Christmas has arrived at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and it will continue being Christmas through at least January 2nd.
I say “at least,” because Disney has extended the festivities each of the last two years because so many people arrive the day after New Year’s Day for a less expensive winter break vacation.
This is my favorite of the large Disney trees that sit inside or outside the theme parks as it’s really the only one that features Disney characters and the decorations don’t seem as redundant.
One thing about putting a tree that’s “literally” 9,000 feet tall in front of your theme park is that it takes a lot of decorations to make it look anything but “naked.”
There are two major components to Christmas over at Animal Kingdom.
The first is over at Camp Minnie-Mickey, where you’ll find Christmas decorations, themed character trees, and Meet and Greets with some of the Disney characters in winter/holiday apparel.
And the second is the transformation of Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle Parade into Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade. If you’re thinking, “Hey, they only changed one word!” then you know about what you can expect from the Christmas Parade. More on this later.
The themes of some of the trees are easier to decipher than others. I think this is intended to be sort of a generic Camp Minnie-Mickey tree.
And apparently Flamingos. I really want someone to feed them just limes or something so they turn green.
Mickey and Christmas.
Camp Minnie-Mickey is where you’ll find the usual suspects, some of whom will be dressed up in their holiday finest (scarfs). Unfortunately, Goofy does not make an appearance here as this area is usually called “Santa Goofy’s Holiday Village.” But never fear, Santa Goofy makes regular appearances over at Hollywood Studios during the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights.
I can’t over emphasize how much you want to avoid heading over to this area right after a Festival of the Lion King show gets out. I recommend arriving at Camp Minnie-Mickey at one of two times. The best is right around 9:50am, where you’ll want to get in line for Mickey first. The characters first appear at 10am and few people venture over here that early. Pocahontas, Chip, and Dale join at 10:15am. You should be able to do Mickey, Minnie, and Donald before 10:15am at which point I’d move on to Chip & Dale and then Pocahontas. After that, visit King Louie and Baloo.
The next best time to arrive is about five minutes before a Lion King show begins. Because the Lion King pours out about 1,000 people into the area after every show, this will give you as much time as possible to meet the characters before another wave arrives. In this instance, save Mickey for right before Lion King gets out (30 minutes after the show begins). The best time for this would be the last show because it will be the least attended and most people exiting will only have one thing on their minds – the exit.
Mickey sees the longest lines with peak waits often in the 30-40 minute range.
Minnie sees the second longest waits, with peak waits often 25 – 35 minutes.
Chip & Dale now greet in a dedicated hut. Expect waits of 15 to 30 minutes.
For whatever reason, Donald typically has the shortest waits of the dressed up characters. Waits are usually in the 15 to 25 minute range.
King Louie and Baloo meet in the back of the area together. Their line winds casually around. Waits are usually 10 to 20 minutes.
Governor Ratcliffe was greeting alongside Pocahontas. He won’t always be there, but he has been appearing in the afternoon.
Amusingly, I don’t think anyone knew who he was, but the pink bows and outfit are pretty hilarious. And considering the small hands, it looks like I might be able to get a gig playing him.
There were a few guesses to his identity – most thought he was Captain Hook.
But she should meet in Camp Minnie-Mickey on the left side across from Mickey and Friends. Baloo and Louie greet just out of sight to the right.
Otherwise, similar to the other Parks, Christmas decorations are reserved for Camp Minnie-Mickey and the main entrance. Africa, Asia, and DinoLand won’t see any changes.
The other change is the “transformation” of Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle Parade to Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade. Direct link if the embedded video doesn’t appear: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yLB9qeNPrHw. The Jingle Jungle Parade is basically the Jammin’ Jungle Parade with scarfs, garlands, wreaths, and the occasional costume change. The floats are all the same. The good news is the turkey float makes a little more sense in November than it does in July.
