This past weekend I was one of the lucky Disney Annual Passholders to preview the brand new Pandora World of Avatar at Disney Animal Kingdom. This is the newest Disney World addition based on the Avatar movie from 2009, you know the one with the blue people with the tails. Yes — THAT Avatar Movie.
The new 12 acres of Pandora World of Avatar land officially opens to the public on May 27th but Disney has started doing previews for special invited guests like Serena Williams and other celebrities and media, Disney cast members, and finally Annual Passholders. I was lucky to snag a reservation because within the first hour it was available all of the slots were gone!!
I’ve been looking forward to this new land since it was announced, not because I’m like a huge Avatar fan, but I do remember how visually stunning that world was in the movies so I was really looking forward to seeing it brought to life.
After spending 9 hours exploring the new land I’m so happy to be able to share with you the details of the Topo 10 reasons to visit the new Pandora World of Avatar at Animal Kingdom. If you want to be surprised then stop reading now because this post will be full of spoilers and pics of the landscape, food, and detailed accounts of the ride!
1. The Most Beautiful Landscape Disney Has Ever Created
When you cross the bridge to enter Pandora World of Avatar, you are transported into the Valley of Mo’ara and the sights and sounds of the rain forest. There are so many lush plants, some real and some fake. I promise you’ll have a hard time distinguishing the difference.
However, the grand centerpiece of the land are the infamous Floating Islands. They are a true engineering marvel.
Behind the floating islands are the Hallelujah Mountains in the distance. There are lush waterfalls everywhere, rivers, vibrant plants and moss colored rocks. The photo opportunities are endless in this new world!
2. Flight of Passage Ride
The most anticipated ride of the new land is the flight of passage. I loved it so much! It’s a 3-D ride which I’m sometimes not fond of because I get a headache. However I was ok and I didn’t get dizzy after the ride.
On flight of passage you are matched to an Avatar and then you embark on your journey flying with the Na’vi people on a banshee!
I was so impressed with this ride! The best description I could come up with is that it’s similar to Soarin at Epcot but on steroids! Not only are your visual senses immersed, but you smell and feel the elements throughout the ride. You feel everything from wind to water spray.
I also thought it was cool that you can feel the banshee you are riding breathing beneath your legs.
The most common question I have been asked is if this ride is better than the Forbidden Journey at Wizarding World or Escape from Gringotts in Diagon Alley at that other park down the road. Both of those rides introduced new technology and there is no other ride like them.
Disney rose to the occasion with Flight of Passage. It definitely competes with those other rides. I’m skewed as a die hard Harry Potter fan so I can’t necessarily say it’s better but I look forward to riding it many many more times.
This queue line for the ride winds up through the Hallelujah Mountains so it’s worth it to see what they have done. This is probably the most scenic and longest queue line I’ve ever seen for any ride any where.
The lab is probably my favorite room where you can see experiments, a life-size banshee skull, and a life-size Na’vi. You won’t see these elements through the fast pass line.
3. Na’vi River Journey
The other new ride in Pandora World of Avatar is the Na’vi River Journey. This is classic Disney boat ride like Pirates of the Caribbean at Magic Kingdom. This ride takes you into the dark bioluminescent world of Pandora. It’s a nice calm relaxing break from the heat and it’s visually very pretty.
3. Unique Food
There is one casual dining restaurant called Satu’li Canteen serving some pretty unique eats. They have different kinds of bowls, steamed buns, and several vegetarian options. This restaurant will have the feature to order via the My Disney Experience app and pick it up at a specified time. That’s some great technology that I hope will save time.
I chose the wood grilled chicken with kale and quinoa and the creamy garlic dressing. I like the idea of different proteins with choices of bases and a variety of sauces. You can have a different meal experience every time you eat here.
The steamed buns come stuffed with cheeseburger or vegetable curry. Both are tasty and they are pretty large. You get 2 with a meal but they will allow you to purchase just the buns on the side for about $5. The hot dog in a pastry is also really good as hot dogs go. It was like a hot dog with a croissant instead of a bun. There’s an abundance of choices for kids on the menu.
The blue cream cheese dessert was my favorite of the two desserts. The other is a rich chocolate cake dessert. I actually like the blue cream cheese better than the gray stuff at the Be Our Guest restaurant in Magic Kingdom! That’s saying a lot because everyone loves the gray stuff.
