10 Things You Can't Miss at Disney's New Pandora Park
I was lucky enough to travel to Disney World this past summer and experience the new Pandora part of Animal Kingdom. I was a little skeptical at first, since I'm not a huge Avatar fan. I was looking forward much more for the new Star Wars park, even if it's still not coming until 2019! Plus, Animal Kingdom has always seemed like the smallest and most skippable of the parks. (I'm sorry, but it's true! They can't all be the Magic Kingdom!)
But I was very surprised by how much I enjoyed the Pandora park! I was blown away by how immersive everything was! The imagineers really outdid themselves with this one! However, there is so much to this new section that it can easily get overwhelming. So I decided to make this list so you don't miss anything on your next trip to Pandora, the World of Avatar.
10. The smells
Imagineers are notorious for designing every aspect of your experience in the parks - even the smell of the air. They have hidden machines that pump in desired scents. This is why Main Street smells slightly of vanilla (or peppermint if it's Christmas time).
Animal Kingdom and Pandora are no exception to this. Not only will you pick up earthy, woodsy scents on the Flight of Passage ride, but the entire Pandora park smells like a growing garden. We decided that it distinctly smells of green bell peppers.
So when you head to the parks open your nose as well as your eyes!
9. Pongu Pongu
This is one of two new food venues in the Pandora part of Animal Kingdom. This one, however, only features drinks. They have several alcoholic beverages including a margarita and two types of ale. but for our last trip we just stuck to Night-Blossom, their signature slushy.
Night-Blossom has three layers of flavor (lime, apple. and desert pear) and then it's topped with passion fruit boba. It was so refreshing during a long day in the Florida heat, but be warned - this drink is insanely sweet! It ranks up there with the butterbeer at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter!
8. The Flaska Reclinata
As you're heading towards the Pandora park, right after you cross the Discovery River, to your right you'll see the Flaska Reclinata. This giant pod is highly interactive. It has two large pink patches on its side. If you touch them, the entire pod will start to mist, which cools you off very nicely. You also can time it to surprise the other guests walking by.
Also, be sure to grab a bunch of people because the more hands you have on it, the more mist you'll get!
7. Learning the Na'vi Language
Throughout the park, you'll find various words and phrases in the language spoken by the Na'vi. For example on the flight of passage ride Sigourney Weaver teaches you the phrase, "Sivako" which means, "Rise to the challenge."
I love that the imagineers included little touches like this, because it truly makes the park an immersive environment. It doesn't feel like they just made it to sell you merchandise, but speaking of merchandise, if you want to learn more of the Na'vi language, you can buy a Na'vi translator at the Windtraders shop.
6. Na'vi River Journey
This is one of the two new rides that were added for this addition to Animal Kingdom. This one is an old-school Disney boat ride. Because of that, and since the other ride (Flight of Passage) is a super high-tech simulation, I'd definitely recommend hitting this one first. I've heard that a lot of people rush straight to Flight of Passage and then are let down when doing Na'vi River Journey.
This doesn't mean you should skip the river journey, though! It's still a fantastic ride that fully immerses you into the nature of Pandora. You can see wildlife running past your boat, feel the mist from the waterfalls, and even see a full size animatronic Avatar. You'll get a feel for just how big the Na'vi are! Plus, this ride is much more suited for smaller children than Flight of Passage.
5. All the plants and wildlife
One of the many things that amazed me about this section of the park was the landscape design. The imagineers created these incredible unbelievable Pandoran plants and then were able to seamlessly blend them in with actual plants, to the point where you start to question which are real and which aren't!
Not to mention the incredible "floating islands" that tower above you, and all the cascading waterfalls that flow from them! So, when you're in the park, be sure to take some time to simply walk around and take all the details in.
4. Satu'li Canteen
This is the larger of the two dining options in Pandora. It's a quick service restaurant that serves tray meals. The menu is much simpler than the rest of the dining locations in the park, but that adds to the Na'vi experience. All of the ingredients are especially natural so that you feel like you're living off of the Pandora land.
