It’s hard not to feel a tangible, electric energy jolting through Magic Kingdom® Park when guests began lining up at its gate at 4 a.m. today. Celebrating its 50th anniversary, Walt Disney World® Resort has been physically transformed through its decorations and special offerings, but seemingly emotionally transformed through its guests, too.
When a pandemic changed daily life, and certainly our way of vacationing, hoping for the joyous bolt of excitement in a fully operational Disney park seemed like little more than naive, nostalgic wistfulness, even if Disney’s theme parks still served as a fantastic, fun getaway from the rest of reality.
Yet an hour into Magic Kingdom Park’s 50th birthday, that overcharged joyousness Walt Disney World Resort was for so long known for has never been so present.
Make no mistake, the park is packed. As I write this from the hourlong Starbucks line (indeed, started the day without my morning coffee, so maybe I have a right to be crankier than I am), I’m finally finding some semblance of pace to the day. Most lines for anything that’s not an attraction stretch longer than I’ve ever seen them, whether it’s for new popcorn buckets or for the usual cinnamon roll at Gaston’s Tavern. The virtual queue for Big Top Souvenirs was full before I got into the park (an hour early), and the physical line for Emporium closed shortly after park opening. I’ve since gotten into the virtual queue, but the app being down this morning (along with the wifi and shoddy cell service) extended that process to take about an hour. There’s no telling when I’ll get in, or what merchandise will be in stock when I do. That doesn’t account for the family camping out for fireworks more than 12 hours in advance or the fact that park reservations were all booked for Magic Kingdom Park today and people are still constantly flooding in through the gates. I’ve yet to try any of the new food or check out any of the new merchandise in-person.
And in the middle of that is the classic, lump-in-your-throat excitement that Walt Disney World Resort is once again a magical refuge, with excited fingers pointing toward something in the distance and strangers spontaneous meeting one another and making new friends. The first hour of the park has been struck with the old-school Disney promise that better days are still coming, and that the ones already here are pretty spectacular.
So, as I walk into Starbucks with trepidation to see what might even be left in stock here, I am as excited as ever to step back into Magic Kingdom Park and see what joyful surprises the rest of the day—and the 18 months of celebration following—will hold.