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When to visit Disney World's Pandora and what you need to know

May 28, 2017, 5:34 PM · Planning a trip to see Walt Disney World's newest and most expensive land, Pandora - The World of Avatar? Here are some tips you'll want to know.

1. Get a Fastpass, or get there early.

Pandora opened to hours-long waits for its two rides, plus waits even to get into the land. But if you have a Fastpass+ ride reservation time, using Disney's website or smartphone app, you can bypass the line to get into the land and head straight for the Fastpass+ entrance at the ride you've reserved. That could cut your wait time from hours to minutes.

If you can't snag a Fastpass+ reservation (and here's more about Disney's Fastpass system, if it is new to you), then it's best to rely on the time-honored advice of arriving at the park before it opens so that you can be in position to get to the land before the crowd fills it. For Pandora, that means arriving at Disney's Animal Kingdom at least 90 minutes before its schedule opening time. And don't bother with the park on a day when it has "Extra Magic Hours" scheduled for Disney resort guests... unless you are staying at a Disney resort. Resort guests looking to take advantage of their extended hours in the park will just make it even more crowded.

2. Come back at night, too. (But don't skip the day.)

With its bioluminescent forest, Pandora take on a different feel at night, creating a unique experience.

That said, visiting at night isn't a better experience than seeing Pandora in sunlight. It's just different. The glowing plants don't illuminate the land so much that you can see all the detail you can during the day, so you miss something if you visit only after sundown. But I think you miss something if you see it only during the day, too.

3. Flight of Passage isn't for everyone.

Pandora's top attraction is Flight of Passage, a flying theater experience that simulates being linked to an avatar in order to ride on the back of a Mountain Banshee through the moon's Valley of Mo'ara. The ride provides the most enjoyable simulation of acrobatic flight that I've ever experienced in a theme park, even better than Bolliger & Mabillard's flying coasters.

But like a roller coaster, it's not for everyone. You will ride on individual seats that look a bit like motorcycles, where you must straddle a seat and lean forward, with restraints holding your legs and back in place, but not your shoulders or head. The seat's not on a track like a coaster, but it will roll and pitch to simulate flight.

Wheelchair users must transfer and be able to straddle the seat, sitting upright without support. And larger riders might not be able to fit into the seats. A test seat is provided at the attraction entrance so that you can see for yourself if it is accessible and comfortable before getting into the line.

Test seat

The land's other ride, the Na'vi River Journey, also is not wheelchair accessible, as it requires transferring from your chair into a boat.

4. Pandora's the place for eating veggies.

The land's restaurant is the quick-service, Satu'li Canteen. This is Disney World's first restaurant to offer mobile ordering, so use the official My Disney Experience app to navigate to the Satu'li Canteen page and place your order before arriving at the restaurant, to save you some time in line.

At the media preview for the land, Disney set up a buffet so invited reporters could sample everything on the menu:

Buffet plate
Sample plate of a Vegetable Steamed Curry Pod, plus Salmon, Sliced Grilled Beef, Wood-Grilled Chicken, and Chili-Spiced Crispy Fried Tofu, over brown rice and Crunchy Vegetable Slaw.

For me, the clear choices for flavor were the vegetarian options: the Chili-Spiced Crispy Fried Tofu ($11.49) and Vegetable Steamed Curry Pods ($10.99). It's just bowls and Bao (steamed buns) on the menu, so if you're looking for more traditional burgers, chicken strips, and such, you're better served elsewhere. But if you've been craving some flavorful vegetable-based meals on your Disney vacation, visiting the Satu'li Canteen should become a priority.

Blueberry Cream Cheese Mousse
Blueberry Cream Cheese Mousse, with Passion Fruit Curd, meringue, white chocolate, and raspberry sauce. ($5.29)

And the blueberry dessert's a winner, too, with its complementary passion fruit and raspberry flavors.

5. Get a guide

Disney's Imagineers have filled Pandora with details that will be lost on the vast majority of guests. So if you want the inside scoop on the land, find a guide. Disney is offering a virtual assistant to guide you through Pandora, via the My Disney Experience app, or you can ask ACE [Alpha Centauri Expedition] employees in the land (i.e. Disney cast members) to point out their favorite details. And take the time to read everything in the queue for Flight of Passage, especially in the lab section of the queue. (You will miss the lab if you have a Fastpass+, however.)

6. If you can wait to visit, go ahead.

While Pandora's a wonderful addition to the attractions at the Walt Disney World Resort — whether you remember James Cameron's 2009 hit Avatar or not — it's going to be here for a long time. If you don't need to be able to say that you were among the first to visit it, aiming for a trip later this summer or beyond likely will get you much shorter waits to visit the land and its attractions. Initial crowds will dissipate and Disney will get better at running Flight of Passage at its full capacity, allowing the ride to handle more visitors with less wait. We've seen the same thing happen with other wildly popular new attractions, including Universal's Harry Potter lands. Pandora should be no exception.

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Replies (14)

May 29, 2017 at 7:49 PM · Great advice, Robert. I was there on Sunday and they had opened Pandora by 7am (despite the official posted opening time of 8am). I'm unsure of how long Disney will keep this up, but I'm guessing for at least the first month. If you didn't grab a fastpass, you MUST get there early! I walked into the park at 7:15 AM and was off of Flight of Passage by 8AM. So my total wait time was about 20 mins. By the time I was off, the line had already ballooned into the streets (if we can call them that) of Pandora. I then headed over the Na'Vi river journey, with a posted wait time of 160 Mins. My actual wait time was 90 Mins. As I said in another thread, it seems like Disney is purposefully inflating wait times to discourage overcrowding.

