Every year on April 22, people around the world share their love for this beautiful planet we call home as part of the celebration of Earth Day. For any tree huggers, green thumbs, or animal lovers visiting Walt Disney World over Mother Earth’s favorite holiday, there are plenty of ways to celebrate Earth Day, Disney-style, while on vacation.
Keep reading as we break down all the special Earth Day festivities you can find at Disney World, particularly at Animal Kingdom, as well as some other nature-filled suggestions you can enjoy. (Updated April 10, 2023)
Earth Day at Disney World
Walt Disney once said during the lead-in to an episode of Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color, “The wonders of nature are endless.” It’s no secret that Disney was a great lover of the great outdoors and the creatures that lived there. Animals were the stars of many of his productions – not just the animated ones, but nature documentaries like the live-action True-Life Adventures, too.
That passion still drives the company today in the form of Disneynature films, Adventures by Disney trips through North America’s national parks, a longstanding commitment to environmental protection causes, and, of course, at places like Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park.
When it comes to celebrating Earth Day, there are a few different things that we feel should be included in the festivities. Getting out into nature is obviously a must, as is getting hands-on. For a holiday that’s all about environmental conservation, we also think it’s important to have an element of education as well.
And of course, we also love any excuse to eat delicious food. Luckily, Disney has it all, if you know where to look. While you shouldn’t expect to plant a tree anywhere at Disney World, there are several interactive activities available that let you appreciate nature’s wonders in different ways, as well as plenty of opportunities to explore the beauty of the outdoors – and we don’t just mean as you walk around the theme parks.
An Earth Day Celebration at Animal Kingdom
Of all the Disney parks to celebrate Earth Day, the most obvious choice is probably Animal Kingdom. And with good reason – the whole philosophy of the park, after all, is animal conservation and the natural environment. Sounds like the perfect fit to us!
However, as you might remember, Disney Animal Kingdom’s Earth Day roots go much farther than that. On April 22, 1998, Disney threw the biggest Earth Day party ever: opening the gates of Disney’s Animal Kingdom for the very first time. Each year, the party continues with a special Earth Day Celebration at Animal Kingdom. However, this year is extra special because it also happens to be the Animal Kingdom Theme Park’s 25th anniversary.
To help you celebrate appropriately in 2023, many of the festivities are happening all month long, including a bounty of Earth Day-inspired eats. However, some are only available during the week of Earth Day, from April 16 to April 23. So, keep that in mind when planning out your visit. There’s even a very special moment planned for April 22 in front of the Tree of Life, which is set to honor both the 25th anniversary of Animal Kingdom and Earth Day. Needless to say, if you’re in the park on that day, that is definitely something you won’t want to miss. Let’s see what else is in store!
At the Animation Experience at Conservation Station
When Walt Disney began making Bambi, he thought it was important for the animators to have real-life animals as the inspiration, bringing in actual fawns for them to look at as they sketched. While you probably shouldn’t expect a lion to make an appearance as you try your hand at drawing Simba or for an elephant to lumber through while you do your best to bring Dumbo to life, there’s truly no better way to pay tribute to both the planet and Walt Disney himself than with the Animation Experience at Conservation Station.
One of the more unique attractions at Walt Disney World, his 25-minute class pulls back the veil on how Disney animators turn live animals into beloved Disney characters. Don’t worry if your drawing skills are closer to stick figures than detailed illustrations – a Disney artist will be there to guide you through step-by-step (hint: the trick is in some carefully placed lines and simple shapes).
Characters will rotate throughout the day, so you can even return for another unique session. At the end of the class, not only will you leave with more artistic skills than you even knew you had, but you’ll also have the perfect souvenir from your Earth Day at Disney World. So, who can you expect to draw during this hands-on class? Just for Animal Kingdom’s Earth Day Celebration, you can plan on one of Disney’s wilder characters, such as Simba from The Lion King, Crush or Bruce from Finding Nemo, Tigger from Winnie the Pooh, Terk from Tarzan or everybody’s favorite flying elephant, Dumbo.
Before you hop back on the Wilderness Express Train back to Africa, take some time to explore the rest of the Animal Kingdom attractions at Rafiki’s Planet Watch. The hands-on fun of the Affection Section petting zoo is a must, and you might even get to see a medical procedure take place or animals’ meals being made at Conservation Station.
Limited-Time Badge Available at Wilderness Explorers
The wilderness must be explored every day, but especially on Earth Day. For a limited time only, from April 16 to April 23, 2023, snag yourself a special Earth Day Wilderness Explorer badge and learn a little bit more about the wonders of nature.
