A Visit to Pandora - The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Pandora - The World of Avatar opened earlier this year at Disney's Animal Kingdom after several years of anticipation. The land, inspired by James Cameron's film Avatar, was the biggest expansion at Animal Kingdom and one that would transform the park into a nighttime destination. As a fan of the film I couldn't wait to step into Pandora on my recent visit.

Pandora - The World of AvatarPandora - The World of Avatar

Considering that I write about Disney World for a living, I had been talking about and writing about Pandora for the better part of the last year. I knew I wanted to explore the area, take in the attractions, and yes eat all the foods. I had a chance to do most of that.

We arrived at Animal Kingdom bright and early since it was an Extra Magic Hour morning. Walking into the park at 8:05 a.m. we quick found ourselves in a second queue where cast members were double checking that resort guests were the only folks getting in to the EMH.

The landscape of PandoraThe landscape of Pandora

And then we saw it. The queue for Avatar Flight of Passage, the E-ticket ride in Pandora. At 8:10 a.m. the queue was already 120 minutes long. We decided to NOT stand in a line for two hours and chose to return to Pandora after enjoying Kilimanjaro Safari.

Later in the morning, we decided to take walk into Pandora through the "back entrance" taking the bridge that's just past the Harambe Theater. Once again we ran right into the queue for Flight of Passage which was now sitting at a four-hour wait time. I have one word for that kind of queue: nope. ;-)

More of the beauty of PandoraMore of the beauty of Pandora

Walking into Pandora for the first time was awesome. It is visually stunning (even on a cloudy day) and it's hard to take it all in at once. Your eyes are immediately drawn to the floating mountains in the middle of the land. It's a wonder more guests don't knock each other over walking through Pandora as everyone is looking up in the sky, taking photos.

Floating mountains in Pandora - The World of AvatarFloating mountains in Pandora - The World of Avatar

I found it was rather easy to get turned around in Pandora as you're walking around, taking photos and repeating "oh my gosh!" and "look at this!" over and over. Or perhaps I just have a poor sense of direction.

We had a FastPass for the Na'vi River Journey but we needed to grab a quick bite to eat. The Satu'li Canteen is the place to dine in Pandora so we trekked back there and found no line at all! Not wanting to eat too much we opted to order two items off the kid's menu " a fresh fruit plate and the Steamed Egg Pod Bao.

Steamed Egg Pod Bao from Satu'li CanteenSteamed Egg Pod Bao from Satu'li Canteen

The fresh fruit was simple but delicious and made a great snack for the kids. My husband and I noshed on the Steamed Egg Pod Bao, and while it was OK it isn't something I'd order again. It was lacking in flavor and needed some salt.

After snack time we headed back to the Na'vi River Journey for our FastPass time. The ride itself was rather short (it could have been longer with more of a storyline) and I would not do a standby queue for it unless the wait was less than 20 minutes. As it was, the standby was around 120 minutes and I imagine there were many disappointed guests after the ride.

The Shaman of Songs on the Na'vi River Journey attractionThe Shaman of Songs on the Na'vi River Journey attraction

The ride was beautiful and the Shaman of Songs is an amazing Animatronic but I didn't walk off the ride thinking I needed to do it again anytime soon.

After wandering around Pandora for a bit longer and visiting Windtraders, the souvenir shop, we decided it was time for lunch and headed back into Satu'li Canteen. Long story short, this was one of the best meals I've ever had at Disney World. Ever.

Lunch and dinner menu at Satu'li CanteenLunch and dinner menu at Satu'li Canteen

We decided to order the create-your-own Satu'li Bowls. Both of my daughters have food allergies and Satu'li Canteen has a great allergy menu so they were able to create bowls that fit their restrictions. My youngest ordered a kid's bowl with grilled chicken and a base of mixed grains and rice. I chose a bowl with the slow-roasted beef, red and sweet potato hash, and creamed herb dressing. My other daughter chose the same bowl but with the dressing on the side.

Satu'li bowl with beef, potato hash, and creamy herb dressingSatu'li bowl with beef, potato hash, and creamy herb dressing

The beef was perfectly medium rare and combined with the potato hash, slaw, boba balls, and dressing it was a combination unlike anything I've ever eaten. The grilled chicken was delicious too, but I would recommend the potato hash as a base every time as the grains and rice base was just 'meh.' Also, the bowls are rather large - my husband and I shared ours and there is no way I could have eaten the whole thing.

You need to visit Satu'li Canteen. Trust me.

Chicken bowl at Satu'li CanteenChicken bowl at Satu'li Canteen

Later that night we returned to Pandora after dark so that we could see the bioluminescent plants. Pandora at night is beautiful and everything glows but honestly, I liked it better during the day.

Here's the part of my recap that might not be expected: I left Animal Kingdom that night feeling a bit let down by Pandora. Yes, the theming is gorgeous ("floating" mountains!!) and the food was delicious, but (in my very humble opinion) it feels like something is missing. I'm not sure what that is but I was left wanting (and maybe expecting) something more. Maybe it's because I didn't get to experience Flight of Passage, or maybe it's something else entirely. I can't quite put my finger on it.

Pandora at nightPandora at night

Overall I think Pandora is a great addition to the Animal Kingdom and you don't have to like the film Avatar to enjoy the area. You'll still be wowed by the visuals in Pandora.

And as a whole, the Animal Kingdom is beautiful at night and I'd recommend spending an evening there to experience Pandora and everything else after dark, including the nighttime safari.

I'd love to hear your thoughts about Pandora in the comments! Leave a comment and let me know if I'm the only one who has mixed feelings about Pandora.

JMed wrote on Mon, 08/28/2017 - 00:25:

JMed's picture

I think it may be the size. I agree with you 100%, the land is mesmerizing and the food is delicious. Everything is beautiful but I too was expecting a bit more. Flight of Passage and Na'vi River Journey take up a ton of space which doesn't leave a lot left in the area for other things. Just a lot of plants and water. AND in that small leftover space, ALL THE GUESTS. When the line for F of P is hours long and they have the guests lined up thru portions of the land and down the bridge, it takes up even more of the space.

It is beautiful at night but again, something is missing...

Traci C wrote on Mon, 08/28/2017 - 19:37:

YES! That's exactly it! I'm glad I'm not the only one ;)

Pops55 wrote on Tue, 08/29/2017 - 11:49:

Pops55's picture

We travelled from the UK in July and, notwithstanding the horrendous queue times, were determined to experience Flight of Passage. We do not stay at a resort hotel but were in the Park by 9.15. Already there was a 150 minute queue but, as this is a family holiday and we were all together, it was done without too much angst.

And all 8 of us, ranging in age from 62 to 12, were totally overwhelmed by the experience, moved to tears and wholly convinced the wait time was worth it. It is truly magnificent and everyone has to do it..

I guess, next time we visit in a couple of years, it will be possible to fast pass the ride but even if we cannot it is a must do.

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