We think the holidays at Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park are definitely underrated! Beginning Nov. 11, 2023, you'll be 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 in their festive best. 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.
You're first greeted by a larger-than-life tree at the entrance to the park. In Discovery Island, we always love interacting with the winter animal puppets. Penguins, foxes, polar bears and more come to life as part of the Merry Menagerie. Characters in DinoLand also get some festive outfits for the occasion, plus Mickey and Minnie at Adventureer's Outpost. We'll have to see if the festive flotillas make their return, including one for Jolly Old Saint Nick himself. You can enjoy live entertainment in Africa and Asia, and end the night with seasonal Tree of Life Awakenings.
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
Merry Menagerie (Confirmed for 2023)
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!
Characters and Festive Flotillas
To spread holiday cheer, most of the character flotillas receive a holiday overlay, and best of all, Santa Claus has his own boat! 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!
Confirmed for 2023, Mickey and Minnie will be all decked out in their holiday attire when greeting guests at Adventurer's Outpost!
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 (Confirmed for 2023)
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.
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. Last year, we loved the Menagerie Cupcake with gingerbread cake, cream cheese filling and vanilla frosting. Stay tuned for the 2023 treats!
Are you excited about the Merry Menagerie and festive characters at Animal Kingdom? What Christmas decorations are you looking most forward to?