Although you can become a Wilderness Explorer and earn adventure badges any day you wish at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park, we especially love this free Disney World activity for Earth Day at Disney. As a Wilderness Explorer, you’ll set out on a number of interactive, self-guided challenges with a nature-themed twist like observing animals, learning wilderness survival skills, and more. In the end, not only will you come away with over 25 different badges, but you’ll also leave with some unique memories of Animal Kingdom, a greater appreciation for our world’s wild things and places, and maybe even a bit of newfound knowledge.
Whether you decide to complete the tasks individually or with a group, being a Wilderness Explorer is a great way for nature lovers of all ages to have a deeper experience at Animal Kingdom. It effortlessly combines classic theme park fun with hands-on learning, a winning combination for parents looking to nurture budding naturalists and future animal conservation activists. To get started, talk to a cast member at one of the Wilderness Explorer Outposts located throughout the park.
Earth Day Photo Ops With Disney PhotoPass
For anyone that’s taken photos with a PhotoPass photographer at Disney World before, some of the most fun shots tend to be Magic Shots. Getting to see the finished product is only half the fun, the other half is acting out some silly-looking poses as you wonder what kind of Disney magic will be added in after the fact.
For Earth Month, Disney PhotoPass photographers will be offering special celebratory Magic Shots, as well as photo ops with props constructed out of 100% recycled materials and a special snap with WALL-E. Just ask the photographer and get ready to pose! Of course, to take all your Disney Earth Day Celebration images home with you, consider splurging on Disney Memory Maker, which gives you access to all the photos you take for one low(ish) price.
Earth Day-Inspired Disney Character Experiences
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park is typically home to a whole herd of lovable creatures, both real-life and animated. If it’s Disney characters you’re after, one of the easiest ways to spot them is during a Discovery River Character Cruise. Although you’ll typically see classic characters like Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse and Scrooge McDuck setting sail, don’t be surprised if they’re joined by a crew of other furry or feathered friends especially for Earth Day. If you’re lucky, you might even get to see them up close and personal during a special Earth Day character meet-and-greet. Keep your eyes on the My Disney Experience app and your eyes peeled for any surprises.
Earth Day Treats
No holiday or special event at Disney World is complete without the appearance of some limited availability, beautifully themed, and seriously tasty snacks and sips. This Earth Day, treat yourself to a yummy assortment of mostly drinks and a few desserts with flavors and ingredients inspired by some of nature’s treasures. Earth Day eats at Animal Kingdom can be found throughout the park and include:
- Bee Hive Mousse Dome (New!): Honey Mousse on top of a Brownie Base with Sugar Bees and White Chocolate Honeycomb
Flame Tree Barbecue
- Flamingo Cupcake: Strawberry Cake filled with Strawberry Compote and topped with Guava Buttercream Frosting, Strawberry Crispy Pearls, a Sugar Flamingo and White Chocolate Wings
- Bubbling Pink Lagoon (New!): Strawberry Lemonade with Sprite and Kiwi Flavoring (Available with vodka for guests 21 and up)
- Gin and Bitters Cocktail (New!): Cruxland Gin with Bitters and Soda Water and garnished with a Lemon Wheel and Honey Simple Syrup
- Elephant Cupcake (New!): Graham Cracker Cake with Pineapple Filling, Matcha Buttercream, Crispy Pearls and a White Chocolate Elephant
- Viva Gaia Tonic (New!): Minute Maid Zero Sugar Lemonade with Sprite, Cotton Candy Flavor and Mint Leave (Available with vodka for guests 21 and up)
- Roasted Mushroom & Leek Pizza (New! Plant-based): IMPOSSIBLE Meatballs, Roasted Mushrooms, Braised Leeks and a dash of Truffle Oil
- Elephant Cupcake (New!): Graham Cracker Cake with Pineapple Filling, Matcha Buttercream, Crispy Pearls and a White Chocolate Elephant
- Rum and Pineapple Cocktail: Parrot Bay Coconut Rum, Blue Curaçao Liquor, Sour Mix and Pineapple Juice garnished with a Pineapple Wedge
- Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail Sundae (New!): Brownie with Vanilla Ice Cream, Caramel Sauce and Trail Crunch Mix with a White Chocolate Image of Kejana
- Bee Mini Cupcake: Included with buffet
- A Variety of Plant-based Items: Including Cauliflower Bunny Chow, Black-eyed Pea Salad, IMPOSSIBLE Bobotie, Feisty Green Beans, Tandoori Tomatoes, Carrot and Chickpea Salad, Jollof Rice with Plant-based Sausage, Garlic-Leek Hummus, and Harira Soup
Available at Isle of Java, Terra Treats, Thirsty River Bar and Outdoor Ice Cream Carts
- Tiger Eye Gold: Refreshing, light golden ale brewed with a blend of malt and rice and finished with hops from the Pacific Northwest that impart a hint of citrus flavor and the aroma of mandarin orange blossoms
Available at Dawa Bar, Eight Spoon Cafe, Restaurantosaurus Lounge, Thirsty River Bar, TriloBites and Warung Outpost
- Honey Bee Ale: Celebrating our pollinators, this ale is a light, slightly sweet, honey ale with a crisp clean finish
Earth Day Merchandise
To commemorate your Earth Day at Animal Kingdom, be sure to snag some nature-inspired merchandise. Those looking for eco-friendly items they can use and reuse all year long can choose from special water bottles, reusable bags, and tumblers featuring special Earth Day and Disney Conservation Fund designs, while pin traders won’t want to miss the limited-edition pin starring Bambi and his skunk pal, Flower.
