This year, Christmas at Animal Kingdom has been turned up a few notches.
In the past, Animal Kingdom has shied away from the holiday spirit because there is such an important message of conservation here to preserve. But this year they’ve found a way to beautifully represent a celebration of the holidays by different cultures (some out-of-the-world).
Disney invited WDW magazine to explore Christmas at Animal Kingdom and my husband, Todd, and I were so charmed by how the holiday spirit was very thoughtfully applied to each area of the park!
A Grand Entrance
The tree outside of Animal Kingdom has always been enormous, but this year has some new natural decorations.
I have always loved the wooded stars on this tree, and this year there are more bowls, mirrors, and clay decorations to behold. Around the bottom of the tree, you’ll find some familiar characters that will be fun for the kids to point out!
There is a Photopass photographer stationed near the tree, so be sure to get a good pic!
Good thing Discovery Island is at the heart of Animal Kingdom — you’ll want to keep returning to this area to soak up all the festive fun!
The Merry Menagerie has just begun to play on Discovery Island this holiday season, but they are already a guest favorite! You can find them throughout the day right in front of the Tree of Life.
The puppeteers bring personality and life to these adorable animals. There are mischievous baby penguins, beautifully gliding birds, and gentle reindeer and polar bears. Visiting these animals is an interactive experience! They will play and dance with you, and in the case of those baby penguins, even chase you around!
The cast of characters swaps out throughout the day, so if you return here later, you’re likely to see a few friends you hadn’t before. They are also accompanied by very talented musicians.
While we were there, we saw a violin player adding to the atmosphere, then later, a steel drum musician was plinking out tropical tunes. Pose with the performers or near Tree of Life, where area lamp posts are festooned with holiday cheer.
Tree of Life Awakenings
The Merry Menagerie will disappear at sunset, but there are more animals afoot!
The beautiful Tree of Life will cycle through several short shows throughout the evening each lasting just a few minutes, so they are easy to catch. These animated projections tell the stories of animals surviving, finding friends, and celebrating family throughout the winter months.
While most of Pandora remains beautifully natural, the human ex-pats have added some decor to keep up the holiday spirit away from their homeworld.
In front of the Pongu Pongu snack shack, you’ll find one of the best photo-opps of the season.
Pose in front of the mech suit here that has been adorned with a beard and hat made out of whatever the ex-pats could find on Pandora. And don’t miss the garlands that feature banshees and familiar holiday symbols.
Arguably the most festive area of the park, thanks in part to Donald’s Dino Bash getting into the spirit! Each character greeting area has been decked out with glittering garland and lights. You won’t believe the pink accents over at Daisy’s place!
Chester and Hester have dressed up their Dino-Rama roadside attraction with kitschy decor to bring in more tourists– including a Santa beard and hat on one huge dinosaur skeleton!
Asia and Africa
As you stroll through the area between the Up! A Great Bird Adventure Show and the Bollywood Beats stage, look up! Diwali is in full swing here, and the residents of Anandapur have decorated to celebrate.
There are also festive holiday photos with Dug and Russel back on Discovery Island–just in case the bird show inspires you to visit!
Here in Harambe Village, the citizens have decorated in a way that blends Western holiday traditions with authentic African style. Garlands have been strung over the buildings, wreaths added to the windows, and twinkling lights glitter across the marketplace at night.
My favorite decorations were the found object wreaths and Christmas tree. You’ll find wreaths made of bits like bike tires and the little tree near the Gorilla Falls trail is a found-object treasure trove. They did a great job of decorating for Christmas without taking away from the African traditions in this land.
For me, at least, half of Christmas is celebrating the season with treats! You know I was snackin my way through the holidays.
Double-Chocolate Peppermint Ice Cream Sandwich
Todd and I stopped by the Dino-Bite snack shack in Dinoland to try this enormously festive snack for $6.99.
I am typically cautious of peppermint flavored snacks because they can be overwhelmingly minty, but the flavoring on this snack is perfect! It’s really large and melts fast, so grab a friend to share this enormously festive snack. If you’re on the Disney Dining Plan (DDP), the price point is a great use of a snack credit!
Salted Caramel Apple Crisp Cupcake
This cupcake has been around since summer, but we’re not sure how long it will be on the menu, and it’s certainly a cozy holiday treat! It’s $5.99 on the menu at Flame Tree Barbecue (or a DDP snack credit).
This cupcake had the perfect amount of apple filling inside the soft cake, and the caramel buttercream icing was just perfect. The crumble on top gave the whole thing a balance of texture. Even though it is huge, we ate the whole thing!
Other treats (that we didn’t get to try) include the Pumpkin Cream Cheese Mousse at Satu’li Canteen ($5.49 or a DDP Snack Credit), and the Jumbo Mickey Sugar Cookie at Zuri’s Sweets Shop in Africa (also $5.49 or a DDP Snack Credit).
Popcorn Buckets and Sippers
We found both of the holiday popcorn buckets and sipper at Animal Kingdom, so you won’t have to struggle to get your hands on your favorite!
We picked up the Jingle Sipper for $15.97 and the Christmas Tree popcorn bucket for $25. We kept using the sipper as our canteen throughout the night, refilling it at water fountains. After you’ve got your popcorn bucket, refills are just $2!
The Jingle Sipper is actually way more ergonomic than sippers in the past, it lights up, and it actually jingles! Can I use it year-round?
Will you be visiting Christmas at Animal Kingdom this year? Get the scoop on everything the holidays have to offer with your subscription to WDW Magazine.