Christmas at Animal Kingdom is very much unlike the other parks at Walt Disney World – and perhaps for the better.
All of your favorite rides and shows are available and the same goes for restaurants – without any distracting overlays.
Don’t get me wrong – Animal Kingdom isn’t devoid of the holiday spirit; it’s just toned down.
But is it still worth visiting during the Christmas season? Absolutely!
So grab your Santa Mickey hats or your most festive Minnie ears and let’s dive into all the holiday fun waiting for you this Christmas at Animal Kingdom.
Animal Kingdom Christmas decorations
When you first get to Animal Kingdom, you’ll be greeted by a massive Christmas tree outside of the main entrance.
There’s usually a PhotoPass photographer or two stationed outside to take photos. The tree is so big, though, that you can easily get a photo of it without seeing them!
Inside the park, the holiday decor is very subtle and mixes in well with each land. Everything feels very “make do with what you have,” which matches Animal Kingdom’s environmentally-friendly, eco-conscious vibes.
In Asia, you’ll see lots of pretty lanterns strung up that glow at night. These are actually set up for Diwali, the Festival of Lights, an important Hindu holiday. In 2023, Diwali takes place from November 9-14.
In Africa, you’ll see giant stars, garland, and other ornaments made from recycled materials, like sticks, ribbons, and other items.
In Pandora, there are faux Christmas trees made out of sticks and colorful Christmas lights strung up on the roof of Pongu Pongu.
My favorite decor, though, are the Merry Menagerie-inspired animals along the tops of the gift shops on Discovery Island. I like that they’re more white with wintery accents rather than the typical red-and-green!
Overall, the Christmas decor at Animal Kingdom stays true to the theme and mission of the park while still feeling inviting and cheerful.
Christmas entertainment at Animal Kingdom
It wouldn’t be a Disney holiday celebration without plenty of entertainment, like character meet-and-greets, puppet shows, and the iconic Tree of Life Awakenings.
So let’s go over what’s available during the holiday season, aside from the usual stuff.
Animal Kingdom offers several opportunities to meet and take photos with your favorite Disney characters.
During the Christmas season Mickey and Minnie meet at Adventurers Outpost wearing their holiday outfits, while Donald, Daisy, Chip, and Dale also have a holiday twist to Donald’s Dino Bash meet-and-greet.
One of the unique holiday entertainment experiences at Animal Kingdom is Merry Menagerie.
This fun performance involves arctic animal puppets that wander around Discovery Island throughout the day, interacting with guests. You’ll see birds, foxes, penguins, polar bears, and reindeer.
My favorite are the penguins because they’re so little and fluffy and oh so cute!
Santa Claus festive flotilla
While Animal Kingdom has several character flotillas throughout the day, during the Christmas season, there’s also a Santa flotilla!
That’s right, Santa himself takes to the Discovery River in a festive flotilla, waving to park guests and spreading holiday cheer.
Check the My Disney Experience app or a park map for appearance times.
Tree of Life Awakenings (Holiday Version)
Winter is my favorite time to visit Animal Kingdom because it’s open past dark, typically until 6 or 7 PM, due to the time change!
This means we get the Tree of Life Awakenings show, a projection show on the massive trunk of the Tree of Life.
The show starts at dark and continues every 10 minutes until the park closes.
Viva Gaia Street Band
While Viva Gaia, the Caribbean street band at Animal Kingdom, is available year round, during November and December, they play lots of classic holiday tunes.
Performance times are available in the My Disney Experience app, but if you forget, just look for all of the people dancing around the stage outside the Discovery Trading Company gift shop on Discovery Island.
Holiday treats at Animal Kingdom
Animal Kingdom is pretty light on the Christmas food and drinks, although so is the rest of the park – which is kind of refreshing!
With fewer options to choose from, I don’t get as much analysis paralysis or FOMO if I don’t try everything.
Here’s a preview of the special holiday treats you can find in November and December at Animal Kingdom.
At Creature Comforts, aka Starbucks, you can get the usual Starbucks holiday treats, like cranberry bliss bars and peppermint mochas throughout November and December.
From December 22-31, they will also have the Mickey Holiday Mousse Dome, an orange-chocolate cake with Amaretto-chocolate mousse, cherry-cranberry sauce, white chocolate frosting, and chocolate Mickey Mouse ears.
Animal Kingdom is well-known for its festive, themed cupcakes available throughout the year.
From December 1-29, you can get the Merry Menagerie cupcake, a gingerbread cupcake with cream cheese frosting and a polar bear at Pizzafari and Restaurantosaurus.
Lastly, at Satu’li Canteen, you can get a peppermint cream cheese mousse with chocolate cookie crumbs from December 22-31.
Christmas at Animal Kingdom lodge
If you have the time, hop on a resort bus over to Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Jambo House for some more holiday festivities.
Here you can see the very impressive life-sized 7-ft. gingerbread giraffe, aka Ginger, and zebra, aka Debra. Plus, to celebrate to occasion, you can get a giraffe sugar cookie at the pop-up shop.
What is your favorite part about Christmas at Animal Kingdom?
All in all, Christmas at Animal Kingdom is a one-of-a-kind holiday experience that you won’t want to miss.
My favorite part is the Tree of Life Awakenings and spotting all of the decor. How about you? Drop a comment and let’s chat about Christmas at Disney’s Animal Kingdom!
About the author
Meg Frost is the creator of The Park Pixie, where she covers Disney World, Disney+, and Disney fandom.
She holds an M.A. in Journalism from Northeastern University and B.S. in Communication & American Studies from University of Miami in Florida.