There will also be a special selection of items available especially for Animal Kingdom’s 25th anniversary, starting on April 21. Just make your way to Discovery Trading Company, Island Mercantile and Mombasa Marketplace to check them out.
Spring Festivities for Earth Day at Epcot
Although there aren’t any special activities lined up just for Earth Day at Epcot, the park does play host to a very nature-inspired event that happens to fall over the holiday: the incredibly popular International Flower & Garden Festival. It’s also home to an entire pavilion, The Land, that is all about many of the wonders of Earth.
Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival
While Earth Day celebrations at Animal Kingdom are all about wildlife, spring at Epcot is about nature’s bounty. The whole park is alive in a riot of colors from thousands of flowers in bloom, while outdoor kitchens serve up fresh, spring-inspired dishes and drinks bursting with seasonal flavors.
Aside from eating, drinking, and looking at the Disney character topiaries, one of our favorite earthy activities during the Flower & Garden Festival is Spike’s Pollen-Nation Exploration. This plant-themed scavenger hunt will have you trekking across World Showcase as you follow Spike the bee while he collects nectar and pollinates the many gardens at the festival. Get it? Pollen-Nation, as in pollinating around the World Showcase nations. Oh Disney, you’re so punny! Pick up your Pollen-Nation Exploration map ($9.99 plus tax) from select merchandise locations, then return it to Disney Traders or World Traveler for your reward.
This year the Epcot Flower & Garden Festival is running extra long, from March 1 to July 5, so there’s still plenty of time left to experience it. Keep in mind that Epcot festivals are especially popular with the locals, so we suggest you visit during the middle of the week if you can to avoid the crowds as much as possible.
The Land Pavilion
If you’re visiting Epcot over Earth Day, you’ll definitely want to spend some time over at The Land Pavilion in Future World. The Land is stocked with experiences dedicated to the world we live in. With sweeping views of some of Earth’s most breathtaking vistas, Soarin’ Around the World is one of the most popular rides at Epcot.
For views of a still-beautiful-though-slightly-more-depressing kind, you’ll also want to check out Awesome Planet, a 10-minute film featuring some truly stunning videography about the dangers of climate change.
One of the more surprising highlights of the pavilion, however, is the Living With the Land ride. This mellow boat ride floats through Epcot’s greenhouses past rows of fruits and vegetables and tanks of fish is what Epcot is all about. For a really unique and educational experience, you can even explore the greenhouses further during Epcot’s Behind the Seeds backstage tour. While you’re there, be sure to grab one of Mickey’s Mini Gardens, a tiny plant culture cultivated from one of the plants in The Land’s greenhouses that you can replant at home.
For a different taste, literally, of The Land Pavilion, you also won’t want to miss eating at The Land. Sunshine Seasons, the park’s quick service restaurant, and Garden Grill, one of Epcot’s Disney character dining experiences, both serve dishes made with some ingredients that were grown right there in The Land Pavilion. Talk about fresh, greenhouse-to-table cooking!
Earth Day at the Disney World Resorts
You don’t need to have a Disney park ticket to celebrate Earth Day at Disney World. Although there aren’t any specific Earth Day events (aside from some celebratory limited-time treats, of course), a couple of Disney World resorts offer some unique experiences that let you enjoy the great outdoors all year long.
