The 18-month-long celebration is packed with new shows, decor, and delicious eats.

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Walt Disney World turned 50 this month and kicked off The World's Most Magical Celebration throughout the resort's parks and hotels. The Orlando celebration is packed with new shows, festive decorations, and park-themed foods. If you're not comfortable traveling this fall amid the pandemic, don't worry. This party isn't stopping anytime soon. Your family has time. 18 months to be exact! If you're planning a 2021 or 2022 trip to Disney World, here are all of the 50th-anniversary must-dos, from gemstone-inspired decor to new fireworks.

Mickey and Minnie Mouse wearing EARidescent decor at Walt Disney World
Credit: Courtesy of Walt Disney World Resort

EARidescent Decor

There's always a theme at Disney. And for the 50th, park landmarks, signs, and even cast member name tags have an "EARidescent" overlay with a silver, blue and purple color scheme. You'll find it everywhere. Mickey, Minnie, and the gang all have new EARidescent outfits. And even Cinderella Castle got a royal makeover. The decorations, which will be up for the next 18 months, include gold ribbons crisscrossing the castle turrets as well as sapphire and pearl bunting. Disney history buffs will also note the extra banners hanging from the walls flanking the castle. These tapestries display eight examples of Cinderella concept art from Mary Blair. The late Disney legend is responsible for the aesthetic of many animated films as well as the whimsical style in the "it's a small world" attraction.

Even the seasonal decor is different this year. Typically, for Halloween, the Magic Kingdom has Mickey-shaped pumpkins lining Main Street U.S.A. But for the 50th, the iconic gourds have a more sophisticated look in the shape of an elegant Cinderella carriage. We can't wait to see how the seasonal wreaths will be themed for the anniversary later this year when the parks make the switch to holiday decor.

Hollywood Tower Beacons of Magic at Walt Disney World
Credit: Courtesy of Walt Disney World Resort

Beacons of Magic

However, the best embellishments come out at night. Disney World's four theme parks each have a signature icon. Magic Kingdom has the castle. EPCOT has Spaceship Earth. Disney's Hollywood Studios has the Tower of Terror. And Disney's Animal Kingdom has the Tree of Life. For the 50th, these icons have become Beacons of Magic with nightly shows that run on a loop. Each display is tied to the theme of each park. So, Cinderella Castle has magical pixie dust. The Tree of Life is all about the magic of nature with digital, glowing fireflies. And Tower of Terror is an Art Deco fever dream with gilded gold overlays that highlight the building's architecture and play up the story of the attraction.

It's very cool to see these structures that are very much stationary seemingly come alive at night. And that's definitely the case with the fourth beacon: Spaceship Earth. As part of EPCOT's recent overhaul, the big ball has been outfitted with LED lights at each point in the reflective panels. These put on a jaw-droppingly gorgeous, almost mesmerizing show of synchronized twinkling lights. (And if you stay at Disney's Riviera Resort on the west side, you'll get a view of these dancing lights long past park close.)

fireworks explode over Cinderella Castle at night as part of Walt Disney World Resort's new entertainment offerings
Credit: Courtesy of Walt Disney World Resort

New Entertainment

So many new experiences have opened this fall, from a pavilion expansion and brand-new ride at EPCOT to a fancy steakhouse at Disney's Contemporary Resort. But the most noteworthy are new entertainment and nighttime spectaculars. For the 50th, Cinderella Castle has new fireworks show Disney Enchantment. And for the first time at Magic Kingdom, these projections go all the way down the buildings on Main Street U.S.A. for more ways to view the show. EPCOT has new fireworks, too. Harmonious takes place in the center of World Showcase Lagoon and celebrates different cultures around the world through Disney music and characters.

There's new daytime entertainment and it's quickly become a fan-favorite on social media. Over at Animal Kingdom, Disney KiteTails is an absolute must. Make time for both 10-minute shows. One is Lion King-themed and the other riffs off The Jungle Book. The shows take place in the park's lagoon amphitheater and feature larger-than-life kites of classic characters. It's like the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade if those balloons were pulled by Sea-Doos. Yes, Sea-Doos. Watching performers fly giant kites while sitting backward on the back of a Sea-Doo zipping around at top speed is something you just have to see for yourself.

Star Wars sculptures in Walt Disney World Resort Fab 50 garden
Credit: Courtesy of Walt Disney World Resort

The Fab 50

Something that doesn't get enough hype at Disney World is the hardscaping and landscape designs throughout the parks. For the 50th, these perfectly-manicured gardens will have some extra visitors that you'll want to see—and take photos with. The Fab 50 Character Collection is a series of golden statues depicting the top 50 iconic Disney characters, from Mickey to R2-D2. Sometimes in plain sight and sometimes comically hidden, finding these figures makes a fun scavenger hunt for the whole family. No spoilers, but here are two clues: Some characters, such as Cheshire Cat, have taken to the trees. And some, such as Tinkerbell, are to scale so they're very, very small.

dessert with mouse shaped chocolate as part of the Tasty Treat offerings at Walt Disney World Resort
Credit: Courtesy of Walt Disney World Resort

Tasty Treats

Rides aside, the absolute must-dos at Disney are snacks. And for the 50th, there are more than 150 new eats and drinks across the parks and resort hotels, from Mickey-shaped confections to EARidescent, edible glitter. There's so much edible glitter! You can try it cold in the form of a birthday cake soft serve over at Blizzard Beach Water Park. Or hot in the form of Royal 50th Churros at Magic Kingdom. Or you can drink glitter at select resort lounges and restaurants. The EARidescent Sip-a-Bration is similar in concept to a hot cocoa bomb; you drop it into lemonade and swirl to make the prettiest mocktail ever.

walt disney merch
Credit: Courtesy of Walt Disney

Must-Have Merch

It wouldn't be a day at Disney without splurging on adorable merch and the new souvenirs are no exception, from bejeweled ears and headbands to a soap bottle that dispenses foaming soap in the shape of Mickey Mouse. Yes, really! These bottles have been a popular, sought-after item in Asian Disney Parks for years and now U.S. fans can finally scrub up on the brand. With the holidays just around the corner, it makes a great gift as well as a way to bring the park magic home. Select anniversary items will also be available for order online at shopDisney.com.

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