There is a brand-new event this year at Disney World for the holidays called the Animal Kingdom Winter Festival. We’ll take a look at the brand new entertainment offerings, dining
promotions around the park, and an array of beautiful winter decorations that celebrate nature and animals. This event is great if you don’t celebrate Christmas or if you’re just sick of all those Santa hats and Christmas trees. (Bah Humbug!)
The Animal Kingdom Winter Festival is a brand new event for 2019 that started back on November 8th and will run every day through December 31st. The park has seen some minor decorations in the past, such as the beautiful Christmas tree at the entrance but never has animal kingdom featured extra holiday entertainment like this.
Animal Kingdom Holiday Decorations
All 5 lands of the park this year will have some sort of decorations and some are minor like what’s seen over em Pandora where it’s only focused on the amp suit by the Pongu Pongu Lounge. While other sections like Dinoland are completely covered in Christmas lights.
While you can’t meet Santa Claus at animal kingdom for the holidays, there are still a decent array of characters around the park and some of them are even decked out in some holiday outfits. The main focus of the Animal Kingdom Winter Festival is over at Discovery Island though, where we have a new type of Street atmosphere with Magical Menagerie.
At night the iconic Tree of Life features a new projection show just for the holiday season. For the first time ever, Animal Kingdom will be open until midnight on New Year’s Eve. Guests can count down to 2020 with a special projection show and DJ dance parties in certain sections of the park.
Now since this is a new event at Animal Kingdom, the Winter Festival is relatively small when you compare it to things like the Christmas party over at the Magic Kingdom and Festival of the Holidays over at Epcot. But this is the first time this park is celebrating the season at this scale and every land will offer some unique decorations. That’s not only celebrating Christmas but other holidays celebrated around the world as well. Let’s go land by land to take a look at what Animal Kingdom Winter Festival has to offer.
Discovery Island is the heart and soul of this event, during the day an array of winter animals come out and greet guests in the form of puppets and this is called Magical Menagerie.
So as you first step foot inside Animal Kingdom you’ll be greeted by 10 different winter animals that are beautifully crafted and accompanied by festive music. Magical Menagerie will take place daily throughout the event from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The puppets come out intermittently, so if you don’t see anyone you’re walking through, just wait a few minutes because they’ll be out soon. Then the white and blue animals continue on the top of the buildings in the land with dozens of lanterns, and at night they of course light up, bringing an extra layer of magic to Discovery Island.
Now as beautiful as it is just entering the park, things get even better at night when the tree of life lights up for its nightly projection show. But this winter season there are new stories that are told and again reflect some of those winter animals. For example, there’s one vignette focusing on what appears to be a baby reindeer who later grows up to be Rudolph. Just like sunset season’s greetings at Hollywood studios, this projection show runs on loop all night from about 6 p.m. to park closing time. There are several different sequences so you never know what story you might catch as you pass through.
While Discovery Island sees the most amount of decorations each and every land will also feature something as well. For example in Pandora, the ex-pats living on the moon have given Pongu Pongu Lounge some holiday decorations. The amp suit is wrapped in Christmas lights and a Santa hat and you’ll find a cute Navi Nutcracker tucked high above the food window.
In Africa, the village of Harambee is celebrating western holidays with an African Flair. You’ll find unique Christmas wreaths made of bottle caps and textiles are turned into garland drooping over every corner of the village square.
In Asia, the citizens are celebrating the Hindu festival of lights. So all around the theater district by Up! A Great Bird Adventure, the village is adorned with colorful lanterns which makes a beautiful display at night. Since the villagers are celebrating the festival the Bollywood Beat stage show gets a little bit of a makeover. The dancers not only perform a great show throughout the day , but they also teach guests about the festival celebrated throughout India.
Finally, we have Dinoland USA where Donald’s Dino Bash is still running and gets an over-the-top display of thousands of lights. Around Chester and Hester’s roadside carnival you’ll find Dino Christmas lights and a truckload of characters meeting guests. Unlike other parks, at this time of year, there aren’t that many specialty food items at Animal Kingdom then tie into the winter festivals specifically. But that doesn’t mean there’s no good food to be had here, because I actually think that the food here gives Epcot a run for its money.
Over the last couple of years and even before Disney started this Winter Festival animal kingdom had a few surprise meet and greet locations with characters dressed in their holiday gear. For example, I remember a couple of years ago meeting Mickey and Minnie over the adventurer’s outpost and being pleasantly surprised to see them in their holiday sweaters as opposed to their normal Safari outfits. So let me do a quick recap of the current characters that can be found around the park.
Dinoland USA Characters
Let’s start in Dinoland USA because there are tons of characters to meet here, like Scrooge McDuck who can be found right outside the entrance to Restaurantasaurus. Just down the path, you’ll find Launchpad McQuack also outside the quick-service restaurant.
Down by the Cretaceous Trail on your way to Dinosaur the ride you’ll find Daisy as well as Chip and Dale. Then tucked next to Chester and Hester’s Dinosaur Treasures you’ll find Pluto. Also at that little gas station photoshop just around the corner you, of course, have Donald.
All the characters I just mentioned will still have their costumes that they’ve been wearing for Donald’s dino bash, however, they’ll also have an extra holiday Flair on top. So, for example, Scrooge and Launchpad sport an extra winter scarf and Chip and Dale are still just as dinosaurs but they got some Christmas lights wrapped around them.
The only rogue character, not really in a festive outfit here, is Goofy in his carnival outfit, he’s right by the entrance to Primeval Whirl. Pretty much all of these characters meet throughout the day starting at 10 a.m. and until 7:15 p.m. Pluto tends to start a little bit later at 12 PM, however, I have noticed that on certain days of the week they will finish meeting guests at 5:15. So this is one thing to double-check on the time guides for your exact travel dates.
Discovery Island Characters
The next big hub of characters is in Discovery Island where Timon and Rafiki have now moved to the Discovery Island character landing. You’ll stand in one line to meet both of these guys and they seem to be one of the more popular characters at Animal Kingdom now. Keep in mind that Timon can be seen at the Christmas party over at the Magic Kingdom.
By the entrance to It’s Tough To Be A Bug you can meet Doug and Russell at the wilderness explorers Clubhouse. Pocahontas has moved to the backside of the Discovery Island animal trail. All of these characters meet periodically throughout the day from about 9 or 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The only character meet that runs all day and offers Fast Pass Plus reservations is the Adventurer’s Outpost where you can meet Mickey and Minnie. Now a few years ago I spotted the pair in winter sweaters here and Santa hats. But this year it seems that Disney is dialing it back a little bit. Mickey and Minnie are still in their Safari outfits for the winter season but they have extra bits of Holly in their hats.
Please note that right now this is the only park in Disney World to offer a character meet with the pair together in one photo op. At Hollywood Studios and Epcot you’ll stand in one line to meet them both but they have their own individual photo ops. At Magic Kingdom, the duo has stopped meeting guests together in Town Square.
Mickey has returned to his magician’s outfit on Main Street and Minnie has moved back over to Pete’s silly sideshow. So depending on your exact itinerary for the day I always find that Animal Kingdom is a great place to meet Mickey and Minnie together.
So there you have it, this is my complete guide to the new animal kingdom winter festival currently taking place at Disney World. this event and this park is a nice change of pace from the Christmas overload scene of the other three parks.