As with most Walt Disney World attraction additions, the website has taken a keen interest in how Pandora – The World of Avatar wait times and crowd flow have changed since the new Land opened back in late May.
Most recently, we took a look at what to expect at rope drop with a regular 9am opening, which is what we can expect to see most days until the Thanksgiving holiday.
I also updated the website’s touring plans, custom map, FastPass+ priority, nighttime spectacular viewing tips, etc. in this post. Pay special attention to the PDF download linked at the top of that page, in addition to the PDF files for the other Parks, linked here.
But there have been a couple of operational changes since we last checked in.
Namely, Pandora’s main entrance/exit next to Pizzafari/Tiffins will be the only one in operation early in the morning. Disney now routes guests waiting for Avatar Flight of Passage across the bridge leading towards Africa instead of out towards Tiffins and around the corner. This makes a lot of operational sense as the first thing guests heading into Pandora between 9am and 10:30am will see is no longer an impossibly long line stretching back to Festival of the Lion King. They’ll have to walk a little further into Pandora to find that now.
This change shouldn’t have much of an impact on your day, but it’s worth noting if you were planning on heading to Kilimanjaro Safaris after visiting Pandora first thing or if you were planning on revisiting Pandora from Africa before 11am or so. You’ll most likely need to walk back towards Pizzafari and then enter Pandora using the main entrance.
Also, baby otters. And there should be two tiger pups appearing in Maharajah Jungle Trek at some point in the near future.
Animal Kingdom had enjoyed nightly Extra Magic Hours in the Pandora section of the Park from the day Avatar opened through this past Saturday, August 19th. There are currently no more evening EMH on the schedule moving forward, though that is always subject to change. The above chart shows wait times from this past Sunday, August 20th, with the regular 9am open and 9:30pm close that will continue through September 2nd. Then it’s 9pm closes for the rest of September. At the moment, Animal Kingdom is scheduled to close at 7:30pm nightly in October, but you would expect those hours to be extended at least on select nights when Rivers of Light is performed. Perhaps we’ll see three 7:30pm closes and four 9pm closes each week for most of October, though those hours may not be extended until the middle of September. There’s little chance that Rivers of Light will maintain a nightly schedule.
Otherwise, the lack of evening EMH is probably beneficial in the grand scheme of things. During July, Magic Kingdom was only open after 10pm on three nights and the other Parks closed before that every other night. So most nights, Pandora was the only thing open after 10pm. And you typically have 100,000 or more people with access to Extra Magic Hours on any given day. That caused a huge influx of resort guests to head to late night Pandora under the guise that wait times for Flight of Passage would be shorter than during the day, only to find actual waits that were typically 90 minutes or more. The EMH also propped up wait times elsewhere during the last couple hours of regular operation as resort guests tried to kill a little time on Everest or another attraction waiting for their “exclusive time” in James Cameron’s world.
During daytime hours, the song should remain the same for the most part now that evening EMH are a thing of the past. Flight of Passage wait times still take off immediately, requiring an arrival about an hour before regular Park open and a rush over to the banshee ride in order to ride with a short wait. Na’vi River Journey remains much more manageable and every other AK attraction is going to enjoy a short wait for the first full hour.
Flight of Passage wait times still drop off in the afternoon, making it the best time to ride in standby if you don’t want to arrive early and can’t stay late. Actual waits for Flight of Passage for those that get in line a few minutes before official Park close have been in the vicinity of 40-60 minutes over the last three days. That’s really not bad considering peak posted waits are still 3+ hours. Flight of Passage likely won’t show a posted wait that short at the end of the night…but the actual wait should be under an hour so long as you’re able to enter the actual queue. If the line is backed up outside, then there’s likely an issue with one of the theaters, which can increase waits as capacity diminishes.
Here’s wait times on Monday August 21st with the morning Extra Magic Hour:
The morning Extra Magic Hour itself is actually a better opportunity than a regular morning to experience Avatar Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey, so long as you can arrive at least 45 minutes before the EMH begins. Otherwise, overall waits are about 25% longer than Sunday, though the day remains manageable with an intelligent touring plan and the ability to stay ahead of the crowds as they move towards Asia and Africa after experiencing Pandora. And in the final 90 minutes of operation, any attraction outside of Pandora should basically be a walk on for the rest of the night.
And here’s Tuesday, August 22nd, a weekday without morning EMH:
Wait times are actually very similar to the day before with most attractions’ averages for the day within a couple minutes of each other. Over all attractions at all times of day, the Tuesday sees a 4.8% reduction in wait times versus the Monday, which doesn’t seem particularly significant. Of course, if you’re ineligible for the Extra Magic Hour or won’t be able to make it anyway, then going on a non-EMH day usually makes more sense. But if you look at wait times after 5pm, it’s basically a wash from there on out, making a late arrival equally viable on either date.
In other words, if you are eligible for the morning Extra Magic Hour and able to arrive at least 45 minutes before it starts, then you’re likely better off than visiting on a non-EMH weekday. Fewer people will be present and because FastPass+ isn’t offered during Extra Magic Hours, the standby lines for Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey will move faster.
So the loss of nightly evening Extra Magic Hours may not be such a bad thing. Over the course of the summer, wait times for Flight of Passage remained long after 10pm as guests flocked to Animal Kingdom because the other Parks were closed. We seem to see much less of that now, though we only have a couple of data points to work with so far. It’s also good news that Disney continues letting guests enter the queue for Flight of Passage right up until Park close. Regardless of how long it takes, you’re guaranteed to ride so long as the whole operation doesn’t close for technical difficulties, which has been mercifully rare.
Perhaps we’ll take a look at what wait times look like at non-Pandora attractions this year compared to last year to see if Avatar did create an appreciable increase at Expedition Everest, DINOSAUR, et al.