Located in the Disney’s Animal Kingdom has emerged the newest world in the land of Pandora – World of Avatar. Located in the former Camp Mickey section is one of the largest expansions Disney World has ever done, and let me tell you, it does not let down even the biggest of Disney fans.
From the moment you walk through the front entry you feel as if you have been picked out of Florida and transported into an out of this world civilization. The attractions do not let down. We are going to breakdown the more family friendly adventure, the Na’vi River Journey one of the best Disney World rides of all time.
What is Pandora?
So you may be wonder, well, what is Pandora? Pandora is the universe that the movie Avatar exists in. From the moment you enter through the front area of Pandora at Animal Kingdom, you are going to become an eco-tourist visiting an intergalactic land. You are going to be joining ACE, also known the Alpha Centauri Expeditions for the adventure of a lifetime. Every inch of the world has been brought to life with magnificent detail and your eyes will not know what to look next.
There are some sights that are a must see when you are in Pandora including:
- Flight of Passage
- Na’vi River Journey
- Satu’li Canteen
- Pongo Pongo
- Pandora Utility Suit
- Pandora Drummers – Swotu Waga
- Colors of Mo’ara
Each of these experiences are going to bring you closer to completely your adventure within Pandora but they all have their own distinct appeal and purpose which is important when planning your day in Animal Kingdom.
So what is the Na’vi River Journey?
Na’vi River Journey is a new Disney World attraction and is going to be the family friendly attraction available with no height requirement at Pandora – World of Avatar. Located just a short walk from Flight of Passage, you are going to enter through the waiting line where you have two options: the stand by line or the fastpass line. We will get to the fast pass option later, but first you are going to enter through without line you are required to enter in.
A small letdown is that there is nothing beautiful or exciting about the standby line for Na’vi River Journey. It is mainly outside and let me tell you during those hot Florida months it will be very hot. The line is narrow and winding where you will be surrounded by people at all times, so if you are looking for a standby line that is interactive and fun, well this is definitely not it.
But have no fear, once you make it through the anticlimactic stand by line, the adventure is ready to begin. You are going to enter a small boat with two rows. Three people can fit in the front and back row comfortably but if you do have an extremely large party, keep in mind you will not be in the same vessel while heading through the river ride.
Before you enter the ride there is one thing that you have to keep in mind, it is VERY dark. Unlike other boat rides that are bright and colorful, Na’vi River Journey is very dark and features, well, the alien creatures that Pandora is known for. This can spook small children if they are sensitive to the darkness, loud noises and aliens. If you think your little one will not be able to handle it then you are better off just skipping this attraction altogether otherwise you are going to spend your time trying to cover the eyes of a pintsize human and missing out on all of the beautiful details.
From the moment you enter the world of Pandora on the Na’vi River Journey, you are going to be covered in head to toe with absolutely beauty. Everywhere you turn, your eyes will be met with splendor you will not find anywhere on Disney property. Disney really did outdo itself with this expansion. And make sure you keep your eyes open from down blow in the water and up above your head because everywhere the eye can see is going to be decorated to the highest extent.
Not only is there going to be mind blowing animatronics, but there also is going to be projections that should look like a TV screen but instead you’re would firmly believe that you are looking at banshees moving through the Na’vi River Journey.
At first you ears will be full of sounds that you would expect when going through a foreign rainforest and then it will hit you. One of the most beautiful songs you will hear on Disney Property, “Way Tiretua” or “The Shaman’s Song.” Before you know it you will be singing along and then emerging in the background, you will see one of the most impressive animatronics that will exist on any ride you endure. Lifelike does not even begin to describe the Shaman. From the moment you notice it in the background, your eyes are going to be glued. It is nothing less of spectacular and there is no other way I could ever imagine ending that particular attraction.
After you make a visit to the Shaman, you are going to make your way through the end toward the unboarding area until you will eventually unload. Now one of the biggest complaints that I and so many other people have is the lack of handicapped accessibility. Pandora as a whole is lacking any sort of accessibility and Na’vi River Journey is no different. I strongly recommend making it clear to cast members that you will need help, but I find that the most help was needed in the off boarding process so you may need to provide extra support for anyone in your party that may need help getting out. There are no real speciality boats to help address the issue and right now it seem that there is no immediate change that is going to happen.
