Nearly a decade after wowing audiences on the big screen, the amazing bioluminescent world from James Cameron's seminal film "Avatar" has become a reality in Disney World's Animal Kingdom theme park. "Pandora - The World of Avatar" officially opened on Saturday, May 27. To visit is to feel like you've stepped right into the Valley of Mo'ara, which is alive with exotic glowing plants and iridescent creatures, unique food, interactive scenery and attractions that truly are out of this world.
Here's how to make the most of your time in this incredible place without missing a thing.
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It isn't a requirement to have seen the highest grossing film of all time in order to enjoy your time in Pandora but, wow, it sure will heighten your experience. Re-familiarizing yourself with the storyline and ethos of "Avatar" will certainly lead to goosebumps when you visit. If you or the kids missed out on seeing "Avatar" on the big screen, a pre-trip viewing party at home is guaranteed to make your real-life introduction to Pandora at Disney World even better.
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The crowning glory of Pandora is Avatar Flight of Passage, an amazing and incredibly immersive ride that delivers, for many riders, a transformative and emotional experience. Put this attraction at the top of your must-do list by reserving a ride time with FastPass+ so you can experience this ride with a shorter wait time.
Avatar Flight of Passage puts you in a saddle atop a mountain banshee as you recreate one of the film's most breathtaking scenes, where Jake Sully takes his virgin flight on the back of a dragon-like winged creature, soaring above Mo'ara's floating mountains, swooping through treetop canopies, skipping over sparkling water, and plunging into bioluminescent caves. Thanks to the genius of Disney imagineers, this 3-D simulator thrill ride very convincingly makes you feel like you are really flying, as your senses awaken to the sights, sounds, smells of the Pandora. Trust us: This is Disney World's very best ride and one you'll want to experience... at least once. (Note: Minimum height for riders is 44 inches)
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The second unmissable ride in Pandora is Na'vi River Journey, which also should be reserved with a FastPass+ before you arrive. Your family will board a slow-paced reed boat that glides along the Na'vi River through an eye-popping bioluminescent rainforest full of exotic glowing plants and iridescent alien creatures making the pilgrimage with you to meet the Shaman of Songs.
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At Disney World, the early bird catches the worm. This is even truer for families staying at official Disney World Resort hotels, who can take advantage of a perk called Extra Magic Hours. On most days, one of the four main parks opens an hour early or closes up to three hours late. The morning Extra Magic Hour lets you experience select attractions prior to the park’s official opening time. That means that you could ride Avatar Flight of Passage before the regular crowds arrive and the line begins to grow. Schedule a FastPass+ to ride again later the same morning.Continue to 5 of 12 below.
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While you're exploring Pandora, keep an eye out for Alpha Centauri Expeditions (ACE) guides, who can teach you helpful Na'vi phrases like “Oel Ngati Kameie” (“I see you”), the traditional Na’vi phrase of greeting and respect.
Scattered around Pandora are many interesting and exotic plants native to the Valley of Mo'ara. Ask ACE guides to point out the special plants and creatures that spit, mist, or light up when touched by a human. For example, at the entrance of Pandora, the colorful Flaska Reclinata will spray a mist of spores when humans pat it and transfer their energy to the plant.
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Looking to shave time off your dining time in Pandora so you can get back to the fun? Disney is debuting a brand new food ordering service, Mobile Order, in Pandora, at Satu’li Canteen restaurant. This service will eventually expand to other fast casual and quick service locations across Walt Disney World.
Mobile Order, found in the My Disney Experience app, offers the added convenience of being able to place orders and purchase meals on-the-go.
This system is quick and easy. After you’ve placed your order, pre-paid within the app, and are on the way to Satu’li Canteen, just tap the “I’m here” button. That will notify the kitchen to prepare your meal. When ready, you will be alerted to pick up your meal at a designated pick-up window.
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Looking for the must-have Pandora souvenir? In the Windtraders gift shop, kids and adults can visit the rookery and identify a favorite banshee from among 10 unique styles. Each interactive banshee includes three ranges of motion—mouth, head, and wings—that are controlled by a hand-held device, and they make authentic banshee sounds. Kids can either display a banshee on their shoulder or cradle them in their arms. This is a fun experience, whether or not you decide to purchase a banshee.
Another fun activity in Windtraders is creating your own avatar action figure. First, you step into a futuristic transformation booth, where an Alpha Centauri Expedition Scan Technician uses a facial capture scanner to your enter data into a digitizing system. After your image is captured, you select your avatar’s body style from four different choices—both youth and adult sizes are offered—and you also choose eye color, facial striping pattern, and hairstyle. Reservations are required for this... experience, and can be made on a first-come, first-serve basis inside Windtraders.
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When visiting Animal Kingdom Park, kids can take part in a free activity program called Wilderness Explorers, where they complete dozens of self-guided activities ranging from animal observation to learning nature skills. As they complete these challenges, they can earn special Wilderness Explorer badges.
There are two Wilderness Explorer stations inside Pandora that focus on drawing connections between Earth's environment and that on Pandora. Make a point of stopping at both stations so you can collect the coveted badges.Continue to 9 of 12 below.
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When the going gets hot and your troops are parched, head to Pongu Pongu for Na'vi-style frozen beverages. Meaning “Party Party” in the language of the Na’vi, Pongu Pongu serves up some fun glowing frozen cocktails. Order a non-alcoholic Night Blossom for kids and a Mo'ara Margarita for grown-ups. There are also indigenous beers and some sweet snacks you won’t find elsewhere.
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If you're looking for a way to feel closer to the Na'vi culture, this colorful kiosk is the place to go for a Na’vi-inspired face painting featuring authentic Pandoran markings.
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Pandora is a very special place any time you visit, but it is inarguably even more magical at night, when the bioluminescent plants and creatures glow more brightly and the area takes on an almost mystical quality. Make your first visit during Extra Magic Hours in the morning, but definitely return another day after sundown for a bonus dose of Pandora.
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Staying at an official Disney Resort hotel lets you take advantage of many extra perks that help you make more of your time in the parks. With over two dozen Walt Disney World Resort hotels, there are plenty of options for every family style and budget. If visiting Pandora is a big priority for your family, consider staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge, the closest property to Animal Kingdom park.
On your arrival and departure days, you’ll receive complimentary transportation to and from Orlando International Airport via Disney’s Magical Express service. And during your stay, you can easily get around using Disney’s complimentary transportation system of monorails, buses, and water taxis.
But perhaps the biggest advantage of staying at a Disney Resort hotel is that you can begin locking in your plans 60 days in advance of your arrival day, which is a whole month before non-Disney-Resort guests. Yet another exclusive perk for Disney Resort hotel guests is the chance to visit the theme parks... during Extra Magic Hours.