Disney Shopping! Windtraders in Pandora

In Animal Kingdom’s newest land, the ubiquitous merchandise common to many stores throughout Walt Disney World is missing.  Pandora’s store, Windtraders, is packed instead with unique, land-specific souvenirs.  And while the toy Banshees were still sold out when Megan and I were there in June, there was plenty left to satisfy our desire to pick up a couple of things to take home.Windtraders in Pandora

Disney Shopping! Windtraders in Pandora

Windtraders was doing a brisk business both times we visited.  Our M.O. for souvenir shopping is usually a recon mission on the first go ’round followed by a later visit for making actual purchases.  That’s exactly what we did in Pandora.  On our first morning there, we took about 10 minutes to check out the merchandise assortment.  There was a lot to choose from even without the super-popular shoulder-Banshees!Windtraders in Pandora

Things you’d expect like shirts, caps, mugs, toys, and jewelry were plentiful and offered in quite a bit of variety.  Personalized Avatars, unusual plants, and A.C.E. (Alpha Centauri Expeditions) uniform items and accessories were also available.  We took our time on the second visit and explored every section of the store before making our selections.  Windtraders in Pandora Windtraders in Pandora Windtraders in PandoraAfter much deliberation over design choices, Megan bought a shirt.  I picked up some tee-shirts for Joseph and Lyndsey and at the last minute, I also grabbed a canister of small, plastic toy Pandora creatures.  I haven’t opened it yet, but as far as an inexpensive reminder of the very unusual aspects of this little corner of Animal Kingdom, I thought it was kinda cool.

We loved the interior of Windtraders found it tons of fun to explore.  It’s immersive, visually interesting, and the merchandise seems to be carefully curated to appeal to a wide variety of shoppers.  I’m not sure how many souvenirs from Pandora I’ll feel the need to own in the future, but Megan, Joseph and Lyndsey seem to love their shirts and we will definitely stop in Windtraders again for another look around.

Have you visited Windtraders?  What did you buy?  If you haven’t yet visited Pandora, is Windtraders on your to-do list?

Disney’s Pandora – Thoughts on Na’vi River Journey

When I’m at Walt Disney World, I talk to strangers.  Lots of times, strangers talk to me.  It’s kind of a joke in our family and after all these years, is rather expected.  I think conversations strike up easily in queues and shops and on Disney transportation because I look happy all the time when I’m at Disney World.  (In real life I’m pretty sure my usual RBF is a bit off-putting.)  No matter the reason for all the chitchat, on our last visit I asked a bunch of people what their thoughts were about Pandora and the two attractions there.  Let’s talk about Disney’s newest boat ride!

Disney’s Pandora – Thoughts on Na’vi River Journey

Pandora’s boat ride encompasses most of what you’d expect – dark, cool, bunch of clever details, animatronic figure, interesting sounds/background noises.  What it lacks is a story.  The ride is a tour of Pandora at night.  And that’s pretty much it.

When Megan and I took our one and only Na’vi River Journey, I kept pointing to all the things I recognized from Avatar (the movie).  Used to my tendencies, Meg did not complain, but politely indulged in my need to redirect her attention by back-handing her in the arm and whispering “look!” every few seconds about something I found super interesting.  She’d smile and nod.  She loves her mom a lot, I can tell.

Anyway, after the ride was over, I had the opportunity later to ask a few people here and there if they’d ridden Na’vi River Journey and what they thought about it.  I asked people in line for Festival of the Lion King, in the loooooong queue for Flight of Passage, and anyplace else I could start a friendly conversation without seeming creepy. The results of my casual poll were this:  Those who’d seen Avatar tended to like the new boat ride well enough.  Those who’d never seen Avatar mostly thought the River Journey was meh.  Here’s where the lack of a story hurts this attraction, I think.

All that being said…if you want to maximize your enjoyment of Pandora, and Na’vi River Journey in particular, try to catch Avatar before you go.  Even if you don’t care for the movie, you’ll at least be able to recognize and hopefully appreciate all the work the Imagineers put in to recreating Pandora.

