Pandora World of Avatar Rope Drop Touring Strategy

Like most things in life, touring Animal Kingdom post-Pandora is either easy or hard depending on how you go about it.

The keys to success are not unlike our modus operandi elsewhere – arrive early and use FastPass+ intelligently. On one hand, it’s not that hard. On the other hand, neither is “eat well and exercise.” And I don’t know about you, but I’m shoveling Doritos into my mouth as I write this up. At 9:18am.

Through July 4th, Animal Kingdom’s operating hours are currently 8am-11pm with evening Extra Magic Hours inside Pandora every single night from 11pm-1am. After that, Animal Kingdom is currently scheduled to operate from 9am-10pm with no evening Extra Magic Hours on any date. Given the Land’s incredible popularity, and the propensity for guests to arrive earlier and earlier, I think we will see Disney extend the hours to 8am-11pm for the rest of the summer. If you’re planning a trip before August 27th (and perhaps for sometime after), I’d plan on an 8am open. The picture above was taken at 6:51am on the morning of May 31st, 2017. Note the number of Disney buses that have already arrived from the resorts.

If you need to, you can rely on Disney transportation to get you to Animal Kingdom by 6:45am if you’re standing at the resort bus stop no later than 6am to board the first bus that arrives. Other options are to drive yourself as the parking lot will be open before 6am or try Uber/Lyft/Mears Taxi.

This is 6:54am with the Annual Passholder line on the far right and the general admission tapstiles to the left.

To ease the experience and wait even less at one of the Pandora rides, you’d want to be here 90 minutes before open or 6:30am in this case. I’m about 20 minutes after that, which may be a more realistic arrival time for most people.

But arriving an extra 20 minutes early out here will result in waiting 20 less minutes for Avatar Flight of Passage, if that’s where you’re headed first.

I suggest filling in on the far left instead of the far right if you can, or whatever line in the center seems shortest. No additional tapstiles will open up and people that arrive later will try to cut in front of you if you’re standing in the far right line. Remember to look for a single line in front of a set of tapstiles because that single line will break up into two separate lines once people start entering.

If that sounds confusing, I have more details in the Hollywood Studios rope drop post from last week, which details touring strategy there. Also look for ECVs or large strollers that are taking up a lot of space. That may be a better tip for bag check, where the side with a large stroller and an ECV might have three people in it while a line that appears to be the same length actually has ten people in it because they’re standing in a clump next to each other.

Disney has tweaked the rope drop procedure a couple of times already – but what you want to do is the same – arrive 90 minutes before open, try to angle yourself into the shortest line, and be prepared to hustle through The Oasis just inside the entrance and to wherever it is that Disney decides to hold you that morning.

The other key is acquiring FastPass+ for one of the two Pandora: World of Avatar attractions. Disney only lets you select one in advance. If you’re staying on-site with the ability to book FastPass+ 60 or more days in front of your arrival, and sign on right at 7am as soon as you’re allowed to make FP+ selections, then you’ll see plenty of availability for Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey. If you’re off-site and booking at 30 days or book your trip much closer to the travel date, then you’ll likely only see Na’vi River Journey available and typically only for days 26+ days in advance. FastPass+ return times are more and more likely to be later in the day as a given date approaches. For example, 30 days out right now, I can book FastPass+ for River Journey for four guests as early as 2pm. 26 days out, the earliest is 6:25pm.

If Flight of Passage FastPass+ is available and you’re planning on riding, book that over Na’vi River Journey. Peak waits for the simulator ride are much longer and FastPass+ availability is much tighter. At rope drop, getting to River Journey is also much easier than the ordeal that is Flight of Passage. On the other hand, there is something to say for the Flight of Passage standby queue, which I have about a hundred pictures of, in this post.

Larger: http://www.easywdw.com/reports14/avatar_march.jpg

But I’m not sure seeing that queue is worth the struggle of getting to the ride first thing. If you’re among the first people to enter the queue immediately at open, there’s also some pressure to continue walking through it at a quick pace, which means you wouldn’t be taking in a lot of the details anyway.

