Julia’s Best Week Ever, May 18, 2017: A Mother of a Weekend

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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!

Julia Mascardo

Freelance writer and editor, living the dream in Central Florida with my husband, cats, and spirited nine-year-old daughter.

10 thoughts on “Julia’s Best Week Ever, May 18, 2017: A Mother of a Weekend

  • May 18, 2017 at 3:53 pm

    Julia- I am always so jealous of these posts and missing all the fun- but I was right there with you Saturday! We also had 9am Pandora time and were staying at Beach Club! I will definitely be riding Flights again though and so will my boys, 8 and 5, they said it was their favorite ride ever. Even my Dad, who doesn’t like Star Tours because he gets sick said Flights was a lot easier on his stomach. Sorry your husband didn’t feel the same!

    • May 23, 2017 at 11:38 am

      That is awesome! I hope you had a wonderful time at the Beach Club and enjoyed Pandora!!

  • May 18, 2017 at 10:36 pm

    We have an anteater again! After almost two years.

    That’s better news than Pandora.

    • May 23, 2017 at 11:38 am

      I do love those animals up at the front of Animal Kingdom. So many people rush on by and I’d wager some people don’t even know that they’re there.

  • May 19, 2017 at 3:00 pm

    I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who hasn’t seen Avatar. I am looking forward to Pandora though. I will be there the beginning of June and we are staying at Beach Club too, so I really enjoyed your report. Can’t wait! 11 more days.

    • May 23, 2017 at 11:40 am

      I think that most of the people I’ve run into haven’t seen Avatar (and most of the ones who have seen it say that it was so long ago, they don’t remember much about it). Where Pandora really succeeds, I think, is that you don’t need to know anything about the movie to enjoy it. I know I can’t wait to make a nighttime trip to see the special effects that they’ve got…

  • May 19, 2017 at 3:29 pm

    Wondering if you would be willing to let us know where your husband ordered the flowers from? Was it through Disney or a 3rd party? They are great, and I always like surprising my wife and girls with a little something on our Disney trips. Thanks

    • May 19, 2017 at 7:21 pm

      Disney Floral and Gifts. They can deliver directly to your resort room, and you don’t need the room number (since you won’t know it till after check-in).

  • May 20, 2017 at 6:12 pm

    We were there at the same time. The exterior of Pandora is very beautiful and I can’t wait to experience it after dark. Our ride experience was less than ideal, though. The queues for both rides were our favorite parts. My sons have autism and found the music in the second half of the river journey far too loud. I loved the first part of the ride but by the end I also found it too loud and that isn’t normally an issue for me. We didn’t actually ride Passage as one look at the leg restraint system had my boys running for the exit. A castmember did admit to my husband that tall people were complaining it was hard to be comfortable, too. We all passed for now. Castmembers had pictures of the seats and restraints and were answering guests’ questions so they were keeping people well informed, it seemed.

    • May 23, 2017 at 11:45 am

      That’s interesting about the music being too loud in the second half — usually my daughter gets twitchy about sounds that are too loud, and it wasn’t bothering her, but the “song” is much more noticeable near the end than in the beginning of the ride.

      Just the idea that you have to be “strapped in with leg restraints” sounds a bit cringe-worthy. I would love if someday they had a theater where people who didn’t want to be strapped in or tossed around could sit and watch the film in a non-moving version. They were able to make two versions of Mission Space to deal with complaints, so we’ll see what happens with Flight of Passage!

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