It’s almost shocking to think that our first Pandora article was well over a year ago at this point. Without a doubt, it’s a land that has changed the entire Animal Kingdom park and more importantly the Animal Kingdom nightlife overall. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I was one of the skeptics of the project when it was first announced. I didn’t feel that Avatar was a good fit for the Disney parks and honestly the whole project failed to interest me until the massive scale model of Pandora debuted at the D23 Expo.
After seeing the model and various videos and press releases, my opinion of the project started to change. While I wasn’t quite convinced that Imagineering’s big ideas for the project would ever actually become a reality, the project did still start to spark my interest. Later on, as the construction grew above and beyond the construction walls, the project became even more intriguing, but it wasn’t until opening day that I really got on board with the land. I was the perfect example of one of the skeptics, but after entering the land first hand, not too long after it’s debut, I have to say it exceeded my wildest expectations and I instantly figured out the role it played and the void it filled at Animal Kingdom.
To this day, I’ve only seen about 30 minutes of the movie and the cool thing is that it doesn’t even matter if you’ve seen the film or not. No matter what, this is and will always be a transformative experience that truly takes you to a different world. From the sight of floating mountains, to the sounds you hear all around you, to the subtle details in every inch of the land, it is one of the most impressive additions Disney has ever made.
However, it seems that many guests took a similar thought process and outlook towards this land as I did. Many appear to have been skeptics and either avoided the land or denied the hype and stayed away from the new land early on. When the first debut crowds finally died down slightly, there was a slight lull in wait times and opening procedures became somewhat manageable. At that point in time it wasn’t out of the ordinary to arrive at park opening time at Animal Kingdom and get on Flight of Passage within the hour. Today, that’s a near impossible feat unless you’re there an hour or more before the park opens. I’m not entirely sure if this has been the case for everyone, but in our experiences it’s almost more difficult to ride Flight of Passage at “rope drop” today that it was a few short months after the attraction first debuted. Thankfully, during the first hour or so of park opening, Navi River Journey’s line is pretty short in comparison, but a fastpass is always your best option if you can secure a pass for one of the two Pandora attractions (it is not possible to get both).
So What’s the Strategy?
If you are set on riding both attractions, the priority should be to secure a fastpass+ selection for Flight of Passage if at all possible as soon as your fastpass+ booking window opens up (60 days out for Disney resort guests and 30 days out for non-resort guests). If you can’t get a Flight of Passage fastpass, snag a Na’vi River Journey pass or even a Kilimanjaro safaris fastpass if nothing else.
If you can’t secure a fastpass for either attraction, consider riding them really late at night and getting in line just before the park closing time or getting there as early as you possibly can the morning of your Animal Kingdom day. Both options will shrink your wait time considerably compared to late morning or mid afternoon attempts. The main goal should be to ride Flight of Passage first and then Na’vi before the line builds. Sometimes it’s possible, other times it may not be. Either way, ride whatever attraction is more important to you first. That’s the key to all of this.
If you really, really don’t want to wait, try this method to increase your chances of getting a fastpass+ selection. If you have an hour of free time watching TV or doing some other pretty simple task, open up your computer or iPhone app and go to the day and current array of fastpasses you have selected. Click on the option to “modify a current fastpass.” This part is really important. You don’t want to replace your current fastpass selection completely or delete it. Instead you want to attempt to modify your current pass. If you go to the modify screen and no desired fastpass selections are available you can simply back out of the process and keep what you currently have. If you’re looking for something in particular, pick a one hour window (as mentioned above) and refresh your modify page time and time again. It’s amazing how fast things can change if you’re determined and willing to check many times in quick succession. In order to get the best results when trying this, attempt to do this two to three days before your park day. It’s not a “fool proof” solution and nothing is guaranteed but this is what has worked for us in the past and likely will work for you as well.