There were a few misses with the menu. A friend tried the tofu with her bowl and didn’t enjoy it as much. Also the meals come with veggie chips. The blue potato and sweet potato chips were yummy but there’s another root vegetable chip mixed in there that’s mostly white and I didn’t enjoy those. They were super hard unlike the other 2 kinds of chips.
The boba balls used to garnish every single meal look cool but I didn’t enjoy them in my food. Next time I’ll remember to pick those off before mixing my food up.
In addition to the restaurant is a food stand called Pongu Pongu, serving frozen drinks and these delicious pineapple lumpia. It’s a springroll filled with pineapple and cream cheese. It’s served warm and it’s heavenly. A word of warning; it’s very sweet. You get 2 and they are a good size so you can probably share with a friend.
4. Pretty Drinks (and Dranks…)
The drinks are amazeballs. Pongu Pongu serves frozen drinks and beer including a strawberry and blood orange margarita and the non-alcoholic night blossom. I didnt’ have the margarita this visit but I’ve heard good reviews. I did have the night blossom and I loved it!
Satu’li Canteen also serves alcoholic drinks and pretty non alcoholic punch. You can get beer, wine, and a blue sangria. I can’t quite place what gave the sangria a different flavor but I liked it a lot. I would definitely drink it again.
6. Adopt a Banshee
The banshee are like pets to the Na’vi. The Windtraders merchandise shop has a banshee adoption area where you can purchase your very own banshee puppet. Everyone was wearing their banshee on their shoulder all day and making their wings flap.
7. Become a Na’vi
Ok so I admit that seeing everyone wear their blue Avatar ears was super cute but I just couldn’t rationalize buying them for myself. I won’t wear them enough. I barely wear my Mickey ears now.
However it’s cool that you can buy the different head accessories and jewelry, the long black braid, and even a tail! You can also get a spear, a scepter, or a bow and arrow as well to compliment your Na’vi look. Once you have all of your accessories you can head over to the face painting area and get your official blue face painted to transform completely.
8. Fun Merchandise
During my preview visit I got stuck in the gift shop because it began to storm outside. I had no intention to spend that much time there but it was neat to check out some of the unique products, like the cell phone case that lights up when your phone rings.
Some of the really fun merchandise is found in the glow in the dark section. There are black lights throughout the park so you will fit right into the bioluminescent world wearing these items.
The jewelry is super cute and tribal inspired to mimic what the Na’vi wear. They also sell stones and gemstones and exotic plants as well. The venus fly trap plant in a lab beaker almost won me over but I didn’t want to carry around a plant all day.
One of the cast members explained a new feature in the giftshop where you sit in this chair surrounded by computers and they build an Avatar doll that will have a mix of your DNA. I have no idea how they will accomplish that but I can’t wait to see how it works. It wasn’t quite ready during our preview. The doll will cost $79.
The element I love the most about Pandora World of Avatar is the abundance of waterfalls throughout the land. I felt like I was really on an expedition in a rain forest. Every part of the land you can hear the water and the sounds of the forest. I can see myself coming back just to enjoy the peace and serenity of the water. If you can’t readily hop a plane to Costa Rica this just might be the next best thing.
They provide a field guide with the names of the plant species and pictures as well as some of the animals. There’s also a quick guide for the Na’vi language. I thought it was a nice touch that the cast members all greet you in Na’vi and use the language throughout the land.
10. Bioluminescent Night Feature
Pandora really comes to life when the sun goes down. One of the really neat features I was most looking forward to was seeing what the rain forest looks like at night. Many of the plants and even the moss on the rocks are bioluminescent. The fossil shapes in the ground glow at night too throughout Pandora.
The light features weren’t turned on for the preview but the sidewalks were all glowing by the time we left. I can’t wait to see how beautiful everything will look when it’s all lit up, especially the other worldly plants.
Overall I was impressed to say the least. I mean afterall I was in the area for almost 9 hours and I could have happily stayed longer. It’s got lots of nature and alcohol so what more does Outdoorsy Diva need to love it??
While there isn’t the same emotional attachment to the Avatar theme as there is with Star Wars or Harry Potter I think people will become new fans all over again after visiting Pandora World of Avatar. I know I’m certainly ready to watch the movie after my experience.
May 27th is the official opening date and Fast Passes are already available to be added to your My Disney Experience account so don’t delay!
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