Initial Reactions: Pandora – The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

We visited Pandora – The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom on Memorial Day weekend, which was the first weekend the new section of Animal Kingdom was open to the public.

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Map of the World of Avatar, courtesy disneyworld.disney.go.com

I’m going to preface this blog post with the fact that we have never seen Avatar.  We also didn’t go to Disney that weekend with the goal of fully checking out the World of Avatar, we were there for Megacon, but decided to take a day trip over to take a look around.  What actually ended up happening is that we wandered around for awhile, looking at the gigantic lines (everywhere, not just in the World of Avatar), then decided we were going to drink all day.  It was a very crowded weekend in the parks.  It was also hot.

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Pretty stuff.  A floating mountain.

Anyway.  The World of Avatar was pretty cool even just looking at it, and there is some awesome stuff to see.

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More floating mountains.

The World of Avatar is located by Pizzafari and Tiffins.  It was about 95 degrees the day we were there and Animal Kingdom had kindly provided “hydration stations” (jugs of water and cups) along the path to the World of Avatar, and were encouraging you to make sure you stayed hydrated.  As a reminder, you can also get free ice water from most kiosks or restaurants that have fountain drinks.

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A big flower thing?

First of all, the World of Avatar is BIG.  We didn’t go on any of the rides or into the store (again, lines), but we spent at least 2 hours looking around.  Although, we walk slow.  The level of detail is crazy.  I’m sure if we had seen Avatar we would have appreciated this more, but seriously I looked at a tree and there was some weird like Avatar green slime on it.  Themed down to the smallest detail.

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Waterfall.

There are 2 rides in the World of Avatar.  The Na’vi River Journey and the Avatar Flight of Passage.  The Na’vi River Journey is a gentle drifting boat ride, and the Avatar Flight of Passage is a 3D movie ride where you ride a banshee, more of a thrill ride.  When we were there the wait times were 250 minutes according to the board, but we heard a CM say that that they had put the wait time at the maximum it could go and it could be longer or shorter.  Right now (on Sunday June 25th at about 1:00pm) the wait times are 60 minutes for the Na’vi River Journey and 110 for Avatar Flight of Passage, so they have definitely dropped.

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Yeah okay I’m not really sure, I didn’t see Avatar.

There is also a store, Windtraders, which sells – you guessed it – Avatar and Disney stuff.  There is a quick service restaurant (Satu’li Canteen) that was actually not crowded at all when we were there, but it was about 11:30am.  There looked to be plenty of seating, and the menu was pretty interesting.  There is also a drink stand, Pongu Pongu, and I definitely want to get my hands on some Hawkes’ Grog Ale, which is a Golden Ale flavored with wheat and citrus and is apparently green.

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Umm this is maybe significant in some way.

If you’re just there for a few hours and not going on any rides, the showcase is the Valley of Mo’ara and the ABSOLUTELY GIGANTIC FLOATING MOUNTAINS. Pictures do not do these things justice.  They are SO BIG.  And SO COOL.  Although they’re so big that I got inexplicably nervous walking under them and looking up at them.  There really is a ton of detail and a lot to see, and while you’re walking around you’ll probably find some cool interactive stuff – its not a land to breeze through while trying to get on a ride.  Take your time, look at the details.

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A… mech…?  I guess….?  I dont know.  I think I should have watched the movie.

So Drinking Ever After, what are your thoughts on the The World of Avatar?

In no particular order, my initial reaction(s) to the World of Avatar were:

  1.  This place is gigantic.
  2.  There is some serious detail in this land.
  3.  Wow, this is really pretty.
  4.  IS THAT THE LINE?!
  5.  Damn, those floating mountains are huge.
  6.  It is incredibly hot today.
  7.  I wonder what the structural integrity of these floating mountains is.
  8.  I probably should have watched Avatar, I’m going to pretend this is Zangarmarsh from World of Warcraft.
  9.  IS THAT THE LINE????!!!!!!

Eventually, we are going to go on those rides and I’ll provide a more full review.  For now, the detail and theming of the land was worth the walk around.

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Floating mountains are neat.
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Disney Tips and Tricks: Footwear Edition

You might think this is a weird topic for a post.  Trust me.  It isn’t.  I have actually put a considerable amount of thought into my footwear choice at Disney.  The reason is that Disney is big.  You’re going to walk A LOT.

The Walt Disney World Resort area is made up of 4 theme parks, 2 water parks, 1 shopping area, and over 25 hotels.  According to the internet search I just did, thats over 40 square miles of Disney fun times.  Or, Disney fun roughly the size of San Francisco.

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Map of the Walt Disney World Resort area.  Its big.  Map courtesy https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/maps/

The 4 theme parks are Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom.    With a variety of ticket options, and enough time, you can manage to visit all 4 parks in a single trip.  Ticket options range from 1 day passes to 10 day passes, and you can get admission to 1 park per day, or a “park hopper” that allows you entry to multiple parks per day.  Admission to water parks is separate.

