Disney’s Animal Kingdom Christmas Guide & Photo Tour
During the holidays at Walt Disney World, Christmas-loving guests flock to theme parks like Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Hollywood Studios for their seasonal soirees and classic yuletide decor. However, while Disney’s Animal Kingdom doesn’t host its own Christmas party or have the traditional trimmings and trappings you’re used to, this wild Disney Park is well worth a visit during the wintertime whether you’re a fan of Old St. Nick or celebrating Diwali.
Ready to do some rockin’ around the (Christmas) Tree of Life? Before you jingle all the way over, here’s everything you have to look forward to during winter at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park, including our festive photo tour of all those dazzling decorations. (Updated October 25, 2023)
Celebrating the Holidays at Animal Kingdom Theme Park
With unique holiday decorations and seasonal entertainment inspired by both Mother Nature and some of the diverse cultures that call the park home, Animal Kingdom is one of the more underrated Walt Disney World destinations when it comes to Christmas.
During the winter, this Disney Park comes alive with the magic of the holidays—with a global twist—from lively music and whimsical decor to encounters with adorable arctic animals and Santa Claus. The Asia part of Animal Kingdom even celebrates Diwali.
This year at Animal Kingdom, the holiday season runs from November 11 to December 31, 2023. However, don’t be surprised if Christmas decorations start decking the halls as early as late October. Read on for everything you can expect during the holidays at Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom.
Animal Kingdom Holiday Entertainment & Character Experiences
Along with year-round offerings like the Harambe Village Acrobats and Festival of the Lion King in Africa, Chakranadi and Feathered Friends in Flight in Asia and Finding Nemo: The Big Blue… and Beyond! in DinoLand U.S.A., Disney’s Animal Kingdom also features a stockingful of seasonal entertainment.
Here are all the holiday happenings for Christmas 2023.
Without a doubt, the most charming addition to the Animal Kingdom lineup during the holiday season is the Disney Park’s Merry Menagerie. Starring a stampede of cold-weather creatures, like penguins, reindeer, foxes, polar bears and more, this herd of life-size, artisan-sculpted puppets greets guests on Discovery Island in the area in front of the Tree of Life.
The Merry Menagerie appears throughout the day accompanied by yuletide troubadours playing jolly holiday tunes. Meeting the animal puppets makes for some particularly memorable photos, especially for those traveling with children. And best of all, you can even reach out and give them a pet or a well-deserved scratch beneath their chin. It’s pure magic and absolutely shouldn’t be missed.
Disney character flotillas have been an Animal Kingdom mainstay ever since the pandemic. During the holidays, however, these cute cruises receive merry makeovers, transforming the sail-by sightings into a must-watch.
Beloved characters like Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse and Pluto don festive attire for their voyage around Discovery Island, while the Discovery Island Drummers jam out to catchy Christmas jingles. You can even see Santa Claus himself float by on his very own Festive Flotilla.
These watery parades are a fun way to soak up some holiday cheer and see some Disney characters without spending too much time. As the Festive Flotillas cruise around all of Discovery Island, you can catch a glimpse from basically anywhere along the river. Cruises typically set sail once every hour, so refer to the My Disney Experience app for the showtimes.
For the best views of their voyage, watch from the bridge connecting Pandora – The World of Avatar with the Port of Harambe for a closer vantage point, or enjoy the display from the higher-up bridge between Expedition Everest and the theater where the Finding Nemo musical is held. Alternatively, DIY your own little dinner and a show over at Flame Tree Tree Barbecue, a tasty open-air BBQ joint overlooking the Discovery River.
Unless you’re blasting into the past on DINOSAUR, diving into the Big Blue at Finding Nemo The Musical, or meeting Disney characters like Donald Duck and Daisy Duck or Chip ‘n Dale, DinoLand U.S.A. can feel more like a roadside attraction than a main stop on your journey through Animal Kingdom. However, that isn’t the case during the holiday season.
Along with a flurry of kitschy Christmas decorations (more on those in a bit), Donald’s Dino-Bash also gets a seasonal upgrade, with spirited photo backdrops and Disney characters all decked out in their dino-inspired holiday finery. Our favorites are Chip n’ Dale, who take their dinosaur onesies to the next level with festive accessories like Christmas lights and reindeer antlers. In short, this is one prehistoric party you won’t want to miss!
Tree of Life Awakenings – Holiday Edition
Tree of Life Awakenings with a yuletide twist light up the night every evening, starting at 6:00 PM and alternating with the Beacons of Magic 50th anniversary projection show until the park closes. (Sorry, should the Animal Kingdom close before that time, then you’re out of luck.)
Just like the Merry Menagerie, these Animal Kingdom holiday projection displays are an ode to some of the arctic creatures that call Earth home. Along with a stirring, holiday-inspired score, each unique story is set around a different set of animals and is told in a distinctive style.