I also ate at Satu'li Canteen for breakfast (the pork has was hearty and filling. If there is a magic morning and you aren't part of it STAY CLEAR! Wait until there is no magic morning hours for Pandora and then arrive bright and early.

As far as the attractions go, Flight of Passage is breathtaking. Arguably the best motion sim I've ridden. Na'Vi river journey was relaxing but overall underwhelming, with the exception of the shaman animatronic, who is truly something to behold. While Flight of Passage is great, I wouldn't consider it something I would queue for more than 60 mins for. But I am prone to motion sickness so my enjoyment of motion sims is somewhat diminished.

Overall, a great addition to WDW but it is not something I would center a whole trip around.

May 29, 2017 at 9:07 PM · commenting on robert article earlier this week. Since, people don't read comments much, after the first few days of publication. Robert--- what do you think of the blue avatar people, being very oddly absent, from the opening ceremonies. they should be front and center and dominant.

Otherwise, it seems like the ex pat's have taken over Pandora and appropriated the native people's culture. Doesn't it seem like it?

I don't buy that disney can't do convincing avatar walk around characters. They made Groot, very convincing. that was a very tough one, to do. If they can do that, they can do avatar clerks at the stores, storytellers around the gardens etc.

Otherwise, it pretty insulting to the native avatar's.

May 29, 2017 at 9:10 PM · Can't wait to visit next Fall! Thanks to Robert and Blake for the advice.
May 29, 2017 at 9:28 PM · I was wondering if anyone was going to ask about the opening ceremony!

I would rank the three ceremonies I went to in two days as such:
1. Volcano Bay
2. Guardians
.
.
.
3. Pandora

I understand the practical considerations that kept Disney from developing walkaround Na'vi in the land. (Eleven-foot characters? Good luck, even on a billion-dollar budget.) But the appropriated "native" players did make me cringe pretty hard. I'm cool with ACE docents explaining the land to visitors, but the Na'vi-wannabes need to go.

May 29, 2017 at 10:10 PM · I don't think Na'vi character's actually need to be 11 feet, in the parks. If they find a lot of seven feet men and six feet woman (very, very, very, do able), that would be good enough to be believable. They just need to be very, very blue. and. a couple of the Na'vi people, should make snide jokes, about the ex pat's. Mr. roade, said it's only 30 years, since the humans, have been at war, with the Na'vi. Hell, people from oregon and Washington, tell snide jokes, and complain about hordes of people moving there (in the last 30 years) from california.

And, we are the same species. And, we never killed each other, out of territorial considerations. Yet, the latent hostility towards, california ex pat's, still exists.

May 30, 2017 at 7:25 AM · About the Na'Vi, I say purge the Xenos! Glory to the Imperium and glory to the Emperor!
May 30, 2017 at 8:02 AM · Robert -- wondering if you were staying on-site at Disney and if there were Extra Magic Hours the morning you went. Or did Disney open at 7AM to the general public despite the published opening of 8AM? We're staying off-site in June and planning to go to Pandora on a day there are not EMH and unfortunately there were no Fastpasses left for Flight of Passage. But if we arrive at 7 and only have to wait 45 minutes without a Fastpass, that seems worthwhile.
May 30, 2017 at 4:47 PM · As long as we are talking about Na'vi not walking in the land outside of attractions, what explanation (if any) have bee made regarding Pandora's atmosphere being poisonous to humans? I am assuming we human visitors aren't walking around the land wearing respirators!
May 30, 2017 at 7:02 PM · Putting that seat out front of Flight of Passage is fat shaming. A new low for Disney. Very sad.
May 31, 2017 at 6:18 AM · @Barry - Would you rather they let people stand in line for 4 hours only to find out that they're too big to fit into the seat? Now that's "fat shaming". Any ride that has a seat that may be restrictive or may not accommodate guests of all sizes should have a test seat before guests commit to a line. That's good customer service, not "fat shaming".
May 31, 2017 at 8:05 AM · Test seats are not uncommon in many amusement parks. Not fat shaming whatsoever.
May 31, 2017 at 11:19 AM · As a large rider, I certainly want test seats. Mainly, it is for the ones with shoulder harnesses due to heights, as nothing is more painful than being locked in one of those things. Also, I agree. The last thing you want is to wait for hours to realize you cannot ride it. It does seem that sometimes the larger end of the spectrum tends to get left out. Some rides even have special seats that they don't really advertise, like on Forbidden Journey for the taller riders. You may think you cannot ride only to realize that you can. And I am sure I would rather be embarrassed than hurt any day. There have been many examples of serious injury due this issue, so I think it is very important.
June 1, 2017 at 12:32 PM · I was there for a preview on Mother's Day so there was no test seat outside the ride, I am actually glad to see one now because when I rode it, there were three guests that had to exit due to not being able to have the seat lock in place. I felt so sad for those people - and could not imagine NOT having a test seat then someone waiting hours to ride it - then finding out they could not. So, even though the test seat does not apply to me personally, I'm glad Disney took the measures.
June 1, 2017 at 2:01 PM · The main thing I've heard is that if you have motion sickness issues FOP is not for you. Had a friend go on it last week and she had to keep her eyes closed half the time which kind of defeats the purpose of the ride. From all accounts, it's a fun, well done ride but not worth waiting hours for.

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