The Mouse Magic Guide to Pandora – The World of Avatar
If you are someone who has not been to Disney World in the past two to four years, a lot has changed since you last visited. You probably would not even recognize the place anymore. There have been permanent ride closures, new rides that have opened up, new shows added while old shows were taken away and many, many other changes. We are in a time of ‘new.’ More than ever before, Disney World is changing drastically, bringing in all sorts of new things to the parks as they prepare for the big 50th anniversary in 2021.
Speaking of brand new, Animal Kingdom recently received a big upgrade. On May 27th, 2017, Pandora – The World of Avatar opened to the public at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
When Disney announced the plans they had for this land, there were mixed reviews. Some people were absolutely ecstatic about it while others were stuck wondering how exactly Pandora would even fit in Animal Kingdom. If you have never been to Pandora and are wondering if it is worth it to go, or if you want to go but don’t know what to expect, then I would like to share five things that could help you decide to go or plan your trip to Pandora – The World of Avatar!
1) The Elegance of Pandora
If I could describe Pandora – The World of Avatar in one word, it would be breathtaking. I honestly have no words to describe how beautiful the place was. I instantly felt transported to another world. The number of details that Imagineers put into this land is just incredible. Everywhere you look, you can find this, find that; the whole land or the world they created really envelopes you in a sense of disbelief. All of the alien plants look so real. The mountains are so enormous and just put me in a sense of bewilderment at how they managed to make them look like they were floating. Because of how immersed I was in the storytelling, the details, and just the overall stunning beauty of the land, I at times felt like I was not even at Disney anymore.
As you walk about the land all of your senses are stimulated. You are emotionally caught up in the beauty, you can taste the cuisine and culture of the Pandoran food, you can touch the Pandoran plants and make music, you can hear the animals and insects come alive at night, and you can smell the sweet aroma in the caves of Mo’ara as you soar through Pandora on your Banshee. As you venture throughout the land, you will stumble across various alien plants, find the two rides (Na'vi River Journey and Flight of Passage), the gift shop (Wind Traders), the quick-service restaurant (Satu’li Canteen), and then a drink/snack stand (Pongu Pongu!). Overall, Disney did a tremendous job on designing the majesty and splendor that Pandora is!
2) The Culinary Adventure
When I found out that Pandora was going to have food, I was overjoyed as I absolutely love food! Pandora has two food options; the first is a quick-service restaurant called Satu’li Canteen, and the other place is a not a restaurant per se, but a drink/snack stand called Pongu Pongu! Satu’li Canteen serves unique create-your-own style meals. The way that works is you choose one protein (chopped Wood Grilled Chicken, Slow Roasted Sliced Grilled Beef, Sustainable Fish, or Chili Spiced Crispy Fried Tofu), one base (Red and Sweet Potato Hash, Mixed Whole Grains and Rice, Rice and Beans, or Hearty Salad), and then finally one sauce (Charred Green Onion Vinaigrette, Black Bean Vinaigrette, and Creamy Herb Sauce.) I myself got the Chopped Wood Grilled Chicken Bowl with Mixed Whole Grains and Rice with the Creamy Herb sauce. The meal itself was quite large, almost the size of a table service meal at the parks. The chicken was very moist and tender, and the creaminess of the herb sauce complimented the chicken very nicely. The meal was very filling, and it also felt very healthy. I would highly recommend getting it. As for presentation wise, the meal definitely had an ‘alienesque’ vibe to it as it came with some ‘crunchy slaw’ and Boba balls on top of the dish.
I was personally not a fan of the Boba balls on my meal as they burst open when you bite with some form of liquid inside. You, unfortunately, cannot order the meal without them as all of the meals come with them. The best thing to do is to just push them aside on your plate. If you do not want to have a ‘create your own meal’, you do have two other options; a Vegetable Steamed Curry Bao Bun and the Cheeseburger Bao Bun. For kids, they can get a smaller version of the bowls, a smaller version of the steamed Bao Buns, a cheese quesadilla, or a hot dog.
Desert was amazing! Please save room for it if you can! There are two options: the blueberry cream cheese mousse and the chocolate cake. I personally did not try the chocolate cake, but the blueberry mousse was very good. It was rich and maybe a little bit weird, but still very tasty. It has the texture of pudding and jello combined. Sprinkled throughout Satu’li Canteen you can find some cool looking Na’vi artifacts. There is plenty of seating inside, but if you did want to sit outside there is an option to so. As for the restaurant as a whole, the atmosphere and decor are really great, and I would give it 5 out of 5 Mickey’s as it is definitely worth your money. In my opinion, Satu’li Canteen is probably one of the best Disney restaurants in the parks.
