Pandora – The World of Avatar at Animal Kingdom

Pandora scenes

One evening, my fiance and I were at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ waiting in line to ride the Forbidden Journey. As usual, we converse with others during such waits. Immediately in front of us was a pretty cool couple visiting the area and having a magical experience. I asked the girl if Universal’s Harry Potter was her favorite out of the theme parks in Orlando and she advised that she loved Animal Kingdom’s Pandora the most, especially when everything glows at night. This was something I immediately knew I had to do; I didn’t even know it was finished! How is that possible? I love Avatar so much – I even watched all of the bonus scenes and background info on the DVD! I must have been really in need of more adventures!

So, one spontaneous day, my fiance and I drove 3.5 hours to Orlando from our home base, so we could experience Pandora as well. Well, apparently one can only get fast passes three months in advance and they then need to be there, in line and ready, at that very assigned moment. It is not like Universal where you wear a fast-pass bracelet and in you go for non-stop rides all day and night. That said, no fast passes were available and we would have to wait in line for four hours to ride the brand new Flight of Passage, with just 7 hours until the park closed. We learned this before we bought the tickets to the park and decided to go for it anyways since we were already there. Yes, we indeed waited four hours in line for that ride – longer than the car ride there – and are still adamant it was worth it. FYI – we also made new friends, ate a yummy late lunch at Pandora’s Satu’li Canteen, rode the Na’vi River Journey, then ventured out to cover the rest of Animal Kingdom including Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain and DINOSAUR… but we got our cardio in to make it everywhere before closing time.

Pro tip: Go to Animal Kingdom’s Pandora during the Epcot Food & Wine Festival to cut down on 50% of crowds! We learned this by chance the second time around and got to go on Flight of Passage twice in one day! Whoohoo!

So, what is so special about Avatar’s Flight of Passage? Well, I loved the film, Avatar, on so many levels so it was a life-changing experience [for me]. Before I saw the film, I spent 3 months living in Florence, Italy and walking everywhere thusly living a different lifestyle than I do here in the states. I just wanted to be like the Na’vi, especially like the pure-hearted warrior, Neytiri, who easily walks across tree trunks and flies her banshee up and down and all around beautiful Pandora.

Well, I cannot do that in real life – oh wait – yes I can! In Flight of Passage, everyone gets simulated with their own avatar and rides their very own banshee through Pandora. How? Well, not to ruin the magic or anything but, it is a 3D flying simulator. So, you sit down on a stationary-motorcycle-like-thingy with your 3D glasses and are transported through a wormhole to your avatar body in Pandora. My favorite part of the ride is when the banshee stops for a pause and you can feel it breathing beneath you, like you’re one with it. I’ve included a video (not by me) of the experience (located at extreme bottom of this post). Please only watch if you’ve ridden the ride before because I would not want to dilute your experience. 

Besides Avatar’s Flight of Passage, there is one more ride in Pandora, the Na’vi River Journey. It is a must-do, but do it after you experience the major ride, Flight of Passage. I’ve embedded another fun video I found on the internet which will show you into Animal Kingdom’s Pandora at night (when everything glows) as well as the Na’vi River Journey. 

Also, the food in Pandora’s Satu’li Canteen is something to write home about! My favorite things to get are either the cheeseburger pods or the vegetable-curry pods. They come in a doughy bao bun with root vegetable chips on the side. Also, the blueberry cheesecake mousse is one of my faves. Their menu is surprisingly healthy with exquisite options such as quinoa vegetable salad with fish. I’ve included another video tour (located at extreme bottom of this post). Overall, they did such a nice job creating the world of Pandora, as well as the food.

After you’ve finished with Pandora, there is still so much to see in the lands Animal Kingdom! I especially love the tigers, the Kilimanjaro Safari, Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain, Kali River Rapids, and DINOSAUR (with a Tyrannosaurus rex).

Have you been to Orlando’s Animal Kingdom? Pandora? If yes, what do you love the most?

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