Pandora – The World of Avatar is truly a “world beyond belief.” We traveled to Pandora on grand opening day, May 27th. With extra magic hours starting at 7am for resort guests, we arrived before 6am and still found ourselves behind a 100-200 or so other guests. Slowly the line was allowed to move forward to collect at the Pandora entrance near the new Tiffins restaurant. A welcoming crew of Disney cast members greeted the crowd. Once we were allowed to enter, we could see the surroundings subtly changing, leaving one world for another. The globes of the lights on the pathway, the wear and rust appearance on the bridge, the looming mountains in the distance, gradual changes in the plants, all signs that we were entering Pandora.
Pandora was created in the old location of Camp Minnie-Mickey in Animal Kingdom. The land features two attractions for adventurers: Avatar Flight of Passage and Na’vI River Journey. Also open to explore is Windtraders (the gift shop), Satu’li Canteen which is a quick service restaurant, and Pongu Pongu, a quick drink stand. Overall, it isn’t an exceptionally large space, and the opening weekend put the capacity to the test. Fortunately, there are plenty of cozy niches to be able to sit and just appreciate the environment. The flora and fauna in the Valley of Mo’ara in Pandora is beautiful, and the attention to detail is so truly Disney.
Our first adventure was to ride Avatar Flight of Passage, a 3D motion ride. Being welcomed into the land prior to opening got us right to the front of the line and into the attraction without a wait. I get motion sick easily so I was apprehensive to ride, but still determined to try it out. My 19 year old daughter and 11 year old son are always willing to take on the best of the rides, so they were very excited. The queue is very long and is a good 10+ minute walk to get to the holding area. I think it is one of the best designed queues at Disney, and the details are incredible. We passed through several environments then through two rooms to be matched to our banshee and avatar.
The actual ride area has two rooms of eight vehicles each, and there are four floors on which to ride. You ride the “banshee” as you would a motorcycle, straddling the ride, leaning forwards, and holding onto the handle bars. There is a support piece that comes up behind your back and support pieces at your calves. Because the ride can be challenging for some body sizes and shapes, there is a test vehicle outside to try it before waiting in the queue. Once mounted, each rider dons 3D glasses for the full experience. Unfortunately, my predisposition to motion sickness forced me to have to close my eyes through several scenes, but I was able to see enough to appreciate the ride and recognize that it would be truly worth the wait for so many people. It was all very well done. My kids loved the ride and said that it was one of the best rides on Disney property. We came back later in the day so the kids could ride it again with our fastpasses. The fastpass line skips much of the queue so you benefit from a far shorter line but you do miss many of the details.
We returned before opening early Sunday morning to experience Na’vi River Journey. Fortunately, the crowds weren’t as crazy as Saturday and, once again, we walked the queue without wait. This queue was quite short, especially in comparison to Flight of Passage. The queue moves into the forest and around a hut like structure which leads to the river, and throughout there is a nice display of totems to the Shaman. The attraction features a ride in a reed boat which has two rows that can hold to three to four people each. The boat gently glides along the Kaspavan River through the bioluminescent world of the Mo’ara Valley forest. Along the way, we saw many of the creatures that are native to Pandora, as well as Na’vi gathering for the Shaman. At the end of the ride is the most amazing animatronic figure, the Shaman of songs who was radiating positive energy into the forest. She is beautiful, and you would swear with each minute movement, that she is real. This tranquil ride left us with a feeling of peace.
We also tried a couple of the special Pandora treats. At Pongu Pongu, the walk up drink stand next to Windtraders, we ordered Night Blossom frozen drinks. These are a mixture of limeade with apple and dessert pear flavors topped with passion fruit Boba balls. This fun drink tasted like sherbet, sweet like a candy and definitely addictive. The Boba balls are a fun addition, and to mix all flavors together was just a perfect combination as odd as it may have sounded. These can count as snack credits on the dining plan.
To escape the heat of the day and relax in air conditioning with a treat, we headed to Satu’li Canteen. I had to try the blueberry cream cheese mousse, featuring a passion fruit curd and a meringue topper. The mousse was very light and flavorful, and it is complemented nicely by the tartness of the passion fruit. It counts as a snack credit if you’re on the dining plan and is a great use of the credit.
Lastly, we couldn’t leave Pandora without bringing home one of the resident creatures, our very own banshee. At the Windtraders gift shop, you can adopt a banshee of your own and are sworn to care for it in the Rookery. There are several bright colored choices. Each banshee has a remote-control to help it open its wings, shake its head, open its mouth, and call out. It was fun to see all of the banshees and their keepers walking around the park. (*The banshees recently sold out and are just coming back into stock. If you want one, and they have it, our advice is to go ahead and get it so you aren't disappointed.)
The crescendo of the adventure is seeing Pandora in its glowing beauty at night. We waited patiently for sunset to come, and bit by bit flowers began to glow. It is truly a magical place to see the illuminated waterfalls, vibrantly colored plants, and the soft glow of the floating mountains. The sidewalk glows with bright yellow veins through the concrete. Even the attraction queues join in the ambiance and offer new views at night.
Overall, Pandora is a unique, fully immersive experience that has added a new dimension to Animal Kingdom. I hope you will have a chance to experience it for yourself!!