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Pandora : World of Avatar Review

Animal Kingdom’s Pandora: World of Avatar
Several months ago I read a rumor that annual passholders might get an opportunity to check out Pandora before it officially opens. A few days later, someone in a facebook group I’m part of posted that preview sign-ups were up on the website. I quickly reserved my spot for a day Ray and I were already planning to be at Animal Kingdom. Within the next 30 minutes all the reservations were accounted for!
Last Sunday Ray and I were at Disney World spending time with our family and celebrating our cousin’s graduation/birthday (more on that trip to come). We spent the morning at Animal Kingdom riding Everest, the Safari, and Dinosaur. After a break at our hotel, we made our way back to Animal Kingdom for our 6pm Pandora reservation.
Walking into Pandora was an incredible experience. It truly felt like I was walking into a different world. Here’s the breakdown:

Valley of Mo’ara

So, let’s start with Pandora’s most obvious and breathtaking feature, the Valley of Mo’ara. The landscaping is stunning and intricately detailed. Every view is a photo opportunity… waterfalls, alien vegetation, oh, and floating mountains. FLOATING MOUNTAINS. The details are bananas. Glowing sidewalks, native weavings, tiny bioluminescent flowers… I could go on and on. The theming extends to the ride queues, which I always appreciate.

Na’vi River Journey

The Na’vi river Journey is an evening boat ride through Pandora. It features glowing plants and Pandoran animals. Disney has created some new magic using video screens, projections, and tradition 3-dimensional sets. I have no idea how all of this works together, but the outcome is beautiful. The ride concludes with the Shaman of Songs (I had to look that up) which is hands down Disney’s most life like animatronic. Its arms move so fluidly it’s hard to remember it’s actually a robot.
Overall this ride is relaxing and beautiful. The queue, while mostly unairconditioned, is beautiful. It’s a must see.

Flight of Passage

Flight of Passage is the most technologically advanced ride I’ve ever experienced. It’s a flight simulator of which you ride on the back of a banshee (but why aren’t we just calling them dragons?) through the planet’s different environments.
Because we went to a preview viewing of Pandora, we walked through the fastpass line for this ride which is MUCH shorter than the standby queue. I’ve read that if the entire queue is full it’s about a 4 or 5 hour wait. Thankfully, the theming is very well thought out and at least half of the queue is air conditioned. You walk through the jungle, some rocks, and a laboratory. Once you make it through the laboratory, you’re taken into a 16 person room to get the background story of the ride and prepare for your flight. A video plays, it talks about your consciousness, blah blah blah. Honestly, this part was rather boring to me but I know it’s what they needed to do to set up for the ride. You’re then led into a room with what almost looks like stationary bikes or motorcycles. You’re handed 3-D glasses and told to “mount” the seat. Once you’re seated, back and leg restraints deploy.

To start the ride, the room goes dark, there’s a flash of light, the screen in front of you disappears, and suddenly you’re immersed into the world of Pandora. You fly up, down, and around experiencing the various landscapes. Oh, and you can feel the dragon breathing beneath you. The video is beautiful and well synched with the ride vehicles. You truly feel as though you’re flying!!
The Downside:
Apparenlty, if you have large calves or a larger middle, you may not fit on the ride. There have been tons of reports from people not being able to experience Flight of Passage due to the size of the ride vehicles. That’s a super bummer. When we went there were no test vehicles outside the ride, but hopefully that will change soon because waiting hours for a ride, then not fitting properly is a truly un-magical experience. Also, while I felt fine, there is potential for motion sickness during Flight of Passage.

Pongu Pongu
Pongu Pongu is currently the only refreshment kiosk in Pandora. It offers several drinks, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, and a few snacks. Ray and I ordered a Night Blossom and a Mo’ara Margarita.
The Mo’ara Margarita is a mix of strawberry and blood orange flavors and topped with boba balls. It was good, but nothing special. I probably wouldn’t purchase this again.
The Night Blossom is a mix of limeade, apple and pear, and topped with passion fruit boba. This drink was delicious and because it’s non-alcoholic everyone can enjoy! Also, it’s very instagram-worthy. Definitely get this on your next trip to Animal Kingdom! Satu’li Canteen
The Satu’li Canteen is a great change to the Disney parks. This “fast casual” restaurant offers primarily healthy breakfast, lunch, and dinner options. At the time of our visit, Ray and I only saw the lunch and dinner menu so that’s what I’ll be talking about. There are two main options on the menu, bowls and pods. For the bowls you choose a protein (slice grilled beef, chopped grilled chicken, fish fillet, and crispy tofu), base (quinoa salad, red and sweet potato hash, mixed rice, and romain and kale salad), and a sauce (onion chimichurri, black bean vinaigrette, and creamy herb dressing). Ray chose sliced beef over rice with the chimichurri sauce. It was DELICIOUS! The pods come with two options, cheeseburger and vegetable curry. I ordered cheeseburger pods, which were also very good but I wish I had tried the curry. We also ordered the beautiful, yet underwhelming blueberry mousse dessert.