The Jingle Jungle Parade is my favorite of the year for two reasons – it’s the easiest to see and temperatures are cooler in November and December. Waiting 90+ minutes for the Star Wars Parade in June is mighty uncomfortable, even if that Parade’s content is better (in my opinion). For the Jingle Jungle Parade, I like to stand here in Africa in front of Tamu Tamu Refreshments. The Dawa Bar and Tusker House Restaurant would be to my right and we’re looking at the pathway in the back of the Park over to Asia. Overall crowds are heavy for Veteran’s Day Weekend, but I was able to find a spot here in front at 3:40pm. It will still take the Parade about 20 minutes to get over here. If Animal Kingdom is recommended and the overall crowd level is a “5” or below, you should have no trouble finding Parade viewing locations around 3:30pm – 3:45pm. If Animal Kingdom is more crowded, find viewing locations in other parts of Discovery Island around 3:15pm or be over here by 3:30pm. If you don’t necessarily care about being in the front row, people are usually only lined up two or three back.
Instead of watching the Parade, I usually head to Africa to walk the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail and to ride Kilimanjaro Safaris. The Parade basically shuts down Discovery Island from 3:45pm – 4:30pm, making ti difficult to access Africa. After the Parade, I got in line at 4:19pm and was already taking pictures on the truck at 4:27pm. If I’m doing both Pangani and Safaris, I’ll walk Pangani beginning around 3:35pm and move on to the Safaris around 4pm.
Oh, was Animal Kingdom “crazy crowded” during your visit? Did you end up waiting in this line? Fast forward seven weeks and you will be.
With the sun setting around 5:30pm and colder temperatures, you’ll need to be in line for the Safaris by 4:45pm at the absolute latest these days.
What are you doing?
Otherwise, not a lot has changed since the last few times we’ve been on the Safari.
There’s still no mention of Wilson, Big Red, or Little Red.
And basically no story other than the fact that we’re on a photo safari.
On the plus side, you’ll learn more about the animals, although your mileage may vary on this depending on the quality of the driver.
In other good news the bridge shakes again and the effect looked to be as good as ever. It hasn’t since March.
There’s still added emphasis on moving from one part of the savanna to the next. Work continues in Elephant Country.
Little Red lives!
You may notice how close some of the animals are to the roads, which is a clear indication about how comfortable they are with their surroundings. It must be infuriating for the cheetah in the background to watch these antelope gazelle things coolly eating grass just a few yards away.
SHOWDOWN! I had seen two female lions for the first time on my last safari, but it seems like it may be more common to see two. I honestly had no idea they even had two!
Direct link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=46keTwCYlgE. This is the last two minutes of the ride, which shows the zebras, the lack of geysers, and the new “asante sana” moment. This is the first time, I’m pretty sure ever, that there was no mention of the two week safari that we were supposed to be on. While it still didn’t make a ton of sense during the Wilson storyline, there was at least a reason for our safari being cut short by one week, six days, 23 hours, and 39 minutes. As I’ve mentioned before, I think they need to figure out a new story. While this one is more educational, there’s no sense of danger or excitement. I had no idea zebras learned to run that quickly after birth though.
This is another of the 9am – 8pm days at Animal Kingdom that cleared out well before close. This is 4:51pm, so Animal Kingdom is open for more than three more hours.
Hard to say the last time Disney updated the posted waits here, but the attractions that remain open have pretty nominal waits for 5:25pm. If you stayed through close, you’d be able to ride Everest virtually non-stop in the dark, which is a lot of fun. I’d be surprised if actual waits at DINOSAUR were more than 15 minutes, even now.
There were a ton of birds in the trees, which is something I’ve never seen before, to this extent.
A ton of birds!
This is from the bridge over to Camp Minnie-Mickey. All of the white specks are birds.
So be on the lookout if you’re visiting.
Overall, Animal Kingdom is a lot of fun for Christmas. The Jingle Jungle Parade isn’t a ton different than usual, but the holiday cheer is a nice bonus. Outside of Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and the week leading up to Christmas, you’re not going to find the characters dressed up for the holidays, outside of Goofy at Hollywood Studios. I particularly enjoy touring Animal Kingdom in the last two hours it’s open when it stays open until 7pm or 8pm. Those two hours see much lower crowds than the afternoon. And this time of year, it’s possible to ride Everest in the dark. DinoLand also ordinarily sees nonexistent lines at the attractions after 6:30pm.