The parks themselves are big, with Magic Kingdom being the smallest park and Animal Kingdom being the largest.  Different sources quote different numbers, but I went with the sizes listed on themeparktourist.com.

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Approximate park sizes.  Sizes are courtesy http://www.themeparktourist.com/features/20140401/17257/numbers-comparison-disneys-theme-parks

What that also means is that you’re going to do a lot of walking trying to see everything.

We live in Florida and have had annual passes for a few years now (I know you’re jealous).  I’ve put more thought into what goes on my feet than is probably normal, but we walk a TON when we’re at Disney.  The max we’ve walked in a day was during Star Wars Weekends, and we (somehow) walked 13 miles around Hollywood Studios.  Thats a half marathon of walking, just to give you an indication.  On our last trip, our average daily distance was about 8 miles per day, some days being more and some less.

Getting straight to the point, you’re going to walk more than you think.  Thus, your footwear choice is something that you should put at least a little thought into.

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With the right footwear, you could be as happy as Leonardo DiCaprio.

In 5 years of Disney trips, I have yet to find an option that has left me pain free by the end of the trip, and that I didn’t find hideously ugly.  What I have found to work tremendously is a combination of Reef flip flops, Cobian flip flops, and Asics slip-ons, and swapping them out daily.  Yes, that means I have walked upwards of 8 to 10 miles in flip flops.  Yes, my feet were fine afterwards.  I actually prefer them.  These all get between a 4.5 and 5 rating (out of 5).

Here are some others I have tried (with ratings), hopefully this will help guide your search for the perfect footwear:

Sanuk yoga mat flip flops (4/5):  Actually not bad, but for some reason soap would come out of them when they got wet and that annoyed me.

Chaco Flip EcoTread (0/5):  People swear by Chacos but these were possibly the most uncomfortable shoes I have ever owned.

Merrell Sandals (3/5):  Good for walking but not cushion-ey enough to stand on my feet all day.  The sandals I own aren’t available anymore.

Minnetonka Moccasins (4/5):  These were actually pretty good, but I could only wear them 1/2 a day.

Sperry Canvas Sneakers (2/5 at Disney, 4/5 for casual wear):  I actually love these shoes and wear them all the time, but walking long distances is ridiculously painful in them, so I do not recommend them for Disney.

Seriously though, cycling through Reef flip flops, Cobian flip flops, and Asics slip-ons has really been the most pain-free trip I’ve had.

Also, what really works is stretching while I wait in line.  Seriously.  You’ll look weird.  EMBRACE IT.

So Drinking Ever After, what are your thoughts footwear at Disney?

Before you leave for your vacation, put some thought into your shoes.  Are you bringing shoes you wear every day?  How far have you walked in them?  Are they broken in?  THEY HAD BETTER BE BROKEN IN.

Trust me.  Its better to think about this before you leave then to realize, 3 days into your 7 day vacation, that your feet are killing you and you have blisters.

And really, stretching while your waiting in line is a good idea.

Drinkin’ Around Disney’s Animal Kingdom: Nomad Lounge

I really love Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  There are so many different trails and interesting things to look at, and I love watching the animals on the Maharajah Jungle Trek and the Gorilla Falls Exploration trail.  I wrote about some of the cool things at Animal Kingdom in my Snackin’ Around Disney:  Animal Kingdom post.

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“Tree of Life” at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

What  I don’t love about Animal Kingdom is that it gets HOT walking around all day.  Normally, this is a 1/2 day park for us (and closes early anyway), but after Rivers of Light debuts will extend the time you spend in the park.

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Looking up in the Asia section of Animal Kingdom, just some of the many details of the park.

In the past, we’ve trekked our way over to the Animal Kingdom Lodge to get a snack and a drink at the Victoria Falls Lounge and take a break from the sun (you can take a bus from Animal Kingdom).  There is also a Rainforest Cafe that is outside the park entrance, where you can take a break.

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Nomad Lounge entrance

While Animal Kingdom has an outdoor bar (Dawa Bar), there is very limited seating and they are right in the middle of the “hustle and bustle” of the park.  But, recently, a new restaurant and lounged opened up right inside Animal Kingdom.  Tiffins is the newest signature dining option inside the park.  Attached to Tiffins is Nomad Lounge.  We visited Nomad Lounge on our last trip and it became an instant tradition for Animal Kingdom days.