The main dishes are grain bowls, where you can choose your meat (beef, chicken, fish, or tofu), choose your base (quinoa, potato hash, rice, or kale) and choose your sauce (charred onion chimichurri, black bean vinaigrette, or creamy herb dressing). These bowls also come with crunchy vegetable slaw and yogurt boba balls on top. The other main meal options are two types of bao buns - cheeseburger and vegetable curry. I highly recommend the cheeseburger one! All of these come in child portions too, as well as hot dog and cheese quesadilla options.
My favorite things on this menu, though, are the desserts. There are two - blueberry cream cheese mousse and chocolate cake. The blueberry mousse is the one that looks like it's from another world. It tastes delicious and it's totally instagramable!
3. Flight of Passage Queue
By this I mean that you should ride Flight of Passage at least once without fastpassing it, because the fastpass line bypasses all of the extra sights of the standby line. On my last trip, we fastpassed Flight of Passage during our day in Animal Kingdom, but then went back and rode it again the following night during extra-magic hours. This worked out perfectly because the standby line was down to about an hour wait, compared to the almost three hour wait during the day!
(I still highly recommend fastpassing the Flight of Passage too, as I pointed out on my Things to Consider When Making Fastpass+ Reservations post)
The queue starts with a series of paths outside that take you around a waterfall and through a cavern system with Na'vi murals covering the walls. Then, once inside, you'll be led through an avatar testing facility, which includes a life sized avatar floating in a glass tube. Then finally, you'll walk through a large open room with a huge mural of an Avatar riding a banshee.
2. Flight of Passage
This ride is so unbelievably cool! It is now hands-down my favorite ride in Animal Kingdom, and possibly one of my favorites at Disney World!
The Flight of Passage is a simulation-style ride, similar to Soarin', where there's one large screen that all the riders face. The screen, paired with bursts of wind and pumped in scents, simulate the experience of flying through a collection of landscapes. Though, I like to think of Flight of Passage as "Soarin' 2.0" because it has so much new technology that simply wasn't available when Soarin' debuted back in 2001.
For starters, Flight of Passage is in 3-D. (It's honestly hard to believe that Soarin' still isn't) Also, the seating for Flight of Passage is much better than Soarin'. The Soarin' gliders always sort of freaked me out, because if you're in the top row, you're pretty high up. When you board Flight of Passage, you'll be taken into a little room with a row of seats that face a wall. Then the wall simply opens up to reveal the screen, so you never leave the floor! So it's much better for people with a fear of heights.
Also, the seats themselves are incredible. You sit down on them like you would a bicycle or horse. There are handles to lean on in front of you, and a series of cushions swing up to hold your back and legs in place. At first it was kind of constricting, but no more so than a full-harness coaster, like Rockin' Roller Coaster. The great thing about the seats, though, is that they have tons of sensors in them to really simulate flying your banshee. You can even feel your banshee breathing between your legs throughout the ride!
Fair warning, though, they do vibrate the cushions before the ride when you're "linking up" with your avatar and it's super ticklish!
1. The park at night
Typically Animal Kingdom doesn't take a full day to see, so we'd just spend the morning there and then in the evening head over to another, bigger park, like the Magic Kingdom. So, before the Pandora opened, I'd honestly never been in Animal Kingdom after dark. But while I was planning our last trip, I kept reading that everyone was amazed by Pandora at night, so I made sure that we went back to Animal Kingdom one night during extra magic hours.
And boy was I glad we did! Pandora truly comes alive at night! The only lighting in this section of the park is black lighting, so everything glows blue and green. Because of this, you'll notice things at night that you didn't before. Like little pods tucked between plants that suddenly are glowing pink.
Plus, since the paths are black lit, it eliminates the need of traditional streetlamp style lighting, so you really feel like you're exploring the natural environment. It's almost eerie!
It truly is a magical sight and photos and videos really don't do it justice! You really need to see it in person!
So have you been to the new Pandora park? What did you think of it? Was there anything that I missed on my list that I should look for on my next trip? Or if you haven't gone yet, are you saving every penny now? Let me know in the comments below!
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