Celebrating Earth Day at Disney World

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. 

Wishing well behind a castle

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many offerings at Disney World have been suspended or altered. As the situation continues to change quickly, we suggest you refer to Disney’s website and cast members in the parks and resorts for the most up-to-date information. 

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. 

Everest Mountain with roller coaster

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! 

Large tree with animal carvings

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. For 2021, the festivities are being held from April 18 to the 24

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. 

Wooden bridge through a cave

This 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. 

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

Wilderness Explorers shack with stapleboard

The wilderness must be explored every day, but especially on Earth Day. For a limited time only, 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

Lion King characters as topiaries

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. 

Certain Magic Shots can only be done in specific locations. For this Earth Day Celebration Magic Shot, you’ll need to make your way to Expedition Everest base camp anytime between 10am and sunset. Once you’re there, find a Disney PhotoPass Photographer for a new, Super Zoom Magic Shot – with zoomed-in and zoomed-out photos as well as an accompanying video – featuring the snow-covered peaks of the mighty Himalayas in the background. Keep in mind that this Magic Shot is only available weather permitting, so plan accordingly. 

Earth Day Treats

Ice Cream Float with strawberry syrup

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:

DinoLand U.S.A.

Sea Turtle Cupcake: Graham Cracker Cupcake, Key Lime Pie Filling, Guava Gelée, Vanilla Buttercream
Location: Restaurantosaurus

Crave the Wave – Refreshing Seaside Mist: Vodka, Blue Curacao, Lemonade
Location: Restaurantosaurus

Africa

Lion’s Fury – Feel the Sweet Heat: Black Cherry Bourbon, Jungle Juice, Cinnamon Whiskey Floater
Location: Dawa Bar

Pandora – The World of Avatar

Kiwi Margarita – A Beverage Honoring Conservation: Kiwi Syrup with Lime, Sour, and Tequila
Location:  Satu’li Canteen

Asia

YETI Sunset – Where Wind Meets the Mountaintops: Jack Daniels, Strawberry and Lychee Lemonade
Location:  Thirsty River Bar & Trek Snacks

Four colorful frozen drinks in cups

First Magnitude Draft – Honey Bee Citrus Blonde 2021: Honey ale made with honey that’s been harvested from bee-friendly solar farms, lightly sweet with a clean finish
Location:  Thirsty River Bar & Trek Snacks

Discovery Island

Honeybee Cupcake: Orange Cake, Honey Bavarian Filling, Honey Frosting, White Chocolate Honeycomb
Location:  Creature Comforts

Flamingo Cupcake: Strawberry Cake filled with Strawberry Compote, Guava Frosting, Strawberry Crispy Pearls
Location:  Flame Tree Barbecue and Isle of Java

Mother Earth – Botanical-Mixed Beverage: Gin and Infused Tea with Mint and Lemon Peel garnishes (alcohol-free version also available)
Location:  Nomad Lounge

Waffle with nutella and fruit

First Magnitude Draft – Honey Bee Citrus Blonde 2021: Honey ale made with honey that’s been harvested from bee-friendly solar farms, lightly sweet with a clean finish
Location:  Thirsty River Bar & Trek Snacks

The Loggerhead: Sour Apple Sprite with a Green Sugar rim, Sour Gummy Worm, and Light-up Glow Cube
Location:  Flame Tree Barbecue

Red Crowned Crane: Frozen Coke topped with Frozen Cherry Coke and Strawberry Cotton Candy fluff (or spike it with rum)
Location:  Isle of Java

Cotton Top Lagoon: Frozen Blue Raspberry and Lemonade with Lagoon Blue Cotton Candy fluff
Location: Isle of Java

Earth Day Merchandise

Heart of Te Fiti pin in green

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 Te Fiti from Moana.

For a souvenir that really makes an impact, take home an adorable plushie of one of the many animals that call the park home, where a portion of the sale goes to support the animal conservation efforts led by the Disney Conservation Fund. 

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

Dopey Dwarf Topiary

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. During a normal year, you can even cultivate your green thumb by joining a gardening seminar or DIY workshop, however, COVID-19 has, unfortunately, sidelined those events for 2021. 

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 ($7.99 plus tax) from select merchandise locations, then return it to Disney Traders or World Traveler for your reward. 

Kermit the Frog Topiary

This year the Epcot Flower & Garden Festival is running extra long, from March 3 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. 

Plants growing inside a bubble

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.

Though currently on hiatus due to COVID-19, we highly recommend taking advantage once it returns. 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

Outside hotel tower with plam trees

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, a couple of Disney World resorts offer some unique experiences that let you enjoy the great outdoors all year long. 

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. 

Lodge with waterfall and pond

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. 

Animal Kingdom Entrance

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.” 

Animal Kingdom trees surrounded by water

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!

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