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Guide to the Holidays at Disney's Animal Kingdom

by Mommy Frog on November 5, 2023 4 Orlando

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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!

Animal Kingdom Christmas - Arctic Fox

 

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 partiesEPCOT celebrates the season with the International Festival of the Holiday and Disney's Hollywood Studios is ringing in a brand new holiday tradition with the after-hours event Disney Jollywood Nights. 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 Adventurer's Outpost. 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

Animal Kingdom Christmas - Entrance Tree

The holiday decorations start right away with the giant Christmas tree in front of the park entrance. PhotoPass photographers are 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.

Discovery Island

Animal Kingdom Christmas - Discovery Island

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 U.S.A.

Animal Kingdom Christmas - Donald's Dino-Bash

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!

Asia

Animal Kingdom Christmas - Diwali

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.

Pandora — World of Avatar

Animal Kingdom Christmas - Pongu Pongu

Just because you're on an alien moon doesn't mean you won't find Earth's holidays being celebrated. In fact, the expats that inhabit Pandora love decorating during the most wonderful time of the year! During the holiday season over at Pongu Pongu, you'll find that the giant AMP suit has been draped with colorful Christmas string lights and adorned with a jolly Santa hat and beard. If you look closely, you'll also find ornaments made out of Pandora's natural materials featuring classic Christmas iconography, as well as animals native to Pandora.

Animal Kingdom Christmas - Pandora Menorah and Nutcrackers

My favorite decor in all of Animal Kingdom, though, is right in front of to the Pongu Pongu sign. To the left, you'll find both a normal human nutcracker and a larger Na'vi nutcracker and to the right, a beautiful menorah with a Star of David to celebrate the Festival of Lights.

Christmas Entertainment and Characters at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Merry Menagerie

Animal Kingdom Christmas - Polar Bear

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 love how adorable they are. You're even able to reach out to pet them. You don't want to miss this magnificent crew!

Animal Kingdom Christmas - Arctic Seal

Characters and Festive Flotillas

Holidays at Animal Kingdom — Santa Claus on a flotilla

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!

Over at Adventurer's Outpost, Mickey and Minnie are all decked out in their holiday attire and so frogcited to meet you at their exploration headquarters!

Donald's Dino-Bash

Animal Kingdom Christmas - Donald Duck

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.

Animal Kingdom Christmas - Daisy Duck

Just when I thought Chip 'n' Dale couldn't get more adorable, they have added festive accessories to their dinosaur costumes. Too cute!

Animal Kingdom Christmas - Chip and Dale

Live Performances

Animal Kingdom Christmas - Tam Tam Drummers

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

Animal Kingdom Christmas - 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.

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

Animal Kingdom Christmas - Satu'li Canteen

We can't wait to indulge in the festive goodies Animal Kingdom has to offer:

Creature Comforts (available Dec. 22 through 31)

  • Mickey Holiday Mousse Dome: Amaretto-chocolate mousse, cherry-cranberry coulis, orange-chocolate cake, white chocolate glazeςage, and chocolate Mickey ears

Pizzafari and Restaurantosaurus (available Dec. 1 through 29; mobile order available)

  • Merry Menagerie Cupcake: Gingerbread cupcake with cream cheese filling and frosting

Satu'li Canteen (available Dec. 22 through 31; mobile order)

  • Peppermint Cream Cheese Mousse: Peppermint-cream cheese mousse, peppermint sauce, peppermint candy pieces, and chocolate cookie crumbs

Are you excited about the Merry Menagerie and festive characters at Animal Kingdom? What Christmas decorations are you looking most forward to? 

Related: The Complete Guide to Disney World Christmas Events

Hoppy planning!

Keep hopping, Mommy Frog!
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Nov 24, 2023 at 7:35 p.m. Adam Says...

Hi - we were there last week, and loved the Christmas music that was playing throughout Animal Kingdom park. I’ve been struggling to find the music. Does anybody have any idea where I could find a playlist of the current music? Thanks!

Reply
Dec 6, 2022 at 2:14 p.m. Cherie Davis Says...

These tips are awesome! Thanks!

Reply
Nov 16, 2021 at 6:23 p.m. Latisha Edwards Says...

Hello can the families just participate in the animal kingdom after party ? If not what is the price and days for the Christmas theme at animal kingdom. We are visiting Orlando 12/23/21-12/27/21.

Reply
Nov 16, 2021 at 2:56 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Latisha!

The only After Hours holiday event hoppening this year is Disney Very Merriest After Hours at Magic Kingdom.

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Reply
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