Disney Pandora Land: The Good–and the Bad- in 1 Honest Review

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Pandora land at Walt Disney World is a themed location in Animal Kingdom Park. Including attractions such as Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey, the land of Pandora features plant life, rockwork, and attractions designed to transport you into the 2009 movie, “Avatar”. As with most of Disney World, Pandora comes with some good and some not so good. So, if you’re planning on making the trek to Avatar land or visiting Disney World now, this article is a must read.

Disney Pandora Land: The Good

The Theming

Floating rock sculptures as part of Pandora Land's Theming
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Disney parks have a reputation for their intricate thematic elements, and Pandora land fulfills expectations impeccably. We first visited at night and were blown away by the bioluminescent lights and filled with wonder by the sheer magnitude of the environment.

We entered the land from the pathway that leads from the Lion King, which just might be the best approach to take. As you walk, crowds are thin and the noise from the rest of the park gradually recedes. Crickets begin to chirp, and soon you see small green lights glimmering in the trees. As you continue, the mystical illumination increases with mythical glowing plants appearing amid Florida’s native species.

It’s not long before you’ve entered the heart of  Pandora. Here, floating rock sculptures high above your head glow with  shades of pink and purple and sparkle with the illumination cast from the waterfall beneath, fully lit and roaring down a rock face.

As stunning as Disney Pandora Land is at night, it’s impossible to experience everything the world of Avatar has to offer unless you see it in the light of day. That’s when the incredible detail comes to life. The rocks float magically above the walkways, the artificial plant life blends into the landscape, and magical creatures call from shimmering pools.

Pandora Land at night time
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There is so much to see and experience here, it might make up for the fact that you were unable to score that Genie+ Lightning Lane for one of the park’s most popular rides.

Disney Pandora’s  Flight of Passage

When it comes to Genie + reservations, Flight of Passage is one of the first to be gobbled up. End of day Lightning Lane passes? Nope, not here. The only way you’ll experience this attraction without a wait is by being one of the first to book every morning. Some guests may luck into a Lightning Lane pass in the afternoon on quieter days.

If you haven’t experienced it, you might wonder what Flight of Passage (also fondly known in Disney circles as FOP) is and why all of the hype. We asked the same question before our last visit and found little information in return. As it turns out, there were good reasons.

To say that FOP is a motion simulator ride designed to take you on  a Banshee flight through the glistening, gleaming world of Avatar Land, while correct, does little to explain the wild popularity of this attraction. To better understand, we go back to the elaborate theming that Disney has mastered so thoroughly.

Water fall in disney's Pandora Land built into the queue of Flight of Passage
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It starts in the richly-detailed queue line. We were lucky enough to score a Lightning Lane pass for this ride, so we missed the queue that flawlessly fits with Avatar land, but were told by several guests that this is where much of the backstory is explained. As such, it’s something that everyone should experience at least once. However, what was missed by skipping the two-hour long queue was compensated for by the thoroughness of the pre-show experience.

The preshow does a great job of giving you the backstory of the ride and the Disney avatar park while simultaneously pulling you into it. Half of our party had not seen the movie, but by the time we left the pre-show area, all were on equal ground. We’d been introduced to the world of Avatar land and genetically matched to our Banshee in preparation for our flight above Pandora.

After stowing our belongings in a locker, we were instructed to mount our Banshee, in this case a motor cycle style vehicle. Word to the wise, if you grow claustrophobic when strapped in, you may find this ride a little hard to take. Even though your motion simulator Banshee doesn’t leave terra firma, you’re gently locked in as if it will, adding to the disorienting effects that newbie riders may experience.

The ride itself, is very realistic and really makes you feel like you are flying. Facing a screen wearing 3-D glasses, you’re reminded of just how good Disney’s gotten at 3-D filmmaking. When combined with a motion simulator designed to mimic a living, breathing animal, the effect is spellbinding.

