Our frog family is about to make history. We're a few short weeks away from being THE FIRST AMPHIBIANS to travel light years through space. With the help of Alpha Centauri Expeditions (also known as ACE ) we're making our way across the universe for a visit to Pandora. Well, that's the "in-world story." Really, we're just headed back to Florida. I know you're eager to grab your Pandora - World of Avatar FastPass + reservations, so let's talk strategies and tips! But first, a little background ...
Based on the highest-grossing feature film of all time, the world of "AVATAR" will soon come to life at the Walt Disney World Resort. Our frog family, especially our cinema-loving son Tad is hopping with anticipation for May 27, the opening of Pandora — The World of Avatar at Disney's Animal Kingdom.
Inspired by James Cameron’s 2009 movie, this new land will send guests to the world of Pandora, home of the Na’vi. With the floating mountains serving as the land's centerpiece, the area will feature two attractions. Na’vi River Journey will take you down a sacred river hidden within a bioluminescent rainforest for an encounter with the Shaman of Songs. On Avatar Flight of Passage, you'll connect with your own avatar and fly over Pandora on the back of a mountain banshee. Visitors will experience cultural dining at Satu’li Canteen, tasty beverages at Pongu Pongu and eclectic shopping at Windtraders.
One key element of a visit to Pandora — The World of Avatar will be experiencing the Valley of Mo’ara at night. Disney has played up the inclusion of bioluminescent plants and teased "special nighttime immersive programming." Is this a projection mapping show? A parade? An extravagant nightly song and dance number. Please tell me—I need to know!
Before you start breaking out the MagicBands, I need you to consider this fact ...
Pandora—The World of Avatar Will Change How Everyone Visits Disney World
For years, Disney's Animal Kingdom has been generally been thought of as a half-day park. This was not necessarily due to its small number of attractions and shows when compared to other parks, but rather its shorter hours. Guests that close down at this park would either head back to the hotels, Disney Springs or scurry off to another park.
Recently, Disney's Animal Kingdom has been adding nighttime activities. Rivers of Light—a nighttime show performed on the park's expansive river—Tree of Life Awakening—a magical lighting of the park's iconic tree—and even a "sunset" experience to Kilimanjaro Safaris have kept the park open after dark. Pandora will add another key after-dark element, with its bioluminescence flora and other nighttime experiences. Disney is betting that this nighttime experience will be incredibly popular, and they are adding Extra Magic Hours from 11 p.m until 1 a.m for Disney World Hotel Resort guests for a limited time. Click to read more details about it.
With four theme parks, each one offering some kind of nighttime experience, guests will need to adjust schedules and make some different choices. Do you skip IllumiNations for a few hours to see Pandora aglow? Will you start your morning in one park and keep the tadpoles awake and fed for a nighttime hop over to Disney's Animal Kingdom? Where do you fit your planned evening entertaining at Disney Springs?
Another layer to this "Now Glowing At Night" scenario is FastPass+. By now, repeat visitors to Disney World have a good idea of how they plan to use FastPass+ at Disney's Animal Kingdom, as well as the other parks. Attractions such as Expedition Everest and Kilimanjaro Safaris can sell out on busy days. Another strategy park hoppers use is to visit one park at opening, hop into standby queues, then hop to another park, where they have FastPass+ reservations waiting for them. This new land's opening will require some adjustments to FastPass+ plans.
Pandora — World of Avatar FastPass+ Strategies
Both of Pandora's attractions—Avatar Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey—will be available for FastPass+ reservations. Due to the high interest in these new attractions, guests will only be allowed to reserve ONE of these two attractions per day. They will then have the option to select two other FastPass+ reservations.
From the standpoint of picking your FastPass+ priority, our money (at least at this point) is on Avatar Flight of Passage. We expect, much like Frozen Ever After and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, that getting reservations for these will be pretty tough. Keep in mind that this is our best prediction now. We’ll update it once we have more information about the attractions and Pandora officially opens. As far as those other two FastPass+ picks, we recommend Kilimanjaro Safaris, Kali River Rapids and Favorite Disney Pals at Adventurer's Outpost.