Back to the front of the Park. At 7:15am, Disney opened the gates.

During the previous couple of days, Disney had been holding guests where they used to prior to Pandora’s opening.

Which is up here on the left.

Pandora is located in the old Camp Minnie-Mickey area, the main entrance/exit of which is located in between Island Mercantile/Pizzafari. Basically, you take a left at the Tree of Life towards Africa and then another left after passing the first store. You’ll know you went too far if you end up at Kilimanjaro Safaris.

Knowing that Disney was modifying their opening procedures, I perked up a little at this point thinking that maybe…just maybe…they would at least let everyone freely walk to the attraction of their choice inside Pandora. That has always seemed like a more comfortable solution to holding people outside in a mass-of-humanity in Florida in June. Once you’re safely in an air-conditioned queue, there isn’t a whole lot of line cutting that can go on and the entire process is more spaced out and comfortable.

But any hopes of that happening were dashed a couple of steps later. This is 7:20am and we’re held inside the Land just across the bridge. People arriving well after me would be backed out to Pizzafari and then around the corner towards the Tree of Life. If you find yourself back there, abandon ship and return to Pandora later in the day. There’s no reason to spend 3+ hours in line when waits are short everywhere else.

At 7:38am, cast started walking the mass towards Na’vi River Journey straight ahead and Avatar Flight of Passage down to the right.

Na’vi River Journey is a significantly easier rope drop prospect. The queue entrance is just a couple of steps away from where the group is held and it’s a straight shot along the far left side of the Land. Also, something like 5% of the people at rope drop are heading in that direction, so it’s a lot more forgiving than Flight of Passage if you arrive closer to 7:30am than 7am.

Otherwise, the walk to Flight of Passage is an unpleasant one as Disney walks you down the winding and sloping walkways to the right.

7:40am as the path gets wider and then narrower and then wider and then narrower.

Every 200 people in front of you means a wait of about ten more minutes. That’s a lot of people behind me.

Continuing on…

A lot narrower through here. The heat and humidity aren’t helping.

7:42am, so as uncomfortable as the march might be, we’re still talking about four minutes.

So far.

Here at 7:48am, I can see the entrance off to the right, but things slow down significantly here as people start walking the queue.

At 7:50am, or 12 minutes after starting the walk over here, I’m almost to the entrance.

Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey both offer FastPass+ during the whole first hour of operation, which bogs down the standby line further. These people to the right have FastPass+ and are waiting until they’re allowed to scan once the Park officially opens at 8am. If you do have FP+ early in the morning, it makes more sense to visit other attractions first before heading back to use the FP+ towards the end of the window. If you have FP+ for Flight of Passage and will either be visiting Na’vi River Journey on another day or have no interest, then you might as well head to Kilimanjaro Safaris first and experience no wait there. Then swing back around to Pandora towards the end of the window and you won’t have to deal with the rope drop nonsense.

Things slow down because every person takes three or four of the same picture. There’s this one.

Where they’re standing is the big one and that comes up very early in the queue. It wouldn’t slow things down so much if it was much further down the line.

Here’s that picture.

It is pretty during the glow of the early morning. This was taken at 8:56am, so it took almost 20 minutes between the time we started walking to where I was comfortably in line. If you arrive earlier and throw more elbows, you’ll be further along at this point. I try to be a little more realistic in how quickly your average family can move, so I’m further back than if I was weaseling around myself.

I then walked the queue without resistance until this point, which is inside and comfortably air-conditioned.

Another point where everybody takes a picture.

Here we are in the last holding area before being assigned a row and merging with FastPass+ users. It’s 8:14am or about 90 minutes after I arrived at the gate. That’s still just 14 minutes of “official” Park time used.

At 8:24am, I’m waiting to head into the first pre-show area.

