Pandora: A Sneak Peek at Disney World’s New Land

blue Pandora plant

Beautiful plant-“life” in Pandora: World of Avatar

Pandora: World of Avatar is opening at Disney World’s Animal Kingdom on March 27th. As Annual Passholders, though, we got to take a sneak peek at this amazing new themed land. Join us as we show and tell you about the new rides, food, merchandise and theming of this new area.

About Pandora

If you didn’t know, Pandora: World of Avatar is based on the lands featured in the movieĀ Avatar. This movie, which opened in 2009, featured a world populated by blue creatures called Na’vi, who live on the planet Pandora. Disney re-created this lush world in this new land.

I have to admit that I was skeptical of Disney’s decision to create a themed land based on Avatar. Though the movie was popular years ago, I didn’t think it would resonate with guests today. However, Disney proved me wrong. The Imagineers at Animal Kingdom really outdid themselves this time.

The Theming

Pandora landscape

A peek at the lush landscaping that combines real and created plants and flowers

The minute we entered this new land, we noticed the incredible theming. The designers managed to blend created plants and flowers with real ones to create a unique and impressive visual experience. Native Pandoran sounds, including animal noises and Na’vi drumbeats reverberate throughout the land. Waterfalls cascade everywhere you look, adding to the sense of otherworldliness. And if that isn’t enough, Disney also somehow managed to re-create Pandora’s famous floating mountains. We truly felt like we were on another planet.

pitcher plants

Waterfalls and Pandoran pitcher plants

You are even encouraged to touch some of the “local” plant life. We discovered this when we touched a giant flower, causing it to produce steam. There is also an area where you can add to the music of Pandora by playing on native instruments. There are various drums and shells to bang on that each produce a different sound. We all enjoyed this totally immersive sensory experience.

Na'vi drums

Trying out the Na’vi drums

The Rides

The are two rides in the new Pandora world: the Na’vi River Journey and Flight of Passage.

The Na’vi River Journey is a calm boat ride through the jungles of Pandora at night. This allows you to see the local plants in all their bioluminescent glory. We also recognized many of the alien animals from the movie. In addition, this ride contains one of the most impressive animatronic figures I’ve ever seen. We rode it twice, and I’m still not sure we caught all of the ride’s little details. I don’t want to spoil too much of this ride for you, but I can say it was truly breathtaking. This ride is also completely family-friendly. There are no scary drops or jarring noises to frighten younger guests.

Here’s a snippet of video to give you an idea of what this ride is like:

Flight of Passage is the other ride in the new land. This is a simulator ride, but it’s unlike any other simulator I have experienced. On this ride, you connect with a Na’vi avatar to ride one of Pandora’s famous flying Banshees. These winged creatures carry you all over the planet, where you encounter many of its sights, sounds, and even smells. This ride places you fully in the experience, as you even feel your Banshee breathing beneath you as you fly through rolling waves and dive off cliffs as you take to the air.

Flight of Passage has a height requirement of 44″, so not everyone can ride it. However, Disney’s rider switch lets parents and older children take turns riding. Do not miss this ride. We all agreed that this is the best new ride in all the Orlando-area theme parks. Even the standby queue is spectacular.

Na'vi Flight of Passage

See a full-size Na’vi suspended in liquid in the standby line for Flight of Passage

The Food on Pandora

There are two food and beverage locations in World of Avatar. Pongu Pongu lounge is primarily a drink stand, though it also serves a sweet cream cheese-filled spring roll called lumpia. We sampled the non-alcoholic Night Blossom and the Mo’ara Margarita.

Pongu Pongu Menu

Pongu Pongu Menu

The Night Blossom is very sweet frozen drink with apple, lime, and pear flavors. It’s also topped with passion fruit-flavored boba balls, which are a delight. If you don’t like really sweet drinks, this one is not for you, but Bella and I both enjoyed it. The Mo’Ara margarita was pretty standard, but the strawberry boba ball topping made it stand out.

Night Blossom Drink

Night Blossom Frozen Drink

Satu’li Canteen is a quick service restaurant with a full menu. They offer breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but we only tried the lunch/dinner offerings.

Satu’li offers a selection of “bowl-style” meals. Essentially, you choose your protein, base, and a sauce. It’s similar in concept to a Chipotle, but with different flavors. Healthy options are plentiful.

Satu'li Menu

Menu for Satu’li Canteen

We felt compelled to try the cheeseburger pods, since they seemed so original. These are steamed Asian bao buns filled with meat everything you might find on a basic cheeseburger. They also come with vegetable slaw and colorful vegetable chips. We all thought these were quite tasty and felt the buns added a pleasing twist to the typical burger. I expect kids to love these.

Steam Pods

Cheeseburger Steam Pods

For dessert, we tried the blueberry cream cheese mousse. Though tiny, this dessert was full of flavor. It tasted similar to cheesecake, and even picky Bella loved it. There is also a chocolate mousse if you prefer.

Since Jack doesn’t care for sweet drinks, he grabbed a Hawke’s Grog Ale with lunch. This is a green beer with a hop-py flavor. He liked it, but I couldn’t taste its supposed apricot and peach flavors.

The Merchandise

Avatar Merchandise

“Bioluminescent” Avatar Merchandise

What would a themed Disney land be without a gift shop? All kidding aside, this is another area where Pandora: World of Avatar really shines. Along with the typical shirts, mugs, and toys found in the usual gift shop, there are a few unexpected surprises among the merchandise at Windtraders, Pandora’s beautifully-decorated trading post.

Windtraders Decor

The beautiful decor at Windtraders

At Windtraders, you will be able to make your own Na’vi action figure. After scanning your face, a machine makes a 10″ figurine that looks similar to you. Then, you choose clothing and features before the figure is created. At $70 apiece, this is not inexpensive, but it certainly makes for a novel souvenir for Avatar fans.

Bond with a Banshee

Bond with and adopt your very own Banshee

The most exciting in-store offering, though, is the Banshee-bonding experience. This involves selecting a small, mechanical Banshee from the selections on offer (retail price is $49.95). Then, a member of staff conducts a bonding ceremony that makes the flying creature yours. The Banshee then sits on your shoulder, while you control it with a “leash” that acts as a hand control. We saw lots of these creatures resting on the shoulders of guests of all ages the day we were there, so I predict they will be a huge hit. Bella is already begging for one.

Visit Pandora

Steaming Flower

You, too, can touch this steaming flower when you visit Pandora: World of Avatar

Pandora: World of Avatar is a feast for the senses, and no written description could possibly do it justice. I highly recommend that you plan to spend several hours there on your next visit to Animal Kingdom. If visiting Disney World isn’t in your travel plans yet, then what are you waiting for? Book a visit so you can visit the amazing sights and attractions that make this a truly innovative experience.

Worried about the cost of a Disney vacation? Check out our article full of tips on how to make your Disney World vacation more affordable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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