Travel

Opening Day of Disney’s Pandora – The World of Avatar!

{WARNING: Major spoilers ahead!}

“You’re going on opening weekend? Are you crazy?!”

Yep! Crazy and BRILLIANT! We had the best time exploring Pandora. The engineering was incredible; I don’t know how they think this stuff up!

We started our day with the biggest iced coffee we could get our hands on from Dunkin Donuts. The energy is necessary.

We had planned to leave for Animal Kingdom at 7:30am, but by the time we got to my friend Lali’s house, we discovered that Pandora was already at capacity due to the resort guests getting extra magic hours before the park opened. This got me so nervous. At this point, I had already convinced myself we probably weren’t going to see Pandora.

So we all got in the car a little after 8:30am and made our way to Animal Kingdom. When we arrived, there was no line to get in to the park which was promising.

Once inside, our hearts sunk to the floor. We saw a line. A MASSIVE line. People were saying they got there an hour before the park opened and had been waiting the entire time. Those people were behind at least a few thousand others. The cast members (Disney staff) that we talked to told us they were estimating those that got in to the line now would be waiting 4 hours to get in. I was crushed!!

We decided to make our way to our pre-Pandora AK favorite ride: Everest, to pass the time.


About 10 minutes later, we were reading updates on Twitter about the park and saw where someone had posted that anyone with fast passes could go straight in to Pandora without standing in the long line outside. Well, we had fast passes, so did this mean we could get in!?

My heart was racing. Was this person serious?! Also, the massive amount of caffeine I had consumed earlier was starting to kick in. I was shaking like a chihuahua. Adrenaline + caffeine = a very weird feeling.

We quickly went and asked a cast member if this was true. Thankfully, IT WAS! We had fast passes for 1:30pm and 5:30pm, so all we had to do was wait until those times to enter.

So we waited. We passed the time by riding a few rides and then got some snacks and drinks in the Africa area of the park. One of my favorite treats at Disney is Dole Whip! It’s a frozen pineapple soft serve. It is the BEST! We also got sugar cane mojitos. They serve them with a stick of real sugar cane… yum!!

Me and my Dole Whip!

 

In front of the Tree of Life

Sipping on our Sugar Cane Mojitos
On Safari in “Africa”

It was now 1:20pm so we made our way to the entrance of Pandora. They were policing the entry like crazy. Usually, when you have a fast pass, they will let you in a little early. Well not for Pandora! They made us wait in a fast pass line until 1:30pm on the dot and not a minute earlier. That was the longest 10 minutes ever!

The clock finally struck 1:30pm. I can’t tell you how excited all of us were. We were there exactly one year ago talking about how amazing this place was going to be and now we were actually going in! On opening day nonetheless!!

The first thing we saw was a sign to the left welcoming us to the Valley of Mo’ara as well as this big pod-like thing to the right that blew smoke out of the top. We made a bee-line to the ride so I’m not sure what it was.

Walking through Pandora was literally like stepping in to another world. The engineering of this place was nothing short of incredible. We were in awe. It was breathtaking!


We arrived at the banshee ride {the actual name is Avatar Flight of Passage, but you ride a banshee, so I’m calling it the banshee ride}. This quickly became my new favorite ride of all time.

First, they bring you in to a room with max. 15 other people. You are told that you are going to be matched with an avatar to be able to ride a banshee through Pandora. Once we matched with our avatars, we were brought to another room where they explained how to ride the banshee. Once we had all of our instructions, we were given 3D glasses and then it was on to the ride itself!

Everyone has front row on this ride which I love. If you’ve ridden Soarin’ at Epcot, you know there are good and bad seats. Those that sit towards the back see the feet of the people in front of them so it takes away some of the magic of the ride. Not on the banshee ride. You are up close and personal with that screen. The seat is like a closely fitted motorcycle. Once you sit down and get settled, a padded plate raises up to your lower back and locks you in to place. It really locks you in tight so you’re not moving around while the ride is going.

Everyone has their own seat. It’s kind of like a motorcycle.

The ride itself I almost have no words for. It blew my mind. It’s unlike ANYTHING they have at Disney World. Basically, you are on the back of a banshee flying through Pandora. This part we already knew. What blew our minds was how real it felt. The wind was blowing on us the entire time giving us the feeling of flying. You don’t feel like you’re looking at a screen. In fact, before the ride starts, you can’t see the screen. It’s behind a wall that opens up once your seat is locked in to place.

Want to know the coolest part? There’s a feature in the seat by your inner thigh that replicates the breathing of a banshee. You can feel it breathe in and out. Yes, I know it’s crazy. None of us were expecting that!

It wasn’t just that I was on a high from being in Pandora, that was the most incredible ride I’ve ever been on. Disney really outdid themselves.

