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Pandora—The World of Avatar

Step into Pandora—The World of Avatar, and you’ll truly feel like you’ve been transported to a moon 4.4 light years away.

Photo: © Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. James Cameron’s Avatar is a trademark of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved. As to Disney properties: © Disney.

In Pandora—The World of Avatar, guests will feel like they’re on the fictional home of the Na’vi. But in reality, they’re experiencing a new themed land based on James Cameron’s blockbuster movie at Disney’s Animal Kingdom® Theme Park. And though Disney parks are well-known for their immersive experiences, Pandora—The World of Avatar surpasses expectations to provide entertainment, attractions and dining that guests can only find at Walt Disney World® Resort.

Led by Creative Executive Joe Rohde, Walt Disney Imagineers have created an enchanting bioluminescent forest with pathways that wind through exotic flora, fauna, waterfalls and floating mountains. When you cross the bridge into Pandora, you actually feel as though you are in a new world—especially because you no longer see or hear the rest of the theme park. There are many wonderful spots for one-of-a-kind photos, but just around the bend is the first attraction, the Na’vi River Journey.

Na’Vi River Journey

Photo: As to Disney artwork/properties: © Disney

The Na’vi River Journey is a gentle boat ride through a darkened bioluminescent forest. The ride is appropriate for all ages; there are no drops and no one gets wet. You will, however, be amazed by the next generation of technical projections and Audio-Animatronics. The highlight of the ride is the towering Na’vi Shaman of Songs, who moves so fluidly that you just might wonder if she is real.

After passing under the floating mountains, guests will find the Avatar Flight of Passage attraction. This highly anticipated ride takes simulators to a new level, allowing guests to feel what it’s like to ride on the back of a banshee. The ride uses deep movements timed to sweeping 3-D projections and special effects to transport riders to a world that previously only existed on green screens in Hollywood. It is awe-inspiring and not to be missed.

Avatar Flight of Passage exits into the Windtraders gift shop, where guests will find an unusual selection of souvenirs. You won’t find any merchandise emblazoned with Mickey Mouse; instead, look for items specific to Pandora, such as glow-in-the-dark apparel, mugs that look like floating mountains and Na’vi and banshee plush toys. But perhaps the most popular item can be found in the store’s Rookery: moving and squawking banshees that perch on guests’ shoulders.

Next door is the Satu’li Canteen, the main dining location in Pandora, which also offers a unique experience. The restaurant serves two types of main dishes: create-your-own Satu’li bowls and protein pods. The Satu’li bowls are customized by choosing a protein (slow-roasted grilled beef, chopped wood-grilled chicken, sustainable fish fillet, or chili-spiced crispy fried tofu), a base (quinoa and vegetable salad, red and sweet potato hash, mixed whole grains and rice, or romaine and kale salad) and a sauce (charred onion chimichurri, black bean vinaigrette, or creamy herb dressing). There are two choices of pods—cheeseburger and vegetable curry—that are served with root vegetable chips and crunchy vegetable slaw. There’s dessert, too: chocolate cake with a crunchy cake layer, banana cream and goji berries, and a blueberry cream cheese mousse with passion fruit curd. My family and I sampled many combinations of the Satu’li bowls and the Cheeseburger Pods and we liked everything we tried. The Cheeseburger Pod stuffs beef crumbles, ketchup, mustard and pickles inside a bao bun. As a group, we liked the blueberry mousse better than the chocolate dessert.

The fast-casual Satu’li Canteen is one of the first at Walt Disney World® Resort restaurants to offer a mobile ordering feature, which allows guests to order and pay for meals through the My Disney Experience app. They tap a button in the app when they arrive, and their meal is prepared. When the order is ready, guests pick it up at a designated window, bypassing the queue.

Those looking for adult beverages will find beer and wine at Satu’li Canteen; just outside the front doors is the Pongu Pongu Lounge, which serves specialty cocktails and beer.

In the past year, I’ve written here about multiple aspects of Disney’s Animal Kingdom® Theme Park that are transforming the theme park into one with must-do nighttime experiences for its guests. Pandora—The World of Avatar is the newest and most exciting. It offers plenty to do during the day, and guests will want to return at night to see the landscape illuminated as the bioluminescent forest comes to life.

AAA Travel offers a variety of options for Walt Disney World® vacation packages. Call 888-890-2429 or contact a AAA Travel Counselor today.

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David Kallas, AAA Travel Counselor, Murray, Utah

I'm all about once-in-a-lifetime trips to destinations such as the Cook Islands, Australia or an African safari. I love to plan trips that my clients return from not regretting anything.

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