Festive Food at Animal Kingdom
While there aren’t as many yuletide treats on offer at Animal Kingdom as other theme parks at the Walt Disney World Resort, this nature-loving Disney Park does serve up a respectable selection of seasonal eats especially for Christmas. Here’s everything on the menu:
Available December 19 to 31, 2022
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 December 1 to 30, 2022; Mobile Order available
Menagerie Cupcake – Gingerbread Cake with Cream Cheese Filling and Vanilla Frosting
Isle of Java
Available through New Year’s Eve
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 Lucious Caramel Syrup
Peppermint Hot Cocoa – Wintry Taste of Peppermint Bits sprinkled over Whipped Cream
Available December 22 to 31, 2022; Mobile Order available
Peppermint Cream Cheese Mousse – Peppermint Cream Cheese Mousse with Peppermint Sauce, Peppermint Candy Pieces and Chocolate “Dirt”
Available Christmas Eve to New Year’s Day
Horchata Mousse – Horchata Mousse with a Gingerbread Sable Cookie, Pecan Praline Crumble, Coffee Ice Cream and Bourbon Caramel Sauces
Merrily bedecked with towering Christmas trees, twinkle lights, colorful ornaments and other holiday decor, there’s nothing more magical than the Walt Disney World Resort during the festive season, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom is no exception.
Unique holiday decorations can be found throughout the park, whether you’re in DinoLand U.S.A., Africa or even far-off Pandora. Since each area puts its own special spin on the Animal Kingdom Christmas decor, like Diwali lanterns in Asia, be sure to take some time during your visit to admire it all and take some photos.
For the full experience, try to visit each area twice, both during the daytime and at night (like we did!). Keep scrolling for our Animal Kingdom holiday decor photo tour and a sneak peek of all the festive decorations.
No matter where you are inside the park, Animal Kingdom brings a unique perspective to the holidays at Disney World. With a towering Christmas tree bedecked with masks of African animals, gilded Monstera leaves, and rustic snowflakes and pergolas draped with lush garlands studded with tropical flowers, Animal Kingdom’s entrance sets the tone for the rest of the Disney Park.
As is only right and proper during winter, the Animal Kingdom holiday decorations on Discovery Island pay homage to some of Earth’s cold-weather creatures, just like the Merry Menagerie. Rooftop luminaries of snowy owls, squirrels and foxes dazzle from above, giving the area an enchanting glow once the sun sets, while garlands laden with frost-kissed ornaments and natural elements hang below.
Pandora – World of Avatar
Next, it’s on to Pandora. On the way, stop for a photo in front of the colorful mural of the Tree of Life surrounded by the merriest menagerie you’ve ever seen.
With the entire land lighting up like a Christmas tree every evening with luminous bioluminescence, it looks relatively festive any time of year. However, the area around Pongu Pongu also receives a few jolly upgrades during the holidays. The star is the AMP suit, which is decorated like a makeshift Santa, while other spirited touches include a menorah, nutcrackers (including a Na’vi version), Christmas lights and a garland of wood-carved banshees and other Pandoran animals.
The improvised holiday vibes continue over in Africa. Here, the villagers of Harambe have used natural elements, strips of traditional Ankara fabrics and repurposed everyday items like bottle caps and bicycle wheels to create vibrant wreaths, swags and garlands. And best of all, these uniquely African celebrations are eco-friendly, too. In honor of the Festival of the Lion King, the thrilling musical extravaganza that’s taken up residency in the village, you’ll also see a number of decorations inspired by the animals of the savanna.
In Asia, it’s time for Diwali, India’s Festival of Lights. This luminous holiday is a celebration of good conquering evil, blazing to life with fireworks, clay lamps and vibrant lanterns. A cacophony of lanterns in front of the Anandapur Theater, where Feathered Friends in Flight takes place, creates a kaleidoscope of colors, making for a fitting tribute to Diwali and the glorious sensory overload that is India.
Between the riot of hues and undeniably festive setting, these might just be our favorite Animal Kingdom holiday decorations. The atmosphere is downright infectious. So, even if you don’t celebrate Diwali, don’t be surprised if you leave in a jolly mood.
For those looking for classic Animal Kingdom Christmas decorations, DinoLand U.S.A. is for you. This kitschy corner of the park really knows how to throw a party, mixing tinsel and twinkle lights with a pixie dusting of humor. While you’re there, keep an ear out for the radio broadcast that blasts holiday tunes alongside dino-themed Disney humor.
Well, that wraps up our guide to all the Animal Kingdom holiday decorations, special offerings and more. Are you planning to go to Animal Kingdom during your Christmas visit to the Central Florida resort this year? Let us know in the comments!