Next, we made our way to the food! I had been thinking about this food for so long. The main things I was dying to try were the Night Blossom drink and the Berry Cream Cheese Mousse. Yes I got both.

First, I got the Night Blossom drink. This is a frozen drink with layers of pear and limeade topped with passion fruit pearls. It was so delicious! I LOVED this drink. However, it’s extremely sweet. I couldn’t even drink half of it and I have a huge sweet tooth. So if you’re with someone, I would just get one to share. They are pretty big.

The drink stand
Topping our delicious frozen beverages with passion fruit pearls


Next was the Berry Cream Cheese Mousse. This looked so amazing in pictures, I was curious if was going to actually taste good. It did not disappoint! There is a small cake-like disc at the bottom, followed by a dome of blueberry cream cheese covered in what I’m guessing was a blue, white chocolate gelatin coating. The next layer was a sphere of passion fruit curd with some type of tart berry compote on the side. The little white dollop on top was meringue. After having that super sweet drink, I had to push myself to eat this. It was so good! I loved it, but I wish I ate this before having the frozen drink.


We also got real food while we were there. It was good, nothing too special. They have a mix and match menu. You pick your meat, then your base, and a sauce. I got chicken, with a romaine and kale base, topped with a creamy herb dressing. It’s a good healthy option if your body starts to tell you “ENOUGH with the Mickey pretzels and churros, woman!” Oh, your body doesn’t tell you that? Must just be mine.


There are just 2 rides in Pandora. Our return time for the next ride {Na’vi River Journey} was 5:30pm and it was only 2:30pm so we decided to go hang out at Hollywood Studios until it got a little later. With fast passes, you are supposed to be able to go back to the ride and get on at your return time or any time after. So our plan was to go back to Pandora once it was dark so we could see it all lit up. With Pandora reaching capacity earlier, we were concerned that if we did not go back right at our return time, they might not let us in. We asked a cast member when we left and she said we better be back right on time. Darn it! So Lali did what Lali does best and talked to one of the guys at the entrance to Pandora. He said he’d be there until 1:00am (poor guy) and that he’d make sure we got back in when we returned. Hallelujah!

So we went to Hollywood Studios (HS) and were able to ride Rockin’ Rollercoaster and my favorite ride of all time (now second favorite): The Tower of Terror.

Being weird on Tower of Terror
Again, being weird, but this time on Rockin’ Rollercoaster.

Around 7:15pm, we were starting to fade a bit. I wasn’t going to crash. NOPE. Not an option. So on our way out of HS, we made a necessary refueling stop at Starbucks. I was now caffeinated and ready for the bioluminescence!!

I’m not going to lie, I was quite nervous going back to Animal Kingdom. Yes, the guy at the entrance to Pandora said he would make sure we got back in, but what if he was just saying that? What if he didn’t remember us!?

On our walk to the entrance of Animal Kingdom, we kept overhearing people leaving, “It’s a shame they had to close off Pandora.” “I’m so sad we aren’t able to see it at night.” NOOOO!!! Why didn’t we just stay earlier?! We just HAD to leave. Ugh.

Brent got an alert through his Disney app as we were walking in the Animal Kingdom gates: “Animal Kingdom guests: Pandora is at max capacity through the rest of the evening. No new guests will be admitted.” Well of course we were still going to try and get in. So we made our way once more to the entrance of Pandora.

When we arrived, there was a big sign that read: “Pandora is at max capacity. No new guests will be admitted.” Along with about 15 cast members forming a human blockade. We walked up where we were immediately asked, “Do you have a fast pass?” We said yes, but it was for earlier. I think they thought we meant we already used it so they quickly started to say, “nope” until we saw our friend from earlier! He immediately recognized us and welcomed us back. The next thing we knew we were walking back in to Pandora!!!



Brent and Lali really wanted to check out the merchandise store since they were selling limited edition items only available that day. The line just to get in the store was over an hour wait. It’s actually pretty cool. You can create your own Avatar where they do this body scan to make it unique to you. You can also “adopt” a banshee. It sits on your shoulder and has a pump that makes it look like the banshee is alive while sitting on your shoulder.

A beautiful bust of Neytiri inside the store

After the store, we made our way to the boat ride. This is a quiet ride much like Pirates of the Caribbean. However, the animatronics and projections they can do now make this one of the most visually captivating rides I’ve ever seen. My head was on a constant swivel. I think you could ride that ride over and over and see new things every time. The most amazing part to me was near the end where they had an animatronic Avatar. It was so lifelike it honestly looked real.


After the boat ride, we felt like we had thoroughly conquered Pandora. It was such a magical place and even more magical that we were able to be there on opening day! If you ever have the chance to go to Disney, definitely put Animal Kingdom on your list so you can check out Pandora. It is well worth a stop!

The nighttime bioluminescence

Have any questions? Feel free to leave a comment below!

Bisous!

-Lauryn

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