And in the pre-show at 8:30am or 30 minutes after regular open.

This is a lengthy process as I’m now in the second pre-show room at 8:37am.

And walking down towards the gift shop at 8:53am. That’s about two hours after I arrived and 53 minutes after Park open. Amusingly, they weren’t letting anyone enter Windtraders from this side. You had to go around. So much for nobody being interested in anything Avatar.

The line to pick out a Shoulder Banshee on the other side of the store.

So we’re not yet an hour into operation with FastPass+ users waiting on the right. What do you think the standby wait is for Flight of Passage?

If you guessed 295 minutes, or just shy of five hours, you’ve won a prize. The prize is not having to go through this. Pick it up at Guest Relations on the way inside.

Not only is the wait crazy, but the queue is not long enough to hold the number of people that want to get in line, even given the 4-hour-55-minute wait. A cast member holds them across from the entrance and allows only as many as will fit in the extended queue across.

Here we are at Na’vi River Journey. From my lengthy review of the ride, you might remember that I had some concerns over the capacity of the ride and what that would mean for wait times.

I’m happy to report that I was exactly right. Before 9am, the line for River Journey extends back near the entrance to the Land.

This is the end of the line just inside the entrance. The posted wait is 150 minutes, or 2.5 hours, before 9am.

The good news is that there hasn’t been any restriction in letting guests enter Pandora throughout the day. You might remember on the first day that waits just to enter the Land peaked around two hours. I’m not sure if we’ll see that again this summer…perhaps one or two days here or there.

Here’s a look at posted wait times over the course of the day, which was Wednesday May 31, 2017:

Larger: http://www.easywdw.com/reports14/animal_kingdom_waits_pandora_may_31_2017.jpg

Unless you arrive very early and hustle to a Pandora attraction, you probably want to avoid it in the morning. If you have to wait in standby for one or both, then you’re better served holding off until the afternoon, when waits dip significantly. There’s a bit of an “artificial” drop at 5:15pm as rain and lightning closed outdoor attractions. Luckily, both Pandora rides are inside and aren’t affected by inclement weather, except in their outdoor queue portions. One potential strategy to save time could be to head over to Satu’li Canteen and grab a meal/snack/beer when rain is supposed to arrive. Wait there and enjoy yourself under cover as the rain passes through. Once it looks to be letting up, put on the ponchos and head over to Flight of Passage. Very few people are going to get in line during a storm. Actual waits should be even lower than posted.

Otherwise, you may want to take advantage of low waits elsewhere in the morning and ride the Pandora attractions later in the afternoon when standby waits will be equal or shorter than they were earlier in the day.

One interesting phenomenon is that the walkways in Pandora are not congested, even given long waits. This is 1:25pm with a 120-minute wait at Flight of Passage and a 135-minute wait at Na’vi River Journey. Way more concrete is visible here than you’d see in virtually any other area of the Park outside of DinoLand.

Heading into the Land is wide open.

11am is the same story.

I’m about to run out, so this will do it for now. Feel free to post any questions and I’ll expand some thoughts in Part 2.

The bottom line is that you want FastPass+ for Flight of Passage if you can and if you can’t, get Na’vi River Journey, which should have decent availability 30 days out. If you can arrive 75 minutes before open, do so, and rope drop the attraction that you don’t have a FastPass+ for. After that, get the heck out of there because wait times will be short at all other attractions for about an hour.

The bad news is that the increase in attendance does seem to be having an effect on “crowd feel” perhaps more so than attraction wait times. But I’ll cover some more specifics in the next post.

But seeing a queue for Pizzafari stretch outside the door before 11am is not good.

With a good plan in mind, Pandora shouldn’t throw you for too big of a loop. Those unable to get FastPass+ for either attraction or those unable to arrive until later in the morning will have more problems. But we’ll discuss evening strategy and Extra Magic Hours wait times too.

Don’t worry. It’s going to be fine. Probably. More or less.

