Disney’s Animal Kingdom: Ten Expedition Tips for Pandora
Pandora – The World of Avatar opened on May 27, 2017 in Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World. While fans of “Avatar” and the Animal Kingdom wondered how this mythical land would come alive, the unveiling of Pandora quieted the skeptics with out-of-this-world scenery. Nearly ten years after “Avatar” touched viewer’s hearts at cinemas, Pandora is now experiencing intense fandom.
With peak crowds rushing to Pandora and waits for Flight of Passage over two hours, I wanted to share these tips before you journey to this exotic land. Don’t miss a thing; Pandora is worth the effort!
It’s time to step inside the Valley of Mo’ara; here are your expedition tips:
Welcome to the Valley of Mo’ara.
FastPass Plus for Pandora Attractions
My Disney Experience and FastPass+ (FP+) are going to be your must-use tools for a visit to Pandora.
I recommend narrowing down your FastPass+ choices before your booking window opens. Book your Animal Kingdom day first, and grab any availability for Flight of Passage. If it’s not available on your first-choice touring day, go to your second choice, and so on. You can go back and edit your FastPasses and touring plans once you secure a FastPass for this incredible attraction.
Flight of Passage Queue.
What if you don’t secure a FastPass+ before your Walt Disney World Arrival day? Don’t panic. In fact, the same thing happened to us recently. I kept looking for availability and one popped up while we were at Walt Disney World. It was about midnight when I secured the FP+ for a late Animal Kingdom morning that was three days away. Score!
What if you are unable to reserve a FastPass for Flight of Passage? You have two options: one, plan to be at the Disney’s Animal Kingdom one hour before opening and put yourself in the swarm of early-risers headed for Flight of Passage. Two, enter the standy-by line about 60-90 minutes before park closing.
To appreciate Pandora’s beauty and excitement, it’s not necessary to see the film. However, your personal journey to Pandora will be somewhat richer after seeing the movie. Consider “Avatar” to be a familiarization travel video. Then, let yourself wander Pandora and experience the interactive power of nature.
The power of nature.
Visit Pandora Day and Night
Repeat visitors to Walt Disney World already know that many attractions should be seen in the daylight and after nightfall. However, this is absolutely a must for the bioluminescent world of Pandora.
You’ll see and hear details by day and by night that are of otherworldly beauty. Visually inventive, Pandora’s emotional resonance is memorable for the whole family.
Sample the Unique Food and Beverages at Pandora
Fortify your troops at Pandora’s Quick Service Restaurant — Satu’li Canteen.
The friendly expats working at Pongu Pongu have concocted some unique frozen cocktails. Get one with a glowing Unadelta Seed!
Pongu Pongu in Pandora.
Bonus Tips: Satu’li Canteen is a welcoming refuge from the elements. However, this place gets jam-packed by lunch time. A word of caution: signs note that tables are for the canteen’s patrons only. Really need a respite? Get a beverage and small snack!
Dining Room at Satu’li Canteen.
To save time, use Mobile Order to pre-order your meal at Satu’li Canteen.
Save time with Mobile Order.
Plus, you’ll want to see the morning “entertainment” here:
Yes, we did jump the “rocks”!
Avatar Flight of Passage – a Pandora Thrill Ride
Relive one of the film’s powerful scenes by taking your own flight atop a banshee. Imagineering marvels outdid themselves when they created this 3-D simulator. It’s a multi-sensory thrill ride like none other at Walt Disney World.
RDA – Mining the Universe, together
So, there are no disappointments, note before your visit that the minimum height for riders is 44 inches.
Na’vi River Journey through Pandora
Gently floating down this mysterious river, your reed boat will journey through exotic caves filled with wondrous plants and creatures. Through music, the Na’vi Shaman of Songs fills the rainforest with positive energy.
Watch the Weather on Pandora
Disney’s Animal Kingdom has always been the park that our family avoids on rainy days. It’s also a really tough park to tour in the Florida heat and humidity. While the park is lush with greenery, it’s difficult to find air-conditioned spots to recharge and dry areas to get out of storms. This is even more of a concern in Pandora.
On a recent visit, we had to wait for our FastPass+ time at Na’vi River Journey underneath a sparse tree that did little to keep us from getting soaked in the pouring rain. After the attraction, we found a hidden cave to escape the downpour and lightning. Yet, a lot of Pandora visitors were heading to Discovery Island to seek shelter. Expect long walks to find a place to take cover and be prepared with rain jackets or ponchos.
Shop at Windtraders
Even on Pandora, the main attraction, Flight of Passage, dumps you right into a gift shop. Or you can enter at your leisure.
