Part 1- The Attractions
I thought, instead of one huge post about my experience at Pandora: The World of Avatar, I’d break it up into sections: Attractions, Dining, and Shops/Atmosphere. There is just so much to talk about!
I was lucky enough to experience Animal Kingdom’s newest land in the evening and during the day. Yes, it is still crazy busy, and FastPasses for Flight of Passage (the landmark attraction in Pandora) are extremely rare- in fact, I wouldn’t argue if someone told me they didn’t actually exist.
Here are my reviews:
Na’vi River Journey
I went on this attraction twice- once in the evening with a party of five (including myself), and once in the morning with a party of two (both times with a FastPass). Getting a FastPass for this ride was difficult, but not impossible. It took a long time refreshing the FastPass page on the Disney website, but I finally managed to get two FastPasses, for everyone, at decent times.
This turned out to be great, as I would not ride it without a FastPass, or with a wait time over twenty minutes. (Wait times while I was there were between 75-90 minutes)
Yes, the attraction is pretty. It is not breathtaking or thrilling. I prefer Frozen Ever After (and even “it’s a small world”) to this. The shaman of songs Audio-Animatronic at the end is very cool, but I get kind of a cult-y, hippie feel from this ride. The boats are also really small, and it was a little awkward when my husband and I rode with another party of two- I felt way too close to them. I would have waited a little longer for a boat with our own row (I know the ride is too popular for them to do that now though- they need to cram everyone in).
The ride is very smooth and peaceful- it’s a true family ride. I liked that they implemented screens throughout, so it looked like creatures, insects, and other Na’vi were surrounding you. The music was nice too- I love the soundtrack to Avatar (composed by James Horner), so hearing that during the ride was a nice touch. The attraction also has a nice smell to it- it’s too new for that “musty Pirate/Splash Mountain water” smell, but it’s pleasant. It really does feel like you’re in a cavern.
No one in my group was that impressed by the ride, and I think the hype surrounding these new Avatar attractions heightened my expectations too much. Once the wait time goes down (probably when Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens), I’d be happy to ride it again. Until then, I wouldn’t waste a FastPass on it, or wait more than thirty minutes (unless you’ve never done it). There are better rides in Animal Kingdom!
Avatar: Flight of Passage
I tried for a long time to get a FastPass for this ride. No luck. No matter how many times I refreshed the website or app, no FastPasses were available.
Since I knew we would be going to Pandora twice, I decided to go at park opening. I knew there would be a wait, but I was hoping it wouldn’t be that bad- after all, it was early, and it was a weekday.
Now, I have never done rope drop before. Once I found out that there were Extra Magic Hours in the morning on the day we wanted to go, and realized we were staying offsite and wouldn’t be able to get in, I knew the chances of waiting less than two hours for this ride were slim. Even so, with the park opening at 9 am for us muggles, I decided we should get there by 8:30.
Oh, how naïve I was! For rope drop, you must get there at least an hour and a half before park opening. Everyone else had the same idea I did, and by the time we got through bag check and into Pandora, the wait was already 150 minutes. It was 9:02 am. The park had been open for regular guests for TWO minutes. Crazy!
Oh, well. I had prepared for this. We followed the cast member holding the “End of Line” sign, and waited it out. The first hour was the worst. We were on the bridge leading to Africa and the Festival of the Lion King Theater, which is usually used as a walkway to exit Pandora, but is closed until lines for Flight of Passage die down. It is now merely queue space. There were a few musicians walking the line, entertaining us sweating schmucks, but it was still pretty brutal.
Finally, around 10:02 am, we entered the actual standby queue, and entertained ourselves watching cast members turn people away, showing them where the line actually started. It was fun to see guests gasp when they heard the words “3-hour wait.” I guess it was schadenfreude, after having waited over an hour in the sun myself.
The real queue is quite beautiful, and you gradually make your way up a mountain, past winding roads, waterfalls, and of course, floating mountains. You’re still outside at first, but now there are blissful fans blowing, keeping you from heat stroke.
Once you get inside the building, that’s where the real fun starts. You pass through a cave with paintings of ikran, or “banshees,” on the walls. These are the creatures you’ll be “riding” on your journey. Then you enter a bioluminescent forest, and finally, a lab where the coolest props and Audio-Animatronics live. This was the best part about standing in line- with a FastPass, you skip these parts of the queue.
I was a little disappointed about not getting a great picture of the famous avatar in the water tube. At this point, cast members were yelling at us to keep moving. People were holding up the line taking pictures. I wanted a picture too, but I had also been waiting two hours. It was now 11, and I wanted to board. But come on, didn’t these people know I had a blog to run? I did manage to snag some blurry photos and quick video, and then it was on to the link chambers!
My husband and I laugh at the queue intro video. We think it goes on for way too long, and the main guy keeps repeating himself. I think I heard the words “fly on a banshee” approximately 100 million times. It was fun though, and I loved getting linked to my sexy avatar (she looked way better than I did- I’ll take it!). You then briefly wait through another intro video, and then before we knew it, a cast member was handing us 3D glasses and it was time to ride!
You stow your belongings in a wall behind you, and board what looks like a motorbike. Restraints come up against your back and calves, but I couldn’t really feel the ones near my feet. My 3D glasses were a bit loose, and there were a few times during the ride where I had to grab them and stop them from slipping off. But that was the only complaint I have.
This ride was amazing. Seriously. It is worth ALL the hype. I enjoyed every second, from the crystal-clear screen, to the “breathing” of the banshee, to the smells, to the music- just, everything. It was so smooth, I barely noticed the motion of the vehicle except during a few parts. This ride is similar to Soarin’ in that you’re in a big theater, but the vehicles are already located on elevated levels. I didn’t find it scary at all; in fact, I got a little emotional over how intense it felt (in a good way).
The best part? My husband, who can be “meh” about Disney, thought this ride was great and said the 2-hour wait was worth it. For him to say that means it MUST be good.
The only difference between our experiences is that he says he could see the other riders in our group the whole time we were riding. I was on the edge next to a wall, so I could only sense my husband next to me. I did lean over one time just to see what the theater looked like, and saw the other riders in the theater, but once I sat back and focused on the screen, I was completely immersed.
We exited through the gift shop, Windtraders, and both agreed that Flight of Passage is the best attraction at Disney right now. It is so good, and made up for Na’vi River Journey tenfold. I highly recommend it to everyone- I would wait two hours for this any day.
By 12:15 pm, we were exiting Animal Kingdom, having done both Pandora rides (we had a FastPass for River Journey right after Flight of Passage), took pictures, and gotten drinks at Pongu Pongu. It was a successful trip, and I also recommend going in the morning (even if you screw up rope drop like me).
I might post more details about the ride (I know I didn’t provide a lot of story information), but I wanted to get my initial thoughts down as quick as possible. I mean, I did just get back! Stay tuned for my reviews on dining and shopping at Pandora!
Have you been to Pandora: World of Avatar? What did you like/dislike? If not, are you excited to visit?
Hugs and Fishes,