Today is the day! The official opening dedication ceremony for Pandora, Disney’s long awaited new world within Animal Kingdom. This past week we had a chance to get an early preview of the land. I will be extremely open in saying that my expectations were low. Clearly Disney has the capabilities to produce great products, but in term’s of how much I cared for the movie Pandora? Very very minimal. This is going to be a picture heavy post. I really can’t do justice to the awesomeness of this land but I’ll try my best! Upon entering the land, there is a very unique and relaxing vibe. You immediately hear many creatures in the wild and the land itself has it’s own smell to it.This distinctly does not feel like a Disney park….the entire area has a very natural feel to it. There are no hidden Mickeys and no characters waiting with long lines for you to take pictures with them which honestly felt like a breath of fresh air. It worked in Disney’s favor to mix it up.In terms of the atmosphere it was surreal. Not just in the sense that this was an entirely new land, but that every single thing you touched or looked at was well thought out and brand new. I was fascinated by just the ground alone which was a beauty in itself.One of the biggest things that surprised me was I expected the land to be bigger. I think part of the reasoning was that it was such a fascinating place I found myself wishing to explore more. The four main areas of the land are the rides: Na’vi River Journey and Avatar Flight of Passage, the quick service restaurant Saut’li Canteen, and Windtraders, the store you exit after riding Avatar Flight of Passage. There is also a central drum area which is a great place to stop and take pictures of everything surrounding you.
We headed over first to the Na’vi River Journey. Ahhh one of my favorite types of rides which I put in the “Mama Needs a Rest” category…..dark, slow, and air conditioned. YESSSSSSS. The first noticeable thing is how absolutely stunning the queue line is. It is somewhat reminiscent to me of the Animal Kingdom Lodge in that everything seemed to be gorgeously handcrafted. This ride is a boat journey through the Pandoran bioluminescent forest. The visuals are beautiful and the ride is meant to be breathtaking but in low key manner.I’ve heard a complaint that the visual screens were “see through” but they are actually meant to be multi dimensional. The ride ends as you pass the Pandoran Shaman of Songs who is fascinating to watch. Next up was the Avatar Flight of Passage or as pretty much everyone seemed to nickname it “the Banshee ride.” I’m going to throw out a really big spoiler alert at this point. So if you need a quick yay or nay, this ride is definitely a yay, put it on your list of must dos. Feel free to pick back up post-Banshee review below after the big pic of the Beef Bowl! I personally like to go into things with somewhat limited knowledge and let things unfold before me. If you’d like to know a bit more, read on. The essence of Avatar Flight of Passage is off the charts. Your journey starts in a (10 minute straight walk through) queue line that has the ability to hold SIX hours worth of guests. The queue line is fantastic. So many guests stopped just to take pictures of the scenery so the walk alone is worth the wait. I’d seen the Avatar movie but didn’t feel that “invested” in it per se and I think the queue line and intro video help explain any missing pieces. There are many different sections of the queue line to keep you occupied while you wait. Finally you are getting closer! It’s time to ride! You will “connect” with an avatar to ride a banshee. It’s that simple. Upon entering the ride, you hop on a motorcycle type looking seat and hold onto the handlebars in front of you. The sights and smells of the ride are unbelievable. You are absolutely suspended from reality and many people said they felt they could continue to ride for hours. Imagine the Epcot ride “Soarin” , multiply that awesomeness x1000, combined with the intent of Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey minus any negative aspects of the Harry Potter ride (motion sickness and the constant switch between visual screens and standard props). After we got off, my kids hair was still windblown and they still smelled like Pandora! This is the best ride I’ve ever been on, at any Disney or Universal park. I truly left the ride feeling like we are here at a time to witness the actual birth of magic….the creation of nothing ever seen before. The second time I rode I had tears of elation and could hear other rides wooping along with the Avatars they saw on the screen. People were clapping and speechless as the ride finished. I can’t wait to ride it again but we heard MANY people telling their kids “Enjoy it now- you will never ride this again because it will be so crazy popular.” We told our kids the same thing. As for the rest of Pandora….
Since we had little ones, Matthew and I did a rider swap. Saut’li Canteen provides a nice variety of options while you are waiting. I picked up a beef bowl and for $13 the portion size and quality of food was awesome. Disney is also starting a Mobile Order line for Saut’li Canteen which I think will be nice. Another perk is that the restrooms are right around the corner yeah! There is a quick serve line called Pongu Pongu. It seemed like everyone and there brother was carrying around a drink called the Night Blossom which made sense since it tasted AMAZING. The Pongu Lumpia were delicious as well. A note about Windtraders. This is a pretty standard Disney post-ride store and their specialty are baby banshees from the banshee Rookery that you can adopt and control. They are super cool but also pricey at $49 each. Personally I think it’s a nod to the genius behind Harry Potter World where you can select a wand (the wand picks the wizard if you know what I mean) in terms of personalization. It’s like they are calling to you! Find me a home! With us coming off a birthday weekend plus the gaggle of kids we had, we instead opted for a Pandora bubble machine which was $20. Fun times all around ❤ Bubbles!Overall I’d love to head back to Pandora but like most, I’m estimating the crowds will be quite significant for a long time. An unexpected bonus was previously I hadn’t really thought much to the creations of the Star Wars and Toy Story lands that are in the works and this got me excited to see what else may be in store. As the Nav’i say, “Hayalovay” which means, “Until next time!”