There was no pressure or stress.

My original plan was to just walk around and ENJOY the park but we quickly realized that there wasn’t a whole lot of magic to be found or enjoyment to be had in just walking around so we decided to head over to Fantasyland and hop on It’s a Small World. It didn’t have any wait (spoiler alert but NONE of the rides had ANY waits all day long, literally never saw a single wait go higher than 50 min, because everyone was in linnnnne for merrrrchhhhhhhhh instead of riding stuff) and It’s a Small World is not only a classic but also a great spot to SIT and hash out plans and ideas!

Rachael’s parents were at the park too for the day so we met up with them after to visit a bit. I ADORE Rachael’s whole family. I love her husband. Her babies. Her mama. Her daddy. Her sister. Basically if you share any sort of genetic lineage with Rach, I adore you. It was SO great to see her parents and get to give them hugs! I love that they are Disney people too – totally goals for me one day πŸ˜‰

As we walked around the park throughout the day we saw many of the golden statues. There are 50 of them throughout all four of the Walt Disney World Resort theme parks. Rather then space out the pictures as I saw them throughout the day I just went ahead and put them all together here!

To be honest, I’m very wah-wah about Disney’s 50th choices. They could have done a LOT more. The statues are cute, but not like crazy amazing awesome or anything. Also a lot of the statue choices are kinda random, I feel like the Magic Kingdom ones make sense but a lot of the other parks are questionable. My fav of the statues is Pluto. That ear! SO CUTE. I also did NOT notice Tinkerbelle’s statue on the 50th but Britt and Tess and I found it on a later visit!

Part of our idea for the day was to try to ride as many of the original rides that were open and operating on the opening day of Magic Kingdom on Oct 1st, 1971! We did NOT end up completing the goal but it was fun trying and gave us a purpose and fun task to focus on!

This also was Claire’s first kid-free trip so Rach and I really wanted to make sure SHE got to do things you just can’t do at the parks with kids. Like BROWSE. Going into the little gift shops is so fun! Taking your time and just soaking in the magical moments at Disney is a great perk when kid-free!

We did People Mover and also Carousel of Progress which was Claire’s first time experiencing!

I was honestly confused why so many people were literally fighting over the 50th merch. None of it was very appealing to me?! We looked online and walked through some of the shops and the only thing I saw that I LOVED were these castle earrings. I really debated buying them but they were SO HEAVY that I couldn’t justify it because I knew I’d never wear em!

There were also some neat touches like our Disney App changed in honor of the big day and they also had special meal offerings at most locations that were Walt’s Favs and cost $19.71 πŸ™‚

I’m not a die hard fan of the new castle but I have come to appreciate it a bit more. I just wish it was a little more FUN. I feel like it’s just meh!

We loved walking through the hub throughout the day and enjoyed stopping to watch the cavalcades as they passed us by. We even spotted a blue balloon for Tripp πŸ™‚

When we met up with Rach’s parents earlier in the morning they highly suggested for us to go ahead and do a mobile order for our lunch – at 9 am. They had done a mobile order for breakfast and had been waiting an HOUR to have their order be prepared. We went ahead and did a lunch order at Peco’s Bills at 9 am and at 10:55 we alerted the app that we were on our way and to prepare our order.

When we got there it was a CLUSTER. They literally had food lined up just waiting on guests who had placed orders HOURS prior. Every single person who had done mobile ordering, ourselves included, was waiting multiple HOURS to get their food.

Then they started letting people walk up and place orders without doing mobile ordering. It was legit insane crazy. I felt so bad for the cast members, the fellow guests, and us too!

Everyone I talked to was SO upset and SO let down about the day. People had traveled so far for the special day. People had planned for so long. Saved up so much money. And then to spend such a LARGE chunk of th day waiting for some cheap nachos? Really, really sucky.

Others agreed that the day just had this heaviness to it like Disney was just ALL ABOUT MONEY and not about guests. SUPER disappointing and discouraging. I saw guests in tears and cast members just about joining them!

Cast members were upset too. They weren’t given any direction or help and were just left to figure it all out. I felt their frustration and felt SO bad for them in that position!

Two HOURS after we alerted Pecos Bills to prepare our food we STILL didn’t have anything.

I finally got a manager (which if you know me takes a LOT to have me to that point). I was SUPER nice and tried to help the best I could with the situation. Of course I got that hook up and was given a free milkshake too πŸ˜‰

I will also say one perk of the super long wait was that those nachos tasted better than evvvvvverrrrr!

While lunch was a straight up NIGHTMARE it was also a reset. Food does everyone good, right?

It was a chance to just sit and readjust expectations. Shift focus.

Nope. This day wasn’t going to be magical because of Disney. Disney was letting us ALL down.

BUT that didn’t mean the day wouldn’t be magical. It would! I was with two people who are SO special to me getting to have a trip together that we’ve all always wanted to take and were finally making happen. THAT is magical!

The weather was gorgeous. The crowds were crazy low. We had no reason NOT to have a great day! So we did!!!

We headed back to the hub to say goodbye to Rach’s parents who were at their lack of magic breaking point too and decided to call it quits πŸ˜‰ While there we got to see the Celebration Cavalcade which is super cute!

We also got to see some men being honored with their families at the front of the castle – they were among the crew who helped to LITERALLY BUILD Magic Kingdom! How amazing and awesome is that?

Love the little touches of 50th celebration on the floats and their outfits!