Windtraders has an assortment of mystical treasures to take back to Earth. Look for items that glow in the dark, an Avatar Maker, Adopt a Banshee opportunities, and all kinds of souvenirs.
Take a souvenir back to Earth!
Be an Explorer
Informative Alpha Centauri Expeditions (ACE) guides can teach you Na’vi phrases, point out special plants and creatures, and answer your questions about this exotic land.
In this interactive world, find the creatures and plants that react when touched by a human. Will it light up, mist, or spit? You’ll only find out if you take time to explore!
Flaska Reclinata, near the entrance to Pandora, sprays a mist of spores when humans transfer their energy by touching it.
The landscaping is stunning!
Lush landscaping and floating mountains.
Bonus Tip: Look for two Wilderness Explorer stations in Pandora. Kids can begin Wilderness Explorers at any station throughout Disney’s Animal Kingdom. These are fun and free activities for young trekkers.
Earn Wilderness Explorer Badges.
Visit During Extra Magic Hours for WDW Resort Guests
While you’ll be arriving Pandora with many other excited trekkers, Walt Disney World hotel guests can still get ahead of the masses by touring on a day that Disney’s Animal Kingdom has a scheduled morning Extra Magic Hour.
Explore nature in Pandora.
Bonus tip: Get a FastPass+ for later in the morning so that you can ride Flight of Passage twice!
With some advance planning, your adventure to Pandora can be stress-free.
Contact Us, Friend Us on Facebook, or comment below to share your tips for exploring Pandora. Let us know when you’ll be traveling to Pandora!
While we’ve stayed a few times off-site of the Walt Disney World property, we love the perks that guests receive when staying at a Walt Disney World (WDW) resort. My favorite reason for choosing an onsite hotel is the total Disney immersion; leaving the real world behind is an important factor for making the most of our family vacations. But there are even more benefits to staying at a WDW hotel.
Disney Magic Around the Clock
Travel under those beloved arches and you’ll be inside The Disney Bubble. Sounds weird to first time visitors but soon enough, you’ll know what your friends have been talking about. Total Disney immersion is a good thing for fans of Walt Disney World.
Disney World resorts have immersive themes!
What does this really mean?
Cast Members (Disney employees) handing out stickers to your kids (or you!), food shaped liked Mickey, housekeeping’s unique towel art, character wake up calls, and themed resorts (landscaping, pools, stores, restaurants, rooms) all reflecting their own special Disney ambiance.
Mickey Towel Art!
All you really need to know is that if you feel your real life worries have been whisked away AND you start singing silly Disney songs, exclaiming “Hakuna Matata” or “Jambo” to family members, and you find a Mickey Ears hat atop your head, you are surely experiencing vacation inside the Disney Bubble. And trust me, you don’t want any real life stress to pop that thing!
Life in the Disney Bubble!
Did you fly into the Orlando International Airport (MCO)? If you are staying at a WDW resort, you’ll be able to take Disney’s Magical Express to your hotel. Disney’s bus transportation service also includes complimentary luggage transfer. I love checking in my luggage at my home airport and seeing those same bags (that I’ve over-packed!) magically appear in my WDW room on Arrival Day.
Disney’s Magical Express provides transportation between WDW Resorts and the airport.
Once you are at your WDW hotel, you’ll be able to travel throughout the entire property via Disney transportation.
WDW Transportation includes buses and monorails!
This may include buses, boats, and monorails. WDW transportation can sometimes be time-consuming but it’s nice to have someone else cart the family around.
Ride the WDW Monorail.
Another one of my favorite perks is Resort Airline Check-In. If traveling on a participating airline (Alaska, American, Delta/U.S. Domestic Flights Only, JetBlue, Southwest, and United), your family can turn in suitcases to this designated spot at your WDW resort and your luggage will be transported for you — in reverse — all the way to your home airport.
Want to dine at Be Our Guest Restaurant? Utilizing this benefit will be key to helping you obtain those hard-to-get dining reservations at the most popular Walt Disney World restaurants. So, how does this perk work?
The Rose Gallery at Be Our Guest Restaurant. Make an Advanced Dining Reservation!
Advanced Dining Reservations at WDW restaurants can be made 180 days prior to the date that you wish to reserve. Do you need to count the days? No. For years, I have used this handy tool.
The advantage for WDW Resort guests is that they can make a dining reservation 180 days prior to their check-in date PLUS make reservations for their entire stay (up to 10 days). No need to wait until the 180 day mark to reserve the buffet at Chef Mickey’s for the last morning of your vacation.
Make an Advanced Dining Reservation for Chef Mickey’s.
