Once again Disney has out done themselves by opening the much awaited Pandora -The World of Avatar, in Orlando’s Animal Kingdom. Stretched over 12 acres, Pandora is themed after the Avatar movie made by James Cameron in 2009. I can say that my family and I were blown away by the attention to detail and exciting rides.
Pandora is one of the places is hard to capture in photographs. The floating mountains, exotic wildlife, exo-planetary moon, and gorgeous bio luminescent plants are magnificent. Though at first, I was a bit reluctant to take my son with autism to visit I am happy to say he enjoyed Pandora. He liked it so much that he is already planning a return visit sometime in the Fall. For So, for families with autism that wish to plan here are our tips to make the most of your visit to Disney’s Pandora the world of Avatar with autism.
The park story starts after the movie era. The war has ended, decades have passed, and now Earthlings are finally allowed to visit Pandora. The locals, called the Na’Vi people are ready to show visitors their superb Valley of Mo’Ora. The Valley looks close to what fans saw in the movie-floating mountains, caves, water falls and of course the beautiful bioluminescence plants.
Fauna and Flora
Chalk it to Disney magic to create a magnificent landscape where real plants are mixed with large artificial plants resembling alien pods. It was hard distinguishing which ones were real and which ones were fake. There were blue, red, pink flowers mixed with the green foliage. My son was mesmerized by the plant known as the Flaska Reclinata. When touched it releases water and steam. The Flaska Reclinata had my son’s attention for at least ten minutes, and after we had left, he continued to talk about it.
There’s a pond with some odd-looking creatures in the water after crossing the main bridge. Although the signs indicated they reacted to movement, they didn’t move for us. Maybe you’ll have better luck.
The Floating Mountains
The Valley highlights are no undoubtedly the 135-foot floating Hallelujah Mountains. Although the mountains seem to be floating in the air, they are, in fact, made of concrete.For the best selfie backdrops that include a panoramic view make sure to stand in the middle of the bridge.
Pandora by Night
At night Pandora undergoes a magical transformation. That’s when the bioluminescent lights take over the park. There are blue hued plants that light up the river. The glow in the dark paint on the walkways give the area a whole new feeling. Completing the magic are the Hallelujah Mountains and waterfalls artfully lit.
Avatar Flight of Passage
This ride is the Must do!
Channeling the movie the attraction simulates a ride on the back of a banshee, a rite of passage for all Na’Vi hunters. There is a height requirement of 44 inches for it.
Although you can use your FastPass+ to cut down your wait times, I would not recommend it for this ride. This ride has two entrances for the attraction. A short one for the FastPass and DAS holders is ordinary. The second is longer and much more detailed. As you move up the line, you will see the craftsmanship of the scenery around you.
Vistors entering the line first pass rock formations and lush shrubbery. As the line continues they enter a cave filled with artisan drawings depicting the harmonious interactions between the Na’Vi and the banshee
At this point, visitors reach the rusty doors leading to the lab. The lab used to belong to the RDA military group that came to Pandora and ruined its natural balance. After the RDA left, it was converted into the ACE headquarters. Riders get to admire the art on the walls, furniture, and even the giant avatar in the floating tank.
The lab is the place where the ride is explained in detail. It turns out that the Navi Hosts wish to extend their hospitality with us the earthlings. As a sign of good will, we too can fly a banshee which is a right of passage for the locals. However, to ride a banshee each of us needs an avatar. That’s where the ACE staff come in handy. While we are in the lab, everyone gets their very own personal avatar! And yes, you also get your 3-D glasses.
Flight of passage ride
After receiving your avatar, you will finally get into the Linking Chambers. The chambers have bicycle-like individual seats with special restraints. There are three: One on each leg, and one on your back.
This ride is unique and unlike anything you’ve experienced so far in other theme parks. The cinematography will take your breath away.It is sharp, vivid and amazingly sharp. But there’s more. As you fly over waterfalls, ocean waves and forests the ride becomes a sensory marvel. You will feel the wind blow your hair, mist touch your face and even smell the woodsy scent of the forest.Though the seat isn’t the most comfortable, this is an addictive ride you will want to go on again and again.
The Na’Vi River Journey Ride
I would recommend you go on this ride first before the Flight of Passage. The reason is that this one is more of a Disney traditional ride.In fact, I thought that this was kind of like the Little Mermaid ride. If you go on the Flight of Passage one first, this WILL feel like a letdown.
The Na’Vi River Journey ride is a gentle boat ride in a cave. Visitors can admire the glowing aliens and plants. While this is a gentle ride, the sounds can be very loud. The part that saved the ride for me was the Na’Vi creatures behind the foliage and the fireflies that were flying around.
The Gift shop
Considering the park is only 12 acres, the gift shop Windtraders is huge. Here you will find T-shirts, flip-flops, Na’Vi tails, miniature banshee puppets and hair braid extensions.
The self- serve Satu’li Canteen is the main food eatery in the park. Its theme is the RDA mining company. The fun part is watching the cooks roast different kinds of meat by the entrance.
Disney tried to make the grub more unique, but I’m not entirely sure how successful that turned out.The menu consists of build-it-yourself meat and vegetable bowls. There are also burgers which come with bao buns. I have to admit the desserts looked intriguing, especially the blue cheesecake.
If want an alcoholic drink to go with your meal, there is a stand outside called ‘Pongu Pongu.’ In Na’Vi this translates to party-party. I had the exclusive Night Blossom but you can get a virgin version too.
Autism Travel Tips
- The first time we used the DAS (Disability Access Service) Pass for both rides once with limited success. Instead of the 120-minute wait, we were asked to return after 100 minutes. So, it only saved us 20 minutes, but we missed the queue fun.
- Since the Flight of Passage Link Chairs can be uncomfortable for some make sure to check if your kid is ok with sitting in one. You can test drive the demo Link Chair placed outside of the attraction’s entrance.
- When it comes to the park rides accessibility is a challenge. Apparently, the Flight of Passage can’t accommodate larger patrons because of the tight-fitting restraints.
- The place of Song is perfect for kids of all ages, especially those with autism. The drums there are provided for an enjoyable sensory experience.
- Have a curious child? Some kids will get a kick out of learning Na’Vi words from the ACE hosts or by purchasing a translator at Windtraders. Furthermore, you are welcome to chat up an ACE staff member. Your kid can ask them everything from Pandora ecosystem secrets to Novi phrases.
- We found the best time to visit is 4-10 PM so you can see the area both during the day and at night. The grounds tend to become a bit slippery especially at night because of the misting effects used in the plant areas so make sure you wear shoes with non-slip soles.
Autism Food Tips
- Download the My Disney Experience mobile app!
With it, you can pull up a menu and pre-order lunch. When you are ready, you tap a button that notifies the cooks you’ve arrived, and minutes later your food is available in an exclusive line. I found this especially perfect for families with autism, as we did not have to wait for food.
- If you have a picky eater, Pandora may not be for them. Yes, you can customize your vegetable and meat bowls, but that may not be enough. Therefore, if there are any questions, head over to the Animal Kingdom where they have plenty of different restaurants.
- Need cold water on a hot day? No need to carry empty bottles around. The restaurants throughout the Animal Kingdom offer free ice-cold water.
Have you and your family experienced Pandora with autism? If so, what were your favorite parts?