Pongu Pongu, the drink/snack stand, is very interesting. In the Na’vi language, Pongu Pongu means Party Party! Here, you can expect to find five very unique drinks (Night Blossom, Rum Blossom, Mo’ara Margarita, Hawkes’ Grog Ale, and the Mo’ara High Country Ale), and three unique snacks (colossal Pretzel, Pongu Lumpia, and the Viper Claw). For the drinks, the only one I drank was the Night Blossom. The Night Blossom is a frozen slushy beverage that has Minute Maid Limeade, Pear, and Apple with Passion Fruit Boba on top. The drink has a mix of sweet and sour with a bit of the sweet empowering the drink as a whole. If you wanted, there is the option to get a souvenir cup version of the drink, but personally, it is not worth the money. Overall, the drink was great, worth the money, would recommend it and is great to share! I would give Pongu Pongu 4.5 Mickeys.
3) The 'Funtertainment'
Pandora is a place that is not only fun but is also entertaining; it’s got 'Funtertainment'! Pandora has so much to do. Besides eating, you have two rides that you can go on. You have Na’vi River Journey and Flight of Passage. Na’vi river journey is the lesser of the two rides but nonetheless very beautiful. It is a boat ride similar to the likes of Living With the Land, the only difference is you are going through a Na’vi bioluminescent forest instead of a greenhouse. The ride lasts about five minutes, and it’s ok. It is an amazing ride, has visually stunning effects, has an amazing surprise at the end, but, the ride just felt way too short and left me with wanting more. Overall, I give it 4 Mickey’s out of 5. Other than that, that is the only drawback. There is no height requirement, so anyone can enjoy the ride. It is very tame and relaxing. Flight of Passage on the other hand, not so much. Flight of Passage is a unique and special ride. There is so much I could say about the ride, but I need to tell you about something else first; the queue.
Right off the bat, I will say that there is nothing in any other queue across Disney World that can compare to the queue that Flight of Passage is. If you had to compare it to something, it is similar to the likes of how detailed and amazing the queue is for the Indiana Jones Adventure ride at Disneyland, but even comparing it to that is doesn’t do justice for how amazing this queue is. In total, you go through about five different rooms before going to the first pre-show room. After that pre-show, you do another preshow and then you can finally get onto the ride. Each room has so much detail and so much storytelling that went into making this ride. There are details on everything even down to the tiniest of things such as making pipes look as if they have been there and rusted for years. The queue is so immersive and so detailed that it is quite literally worth just spending a good hour or more in it just to be able to soak it all in, plus there are some really cool things in the queue that are just amazing that you need to see, but I will not share what those are as I wouldn’t want ruin the surprise! The ride itself is by far, in my opinion, the best ride hands down so far in all of Disney World.
If I had to pick a ride that I could go on as many times as I want, it would be Flight of Passage. You get onto a vehicle that resembles getting onto a motorcycle, and you simulate the sensation of flying on a banshee or in the Navi language, an Ikran. All I can say without going into to too many details and without ruining the ride is that it was amazing. The graphics were absolutely stunning and the whole ride appeals to all of your senses. You feel things (physically and emotionally), you visualize the beauty, you smell things like on Soarin', you hear sounds of the Na’vi warriors, and you can even get a taste of what paradise is like.
Overall, it is an amazing ride, and I would give it 5 out of 5 Mickey’s. I don’t know how Disney pulled it off, but they really made the ride feel like you are flying on a Banshee! When I got out, I was so emotionally overwhelmed that I just wanted to hop right back in line and do it all over again! Flight of Passage is probably one of the best Disney World rides hands down. Other things you can expect to do in Pandora are exploring the land as a whole seeing everything it has to offer, going to the gift shop and adopting a banshee, getting your face painted to look like a Na’vi, participating in the two Wilderness Explorer stations and even watch the Swotu Wayä Na'vi Drum Ceremony!