If you can’t get a fastpass and you can’t get there early on or stay late, there is one solution… just wait. I know that’s not what you want to hear but I can guarantee you that when you get off of Flight of Passage for the first time you will not care how long you waited. It is mind blowing and really is one of the few things at Disney I’d say is 100% worth the wait. I’m one of those people that refuses to wait more that 30 minutes or so for an attraction. At a certain point we’ve seen and done the attractions so many times that they’re not necessarily a priority for us anymore (as strange as that sounds). With that being said, I would wait well over an hour for Flight of Passage any day and be thrilled that I did each and every time.
What are the Must-Do’s?
Based on my previous comments, you can likely guess that Flight of Passage is certainly a must do attraction if your stomach can handle it. It is truly mind blowing and for a brief moment you really do feel like you’re flying on the back of a Banshee. It’s an unexplainable sensation and one of the most authentic experiences I’ve ever been able to experience first hand. Na’vi River Journey is excellent as well, and while I do wish it was a bit longer, the level of detail is still extraordinary and seeing the animatronic shaman is worth the wait on it’s own.
Perhaps the biggest selling factor of Pandora is the landscape. I can not say enough about the immersive nature of the environment. You feel like you truly are on a different planet or at the very least in a place that you could have never imagined in your wildest dreams. I know this all sounds like an over exaggeration but it’s something you really have to see to believe. I’d recommend visiting Pandora during the day and at night at least once. If you have to choose one time, start your night in Pandora at sunset and experience the sights and sounds as day turns into night. The area at night is mind blowing and it really is one of those things you have to see in person to fully grasp. Photos are great, but there is no substitute to being there and seeing the intricate details in person.
Take Time to Explore the Rest of the Park
It’s only natural that guests gravitate towards Pandora at night, but taking the time to explore all the new offerings of Animal Kingdom at night is something that you really should take the time to do. Take a moment to see the Tree of Life Awakening. The projections are stunning and the casual aspect of the show is unique and different from everything else. The nighttime live entertainment and music is excellent as well, so don’t be afraid to stop and enjoy some music on the “streets” of each land. Last but certainly not least, go and experience DinoLand at night. The atmosphere of that land all lit up after dark brings a whole new feel to the area. The carnival-esque lighting brings a more nostalgic and fitting glow to the area and as an added bonus, the crowds tend to be incredibly soft here as the night gets later and the park approaches closing time.
Overall, Pandora should be a part of every Disney vacation in my humble opinion. It’s a place that young guests and old guests can enjoy no matter what. There is something for everyone in a way that is notoriously “Disney.” It’s a place where parents and kids can have fun together, and that was Walt’s goal from the very beginning. I’ll be the first to admit that I was a Pandora skeptic, but the end result fits Walt’s original goal in nearly every way. For Walt it wasn’t necessarily about a “Disney” character-based attraction, but rather a means of conveying a story in real life that is a multi-sensory experience. At it’s very core, Pandora meets and exceeds that simple goal and it has become a must-do part of any Disney trip for us.
As always, if you have thoughts, concerns, questions, or even some tips of your own to share, don’t hesitate to reach out to us on Facebook or your favorite social media platform. Give us a follow while you’re there, and we’ll keep the conversation going in the future. We’re not the largest Disney community, but we’re one that’s there and one that listens. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day wherever you are!
Need My Help?
Feel free to contact me with questions, comments, or free-lance work at Guide4WDW@gmail.com. If you need a landscape or theme park photographer, feel free contact me with photo requests or contracts. All theme park writing and photos will be assessed on a case by case basis.
For anyone else looking to give me a shout or to have their questions answered by me, feel free to contact me anytime via that same email address! I never charge anyone to answer a question and I do answer all of my emails personally.
Need a Travel Planner?
If you want or simply need a little bit of planning help to make your Disney vacation dream a reality, check out the quote request form below this article for our friends over at Destinations to Travel. They’ll let you do as much or as little of the planning as you’d like and may even save you some money along the way! As always, thatks for supporting those who support us.
A few short years ago, I was sitting in a college apartment trying to figure out what was "next" and came up with this idea to share my accumulated knowledge of the Disney Parks and Resorts with others. The end goal was to help others make the most of their Disney experience and it's been quite the journey!