Walt Disney World’s latest addition is simply out of this world. Inspired by the 2009 film Avatar, Pandora — The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is set on a planet 4.4 light years away. Six years in the making, it marks the park’s largest expansion since its opening nearly 20 years ago, and though it has only two rides, don’t let these 12 acres fool you: it can easily take up at least two or three hours. Here’s how you can tackle it.
1. Get there early.
One of our biggest time savers when visiting a Disney park is getting to the gate early (think: 45 to 60 minutes prior to opening), and this is especially important for Pandora. In the two weeks or so since its debut, we’ve seen posted wait times of at least two hours to get into both of the land’s attractions, which include a simulator ride called Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey, a boat ride through a bioluminescent rainforest. Be among the first into the new area of the park and you can significantly cut down your wait time.
2. Use a FastPass+.
If getting to the park prior to opening isn’t an option, try to reserve a FastPass+. Included with the price of admission, the pass allows guests to reserve times to visit an attraction and must be booked online or via the My Disney Experience app, which can be done up to 60 days beforehand if you’re a resort guest or up to 30 days if you’re staying off property. If you’re a day guest, purchase your park ticket well in advance of your visit so that you can link it to your My Disney Experience account and book the FastPass+ within the 30-day window instead of having to do all of this at the gate.
3. Come back at night.
Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey may be the two biggest draws in Pandora, but the land itself can easily be counted as a third. Featuring floating mountains plucked straight from the movie, serene creeks and waterfalls, as well as vibrant and lush plants and landscaping, the area touts Insta-worthy views at every turn. (Don’t forget to keep your ears tuned up for the sounds of Pandora’s creatures, which change throughout the day.) At night, there’s a completely different experience as the entire land gets a bioluminescent transformation: the plants and ground glow with hues of blue, green, turquoise, yellow, and purple. Bonus: Through July 4, guests of Disney World resorts get special access to the land from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m., meaning there’ll be more time to experience Pandora after dark.
4. Try before you fly.
Flight of Passage has quickly become one of the park’s most popular attractions. Here, guests take a simulated ride on the back of a flying banshee, soaring past mountains, through the jungle, and above other Pandoran wildlife. Due to the nature of the ride, the seat is similar to that of a motorcycle, for which you’ll have to lean forward in order for the restraints to lock into place; make sure you’re comfortable with it by trying out the test seat located outside the attraction.
5. Plan for a budget-friendly meal.
Thought you’d take a trip to Pandora and have to settle for normal theme park food? Think again. This section of Disney’s Animal Kingdom has one quick-service restaurant, Satu’li Canteen, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. For those sticking to a budget, the good news is that the restaurant is on the dining plan and entrees here are all $15 and under — plus, they’re served with real dishware and utensils. For breakfast, dig into items like oatmeal with bourbon-soaked raisins ($7.49) or pork hash with chorizo ($8.99). For lunch and dinner, choose from dishes like rice bowls served with beef, chicken, fish, or tofu alongside veggie slaw and boba balls (from $11.49). Top the meal off with one of Satu’li’s two specialty desserts; our favorite is the blueberry cream cheese mousse with passion fruit curd ($5.29).
When you’re looking for something tasty in between meals, head to Pongu Pongu, a snack stand that serves a sweet spring roll with cream cheese and pineapple filling ($4.59) and an assortment of beverages, including the Night Blossom ($5.99) — a tart, colorful concoction with hints of apple and pear, sprinkled with passion fruit boba.
6. Save time with mobile food ordering.
Say goodbye to waiting in long food lines. When dining at Satu’li Canteen, you can place your order through the My Disney Experience app even before getting to the restaurant. From your smartphone, you’ll be able to customize your order and pre-pay for the meal; once you’re ready to dine, select the option that notifies the restaurant to start preparing your food. As soon as your order is ready, you’ll be given an alert that prompts you to pick up your meal.