Claire is a breastfeeding mama (she’s a mom of four too!) and had to go pump so Rach and I got our caffeine fix and did some more browsing in the shops and even got to see a few characters at the park entrance. The fireworks didn’t start until 9 and we saw people already setting up and saving seats before 3 pm!!!

We also walked around the Confectionary some more and it was much less crowded and we were able to grab some snacks and goodies for later and for the kids back home!

When we met back up with Claire we passed someone who clearly is a higher up with Disney and saw lots of people getting pics with him. Yall know how I roll…my rule is “get the picture and figure out who the person is later” haha!

Turns out it was Jeff Vahle THE President of Walt Disney World! So cool!!!

Had to get our Purple Wall pics too!

Then we had a bit of magical luck when the virtual line for the Disney Anniversary Collection opened up and our number was called to get to SHOP. Not trying to beat a dead horse but the fact that our most exciting moment was getting to be allowed to spend more money says SO MUCH about Disney and it’s focus right now….

Of course what we all really wanted, the ornament, was sold out at 6:45 that morning. Yup, before the park even OPENED for early entry on property guests it was GONE. We were also all told that this special collection of merchandise would ONLY be available on Oct 1.

That proved to be a straight up LIE as I saw the pins I thought were so special to buy for the kids on sale at Epcot several WEEKS later. Who wants to bet this “special day of merch” ends up being at the Disney Outlets at some point?!?!

Either way we rode the high of getting access to the Big Top and getting to buy our goodies! We all got a matching shirt to wear the next day and I grabbed the Oct 1st dated pins for the kids πŸ™‚

At 4:00 Disney sent out a text that Park Hopping was no longer allowed and that capacity had been reached at Magic Kingdom. It was filling up for the fireworks and we decided to go ahead and claim a spot and just hang out until 9!

Another great perk of being with friends who we hadn’t spent time together with in a LONG time – we had PLENTY of chatting and catching up to do and didn’t mine one bit sitting in the hub enjoying the castle views together!

I volunteered to go on a bit of a mission. Rach had a fuel rod which is a really neat battery pack that you can exchange out for a fully charged one at these stations. I had a hard time finding one to buy because they were all sold out AND because their booths were having issues. I finally found one!

With the way things are now at Disney you are having to be on your phone a LOT and that means batteries get drained FAST. Fuel rods are a super helpful tool to have on hand!

I also got some of the new park maps for us all to have and I exited the park then reentered the park in order to go ahead and get the 50th poster they handed out as guests were leaving. I was nervous they’d be gone by the time we left! They are very beautiful and dated and were actually, literally, only given out that day!

On my way back I had a Disney first and got to watch the flag retreat as well as the flag presentation to the honored guest. It was very moving!

While we waited we got to watch more cavalcades go by and we also mobile ordered some dinner and picked that up and grubbed out too.

Heres TONS of castle pic spam:

I am a true Happily Ever After girl. I was never super into Wishes and didn’t mind it ending but mannnn I’m bitter about Happily Ever After being gone. However, I also accept that Disney is always changing! Nothing will ever be the same forever and I know we just have to roll with it!

Therefore I had high hopes and expectations for Enchantment. I assumed if Disney was taking away something as amazing as Happily Ever After that they MUST have something INCREDIBLE up their sleeves!

It was such an awesome experience to be there for the VERY first time Enchantment took place! We all just watched in awe and amazement and let the moment soak in.

Enchantment is basically the same exact format as Happily Ever After but with better castle projections and fireworks. They do have projections down Main Street but it’s still best to sit as close to the castle as possible.

It may have a lot of similarities and even improvements on Happily Ever After, but it’s also not Happily Ever After. The main theme song of the show doesn’t pack that powerful punch. It wasn’t emotional AT ALL. With Happily Ever After I always cried and ALWAYS saw other people crying around me. That’s not the case with Enchantment.

It’s a good show, don’t get me wrong, but I didn’t feel remotely emotional while watching it. I didn’t leave feeling any sort of impact. I actually went to sleep that night humming Happily Ever After haha!

I have since been back and seen the show a couple more times and I will say, it’s gotten better each time I’ve watched it. I think seeing it through my children’s eyes has helped as it DOES have more recent characters and movies that THEY connect with so it makes it more special!

The park stayed open until 11 pm (a great move by Disney!) so the “Main Street madness” wasn’t too bad. We called it a day after Enchantment and had a very little wait to board the ferry (sadly we didn’t get to see the electrical water parade, but it gave me something to look forward to in the future) to head back to the parking lot. We were at the park from 6:40 – 9:40 def a FULL DAY!

Even though the day had it’s hiccups, we got to experience it ALL together. It is so true that it’s about WHO you are with for experiences. We all three vibe so well and have that childhood friendship comfort with each other that it all flowed so smoothly and WAS special and WAS magical!

I was very thankful I didn’t bring Zach or the kids or a less than hardcore Disney friend along. I was also glad I ended up not being solo! I think solo would have made it much harder to get over that disappointment and break through the funk! It was truly the perfect group and such a special experience.

Get ready because we totally have plants to attend the 75th and 100th anniversaries together too πŸ˜‰

That night we didn’t have any guests staying in our rental house so we were able to stay there for the remainder of the trip and it also helped SO MUCH to have the SPACE to spread out and all get solid sleep and be comfortable and relaxed! Plus I was able to cancel the extra nights at All Stars and saved a ton of money which never hurts either!

Disney included each of these photos of the four parks as free wallpapers:

Here are our photo pass pictures from the day together! We tried to stop at as many of them as we could that didn’t have massive long lines. I’m all about the special photo opportunities!

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