Comments

  1. Bobby says

    For my planning the biggest thing with Pandora seems to be it makes AK seem more like a “full day” park. Trying to fit FotLK, Nemo, and FoW in with the big 6 rides plus not rushing through the animal trails can fill up an itinerary quick. Then you’ve got Rivers of Light, sunset/night safari and the whole Pandora when it’s dark aspect which makes you want to stick around/come back after dinner.

    It’s all good though, more stuff to do is always welcome.

  2. Sean says

    What time would you recommend arriving for rope drop for other animal kingdom rides if I plan on skipping pandora until my fastpass time? Is 7:20/7:30 good, or will the increased crowds for pandora necessitate an earlier arrival??

    • josh says

      The wait times chart should provide a pretty good estimation of how long you’ll wait when. You’ve got at least an hour before waits begin materializing at Safaris and Everest and some time after that for other attractions. So you could show up at bag check at 7:30am and be fine or even closer to 8am if you wanted to avoid the initial rush. But it should be pretty chill everywhere other than Avatar until at least 9:30am. Most people are going to be doing Pandora/Africa first.

  3. Pixarprincess says

    THANK YOU!!! SO SO MUCH! for this! It makes me feel a lot better about my plan for Pandora. Spoiler: we don’t intend to rope drop. But, I have a fast pass for both rides by doing two days, and past that we just want to experience the area, which from your pictures looks to be a lot less of a cluster than I was anticipating based on the line to get into the area on opening day. Any advice on trying to enjoy lunch at sat’uli? Also, any other info about how Pandora has effected the walking trails? (i know it was mentioned in the lounge that there was a wait for them the other day). Also, most important question of all… has Pandora being open had a negative impact (AKA insanely busy) on the oasis that is Nomad Lounge?

    • NicolaWinston says

      This is my question too. I am local and I thought maybe this weekend I’d wander around Pandora for a couple hours, look at everything, maybe try some food, but not try to get on the rides with no fastpasses available, and if it’s just too crowded to enjoy, retreat to Nomad for a couple of drinks. Is that realistic on a weekend afternoon? I was there a couple weeks ago on a Friday afternoon and it was great, but at that time, Pandora was only doing previews and was not fully open yet. If I can count on a comfortable seat at Nomad if all else fails, I’ll risk it.

      • Linds says

        I’m wondering the same thing. Just want to walk around and see the land, no rides yet until river with fp June 20th. No FoP fp yet

        • josh says

          It remains to be seen what Nomad Lounge looks like on the weekends with more local passholders in the park. I would expect it to be busier, but not overwhelmingly so, particularly if you don’t mind sitting outside.

          Satu’li offers mobile ordering, so you can place your order via the My Disney Experience app at your convenience and then pick up the food when you’re ready. That would be the easiest way to order if it’s busy. As far as seating, there should be tables outside or if you’re willing to look around a bit, you should be able to find something inside. Perhaps eat between 2pm and 5pm when fewer people will naturally be eating lunch.

          I don’t think the Land itself will be prohibitively crowded moving forward, but this weekend will be a decent test. There’s obviously a difference between a Wednesday morning and a Saturday morning with a morning extra magic hour.

          A lot of this is still in “wait and see” mode.

          • Frank says

            We went by Nomad Saturday June 3rd around 2pm and no problem getting a seat inside or out. Went in again around 6pm and except for two seats at the bar there was nothing available in or outside. Far cry from evening a few weeks after Nomad opened we went for a visit and it was my wife and I plus one other couple in the entire bar inside and outside.

  4. Christine says

    I didn’t read the whole post as my flight to Pandora is about to take off. Our FP for FoP is at 8:35 am. Can I shop at Windtraders before my FP? Hoping to avoid insane lines.

