Our Experience in Pandora: World of Avatar

Hi gang! We got the chance to take a Disney vacation not too long ago. We were going to wait until next year, but once I thought about all the new offerings Disney has rolled out this year, I knew we just had to check it all out. I mean, we just went last December and since then Disney has introduced Rivers of Light, Happily Ever After, and Pandora: World of Avatar. We really enjoyed the two new night-time shows, but we weren’t prepared for how much we loved Pandora. The rides, the food, and the theming were all above any expectations we had. Here’s a look at our experience here last August.

Pandora is the newest land at Disney’s Animal Kingdom based on the movie “Avatar.” I like sci-fi and thought this movie was pretty interesting from a special effects perspective, but felt the story was a little predictable. Well, you don’t have to be a huge fan of the movie, or even have seen it to appreciate Disney’s take on the Navi-inhabited planet of Pandora. It starts as you enter the land from Discovery Island or Africa: the insects begin to sound familiar but strange, like cicadas or crickets but somewhat “alien.” As you see the sign for the Valley of Mo’ara (the area of Pandora that you’re visiting) the vegetation definitely looks odd.  There is a giant plant pod, alien vines and sounds of creatures not of this world. That’s the great thing about Disney. You feel completely immersed in this land from the moment you enter.

We thought we would take advantage of Extra Magic Hours and “rope drop” or head straight over to Flight of Passage (the new ride everyone is talking about) when the park opened. Well, about 300 other people had the exact same idea! It’s moments like those that make me feel a little naive. So we shuffled with a huge crowd of people through the entrance of Animal Kingdom to the queue for FOP, and continued to walk, and walk to the end of the queue as it continued through the length of the land almost into Africa and then wrapped back around into Pandora. Try to imagine it and I bet you’re not even close. We had a Fastpass for this ride a few days into out trip and figured it was not worth spending 2-3 hours of our morning just waiting for one ride, so we left, walking towards Africa and literally hopped onto Kilimanjaro Safari with no wait.

After spending some time in the rest of AK, we returned to Pandora for our first Fastpass of the day, for Navi River Journey, the other ride in the new land. This is a boat ride through Navi territory at night, with the relaxing sounds of the native flora and fauna immersing you in a new and amazing world. I loved this ride! There are no thrills, but the details are overwhelming. You could ride it over and over and still never see all that’s going on. The animatronic shaman was astounding, and the beautiful Navi singing was so lovely. It was stuck in my head for most of the day.

Photo credit: James Bareham via theverge.com

We then had a chance to walk around and explore before our brunch reservation. Wow. How incredible this place is. I couldn’t stop staring at the floating mountains above us. The waterfalls, the towering straw figures, the strange plants were breath-taking.

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When we came back in a few days to use our Fastpass for FOP, the kids couldn’t wait to get back into Pandora. We felt pretty awesome gliding past all those poor souls in the stand-by line (it was about 110-210 minutes at most times during our visit.) We still had to wait for about 10 minutes. This is a slow loading ride with 2 pre-shows, which I’m sure contributes to the ride’s long waits. We finally got to enter the room where we got “matched” with an avatar, then went to another room to watch a video about the Ikran, or Banshee that we would soon be riding via avatar. Yeah, it’s kind of complicated, but then we loaded onto the ride, straddling a chair and restraints came up behind our backs and calves. The ride began, my life was changed, and I couldn’t wait to get back on. Yes, this ride is unbelievable. I can see why people are willing to wait so long. It’s a simulator-type of ride and if you are prone to motion sickness, you might need to avoid it.

The kids wanted to go back on immediately. Instead, we went to the gift shop “Wind Traders” so they could pick out a souvenir to cement their allegiance to the Na’vi way of life. We then headed over to Satuli Canteen the new quick-serve location that has gotten rave reviews from most visitors…

We’ll stop for now as this review is getting a bit long! Look for part 2 as we review the food and drink in Pandora. Have you visited Animal Kingdom recently and had a chance to stop by Pandora? What did you think? Leave a comment below!

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