4) Pixie Dust
When going to Pandora, you should know some things ahead of time before going in the land. Instead of ‘tips and tricks’, here is some Pixie Dust! Flight of Passage has a height requirement of 44 inches while Na’vi River Journey has no height requirement. That being said, everyone can enjoy and love Na’vi River Journey while those who are adventurous can take on Flight of Passage. Flight of Passage may be a little bit intense for some kids, but if they can handle the bigger thrill rides at Disney, they can handle Flight of Passage. As for getting Fastpasses, you should get a Fastpass for Flight of Passage and wait in standby for Na’vi River Journey. If you go at Rope Drop meaning right when the park opens, Na’vi River is usually about 30-40 minutes so if you go early you have a great chance of riding it. If you do want a FastPass for both, Disney does not allow you to have a FastPass for both of them on the same day. You would need one for one day and then the other a different day. Keep in mind that when reserving Fastpasses if are staying on Disney property you can reserve them 60 days ahead of time, and if you are not staying on property you can reserve them 30 days ahead of time. Before heading onto Flight of Passage, there is a ride vehicle outside for you to try out and see if you fit into the ride vehicle or if you feel comfortable inside it before riding. Both rides do offer child swap if that is something you would like to take advantage of.
When eating at Satu’li Canteen you can use your Disney Dining Plan and the meals count as one quick-service meal while Pongu Pongu items count as a snack credit. Pandora has two landscapes: one in the day and an entirely different one at night. At night every single plant comes awakens with flickering bioluminescent light. It is just as incredible as the landscape in the morning is and you can even hear more of the animals around you than you could in the day. As a pro tip, if you do not want to wait in line to order your food at Satu’li Canteen, you can order it ahead within the My Disney Experience mobile app. It does not cost anything extra to use, but keep in mind it is only accepting payment by using your dining plan or a credit/debit card. You cannot use any discounts or use Disney Gift Cards to mobile order. You simply order on your phone, tap the button that says, “I’m here!” (when you get there of course) and then your food will immediately be prepared for you to pick up with no wait!
5) The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly...
As great Pandora is, there are a few minor things that should be mentioned that are some cons to the land as a whole. First thing is if you are tall, pooh sized, or even both there is a chance that you will not be able to ride Flight of Passage. This is due to restraints that are on the ride as you have leg and back restraints. The best thing to do is try out the ride vehicle to see if it will work for you before heading onto the ride. If you Fastpass Flight of Passage, you will be missing out on the amazing queue that it entails.
I would not recommend skipping the queue. What you can do is rope drop the ride early on in the morning to get a glimpse at the queue and to ride it, and then also get a Fastpass for it to go back again. You will want to ride it as many times as you can. If, for some reason, you cannot get a Fastpass to ride Flight of Passage and you need to go in the standby queue, be prepared to wait over an hour. Wait times for that ride are very long and if you are not careful will sometimes reach over two hours. Yes, the wait can be very long, but in the end, it is well worth the wait. Other than those few minor things mentioned, there really isn’t anything else that is bad per say about Pandora!
Overall, Pandora – The World of Avatar is an amazing land at Animal Kingdom! I would give it 4.5 out of 5 Mickey’s. The land is just so beautiful to look it, it has so many details, and is really unlike anything you have ever seen before. Before Pandora opened people were wondering just how does Pandora fit into Animal Kingdom. Well, it fits in perfectly and once you visit you will see why. What makes Pandora really great is that it was created in such a way that you don’t need to know a single thing about Pandora, Avatar or anything else. Everything around you explains what is going on. I went to Pandora with my mother and she personally did not watch Avatar, nor did she want to. When she went, she loved Pandora and was absolutely amazed at how the Imagineers did such a great job in creating this land.
In simplest terms, Disney took something that not many people cared about and forgot and then turned it into something we now will remember and care about for years to come. When comparing this land to the Harry Potter lands at Universal Studios, I think that Pandora is just as immersive and detailed if not even more so. There is truly something for everyone on Pandora. There’s stuff for kids, adults, people who know nothing about Avatar and even things for the die-hard fans. There is not much in the land from the actual movie per say, but there are some hidden gems from future Avatar movies as the land is set many years in the future after all of the films. In the end, is Pandora really worth it? To answer that question, I would say yes, Pandora – The World of Avatar is definitely worth it and I hope these 5 things can help you in deciding to go. If you do go, I promise you will not regret it!
4k Walk-Through of Pandora Done by Blog Mickey
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© 2018 Ben Drummond