Things of Note:

Windtraders
Windtraders is a unique store in Pandora. We were only inside for a few minutes, so I can’t give a real review, but it sold tons of interesting and pandora-like objects. Also a banshee adoption center.
Scent
One of the best parts of the theming Disney incorporates is scent. To me, most of Pandor smelt like jalapenos, which I loved.
Night Viewing
We visited Pandora during the late afternoon before it was dark. The Valley of Mo’ara is supposed to be beautiful at night, all light up with bioluminescent plants. I can’t wait to see it!
Moss Wall
Find the moss wall. Take an instagram. #mosswall
The Movie
I’m coming clean and letting you know i’ve never seen Avatar. Honestly, I’ve never wanted to. But guess what… I still LOVED Pandora : World of Avatar. If you haven’t seen the movie OR if you didn’t like the movie, don’t let that stop you from going!!!

 

We had such a wonderful time and I can’t wait to go back!

Disney World Tips and Tricks

IMG_0382IMG_0384IMG_0383IMG_0385Can we take a moment and reflect on my childhood Disney fashion choices? Pink fanny pack + SUPER high wasted jeans + turtle neck + center part?! Whew!IMG_2301

I love Disney World! Like, a lot. Maybe too much for a sensible adult. Some of my favorite childhood memories are of my family at the magical parks. Some of my favorite young adult memories are of my friends and I at the parks. Living only 2 1/2 hours away from Orlando, Disney World is definitely a convenient vacation destination. Disney World is magical for children and adults, BUT it can be stressful. Here are some tips and tricks to have a magical time and keep any stress at bay!

1. Get to the parks EARLY! On our most recent trip, Ray and I arrived almost an hour early to the Magic Kingdom. This was sort of on accident (actually we planned on getting there early, then forgot we did it) but it ended up being perfect. We were able to watch the opening show and be some of the first people to walk into the park. We were also able to walk directly onto the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train with a zero minute wait, while people generally have to wait between 45 mins to 1 1/2 hours in line.
2. Get the app! The My Disney Experience app is for sure a life saver (and time saver) while in the parks. You can schedule fast passes, see wait times, view maps of each park, and even make dining reservations for your party through the app.
3. Have a (flexible) itinerary! Know the rides/shows/parades/restaurants you want to attend before you go.
4. Cool (aka air conditioned) rides!  I’ll be honest, going to Disney World in the summer is horrendous and I refuse to go between June and September. BUT, I understand that it’s the only option for some people.There will be times when you just HAVE to sit in the A/C. For this, I suggest finding the closest cool ride. Best cool rides – Carousel of Progress (my personal favorite), Philharmagic, Muppet’s 3D, Ellen’s Energy Adventure, Haunted Mansion, Living in the Land, Spaceship Earth,  indoor shows and most boat rides.
5. Utilize FastPass+! I don’t know if the Disney folks invented the idea of fastpasses, but it’s genius! FastPass+ allows you to schedule ride times for your party, resulting in very little wait time.
6. Some rides are better at night! On our most recent trip, the last ride we rode before we left Magic Kingdom was Prince Charming’s Regal Carousel. At night It was more magical and romantic than ever before. Other rides that fall into this category: Astro Orbiter, Tower of Terror, Thunder Mountain.
7. Stay on Disney property! If you’re staying in hotel you MUST stay in a Disney hotel. Yes, they can be a little bit more expensive- but believe me, it’s worth it! Disney hotels provide free transportation from the Orlando airport. You don’t have to worry about renting a car or catching a cab to the hotel. Disney hotels also provide free transportation to and from the parks which allows you to bypass the $17ish parking. This is awesome because Orlando traffic can be kind of terrible and confusing. If you’re staying in a Disney hotel and decide to drive your own vehicle, you still get free parking at the parks!
8. Experience the restaurants on Disney property. Disney is home to some of the best and highest rated restaurants in the state! Because of it’s international cuisine, Disney offers so many opportunities to try something new! Disney dining can be expensive, but it can also be a really unique, memorable, and delicious experience. I suggest saving a little extra cash for a nice meal. Most menus and prices are available online, so it’s easy to plan accordingly. When I was a child my parents would bring snacks and lunch food in a backpack for the day and then we would usually go out to dinner. This worked great for our family!
9. Take photos, but not too many! Disney World is magical and a great place for family photos. I mean, magic backdrops galore. Cast members and Photo Pass people will gladly take photos of you with your camera or phone. BUT, don’t spend all your time taking pictures! Fully enjoying the moment is always better than photographing it.
10. Have fun! Don’t stress out! Relax! Take in your environment! Don’t lose your mind when people accidentally run over you with a stroller! That last one was for me, btw. 😉

Disney veterans, what are some of your tips?