I don’t know what it is — maybe the Mickey-shaped waffles? — but even dining at a value resort’s food court is more fun than a value meal off-site.
Mickey Waffles — delicious for all ages!
And certainly, the resort sit down restaurants serve up delicious eats with interesting decor.
Make an Advanced Dining Reservation (ADR) at your resort hotel.
Off-site guests can dine at all restaurants on property (exception: pool bars with guest-only access), however it’s convenient to have these dining choices at your resort for breakfast, a mid-day meal, dinner, and/or a late night snack.
Disney Dining Plan
A Disney Dining Plan can be added to your hotel reservation. Some families like the convenience of pre-paying for their meals. If you book your trip with a Free Dining offer, you may save some serious cash off of your total vacation budget. Watch Disney’s Special Offers!
Adding a Disney Dining Plan to your WDW vacation package is a convenient way to pre-pay for your meals. No matter how it’s paid for, I love the Sweet and Sour Chicken at Yak and Yeti!
Our family prefers the flexibility of paying out-of-pocket so the value of this benefit depends on your vacation style.
If you find the perfect souvenir on your way to your FastPass+ at Expedition Everest, you may want to take advantage of Package Delivery.
Have your purchases sent to your Disney Resort.
You’ll have two options — pick up the package at the front of the park (for ALL theme park guests) or have it delivered to your Walt Disney World hotel’s gift shop. Either way, your hands are free!
Package Pick Up is available to all guests at Disney theme parks.
For an additional fee, you can have your treasures shipped home.
What are those colorful and waterproof bracelets that Disney guests are sporting? Well, they are not exactly the latest fashion craze. However, they are quite the magical tool given complimentary to WDW resort guests and annual passholders.
Believe it or not, those MagicBands are the key to Magical Express transportation, FastPass+ reservations, and theme park entry. Plus, guests can use their MagicBand to open their hotel room door, pay for purchases and dining, store Disney PhotoPass pictures, and more!
Use your MagicBand for access to the exclusive pool at Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club.
Off-site guests can purchase bands after arrival.
Scan that band at any restaurant or store and you’ll have your purchases added to your hotel’s room account (if you’ve set up room charging privileges). This is part of the Disney Bubble that you have to be careful with as it’s easy to overspend. The convenience however is priceless.
Our teen son has been charging his food (and some souvenirs) to our room for years.
Buying a shirt with MagicBand!
Now, we don’t have to worry about lost room keys with charging privileges. It’s reassuring to know that the MagicBand is safe on Nic’s wrist for when he’s out exploring on his own and needs a beverage, snack, and/or meal.
Extra Magic Hours
With your Resort ID/MagicBand and a theme park ticket, your family can enjoy some extra time at select attractions in the parks. Check the official WDW calendar for morning and/or evening Extra Magic Hours being offered during your visit.
Watch for Extra Magic Hours.
Usually one park per day has extra hours in the morning or evening for resort guests.
We love early morning Extra Magic Hour at the Magic Kingdom!
Early FastPass+ Planning
A very handy perk is the ability to reserve select shows and attractions early. Using the My Disney Experience app or online tool, link your WDW hotel room and theme park tickets. After, you’ll have up to 60 days (30 days for off-site guests) before arrival to pre-book up to 3 FastPass+ experiences at one theme park per day. With early access to FastPass+ planning, you’ll get better availability and more of your preferred times.
Meet Anna and Elsa using the convenience of FastPass+
Want to ride Toy Story Midway Mania right before your dinner reservation? Just reserve an appropriate time. No need to run there first thing in the morning!
When our child was younger, we took advantage of the childcare facilities at Walt Disney World. Check in your child with well-trained staffed while you enjoy a date night, business meeting, or run a Disney 5K!
Lilo’s Playhouse is the Children’s Activity Center at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort.
Kids are even provided a meal of their choice.
Walt Disney World is home to three championship golf courses. As a Disney resort guest, you’ll get advanced tee times as an added benefit.
Theme Park Admittance During High Crowds
You may have heard tales told of the Magic Kingdom closing due to high capacity. It’s true; I’ve seen it. If you are a resort guest, you’ll have preferred admittance once space is available! This is important on holidays such as New Year’s Eve.
New Year’s Eve crowds in the Magic Kingdom.
Certainly, staying at an offsite hotel will cost less and you’ll likely get a larger room too. If this option suits your family’s budget best, I wouldn’t let it deter you from visiting Walt Disney World. You can have a magical visit while staying off-property.
However, if your budget allows, we recommend staying on-site at a Walt Disney World resort!
What are your favorite Walt Disney World resort perks? Are you staying onsite or offsite on your next trip?
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