As your Banshee takes his first glide into the air over Pandora land, you feel the suspension of the wings and the breath of the beast beneath you. Soon you’re leaning to the right, sailing through the mystical forests, dodging branches and other Banshees in flight. If that first dive toward the ground makes you feel disoriented or panicked by the “heights”, you can just look away from the screen and feel safe again.

Aside from the thrilling reality of FOP, another great thing about this ride is the large capacity. When you’re riding your banshee, be sure to look away from the screen, pretty much in any direction and you will see you are surrounded by other guests enjoying the experience. Because the attraction can accommodate so many guests at once, the lengthy lines are bound to decrease in time as Disney makes strides to improve the experience at other parks with the opening of the Guardians of the Galaxy Coaster.

The Restaurants

The theming and decor inside Satuli Canteen
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Disney Pandora land hands down has some of the best food you can find in Animal Kingdom. We stopped in at Satu’li Canteen for lunch and had a delicious feast. The menu here mainly consists of “bowls” which are made of a base of rice, greens, or potato hash, then a meat and a sauce of choice. They also have noodles and colorful desserts.

If you are planning to eat here inside Avatar land, you definitely want to order your food ahead of time using the My Disney Experience app. If you skip the tech step, you can expect to wait in a winding line. We used the order ahead feature and got our food a couple minutes after entering the restaurant while others were waiting 20-30 minutes in line.

Our lunch at Satuli Canteen
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This is one of the few restaurants that also caters to bigger groups. There are plenty of tables of all sizes, as well as food choices that are easier on your budget than many of Disney’s restaurants. For our party of 5, we ordered the sampler platter. We were able try four different bases with heaping portions of beef and chicken, as well as bowls filled with each available sauce. At $74.99, and with drinks included, we came in nearly $8 under the cost of ordering five portions of the lowest cost menu item (chicken) with drinks. And, the portions were more appropriate to our appetites.

As far as restaurants in Disney Pandora Land, Sa’tuli Canteen is one of the highlights. However, if you’re looking for a quick snack or a sip of something ultra sweet, you can stop at Pongu Pongu and try “beverages from beyond our world”.

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We “quenched our thirst the Pandoran way” with a night blossom. Disney describes this as a desert pear limeade topped with passion fruit Boba balls. It’s quite sweet, but tasty, and the Boba balls are an interesting pop in an otherwise fruity slush.

Pandora Land Bubble tea
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Pointing out the Bad in Disney Pandora Land

Na’vi River Journey

If you are a thrill seeker, this ride is not for you. Standing alone, the attraction could hold its own as an ultra-immersive experience. It does transport you into the land of Pandora with lights, scenes, and animatronics, but it is definitely underwhelming when compared with the magnitude of Flight of Passage.

The ride is a couple minutes long with the premise of floating through a river in the forest floor of Pandora. Some of the Disney technology and lights used are things never seen in a Disney ride before. The animatronics are also eerily lifelike. But with the line reaching over two hours on some days, this one is worth skipping. You can see the same scenery (minus the animatronics) by simply walking around, with no line.

The Crowds

The crowds in Pandora Land can reach high levels daily
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With the large number of people flocking to Disney’s Avatar land, the pathways are not wide enough to accommodate them. At peak times, you’ll find yourself moving slowly encased in a large group of people or shunted to the side. Like much of Animal Kingdom, Pandora has the feel of being too small to accommodate its popularity.

The crowds are most evident in the lines. If you do not have access to Genie+ Lightning Lane, you can easily spend most of the day just waiting in line for the two rides. The lines for Na’vi River Journey can reach over an hour, while it is not uncommon for Flight of Passage to reach a wait time of 2 hours during peak visitation periods.

The Downside of Flight of Passage

Pandora thematic plant life
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While overall, Disney World’s Flight of Passage is on the good list, there are some noteworthy bad things. First, this Disney Pandora ride can be very intense and is known for making guests sick. If you suffer from motion sickness, this may not be the ride for you.

