After an uplifting three days at the #BlogHer17 conference in Orlando, Florida, I didn’t think my weekend could get much better. That is until I had the opportunity to visit Pandora — The World of Avatar, which opened (to much fanfare) at Disney’s Animal Kingdom about a month ago.
The park brings James Cameron’s record-breaking film to life in surprising, wonderful ways. Don’t believe me? I have the pictures to prove it. Consider this your definitive guide to what to see, do and eat at Pandora. And while I might sound like a total fangirl right now, trust me — you don’t want to miss this.
Stop 1: Avatar Flight of Passage ride
Ride on the back of a banshee in 4-D as you soar through Pandora in the Avatar Flight of Passage ride. The experience activates all five senses, with pretty mind-boggling results. The best part for me was spotting a full-size Avatar, which displayed impressive craftsmanship and attention to detail (I’d expect nothing less from Disney).
Before starting the ride, you’ll need “genetic sampling” — accomplished by dancing around a bit — to connect with an Avatar. Within seconds, an expert connected me with a match. Making eye contact with my personal Avatar on the screen made the real world fall away, snapping my full attention to the exhilarating moment.
On the four-minute ride, you see Pandora through the eyes of the Na’vi via your Avatar. You can feel the banshee breathing as well as mists of water any time your banshee takes a dive. The smell, which varies in different locations, really got me — it had floral notes, was light, inviting and oh-so soothing. I’d like a bottle of that, please!
Stop 2: The Na’vi River Journey ride
Pandoran riverbanks are hotbeds for bioluminescent life. Leave the flashlight back at basecamp for night hikes. #VisitPandora pic.twitter.com/SMi6vA54GT
— Visit Pandora (@visitpandora) March 3, 2017
On the Na’vi River Journey, you travel into a bioluminescent rainforest in search of the Na’vi Shaman of Songs, which is the most complicated audio-animatronics figure ever created by Walt Disney Imagineering. And I can see why. I did a double take thinking there was an actual human painted to look like an Avatar in front of me — but nope, it was an animatronic whose every feature just happened to be 100 percent lifelike. Trippy!
The river journey was peaceful, inspiring and really hit home for me. The Shaman’s song dedicated to Eywa (deity of Pandora and the Na’vi) really pulled at my heartstrings, evoking memories of my happiest moments dancing, singing and connecting with nature. Needless to say, you wouldn’t have to twist my arm to get me to go on that ride again.
Stop 3: Lunch at Satu’li Canteen
I’m a vegan and given the eco-vibes of Pandora, I hoped there would be plant-friendly food options for me to dig into at lunch. I was right (way to go Disney!). Normally, I’m not a huge fan of tofu, but I ordered the fried tofu with veggies, and — no joke — this was the best tofu I’ve ever had. If I were to move to Pandora, I trust that I would be well taken care of in the food department.
Stop 4: A peek at the Pandoran flora & landscape
I spent the rest of my time at Pandora walking through the Valley of Mo’ara. When you’re running between rides and concession stands, it can be hard to take in all of the park’s subtle atmospheric details. I knew I wanted to end the day with a mindful walk, taking in the Pandoran flora.
The spiny whip, which has a gorgeous blown-glass look to it, is one of my favorite Pandoran plants. The top of the plant collects raindrops, allowing it to act as a hydration station for birds.
The stunning grinch tree grows in a hunched shape with a twisted trunk and bioluminescent leaves. The Valley of Mo’ara is filled with these trees, which are said to be extra breathtaking at night.
The colorful puffball tree can be up to 15 meters tall and helps detoxify the atmosphere in Pandora. (If only I could take this home and put it next to my Sansevieria plant. Hey, a girl can dream.)
All in all, Pandora — The World of Avatar is an extraordinary addition to Disney’s Animal Kingdom and a must-see for any fan of the movie. Considering how well Avatar did at the box office, I suspect this awesome new park will have no trouble attracting the many visitors it deserves.
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