We think the holidays at Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park are definitely underrated! Now underway as of Nov. 11, you're immediately greeted by decor and music when you arrive, followed by the Merry Menagerie animal puppeteers. You'll see holiday decorations sprinkled in throughout the park, and even Asia is decorated for Diwali. And of course, you can spy Santa Claus and other characters passing by in festive flotillas. Don't miss experiencing the holidays at Animal Kingdom!
Overview of the Holidays at Disney's Animal Kingdom
The holidays are always an extra magical time at Walt Disney World Resort! Magic Kingdom hosts its Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas parties, EPCOT celebrates the season with the International Festival of the Holidays, Disney's Hollywood Studios offers lots of holiday overlays such as Sunset Seasons Greetings and a festive holiday meal with Minnie and friends at Hollywood & Vine. Comparatively speaking, Disney's Animal Kingdom has more limited holiday celebrations, but its extra decor and offerings still add some holiday magic.
We loved interacting with the winter animal puppets. Penguins, foxes, polar bears and more come to life as part of the Merry Menagerie, which greets guests in Discovery Island. The festive flotillas make their return from last year, including one for Jolly Old Saint Nick himself. Characters in DinoLand also get some festive outfits for the occasion. Plus you can enjoy live entertainment in Africa and Asia, and end the night with seasonal Tree of Life Awakenings. Normally there is a larger-than-life tree at the entrance to the park, but it was not up when we went on the first day. Hopefully, the tree will return shortly!
Here's what to expect with the holidays at Disney's Animal Kingdom!
Christmas Decorations at Disney's Animal Kingdom
The holiday decorations start right away with the giant Christmas tree in front of the park entrance. We saw PhotoPass photographers stationed at the tree for a festive backdrop. You'll find small holiday touches by the entrance and in Africa, with the most holiday decor and entertainment in Discovery Island and DinoLand U.S.A.
As the first land you see once you enter the park, the holiday decorations begin as you walk over the bridge into Discovery Island. The village is in the middle of celebrating the winter season, so you'll see lots of sparkling white holiday decorations. Animal-inspired luminaries line the rooftops ... we didn't see any frogs, but we love the colorful patterns!
DinoLand is rocking out for the holidays! There are decorations and a festive holiday playlist to enjoy in the land. All of the characters have adorable festive outfits and backdrops. You definitely feel the holiday spirit here!
In Anandapur, the theater district is decorated for Diwali, which is the holiday festival of lights in India. Glowing flowers and lanterns light up the pathway between Anandapur Theater and the waterfront stage, where you can see Chakranadi play.
Christmas Entertainment and Characters at Disney's Animal Kingdom
Discovery Island comes to life with life-sized, artisan-sculpted puppets of winter animals that include reindeer, foxes, polar bears, penguins and more. These "Merry Menagerie" puppets are accompanied by serenading musicians, and they interact with guests to create a fun and festive atmosphere. We loved how adorable they were, and we were even able to reach out to pet them. You won't want to miss this magnificent crew!
To spread holiday cheer, most of the character flotillas receive a holiday overlay, and best of all, Santa Claus has his own boat! Mickey and Minnie often get holiday accessories on their 50th-anniversary boat and the Discovery Island Drummers create some holiday tunes for the occasion. You may also see the other character flotillas, but those do not have holiday overlays.
The festive flotillas circle around the entirety of Discovery River, so you can see them pretty much anywhere along the river. They hoppen about once an hour, and you can check the My Disney Experience app to see the timeframe for when each one is available.
Our favorite spot to watch the flotillas is along the boardwalk bridge that connects Pandora and Port of Harambe, as it gets low and close to the water. Our other favorite spot is near the former Rivers of Light stadium. Specifically, we prefer the bridge that connects Expedition Everest and Finding Nemo — The Musical theater. While it's high above the water, you have a good vantage point of the flotillas coming down the river, and it's close to where they come and go, so you may even see two boats cruise by each other. If you want to multitask, Flame Tree Barbecue also has some seating right by the water where the flotillas pass by. Once you see one flotilla, stick around because they closely follow each other. We saw three flotillas within 10 minutes!
Over in DinoLand, you can meet your favorite characters with festive outfits and backdrops! Hosting the Dino-Bash, Donald Duck sports a fabulous holiday outfit, with nods to his dinosaur friends. Fashionista Daisy Duck is rocking a matching outfit as well.
Just when I thought Chip 'n' Dale couldn't get more adorable, they have added festive accessories to their dinosaur costumes. Too cute!
In the village of Harambe, the inspiration of western traditions blends with the colors and textiles of African celebrations. The Tam Tam Drummers provide a lively performance — Tad and Lily had such a blast dancing along in the audience! Over in Asia, Chakranadi plays the sitar on the waterfront stage.
Tree of Life Awakenings
At the heart of Discovery Island, the Tree of Life awakens to tell a special series of holiday tales. Each story is told in a unique artistic style, complete with heartwarming holiday-inspired musical scores. The Beacon of Magic projections for the 50th anniversary alternate with the holiday Tree of Life Awakenings.
Keep in mind that the projections only hoppen once it gets dark enough (nowadays, it's usually completely dark after 6 p.m.). If the park closes earlier than sunset, you will not be able to see these shows.
Festive Food and Seasonal Flavors at Animal Kingdom
We can't wait to try the many festive goodies Animal Kingdom has to offer. Though the holidays started Nov. 11, most themed treats aren't available until December (just in time for Christmas!).
Creature Comforts (Available Dec. 19-31)
- Holiday Mousse Dome: Amaretto chocolate mousse cherry cranberry coulis, orange chocolate cake, white chocolate glaçage and chocolate pieces
Flame Tree Barbecue, Pizzafari, and Restaurantosaurus (Available Dec. 1-30; mobile order available)
- Menagerie Cupcake: Gingerbread cake with cream cheese filling and vanilla frosting (pictured)
Isle of Java (Available through Dec. 31)
- S’mores Hot Cocoa: Crowned with a swirl of whipped cream and a sprinkling of graham cracker crumbs
- Sea Salt Caramel Hot Cocoa topped with sweet, whipped cream and drizzles of luscious caramel syrup
- Peppermint Hot Cocoa: Wintry taste of Peppermint bits sprinkled over whipped cream
Satu’li Canteen (Available Dec. 22-31; mobile order available)
- Peppermint Cream Cheese Mousse with peppermint sauce, peppermint candy pieces and chocolate “dirt”
Tiffins (Available Dec. 24 - Jan. 1)
- Horchata Mousse with a gingerbread sable cookie, pecan praline crumble, coffee ice cream and bourbon caramel sauces
Tusker House (Available Nov. 11 - Dec. 31)
- (New) In Holiday Fashion: Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon, rosemary syrup, cranberry, lime and cinnamon (Souvenir jingle glow cube available)
Popcorn Carts (Available through Dec. 31)
- (New) Musical Holiday Tin Premium Bucket
- (New) Mickey Mouse Snow Globe Sipper Cup
- Gold Tree Popcorn Bucket
Are you excited about the Merry Menagerie and festive flotillas at Animal Kingdom? What Christmas decorations are you looking most forward to?