Earth Day Bites & Beverages at the Disney World Hotels
Walt Disney World loves any excuse to celebrate, and that includes Earth Day. That means guests can expect all sorts of limited-time dishes and drinks not just in the theme parks, but in the Walt Disney World Resort hotels, too. Here are all the celebratory snacks and sips on offer:
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
The Mara (Available April 22 only)
- Cactus Cake (New!): Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Filling, Strawberry Jam and Buttercream
Sanaa (Available April 1-30)
- Chaat (New! Plant-based): Seasonal Vegetables from The Land at Epcot and a Potato Croquette with Chana Masala, Kale Pakora, Tamarind Chutney, Coriander Chutney and Coconut Raita
Across Various Disney Resort Hotels
Select Table-Service Restaurants and Disney Resort Lounges, including California Grill, Jiko: The Cooking Place, Boma: Flavors of Africa, Victoria Falls, Flying Fish, Belle Vue Lounge and AbracadaBAR (Available April 1 to May 31)
- Honeycomb Cocktail (New!): A tribute to global conservation through bee pollination featuring Four Roses Bourbon, lemon juice, and honey garnished with a dehydrated blood orange and honeycomb
Select Pool Bars
- Cucumber Gimlet (New!): Inspired by bright, refreshing flavors of spring and garden vegetables like cucumber, lime juice, and simple syrup topped with soda water with a chili-lime rim and cucumber garnish
Enjoy the Great Outdoors at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground
Aside from being the only place at Disney World where you can sleep under the stars, Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground has some of the best recreational offerings of any Disney resort, and all of it is outside. There is a slew of activities to be had here such as trail and wagon rides, fishing excursions, and the Fort Wilderness Archery Experience. You can even see Fort Wilderness from the back of a Segway on the Wilderness Back Trail Adventure.
Animal lovers won’t want to miss the chance to visit the Tri-Circle-D Ranch. Free to visit, the ranch is home to all of Disney World’s horses including Cinderella’s Ponies, the steeds of Main Street, and the Headless Horseman’s mount from Magic Kingdom’s Halloween parade.
Then, what better way to end your Earth Day than with a campfire in the moonlight alongside some Disney friends? Roast marshmallows, sing songs, and hang out with everyone’s favorite chipmunks at Chip ‘n’ Dale’s Campfire Sing-A-Long.
Take a Walk on the Wild Side at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
Are you wondering where the wild things are this Earth Day at Disney World? The answer is at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. If you’re an animal lover but don’t have time or the budget for Animal Kingdom tickets, visiting the Animal Kingdom Lodge is an excellent, no- or low-cost alternative.
With savannas surrounding much of the resort, each teeming with African wildlife, this resort is worth a visit, even if it’s just for dinner. Several of the resort’s savannas can be seen from the hotel lobbies at Jambo House and Kidani Village, and Kidani Village’s Sanaa restaurant looks out over another. You might even see an animal expert waiting to answer any questions you may have about the different species you see or to hand you a pair of night-vision goggles if you visit after sunset.
For a really special Earth Day, consider booking the Sense of Africa behind-the-scenes tour for breakfast at Boma followed by a morning safari and some up-close animal encounters or the Starlight Safari for a game drive by moonlight.
Disney’s Wilderness Preserve
If Walt Disney were alive today and celebrating Earth Day in Orlando, rather than the manicured perfection of Epcot’s Flower & Garden Festival, he would probably choose to spend the day at another nearby Disney legacy, the Disney Wilderness Preserve. “I don’t like formal gardens,” he once said, continuing “I like wild nature. It’s just the wilderness instinct in me, I guess.”
The Disney Wilderness Preserve is about a 45-minute drive from Disney property in nearby Kissimmee. The preserve is part of the Greater Everglades watershed and is completely free to visit, although donations are appreciated. Currently managed by The Nature Conservancy, this 11,500-acre area is home to more than 1,000 species of plants and animals as well as some lovely hiking. While not actually part of Walt Disney World, Disney’s Wilderness Preserve is worth a visit for any nature lover, but especially during Earth Day.
Well folks, that wraps up all the nature-focused experiences and events you can enjoy over Earth Day at Disney World. From spending the day at Animal Kingdom to hiking at The Disney Wilderness Preserve, there are enough Earth-inspired activities available at Walt Disney World to keep any eco-minded Disney fan entertained for at least a few Earth Days. Hopefully, we helped you come up with a few ideas for this one.
Have you ever celebrated Earth Day at Disney World? What are your favorite nature or animal-themed experiences in the parks or resorts? Let us know in the comments!