  5. Jenny says

    Do you think a PPO breakfast anywhere in the park would give you an advantage? Tusker House? Thanks for this in depth explanation. :)

    • Anne says

      With 8 am open all summer the breakfast wouldn’t help since the earliest breakfast starts at 8 am. If/when they go back to 9 am opens Tusker house will be past the turn into Pandora so I am curious too how they will eventually route PPO people into Pandora and if might give an advantage.

        • josh says

          It depends on whether Animal Kingdom moves to 8am opens more often and if they don’t, when they let regular guests into the park. And whether they let guests eating at Tusker House head through the entrance in Africa past the Festival of the Lion King theater. If they don’t let people enter through the Africa entrance, I don’t see how a Tusker House reservation would provide any advantage unless you choose to not actually eat there. But we’ll see.

  6. Lsu259 says

    Awesome update. I feel much better now with a 7 am rope drop to the Navi River Journey, then FP Flight of passage at 8:30am in late June. Is there a good chance that I can make it to meet Pocahontas for 9 am?

    • josh says

      Even with Flight of Passage, I think you’re looking at a 30 minute total experience time at a minimum. The ride takes eight minutes and the pre-show is about seven minutes, plus the wait to get into the pre-show, walking etc. But even if you don’t get to Pocahontas until 9:20am-9:30am you’ll be fine. Few people are going to be on that side of the park until at least 10am.

      • LSU259 says

        Thanks for the reply and at 12:31 am. Animal Kingdom plan is set. I can’t wait for the “mass of humanity”

  7. Noelle says

    Thanks Josh! What is the deal with Flights of Passage being non-friendly to plus size folks? I hear that lots of people are being turned away after waiting a long time, even those that fit in the rest seat out front! My hubs and I are both pooh-sized, and while we would love to ride, we don’t want to wait for 2 hours only to be turned away.

    • josh says

      There is a test seat in front of the attraction. Try that first. They have made modifications to the ride vehicle to make it more friendly to larger guests.

  8. jeffg4 says

    So it appears that forming a single file line behind each station at park opening is a common practice due to the “follow the herd” mentality. Ignoring the potential vitriol from those already in line, is it 100% guaranteed (i.e. the CMs will ALWAYS form 2 lines) that forming your own second line at a station will get you to be first through the tap stiles?

      • Jason says

        I think if you walked up and said “The Cast Members told us to form two lines at the touchpoints.” confidently, people would jump out of line and get behind you pretty quick.

  9. Kristin says

    So if we have fastpasses for BOTH attractions on separate days and will never be waiting in line, what time should we plan our fastpasses for?
    Maybe around 10 am? If there is a wait to get into Pandora, do we skip that line and walk to the front with our Fastpasses?

    Thanks for the great review as always!

    • josh says

      If there is a wait to enter Pandora, the FastPass+ will allow you to enter a separate line with either immediate access or a much shorter wait. When you book your FP+ is up to you depending on what else you have on your touring plan. I could see a 10am-11am work especially if you visit closer to 11am. You’d have more opportunity to visit other attractions with short waits.

    • Lynne says

      Lauren – FWIW, when we visited (on opening day, eek) the CM at the front of the River Ride took our stroller and parked it for us in a shady area between FoP and the River Ride. That also seemed to be where CMs were taking strollers for FoP too. If your kids can walk a bit, my fave stroller parking place in Pandora is the one right next to the Canteen.

  10. Mary Ann says

    So is there wisdom in coming to AK in the late afternoon/early evening and doing a regular park tour and staying for the EMH in the later evening?

  11. Joel says

    Might be better option to book 1 night at an All Star Resort and take advantage of the Extra Magic Hours.

  12. Neil says

    Highly informative update as always. Thanks so much!

    Has there been any change to Rivers Of Light in terms of the show itself, now that it’s been running a few weeks?

  13. Anne says

    How often are cancelled fastpasses for the 2 new attractions showing up when you refresh or modify FP through the day? Just wondering if pre-booking a FP for flight and then looking for a 4th for river journey is viable if I want to skip pandora at RD and only do 1 AK day.

