See what it's really like inside Disney World's brand new 'Pandora: World of Avatar' park
We headed to Disney World's Animal Kingdom on Monday, May 29 (Memorial Day) — just two days after the Pandora area had opened to the public.
The sun was just rising at 6:45 a.m. when Disney World resort guests were allowed to start queuing up.
Even though hotel-guests were the only ones allowed in the park before regular opening hour at 8 a.m., there was already a huge line.
The lines were so intense for opening weekend that Disney had set up water stations to help guests cool off from the humid Florida weather.
Hundreds of people were slowly crowding into the Pandora-themed section.
At the entrance of Pandora, this huge alien-looking plant stands guard.
As we walked closer to the center of the Pandora section, more unearthly plants could be spotted among the real flora.
Finally we turned a corner, and the iconic "floating mountains" were in view.
We were pretty stoked to finally be in the world of Pandora.
The mountains are straight from the movie "Avatar."
We headed straight for one of the new attractions: The Na'vi River Journey.
The Na'vi River Journey is a slow-moving boat ride that takes you through dark rooms filled with bioluminescent plants and animals.
The ride has no drops or real "excitement" other than an incredibly realistic animatronic Na'vi figure towards the end.
The second new attraction is called Flight of Passage — and we aren't exaggerating when we say it blew our minds.
Each rider gets a pair of 3D glasses and their own bicycle-esque seat. Once strapped in, the screen opens and reveals an insanely beautiful and immersive virtual-reality ride.
After the rides, it was time to cool off with a drink from the Pongu Pongu snack shack.
Pongu Pongu serves two frozen drinks (one non-alcoholic and one margarita), as well as two types of beer and a dessert spring roll.
The strawberry margarita was delicious, though paying an extra $3 for a glowing plastic "seed" may have been a questionable choice.
The apple-limeade and desert pear slushie was a little too sweet for our taste, but it was refreshing and we loved the addition of boba balls.
Finally we tried the Pineapple Spring Rolls (or as Pongu Pongu calls them, "Pongu Lumpia").
The cream cheese inside was super melty, and gave the spring roll a messy consistency.
Next door to Pongu Pongu is a full restaurant called the Satu'li Canteen.
This is a "mess hall" style eatery, where you order at a station and pick up your food from a counter.
The menu is eclectic but seems like there's definitely something for everyone, from grain bowls with various proteins to a dough-wrapped hot dog.
After ordering we waited at the counter, where beers are poured and each order is prepared in a kitchen just out of sight.
We had to try the most colorful menu options — Hawkes' Grog Ale and the Blueberry Cream Cheese Mousse.
We also tried the mixed greens bowl with grilled beef.
And the crispy tofu bowl was a very tasty and savory meat-free option, though it was slightly over-seasoned.
We also tested the Cheeseburger Steamed Pods/Bao Buns. They tasted a bit like sloppy joes.
And finally, the green beer! Bright coloring aside, this was a fruity and light beer with a strong taste upfront.
Next we wanted to check out the new merchandise store, Windtraders. But we quickly discovered a big line of people waiting to get in.
Once we were finally inside, we found all sorts of "Avatar" trinkets and accessories, like this Na'vi-inspired headband.
By far the most popular item in the shop were these little electronic Banshees.
There was also a bunch of apparel that glowed in the dark.
The park is a totally different experience after sunset. While the exotic flowers and plants look interesting in the daytime ...
... the landscape transforms at night thanks to dozens of black lights.
The plants that looked interesting by day ...
... have a whole new coloring and beauty at night.
The ground throughout the park also changes. Here it is in the daytime, looking like regular concrete with plant patterning.
But the webbing in the cement glows blue and green under the black lights.
The floating mountains are also gorgeous in the purplish lighting, especially with the waterfall glowing softly.
If you visit the new Pandora land, you definitely need to stay for the nighttime experience.
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