A look at Pandora, world of Avatar
Say what you want about Avatar (“It’s Pocahontas in space” / “it’s Fern Gully without the fairies” / “it’s derivative as all hell” / etc.) — there’s no denying that the film is visually breathtaking. I was completely blown away the first time I saw it IMAX 3D, enough so to drag everyone I knew back to the theaters with me for repeat after repeat after repeat viewings.
Cut to 8 years later…still no sequel. But we’ve got the next best thing — a brand new land at Disney’s Animal Kingdom!
It’s chock full of lush greenery and floating mountains, with no shortage of banshee merch. We had a ball wandering around, snapping photos, dodging crowds (my GOD, the crowds), and slurping up the finest Pandora margaritas.
Flight of Passage
Pandora opened this past Memorial Day Weekend to stunning reviews, especially for the new ride, Flight of Passage.
It’s the new tentpole ride of Animal Kindgom. Think: Radiator Springs in Cars Land, only double the average wait time.
The ride mechanics are very similar to Soarin’ Over The World, at both DCA and Epcot, except instead of sitting in a chair lift type rig, you’re straddling your very own banshee. I know that sounds weird, but trust me: it was awesome. You can even feel the banshee “breathing” as it flies you around the valley (again, weird, but in a “wow, this is actually super cool?” kind of way).
All the hype we’d read about Flight of Passage? It lived up to it 10000%.
We visited Pandora twice in our two full days at Walt Disney World, which speaks to both the allure of the land and the holy-bajeezus level crowds.
Flight of Passage was consistently between a 2 & 1/2 to 3 hour wait, and the other attraction — a slow moving Pirates of the Caribbean-type boat ride called the Na’vi River Journey — was just under 2 hours. Um, no thanks.
It’s hard to read the screen, but that’s the wait time for Flight of Passage: 170 minutes.
We super, duper lucked out and were able to get Fastpasses for both — a total lifesaver, cause no way in HALE would we have the patience to wait 4+ hours for 2 rides. On Saturday we rode the Na’vi River Journey, and on Sunday our very own fairy godmother gave us Animal Kindgom Fastpasses that we used on Flight of Passage. (Thanks again, Laura!!!)
Na’vi River Journey
The Na’vi River Journey is a gentle, bioluminescent boat ride through the beautiful scenery of Pandora. It was a calm, relaxing escape from the crowds, with a nice peek at the plant and animal life that makes Pandora so magical. It even has a huge Na’vi animatronic lady who does some voodoo type singin’ and chanting.
But, word of advice: it’s decidedly not worth a 2 hour wait. We got on this ride in about 5 minutes with our Fastpass, and the first thing I thought to myself after getting off was, “Wow. People are waiting 2 hours for THAT?” It’s a 3 minute ride, folks. A visually appealing 3 minutes, but still — just 3 minutes. Get a Fastpass.
Once you check those two attractions off your list, be sure to stop in and grab a drink from Pongu Pongu. It’s a quick bite stand right next to the gift shop exit of Flight of Passage (where they sell those popular-yet-creepy banshee shoulder puppets).
Pongu Pongu offers boba drinks, beer, margaritas and a lumpia filled with pineapple cream cheese. We grabbed a beer and a Mo’ara Margarita, topped with strawberry boba.
The beer was yuck (Mark’s a fan, I’m not) but the Mo’ara Margarita was delicious. Definitely worth the $10!
Our time in Pandora was punctuated by crowd-dodging, Margarita sipping, “holy crap, that’s the wait time?!” oggling, and a little spot of rain (we were in Florida, after all).
We were really impressed with what the Imagineers did with the space, and wish we could’ve ridden Flight of Passage at least 4 more times. Hoping that during our next WDW visit the lines aren’t quite so insane — but we all know that’s just wishful thinking.