Once you offboard the ride, there is going to be a short walk that will bring you right back into the Land of Pandora where you can move along your day or make your way over to Flight of Passages.
Na’Vi River Journey Wait Times
So unlike some other rides in Animal Kingdom, the weather and sun setting is really not going to come into play on when is the best time to ride, but the wait times are really going to make you want to plan your day around doing the attractions in Pandora. If you chose to not receive a fastpass for Na’vi River Journey, you are going to have to be careful. There are going to be times throughout the day the wait will be well over an hour and unlike other attractions, there is nothing interactive and it can get really hot when waiting for hours in line.
So you are going to have two options, either make this one of the first attractions you do during your day at Animal Kingdom or make it one of your list. I strongly recommend getting there first thing in the morning and heading straight to Pandora. If you chose a fastpass for Flight of Passages, make sure you hit the Na’vi River Journey first. This is going to really save you some time when you are making your way around the park and are trying to sneak in as many animal adventures as possible.
If you do chose to make Pandora one of you last adventures of the day, make you way over during the evening hours. Most people are trying to do Pandora during the day and they really are doing themselves an injustice. Pandora at night is a completely different experience and absolutely gorgeous. It feels as if you just walked right into the movie during the nighttime. And another perk is because most people have already done the Na’vi River Journey during they day, the wait can be more than appealing and sometimes there is none at all.
Make sure you download the My Disney Experience app. Once of the greatest advantages is that you will have current wait times right at your fingertips. While you are making your way around the theme park, make sure you take some breaks, bust open your phone and check out the wait times. Sometimes throughout the day you will be to catch the wait as low as a half of hour. If you chose this route keep in mind that it is a risk. If you decide this isn’t a must do for your family, by all means take your chances, but Disney has become very schedule orientated. If you have your entire day planned out and then decide at the last minute to change plans, it really can alter any dining reservations or fastpasses you have lined up so make sure you have a buffer when changing plans last minute.
Na’Vi River Journey Fastness
IF and this is a big IF, you are not going to be doing Flight of Passages during your day at Animal Kingdom, make sure you snag fastpasses immediately for Na’vi River Journey. Now you’re probably wondering why you can only secure fastpasses for one and not the other. Well, Animal Kingdom now has a tiered fastpass system meaning that there are two groups of attractions you can select fastpasses from. Because there is still such a high demand for Pandora – World of Avatar, both attractions in that area are considered first tier attractions.
That means that you can only select one from the two to have a fastpass for. The second grouping has more attractions and you are allowed to select two from there. Remember if you are staying at a Disney Resort, you can select your fastpasses 60 days in advance, otherwise you have 30 days before your start date when you can make your selections.
So maybe your family isn’t into high velocity rides or everyone is not tall enough for Flight of Passages then this is going to be your first choice to for a fastpass every time. This is going to be one of the longer waits at Animal Kingdom so you are going to want to snag this fastpass.
With the long wait time fresh in your mind, remember that these fastpasses are going to go quickly, so make sure on your first day available for fastpass selection, you are prepared to snag this one as quickly as possible and make it one of your priorities. Don’t bother trying to grab one for any other attraction first because you might miss your chance to secure one.
So the most important thing to keep in mind is: grab a fastpass whenever available and your time in Pandora will be a smashing successful.
So after all that you may still be wondering is this worth it? Yes! Every time you have a chance to jump on Na’vi River Journey, do it. There is so much to feast your eyes on, you will never regret taking another chance hoping on.
Overall, I score this 4.5 out of 5 stars. The main downfall is going to be the lack of handicapped accessibility which is why I lowered the score and hopefully over time this is something that will change. It really can hinder a vacation when your entire family cannot enjoy an attraction due to design flaws, but when it comes to your standard boat ride, Disney really did outdo themselves.
And the fact that they were able to create a scenic boat ride without any drops really does make the ride more enjoyable for the entire family. No one enjoys bracing themselves waiting for the big drop so their kids can stay in their seat.
At the end of the day, Na’vi River Journey is a must do for any guest coming to the theme parks whether it is their first of tenth vacation. It is going to be a cornerstone of any day in Animal Kingdom and bring the magic to the forefront as you enjoy all the beauty Disney had to offer.
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