The magic is real. You see it in the joy on children’s faces. Ours were beyond delighted with the charms, thrills and fun at Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary celebrations. When we first informed the kids, ages seven and five, that we heading to Disney World for a vacation, they were jumping up and down with excitement. They couldn’t wait to tell their friends. Once we got there though, it was pure pleasure—with a side of Cinderella hugs, Mickey Mouse ice cream bars and Splash Mountain.
For five decades—since the fall of 1971—a trip to Walt Disney World has been synonymous with the ultimate childhood family holiday. Then and now, it’s the entry point to a new world, “a world of fun and fantasy, where teacups spin, elephants fly and life’s cares melt away.”
Back then, 10,000 guests enjoyed the magic on opening day, October 1, at the family hotspot that encompassed a single theme park, a couple of resort hotels and two golf courses. Today’s Walt Disney World covers dozens of square miles and contains four theme parks—Epcot, Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios, plus two water parks—Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon, along with more that 20 resort hotels. And there is no shortage of luxury to experience.
Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, with its Victorian grandeur, gorgeous grounds, on-site monorail and boat transportation, is one of several luxe options. Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort is another five-star pick, thanks to its tropical ambience, fabulous dining and grand amenities. Choosing a Disney Resort hotel is an absolute must, though, for maximum family magic; these extravagant settings not only enrich the whole experience, they also make it easier and more enjoyable to get around.
We had a one-bedroom suite at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort. The location was perfect, the kids loved the pool and we all enjoyed The Chronos Club, an exclusive lounge offering snacks, drinks and great views.
There’s certainly loads to see in this wonderful world that appeals to all ages. Luckily, we were able to be part of the 50th anniversary celebration, an extravaganza that includes new attractions, nighttime shows and other magical experiences for a limited time. The good news is this birthday party extends through the end of March 2023, so you can take advantage of the opportunity too.
Our first theme-park visit was to Hollywood Studios. Highlights here include Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway at Hollywood Boulevard, Indiana Jones’ Epic Stunt Spectacular and the Frozen singalong at Echo Lake, plus the rides and shows at Toy Story Land and Sunset Boulevard. If you have Star Wars fans in the family, they’ll be thrilled with Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Its big attractions are Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance and Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run.
The next day we headed to Magic Kingdom, where the Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade was a hit. Disney Enchantment, the nighttime fireworks show, was also spectacular. Disney after dark is quite something to see. During the World’s Most Magical Celebration, the landmarks at each park are transformed into Beacons of Magic: Cinderella Castle fills its environs with dazzling luminosity and pixie dust; at EPCOT, new lights shine across Spaceship Earth; and at the Animal Kingdom, the Tree of Life glows as fireflies highlight the magic of nature.
Our next two stops were EPCOT and the Animal Kingdom. At EPCOT, there’s a new, out-of-this-world thrill, thanks to Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. Starting in the Galaxarium, it’s the first reverse-launch Disney coaster and one of the largest fully-enclosed coasters in the world. (It’s okay to close your eyes.)
Finally, at Disney’s Animal Kingdom we had a predictably wild and enjoyable time, courtesy of thrill rides and shows including Festival of the Lion King and Finding Nemo: The Big Blue … and Beyond! Beginning to end, our Disney World adventure was beyond special. As the kids put it, “When are we going again?”