Christina Aguilera performed at Disney World on Friday night to kick off the parks’ 50th anniversary celebration, but for the former Mouseketeer, it was “like coming home.”
“It’s incredible. Just because when I come here, I get this full circle feeling of where my career began,” the singer told PEOPLE exclusively after stepping off stage in the Magic Kindom. “I mean, my first Disney experience was in Tokyo Disneyland when my dad was in the military and we lived there for three years. So it’s always been embedded in my childhood roots, but then I ended up working for Disney from the Mickey Mouse Club when I was my son’s age.
The mom of two — she shares son Max, 13, with ex Jordan Bratman and daughter Summer Rain, 7, with fiance Matthew Rutler — says it’s been extra special to introduce her kids to the Most Magical Place on Earth, and the site of some of her first career-launching gigs.
“Now with my kids here, I brought my daughter to her first time at Disney World. She’s been to Disneyland, but having her come back to where mommy used to work, it’s just a beautiful thing to pass down to your own children,” she says.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios park (formerly MGM) was “my old stomping grounds,” Aguilera recalls. “That’s where I would go to work every day for the summers with all the incredible talent that I was co-starring with.” And her first music video, for the song “Reflection” from the 1998 animated movie Mulan, was filmed in Epcot.
The family made time for some fun too during their visit. The singer opened up about her and her kids’ favorite rides at the Orlando resort.
“I mean, there’s the classics. You got Pirates [of the Caribbean] and the Haunted Mansion and all those that you grew up with, but then we were just over at Animal Kingdom and the Avatar area and it was my daughter’s favorite. She lit up and they’ve done a beautiful job over there with Flight of Passage. That’s her favorite.”
She adds, “It’s just so amazing when you see your kids light up at anything, but it’s extra special to know that it resonates so strongly with my body of work and my history.”
Aguilera’s performance marked the start of Disney World’s highly anticipated 50th anniversary festivities, dubbed “The World’s Most Magical Celebration,” which kicked off Friday and will run for the next 18 months.
To mark the landmark occasion Disney has introduced new entertainment, merch, foods, and decorations, like a golden makeover for Cinderella Castle, throughout the Orlando resort. Mickey, Minnie and friends are donning new “Earidescent” outfits, and guests can buy their own ears to match.
There are also two brand new “nighttime spectaculars” for guests to take in: “Harmonious” at Epcot and “Enchanted” at the Magic Kingdom.
On Friday, a new ride, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure at Epcot’s France Pavilion, also made its debut, just in time for the anniversary.
Visit disneyworld.com for a full list of special anniversary events, attractions and sights.