We had two individuals in our party who became seriously nauseous after riding the Star Tours motion simulator ride at Disney Studios. One of them experienced the same effects from FOP, while the other felt only mild queasiness.

Of course the biggest drawback in this situation would be the design of the ride vehicles. Due to the restraints, you cannot leave if you become sick. This can also cause a problem for those who suffer from claustrophobia. Restraints come up on your back and legs and give you a definite trapped feeling.

And then there is the overall popularity of the attraction resulting in incredibly long line lines. Many people try to avoid the wait by arriving early and sprinting to the queue. Be warned, this is a race for the nimble footed through the Avatar land.

Even with cast members in front to guide the hordes, the sheer mass of humanity fighting their way toward the experience can seem like a cattle stampede. One member of our party enjoyed the race, outpacing the rest of the party and chatting pleasantly with those around her, as she power-walked to the front of the queue.

Others found it more enjoyable to let the guests most serious about those front spaces pass them by. They reported being only a few minutes behind in line, and due to the number of people the ride accommodates, were actually admitted in at the same time.

Another thing to note, if you do plan to join the fight for first place on FOP, you need to arrive early. Not just fifteen to twenty minutes early, but 60 minutes before the park opens.

During our visit the week after Thanksgiving, the turnstiles opened a half hour before the official park opening. Guests were then walked to Pandora Land and admitted to the two rides there while the rest of the park remained closed.

Using this strategy, we had ridden the ride and were exploring the Disney Pandora park before the park officially opened. At this point, wait times had already skyrocketed to 80 minutes and were even higher by the scheduled opening. Those arriving right on time or a little later were at the tail end of that rising line.

The bad thing about this strategy is that you have to arrive early. If you decide to do it, pack your breakfast, pick a turnstile where you can be close to the front and enjoy your food while chatting with the cast members.

We were there on Cast-Member Rosa’s last day, and she made a point of visiting with the people waiting at each turnstile, chatting and making jokes. Right before the turnstiles opened, she led the crowd in a “Go Rosa” chant to celebrate her impending retirement. Judging by the crowd’s reaction on that day, she will be missed.

Water Creatures in Pandora Land that spit water every couple minutes
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And that’s one of the good things about arriving this early. You have the chance to interact with cast members. Some, like Rosa, are full of humor and wit. Others are more low key but are willing to share their knowledge about the parks and what it’s like to work for Disney.

Of course, the biggest benefit is the early entry to Pandora. Being able to be on and off the most popular attraction before the park opens puts you in a favorable position to enjoy other popular rides, such as Expedition Everest or Kilimanjaro Safaris, with little to no wait.

Our party rode Pandora and reached Everest soon after official rope drop. We rode twice with no wait and could have ridden a third, but since the posted wait time had jumped from ten minutes to twenty, opted for breakfast instead. As the popularity for this ride falls, Disney will likely do away with the early-entry to Pandora, so enjoy it while you can. Getting to the bottom line, is Disney Pandora land worth visiting? Definitely! But, like anything it does have its faults and downsides. If you have a shorter trip, there are some things worth skipping in the land. If you are not a patient person, it might be in your best interest to just view the theming and move on. We enjoyed our first trip to Pandora, but will make some changes to our plan for next time.

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Mother daughter travel bloggers exploring the U.S.

We're Kat and Ali, a pair of mother-daughter travel bloggers exploring the U.S. We're sharing our experiences, tips and insights to help you more easily get out and explore the beautiful landscapes and places of this nation.


Ali Patton

Ali is a travel blogger for Seconds to Go, where she shares her experiences traveling the U.S. with her co-blogger Mom, Kathleen. She is also an avid Disney travel enthusiast, and with multiple Disney World trips under her belt, is a knoweldgeable resource for all things related to Disney vacations. Ali can be found managing the Seconds to Go social media accounts as well as the famed Double Z Farm pages on Instagram, Facebook and TikTok.