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Nomad Lounge exterior and interior seating.  The “banners” in the right hand picture are available for purchase for $1 each, and you can share your story about travels you’ve taken in your lifetime

Nomad Lounge has indoor and outdoor seating.  While we were there there was a napping baby and at least 2 adults who looked so comfortable they could nap.  Nomad Lounge has a small selection of appetizers, and a unique drink menu.   On this trip we sampled the Snow Leopard Salvation (Snow Leopard Vodka, Belle de Brillet Pear Liqueur, Mint, and Lime Juice topped with Ginger Beer) and the Jenn’s Tattoo (Ketel One Vodka, Watermelon, Hibiscus, and Lime Juice).

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Nomad Lounge Jenn’s Tattoo and Snow Leopard Salvation

They were both delicious.  And big!  The Snow Leopard Salvation was really refreshing, perfect for a hot park day.  I didn’t think you could taste the pear liqueur very much, overall it tasted like a fruity and slightly minty Moscow Mule.  It was a solid choice.  Jenn’s Tattoo was very sweet.  A drink being overly sweet isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it was less refreshing than the Snow Leopard Salvation.  I really liked it, but as I was drinking it thought it could have benefitted from a splash of soda water and a squeeze of lime (I added a squeeze of lime, and it improved things).  We didn’t have a snack on this trip because Animal Kingdom has some very interesting food options and we had already eaten.

So Drinking Ever After, what are your thoughts on Nomad Lounge?

Nomad Lounge is a very welcome addition to Animal Kingdom, and I think a necessary addition.  There is a ton of (riverfront!) outdoor seating, its quiet and relaxed, and the food and drink options are unique while still being welcoming.  I highly recommend checking out Nomad Lounge for a mid-afternoon break.

Snackin’ Around Disney: Animal Kingdom

Many people skip Animal Kingdom on short trips (even we do if we’re there for a weekend), or its a half day park.  Right now, Animal Kingdom closes around 7pm, leaving the evening open for dinner, Disney Springs, or another park.  But, Animal Kingdom is going to debut their new nighttime experience Rivers of Light very soon, which will add some much needed nighttime flair to the park.

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Expedition Everest at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  The seating is for the upcoming nighttime show “Rivers of Light”

That being said, Animal Kingdom is a really fun park with lots of great experiences.  Its one of the best themed parks, with tons of little details to check out.  Be sure to check out the two walking trails, Maharajah Jungle Trek which takes you past tigers, and the Gorilla Falls Exploration trail which takes you past, you guessed it, gorillas.  I also recommend taking the Wildlife Express Train over to the Conservation Station, where you can see live animal encounters (we saw a giant bunny rabbit last time!), meet Rafiki and Chip and Dale, and go to the petting zoo.  Finally, try out the trails around the Tree of Life, you can see the intricate carvings on the tree close up and see some of the animals that live around the tree as well.  All in all, there are tons of places to go and explore in Animal Kingdom, which is one of my favorite things about the park.

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The Tree of Life at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

We didn’t eat a big lunch at Animal Kingdom.  Instead, we had falafel from Mr. Kamal’s in Asia, and the Teriyaki Beef Slider from Caravan Road, which is right across from Mr. Kamal’s.  I believe these are both open seasonally, so if you find them open, definitely try them for some lighter food options.

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Falafel ($4.99) and Teriyaki Beef Slider ($5.49) from Mr. Kamal’s and Caravan Road

Both of these cost a snack credit (we didnt have the dining plan so we paid cash), and you really dont get a ton of food.  If you’re looking for a snack, they are different from the standard Disney options, and quite tasty.  Both the falafel and the teriyaki beef slider had a little bit of spice to them, which added some “flair” to the portion.  The falafel came with tzatziki for dipping (I’ve talked about my love for tzatziki before…), and the teriyaki beef slider came on a soft, pillowy bun with a pickle.  We stood at a table near the food kiosks to eat, but there is a small seating area that overlooks the Tree of Life near Mr. Kamal’s.

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Seating area in the Asia section of Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Let me let you in on a low-key “Disney Hack.”  You can get free ice water from any kiosk that sells fountain soda in the parks.  We rarely ever pay for drinks at Disney unless we want alcohol or soda.  Some bring a refillable bottle in, which is also a good idea, but the ice water on a hot day is pretty great.  Sometimes its a small cup and sometimes its a large, it depends on the kiosk.  Either way its free if you ask for an ice water.

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Free ice water from Mr. Kamal’s in Animal Kingdom.  You can see the famous Animal Kingdom paper straw on the left, used due to the large presence of animals in the park!

So, Drinking Ever After, what are your thoughts on snacks at Animal Kingdom?

I like to eat a light lunch at the parks, as I dont really like the feeling of being overly full and walking around AND I like to sample lots of different things.  These portions are pretty small for the price, but I really liked both options (the falafel was better than the slider, though).  Plus, I loved that they were a different from the standard fries, chicken tenders, etc. options at Disney.  Not that I dont love chicken tenders and fries, but sometimes you want something a little different, you know?!  Anyway, if you can, try the falafel at least.