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Going to Pandora? How to best conquer Disney's new Avatar land at Animal Kingdom

Flight of Passage "banshee ride" a wild thrill
Posted at 2:53 AM, May 22, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-22 08:39:00-04

Disney fans (of which I am definitely one), your wait is almost over. Pandora: The World of Avatar in Animal Kingdom opens May 27.

Based on the 2009 movie, but "set" a generation after the events of James Cameron's blockbuster film, the new $500 million land is a visually jaw-dropping realization of the Na'vi planet.

Plan on many, many selfies with those how'd-they-do-that Floating Mountains alone. (Full disclosure: I took about 35 of 'em. I have no shame.)

That the Imagineers at the Mouse House have outdone themselves (again) shouldn't be a surprise. Two new rides -- the Na'vi River Journey and Flight of Passage -- are fully immersive and breath-taking (the latter of which figuratively and literally).

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What also shouldn't come as a surprise is that Pandora is going to be slammed by crowds with lookie-loos for months to come.

As Floridians, we know better than to deal with Disney in the summer months. But a new land?! That's hard to resist, and not everyone gets lucky like me with a juicy sneak peek. (Heck, I wanna go back already.)

So here are a few insider tips if you just gotta go hang with those big blue Na'vi right away. (By the way, I'm not an Avatar diehard, so don't worry if you can't remember much of the plot. You'll still have a blast.)

1) As always, get to the Animal Kingdom as early as possible and beeline for Pandora. You should be able to board Na'vi River Journey without too long of a wait. The all-ages boat ride is a peaceful light-trippy cruise that ends with the most technologically advanced animatronic creature Disney has EVER created.

As for Flight of Passage, get a free FastPass online as soon as you know the dates of your trip. With a 44-inch height requirement (it's intense), and screamy thrills as you ride a banshee beast (and feel it breathing beneath you), this simulator is going to have crazy-long waits.

If you know your Disney, think of the ride demand for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Toy Story Mania. Yeah, like that. But it's worth the trouble, like Soarin' with sharp awesome teeth.

RELATED | Inside look at Disney World's new 'Pandora: The World of Avatar'

2) Pandora isn't a huge land, but it's fully realized with interstellar flora, waterfalls, trails and interactive oddities. The giant Flaska Reclinata plant at the entrance to the park is a sly special-effected wonder. (I don't want to give away ALL the magic, but play with that sucker!)

Your kids can run all over the place, exploring and burning energy, and not get bored or lost. Tell them to go find those magic drums too...

3) Fair Warning: The two coolest tchotchkes at Pandora are pricey, so get ready to say no if you don't want to shell out serious cash. For about $50, you can buy a robot baby banshee; Disney has turned the banshee retail experience into a Harry Potter-esque "choose your wand" story.

You can also have an "avatar" made blending your face and a Na'vi. The result is a super-cool action figure that looks just like you -- for $75. I have two young daughters. I know the gift-shop struggle. Hang in there, Mom and Dad.

4) Disney's going for full narrative immersion in Pandora, and that extends to the food. It's kinda weird to be honest (although the boozy adult beverages look funky and fun).

Picky eaters might be better off chowing down somewhere else in Animal Kingdom. For instance, a cheeseburger is now a steam-bun "pod." It's hard enough getting my youngest daughter to finish her chicken tenders. A pod would send her screaming!

5) Not-so-newsflash: Disney is expensive. Shocked? Uh, no. A one-day ticket to Animal Kingdom is now about $100. However, my favorite Florida resident deal is the three-park pass for about $140. There are blackout dates, but it remains a remarkably sweet deal for us Sunshine Staters.

For more pictures and information, or if you want to DM me a Pandora question, follow me on Instagram at instagram.com/seandalytv, Twitter at twitter.com/seandalywfts or search "Sean Daly on TV" on Facebook.

Have fun! And after you explore Pandora, let me know what you think by emailing mail at sean.daly@wfts.com.