ORLANDO, Fla. — Walt Disney World Resort, one of the most recognizable destinations in the world, is now 50 years old and marking the occasion with an 18-month celebration.


What You Need To Know

  •  Walt Disney World welcomed its first guests Oct. 1, 1971

  •  The resort is marking its 50th anniversary with an 18-month celebration

  • Disney World has new attractions, shows and more debuting for the celebration

​The resort, located just 20 miles outside of Orlando, welcomed its first guests Oct. 1, 1971. Back then, Disney World was comprised of Magic Kingdom, the Contemporary Resort, the Polynesian Village Resort and a couple of golf courses.

At Magic Kingdom, some of the opening day attractions included Haunted Mansion, the Tomorrowland Speedway, Country Bear Jamboree and Jungle Cruise — all of which are still around today.

But a lot has changed in the decades since the grand opening. Disney World, which is about the size of San Francisco, has grown to include four theme parks, two water parks, multiple golf courses, a shopping and entertainment district, a sports complex and more than 30 resort hotels.

For its 50th anniversary, Disney World is looking toward the future by adding new attractions, shows, restaurants and other experiences.

Cinderella Castle, the centerpiece of Magic Kingdom, has received a makeover. The 189-foot-tall structure has been painted in a rose-gold color scheme and decorated with gold ribbons, blue banners, jewels and an anniversary crest in the center.  

The park icon will transform into a Beacon of Magic at night, as will iconic structures at other parks — Spaceship Earth at Epcot, the Hollywood Tower Hotel at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and the Tree of Life at Animal Kingdom.

Magic Kingdom also has a new nighttime fireworks show called “Disney Enchantment,” which features projections on Cinderella Castle and Main Street U.S.A., music, lasers, lighting effects and more.

Over at Epcot, a new nighttime fireworks show now takes place on the World Showcase Lagoon. “Harmonious” features a multilingual soundtrack, moving fountains, lasers, fireworks and lighting effects.

A new attraction has debuted at the park’s France pavilion: Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure.

Disney World has also rolled out new food and beverage items across the resort, including some with a nostalgic twist. There’s also plenty of exclusive merchandise guests can buy during the celebration.