You know that whole “need a vacation to recover from a vacation”? I think I’m there after this week. It isn’t often that a new section of a theme park opens, so we decided to make the most of it. As locals, we don’t spend as many DVC points, so when we heard that there was a DVC preview in Pandora for Mother’s Day weekend, we booked a room at the Beach Club and signed up. (And consider this the spoiler alert–there will be some mild spoiler pictures later on in the article.) Our time slot was for 9 AM on Saturday morning, so in theory we needed to get an early night’s sleep. But Friday night was also the first night of Happily Ever After. My husband and I had seen some of it when it was in testing at 1 AM, but our daughter slept through it. We let her stay up to watch, and she had fun making “water effects” for it in the pool.
Thankfully, even with all that excitement, she was able to get some sleep. The next morning we got up and arrived at Animal Kingdom around 8:30. We walked over to the Annual Passholder line and there was a crowd just hanging out. The Cast Member there asked if we were Passholders, and we said yes. She asked if we were staying on property, and we said yes, but were a little confused how she knew. She scanned our Magic Bands and it occurred to us–everyone else was standing around because they couldn’t go in yet. It was a morning Extra Magic Hour for resort guests. Yay! In we went. Getting in early meant we could say hi to the animals on our way to Pandora. Specifically, an anteater came to say good morning. He certainly looks like he would belong on Pandora, doesn’t he?
It was about quarter of nine, but they let us walk right in. We got a FastPass return slip for Flight of Passage and admired the landscape as we walked over to the Na’vi River Journey.
After about 20 minutes in line for the River Journey with no motion, we decided to get out of line and grab some breakfast. There was no wait for food, and we tried two of the unique offerings at Satu’li Canteen–the oatmeal with bourbon-soaked raisins (and what appeared to be an extra slosh of bourbon on top) and the spinach and egg breakfast pods. For the oatmeal, I did have to show ID. I can honestly say it is the first time in a long time I’ve been carded, and the first time I’ve ever been carded to buy a bowl of oatmeal. We all had a good laugh at that.
The food was really good, and I don’t know if I’ll ever eat oatmeal without some “special sauce” again. It was very filling, and could easily be split by two or more people. My husband enjoyed the pods, but found that it was the right amount of food–not too much and not too little.
Around Satu’li, there’s a variety of “artifacts” to look at. I know I want to wander around more in the future and see all of them. I’ve never seen the Avatar movie, but having things like this to really flesh out some story for the land are nice touches.
After breakfast, it was time for our Flight of Passage FastPass. We headed on up…and immediately were stopped for more than a half hour in the outdoor queue as the ride experienced technical issues. There’s amazing views up there, and thankfully it was overcast and not too hot, but I don’t envy people waiting up there during the heat of summer. One nice feature is that there are waterfalls everywhere, which are both beautiful and may help keep temperatures moderated.
I’ll not give many spoilers on the ride itself, because I think that if you are able and willing, it is something you need to experience for yourself. Out of the three of us, our daughter has said she has no desire to ever ride again, my husband may not ride again (and if he does, he’ll need motion sickness medicine and/or a barf bag which aren’t provided….yet), and I may ride it once again someday, but no huge rush to do so. Because our daughter was so brave to ride it willingly, we let her adopt her own Banshee. (His name is Green Ocean.)
With Flight of Passage taking up more than an hour due to more technical difficulties inside, I decided to get a little snack before we finished exploring. I’m a big fan of boba drinks, and love sweet drinks, so the Night Blossom sounded like a drink I wanted to try. In the end, we threw away 90% of it. If you like eating sugar by the spoonful, this may be a drink for you. If not, it’s a hard pass.
The pineapple-cream cheese lumpia on the other hand was delicious. I could easily get an order of those every time I stop by Pandora.
The River Journey was now up and running, so we took a relaxing boat ride through the nighttime landscape of Pandora. It was so mellow and relaxing, plus visually stunning. I could easily ride that ride over and over again. It was a huge family favorite.
There was one more meal to try at Pandora–lunch. None of us were all that hungry, so we decided to get a couple of bowls to share. For the adults, it was the beef bowl with onion chimichurri sauce on a quinoa and vegetable mixture. It was incredibly delicious. After a mediocre meal at Flame Tree recently, Satu’li may be our new go-to quick service place. Our daughter enjoyed the chicken in her chicken and rice bowl, but wasn’t a fan of the texture of the brown rice.
Overall, even though I’ve never seen the Avatar movie, I love Pandora–there’s so much to see and it is one of the most photogenic places in all of Walt Disney World. The blending of “real” plants and “created” plants is beautiful, and little things like the drum circle area are fun surprises to find.
Since our tour, I’ve been looking at lots of people’s coverage of their tours of Pandora and the things that they’ve seen. By far, our favorite thing that we spotted seems to have been missed by a lot of people. I’m not telling you exactly where this is hidden, but it is a lot of fun to search for it, and to see what it does.
We headed over to the Beach Club, and thankfully our room was ready. Florida has been incredibly dry all spring, and so it was a welcome relief to hear thunder and to see a huge downpour of rain. Yes, it is just our luck that the one day we’re staying at Disney is the one day it rained, but we were all so happy for that rain. We got to rest some, watch some Mickey cartoons, and enjoy the room. In particular, I like this little touch on the throw pillows on the couch–it’s Flounder!
Once the rain had stopped, we headed over to the Crew’s Cup for a quick snack, as we were all still pretty full from our morning of meals. Afterwards, our daughter wanted to play in the sand at Stormalong Bay for a while. It was almost empty, so we enjoyed sitting on lounge chairs while she worked on a sand castle.
Needless, to say, she had a blast and was thoroughly soaked. Back to the room to change, and then off to Ample Hills Creamery for some ice cream and to the Boardwalk Bakery for some pastries for the morning. On our way back to the room, we stopped on the bridge for the Friendships to catch the last bit of Illuminations.
Once we arrived back at the room, there was a surprise waiting for me — this lovely flower arrangement for Mother’s Day from my husband and daughter. It is a wonderful arrangement and still having new blooms open today. If you look closely, in addition to the very prominent Minnie, you can spot a tiny orange hidden Mickey in there as well.
And because nothing else can top love from family, I’ll be signing off for this Best Week Ever. Happy belated Mother’s Day to all the moms out there, and no matter what you’re doing, keep having your own Best Week Ever!