Have you been to Pandora?  Did you see Avatar before you went?  Did you think being familiar with Pandora helped you enjoy it more?

Who Would Love Disney’s Flight of Passage?

Let’s talk (more) Pandora, okay?  I recently shared an overview of Megan’s and my experience in Animal Kingdom’s newest land.  Now it’s time to get to the very best part – Flight of Passage!  With a height requirement of 44-inches, this ride is intended for everyone in the family from about age six.  Is it a perfect attraction for everyone?  Just about!Who Would Love Disney's Flight of Passage?

Who Would Love Disney’s Flight of Passage?

We rode Flight of Passage using the standby queue and also rode with a FastPass.  The standby line weaves through several different rooms, gradually becoming more heavily themed as guests make their way to the heart of the ride.  Unlike some of Disney’s newest queue innovations, this one has no interactive elements (that we noticed).  While I didn’t enjoy the queue nearly as much as I do the one for Expedition Everest, the final area of the line is VERY cool and worth waiting for…if the wait isn’t longer than about an hour.  We waited 90+ minutes and were pretty bored most of the time.  FastPass holders skip all of the standby – including the super interesting, well-themed parts.  Who Would Love Disney's Flight of Passage? Who Would Love Disney's Flight of Passage?My suggestion:  If the line’s not too long, the lead up to the actual attraction adds certain immersive details that enhance the experience…if you like that sort of thing.

The “pre-ride show” is very detailed and includes instructions for actually experiencing the attraction.  During our first ride, I missed some of the finer details.  Don’t be like me!  Pay close attention to things like the particular avatar you are linked to and you’ll be even more amazed.Who Would Love Disney's Flight of Passage?

Riding a Banshee

When you finally take your place on the ride vehicle (think motorbike or jet ski) and are secured in place (not nearly as restrictive as Rock’n’ Roller Coaster), you’ll be facing an industrial-looking wall.  As you wait for the final link to your avatar to be complete (you can see this happening on a screen on your vehicle), you may wonder (like we did), “What the heck?  What kinda good attraction has you staring at this wall?  Why do I even need these 3D glasses?” and then prepared to be delighted and amazed!  The wall simply vanishes and you arrive on Pandora.

I can’t describe it to you, but will tell you my impression.  Flight of Passage involves all of your senses.  You can feel the banshee breathing, beating its wings, jumping into the air.  You can see, feel and smell the Pandoran environment as you explore the planet with your leader.  Megan and I both exited the ride in complete amazement!  She wore a huge, unending grin – punctuated with an occasional delighted laugh.  I know I was walking along in jaw-dropped awe.  At one point, Megan took my hand and let me along…I was that stunned!

After that first ride, I could remember so clearly the sights, aromas, and feelings I experienced.  I could not remember a single sound…not one!  After that one time, I recalled the experience as being completely silent, yet I knew it couldn’t have been!  And I believe that’s a testament to this attraction’s outstanding design!  Sensory overload in the very best way!!!Who Would Love Disney's Flight of Passage?

As with most of Disney World’s magic, I don’t care to know anything about the technology involved in allowing me to visit another planet and ride on the back of a flying animal there.  I just want to do it again!  More immersive than Soarin’, less motion-sickness-inducing jerkiness than Star Tours, no unexpectedly scary elements like Tower of Terror…yet much, much more thrilling than any of them, in its own unique way.  Unless your little one is easily scared by new experiences, I can’t imagine anyone not loving Flight of Passage.

If you’re headed to Walt Disney World to experience Pandora for the first time, I recommend Flight of Passage as the top must-do experience in this land.  While we were waiting in the standby line, Megan and I chatted up the folks around us…those who’d ridden Flight of Passage already were unanimous in their feelings about this attraction and overwhelmingly said, “Best ride EVER!”  As much as I love my favorite Disney World attractions, I’d be hard pressed to disagree.

Go! Ride! And let me know what you thought of Flight of Passage when you get back.