Walt Disney World opened 50 years ago today. Here's what it has in store for its golden anniversary

Some of the most eye-catching celebrations will center around Cinderella Castle, with a new fireworks show!


It changed acres and acres of orange groves. It changed Orlando. It changed Florida. It changed an already legendary company. And it changed the entire theme park industry.

Walt Disney World Resort opened on October 1, 1971. And on its 50th anniversary, it continues to be a major driver in the travel world, weathering big shifts in tourism trends, notorious Florida hurricanes and a pandemic.

Back in '71, there was just the one theme park, Magic Kingdom, along with a couple of adjacent golf courses and resorts.

Since then, three more major parks have been added: Epcot in 1982, Hollywood Studios in 1989 and Animal Kingdom in 1998. In addition, the water parks Typhoon Lagoon (1989 and temporarily closed) and Blizzard Beach (1995) were added to the resort.

And Disney now has 12 parks in six different resorts on three different continents.

The Florida park was actually the second baby in the Disney bunch. It came 16 years after Southern California's Disneyland, which opened on July 17, 1955.

But sibling No. 2 didn't stay in the shadows.

A look at Disney's plans

Well if you like taking home souvenirs, they're going to have special items marking 50 years.

They'll also have special anniversary-themed menu items.

Some of the most eye-catching celebrations will center around Cinderella Castle, with a new fireworks show!

Also coming to Magic Kingdom is a new rollercoaster: Tron Lightcycle, where you'll get to ride the light cycles just like in the movies.

There will be new apps. Disney says technology is a big part of this milestone, letting you take selfies and recreate some fun magical movie moments. The new app: Disney Genie service, a planning app, lets people put together a personalized itinerary for rides and restaurants.

Also, there's the MagicBand+, which can take the place of your park ticket, hotel room key and wallet.

But back to the castle, some views are timeless and guests will be greeted by this iconic landmark once again.

"We have our beautiful Cinderella Castle that's decked out in gold bunting, beautiful iridescent shimmer, our characters have new outfits. We have an exciting new show 'Disney Enchantment' happening every night," project manager Rebecca Godsil said.

BELOW: View some incredible vintage footage from the Disney vault

CNN contributed to this report.