Note that Flight of Passage will have a Singe Rider option.
So here are our recommendations for visiting Pandora — World of Avatar, including FastPass+. Our recommendations will be based on whether you are staying on-site or off-site, and if you will be staying on-site when the Extra Magic Hours at Pandora are being offered.
Disney World Hotel Guests Staying On-Site Between May 27 and July 4 Should Use Extra Magic Hours at Pandora
If you are staying on-site at a Disney World hotel (or the Swan or Dolphin), experiencing these attractions during Extra Magic Hours at Pandora makes a lot of sense. You will likely still encounter higher waits, but less so during your dedicated time. You could still make Avatar Flight of Passage your first FastPass+ priority and then ride again in the evening if you wanted to experience it twice. Disney does not currently allow FP+ bookings during Extra Magic Hours.
On-Site Disney World Hotel Guests with a Trip Planned After July 4
Generally, there are only certain times we recommend hotel guests use Extra Magic Hours. In this case, we do think it makes sense if you’re staying on-site that you should take advantage of regular Extra Magic Hours at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, which are typically held from 8 to 9 a.m. Saturdays and sometimes Mondays (check the Crowd Calendar for your specific dates). Again, we would recommend you arrive ahead of EMH opening and make Flight of Passage your first stop and then Na’vi River Journey hopefully before the park opened to all guests (you’d still be in prime position to ride it then with low waits). You could still make Flight of Passage your first FastPass+ priority if you wanted to ride again later in the day or just to hedge your bets in case it breaks down or lines are still too long.
Staying Off-Site and Want to Visit the Pandora Attractions?
If you’re visiting in May before the official opening, there is a chance you could experience the attractions during “soft openings.” These are not guaranteed to happen and will not be officially announced. You just have to be in the right place at the right time. If you’re visiting after the official opening, your best bet is to attempt to secure a FastPass+ reservation for Flight of Passage (and Na’Vi River Journey failing that). Make sure to book reservations when your window opens at the 30-day mark. If at first you don’t succeed, keep trying. If this fails, plan to visit Disney’s Animal Kingdom on a day when morning Extra Magic Hours are not being held. Arrive at least 45 minutes before the park opens. When it does, make Flight of Passage your first stop and then Na’Vi River Journey.
Two Days at Disney’s Animal Kingdom?
It’s safe to say with the additions of Pandora and Rivers of Light that Disney’s Animal Kingdom has become a “full-day” park. But it’s still too early to tell for sure if it’s a two-day park. But for guests determined to experience the new Pandora attractions, especially during the busy summer months, visiting Disney’s Animal Kingdom over two days is another option. This makes even more sense for those with Park Hopper tickets. You would aim to make Flight of Passage your priority FastPass+ reservation the first day and then Na’vi River Journey the priority FastPass+ reservation the second day.
Accessibility and Other Information
It's always possible Disney could change accessibility and rider requirements during testing of Avatar Flight of Passage and the Na'Vi River Journey. As of now, this is what we know:
Avatar Flight of Passage will have a height restriction of 44in (112cm) or taller. Rider switch will be offered. Guests must transfer from wheelchairs/EVC's to the ride vehicle. As for restrictions, Disney has this posted on the Flight of Passage website:
- WARNING! For safety, you should be in good health and free from high blood pressure, heart, back or neck problems, motion sickness, or other conditions that could be aggravated by this adventure. Expectant mothers should not ride.
Na'vi River Journey has no height restrictions or similar warnings. Guests must transfer from wheelchairs/EVC's to the ride vehicle. Rider switch will be offered.
Is There An Updated Undercover Tourist Park Plan?
What questions do you have about the opening of Pandora—The World of Avatar? Do you plan on using FastPass+ for Pandora or take advantage of the Extra Magic Hours that are available exclusively to Disney World Resort hotel guests? Let us know in the comments below!