PANDORA - THE WORLD OF AVATAR “Discover an all-new land that celebrates the magic of nature.” - only at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando, FL."
On May 27, 2017 Disney’s Animal Kingdom had their grand opening to the public for Pandora - The World of Avatar. On behalf of Walt Disney World Parks, we were able to experience this all-new land one month later. Avatar was a blockbuster film that blew crowds away with its imagery and technological prowess so when Pandora’s vision was announced to the public, it was met with skeptics questioning how they could possibly recreate this awe-inspiring world for Walt Disney World Parks. Having been fans of the movie, we were really looking forward to immersing ourselves into this majestic and bioluminescent world. Let us be the first to tell you that the Disney Imagineering team and James Cameron, the creator of Avatar, have outdone themselves on this project. We want to offer you some tips and tricks about how to make the most of your experience in Pandora at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Arriving to Animal Kingdom early in the day is the best way to maximize your overall experience. During the first few hours of the park opening lines are typically shorter then they are midday. For instance, one of the staples to The World of Avatar is Pandora’s Flight of Passage ride where wait times can exceed 4-5 hours if you don’t plan your day well. Earlier in the day, however, the wait can be as low as 40 minutes if you head straight to the queue after entering the park. The other attraction in Pandora is the Na’vi River Journey which is a very similar concept to the Pirates of The Caribbean ride in Magic Kingdom. The line for this ride is exponentially shorter than Flight of Passage but can get busy with more than a 2 hour wait time. We recommend choosing one of the two Pandora rides to ride first thing in the morning to avoid long wait times.
*TRAVEL TIP: Before visiting the park we downloaded the app, My Disney Experience to plan out our day. One of the perks to having this app is the ability to coordinate fast passes which helps you skip the long lines, especially for Pandora. Luckily for us, we were able to reserve fast passes for one of Pandora’s attractions: Na’vi River Journey. We highly recommend you do this prior to your visit. Sometimes wait times will vary so much that it may be easier to do a ride on the other side of the park than one that is near you. Take advantage of the Disney World App and the free WiFi that the parks offer to stay up to date on wait times, ride closures, and fast passes.
What to expect on Na’vi River Journey:
This ride left us a little disappointed from all the hype that it generated only because of how short the ride lasted. The ride itself was one of the most stunning things to experience but we wanted more when it was over. The ride takes you through different scenes and incorporates creatures from the movie throughout. The animatronics and visuals are out of this world, no pun intended. Your senses are on overload as you look around the glowing scenery throughout the ride. Even though the ride itself was short it is worth doing just to be able to see firsthand the artistry Disney has created.
After we rode the River Journey we had lunch at Satu’li Canteen. We’ve been to a few amusement parks over the years and each time we visit one we are forced to eat greasy, fried food because of the limited healthy options. To our surprise, The Satu’li Canteen had diverse healthy options to choose from. We tried the cheeseburger steamed pods and slow-roasted sliced grilled beef bowl - both of which were phenomenal. We also indulged in the blueberry cream cheese mousse and chocolate cake desserts just to say that we tried it all. None of the food at the Satu’li Canteen will disappoint. It was fresh, healthy, and more importantly delicious! We even debated on having it again for dinner because it was that good!
As the lines become longer throughout the day, we recommend taking a break from Pandora to experience the other attractions of Animal Kingdom or choosing a new Disney Park to explore. During the middle of the day lines are at their peak and the crowd doubles in size, so Pandora is not the place you want to be at that time. We ventured off to Disney’s Hollywood Studios during our break from the Pandora crowds. We stayed for about 4 hours and got to do almost every ride in the park with little to no wait in line. While there we kept track of the lines at Pandora on the DisneyWorld App and the wait time never stopped growing. However, we really wanted to experience Pandora at night after hearing all the hype about the bioluminescent world that comes to life.
*TRAVEL TIP: Disney offers free shuttle service to and from each of their parks. When you exit a park look for the signs and find the bus numbers corresponding with which park you want to visit next. It is an easy way to get around quick and efficiently without having to drive form park to park.
Walking up to this alien land at night was unlike anything you’ve ever seen. The moment you step into the threshold of Pandora, your senses are heightened. There are colorful natural and superficial plants all around you with waterfalls and moss covering the infamous floating mountains. It was unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Every inch of scenery was glowing in some capacity. After soaking up the glowing landscape that surrounded us for a good 30-minutes, we decided to trek over to Flight of Passage. Unfortunately we didn’t have fast passes for the ride and the wait time was about 3-hours. After talking with a few Disney cast members that worked the ride, every single one of them said it was worth waiting in line for, and even longer if you had too. This was enough reassurance for us that we had to ride the ride before we left the park.
What to expect on Flight of Passage:
Rarely do we say that something is the greatest thing we’ve ever experienced, but the ride was the greatest thing we’ve ever experienced. Walking through the queue of the attraction was an experience in itself; you are plunged into the cinematic world of Avatar and what life for humans is like on Pandora. During the wait you are entertained and engrossed in every aspect surrounding you. When you get to the front of the line you you are escorted to a separate room to watch a video presentation. In the room you are matched with an Avatar based on 3D imaging that will be paired with a banshee before take off. The seats for the ride are technologically advanced as it allows you actually feel as though you are sitting on the back of a banshee flying through Pandora. The visuals are breathtaking. The smells are incredible. The entire experience rocked our world and the moment we stepped off the ride it felt as though we had an outer body experience. After we exited the ride, with tears in his eyes, James exclaimed “I feel as though that is what heaven feels like”.
Our biggest piece of advice is to plan ahead before going into the park but to also be flexible. Figure out where you are going first so that you can get there quickly and not have to wait in lines that are overwhelmingly long. Splitting up your Pandora experience with time during the morning hours before the rush, a break in the middle of the day, and then returning at night to experience the bioluminescent scenery, you will get the full experience of Pandora and how truly magical it really is.
Once you step off the ride you are brought to the souvenir shop, Windtraders, where you are able to make your own custom Avatar based on your facial features. It’s worth stopping by the shop to pick out a special souvenir to commemorate your visit at Animal Kingdom. We purchased a Pandora magnet to add to our ever growing collection! As you exit Windtraders you will see a drink station known as Pongu Pongu which serves custom made Pandora beverages. Their drinks were a nice refresher after experiencing the ride and an additional way to get the full Pandora experience.
*TRAVEL TIP: Watch the weather during the days your are visiting Disney World Parks. We got very lucky that on the day we were at Animal Kingdom there were scattered showers. It always rains in Orlando and many visitors leave all parks when it rains which shortens wait times and leaves the park less crowded. If you are okay with an occasional shower during your day it may be a gamble you should take if you want to avoid crowds and wait times.
Everyones experience will be different and this is just our time at Pandora, be sure to make the most of it and do what you think is best for you and your time at Animal Kingdom. Enjoy the magic of Pandora - The World of Avatar! If you want to see more from our experience in Pandora watch our vlog of our day below!