Everything we know about Disney’s Avatar theme park so far
Pandora — The World of Avatar’s sky-high waterfalls and bioluminescent plant life may already be all over your Instagram feed, but if you think you’ve heard it all when it comes to the new Avatar-themed park opening on May 27 at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, think again.
That’s because Pandora sets a new Disney record, serves up foods you couldn’t have imagined and lacks one very specific thing you may have been hoping for. From otherworldly boozy drinks to a new Disney ride shrouded in secrecy, here’s everything you need to know before heading to Pandora — The World of Avatar at Animal Kingdom:
You’ll enjoy it whether or not you’re a fan of James Cameron’s epic film.
At a minimum, Pandora is a magical secret garden that’ll transport you to another world of waterfalls, moss-covered rock ponds and plants in eye-popping colors while remaining on Floridian soil. Stand beneath a floating mountain in Animal Kingdom’s Valley of Moa’ra and you may even find yourself too distracted to question why an Avatar park is opening there...now. Yes, it’s been eight years since the film debuted, and the first of four Avatar sequels won’t arrive until 2020, but consider this: It took 10 years to make the original Avatar film, and significantly less to actually bring the whole thing to life.
There won’t be any of those oversized blue creatures wandering around the grounds.
Pandora is home to the Na’Vi, but you won’t see any outside the Animal Kingdom expansion’s two new attractions. That’s because the version of Pandora you’ll encounter at Walt Disney World is a tourist-friendly one timed in the future, well after the four forthcoming sequels. Staffers within the land are staffed by “eco-tourism agency” Alpha Centauri Expeditions, or ACE, which promotes the message of conservation emphasized throughout the park, instead of looky-looing at its native inhabitants.
Pandora is home to Walt Disney World’s most impressive audio-animatronic.
The Shaman of Songs in Na’Vi River Journey, the family-friendly indoor boat ride within Pandora — The World of Avatar, is set to impress. The lifelike movements and expressions of this majestic Na’Vi woman are said to go above and beyond the wowing appearances of Anna and Elsa within Epcot’s Frozen Ever After attraction or even the Yeti inside Animal Kingdom’s Expedition Everest roller coaster.
The food is among the healthiest Disney offers.
Though most people will instagram the “cheeseburger pods” at Satu’li Canteen, Pandora’s quick-service restaurant, it mainly serves build-your-own grain bowls topped with diet-friendly options including vegetable slaw, sustainable fish and wood-grilled chicken. The breakfast menu is limited, but still has a “Pandorian tropical fruit” plate with yogurt, which is lighter fare than other grab-and-go options at Animal Kingdom.
And, yes, there will be booze.
You can find alcoholic Disney drinks at Satu’li Canteen as well as Pongu Pongu, a beverage stand that doubles as the only “bar” on Pandora — The World of Avatar. Expect new brews like Mo’ara High Country Ale and the green-colored Hawkes’ Grog Ale, a fruity frozen Mo’ara Margarita as well a small selection of wine and sangria.
Walt Disney World’s newest ride is shrouded in secrecy.
Though some people have previewed the grounds of Pandora, very few have actually been able to ride Flight of Passage, the new signature attraction at Animal Kingdom. Details have been minimal about Flight of Passage, which takes visitors on a journey on the back of a Pandoran mountain banshee, with no photos or video of the actual ride having yet leaked online. Still, anyone who’s been lucky enough to ride Flight of Passage prior to Pandora’s opening has raved about the experience, so we don’t doubt that when this timely Disney secret is unveiled, it’ll be worth the wait.
You may be equally impressed by the upgraded Disney World app.
When Animal Kingdom’s new land opens at the end of May, guests will be able to place orders and purchase their meals at Satu’li Canteen from their phones in advance. Enhancements to My Disney Experience, Disney’s downloadable phone app, have made it possible to pre-pay within the app, “check in” upon arrival to the restaurant, and quickly pick up food from a window without waiting in line. This seamless ordering process at Pandora — The World of Avatar is only the beginning, so don’t be surprised if this spreads to quick-service Disney dining locations at Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot in the future.
You will need two visits to understand it fully.
Part of the magic of Animal Kingdom's new Avatar-themed land is that it “comes alive” at night. You’ll want to witness the floating mountains and waterfalls — and take selfies in front of them, too — during the day, but if you miss the bioluminescence of its flora once the sun sets, you’re only getting half the story. And, with nighttime additions to Disney’s Animal Kingdom including projections upon The Tree of Life, nighttime Kilimanjaro Safaris, a pitch-black ride on Expedition Everest and evening show Rivers of Light, it’s that much easier to skip Magic Kingdom fireworks and dedicate a full night to the park.