    • josh says

      Depends on party size. On the morning from this post, Na’vi River Journey came up twice as a party of one with just some light refreshing. You’d be less likely to find availability if you’re searching for 4+ people though. It would be like finding a Seven Dwarfs Mine Train or Frozen Ever After mid-day.

  14. Kacie says

    One typo, I think: “This was taken at 8:56am, so it took almost 20 minute” shouldn’t htat be 7:56?

    ALSO? Oh, the humanity! I just don’t think I can handle this level of fun. I wonder how much AK is absorbing and if other parks “feel” “lighter”?

  15. Leslie says

    I haven’t seen anyone talking about the single rider line waits on Flight of Passage, and I noticed that the time wasn’t lit up for that in your picture. Is that up and running yet? Any idea how someone would fair in that line?

  16. Kay says

    I am planning on going to check Pandora out the last week of August. Do you think it will still be this crowded then or will crowds have died down a little?

    • josh says

      Overall crowds should be lower, which should in turn push Pandora crowds down a bit. But the ride capacities are still lousy.

  17. Kristen says

    Anyone know how rider swap works for Flight of Passage? Would I have to make a FP for my daughter, who cannot ride, just so she can enter the FP line along with us and then ride swap near the loading area? Thanks.

    • Lynne says

      We did it on opening day. They gave us the Rider Switch paper FP at the entrance after seeing my kid, but he didn’t walk the queue with us. I saw other families leaving right before the loading area with toddlers in tow who clearly didn’t meet the height requirements, so if you don’t plan to ride with your little, it seems that they can walk the queue with you without a FP… but as Josh points out, it’s a LONG walk, so I’m not sure that’s your best option.

  18. Pauls says

    Do you have any feel on how the simgle rider option for FoP will work and potentially wait times? TIA.

  19. Elizabeth says

    Why is there no wait time posted for the single rider line for Flight of Passage? If the single rider line isn’t available in the morning, do you know if it’s open later in the day?

  20. Sally says

    Can anyone tell me how much is too much to weigh to go on flight of Pandora and what waist size is considered too big

    • josh says

      There is a test seat in front of the ride entrance. There is no set height or weight that will always or not always fit.

  21. Lisa says

    Thanks for all this info! On 6/7, 8:00 opening, we have 8:10 FPP for Navi and 9:35 TH ressie. Not doing FoP at all. With 68-year-old and 6-year-old, we don’t want to show up crazy early to AK. Do you think we can show up at park around 8:30, and casually make our way onto Navi with the FPP?

  22. Dawn says

    How do you feel about a morning EMH? We usually avoid the parks having them, but are thinking it might be beneficial in September.

  23. Hootch says

    What time is does the parking lot open with the earlier hours? On previous trip we drove and watched buses drive in the lot as we waited for them to open the gates.

  24. Lin says

    Those crowds took my breath away. We are taking our kids and grand kids – totaling 10. We have a breakfast reservation at 8 am at the Tusker House. Once inside the park how do we get to the Tusker House?

  25. Mike says

    When proper EMH begins in the morning, is there any chance that rope dropping to Flight of Passage, then riding Navi River Journey will be a viable strategy? Or do you expect that the line for Navi River Journey is going to be prohibitively long by then?

  26. AJ says

    Hopefully, there will be some valuable learnings here that Disney can apply when Star Wars land opens. I can only imagine what sort of nightmare that is going to be.

  27. Ret says

    Will it be possible to walk the queue for FOP and “chicken out” of riding? Just wondering. Thanks

  28. Linda says

    Thank you, Josh! I have heard that one of the rides is just lovely at night. Which one is it and do you recommend having FP for later in the evening?

  29. Sarah says

    You mention that there could possibly be an extension of park hours later in the summer. When do you think they would announce the hours if they would be extended? Planning a trip for mid August and really hoping for later Animal Kingdom closure.

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