In 2017, at a reported cost of $500 million, Disney made the odd choice of opening this elaborate 12-acre area, which contains zero animals (are the Na’vi animals?) and isn’t even a Disney-created franchise. Whatever the logic, though, you can’t say it isn’t pretty. It’s also a smash—you can count on waiting for its rides. An evocation of the fantastical planet and tribal people from the 2009 film Avatar, Pandora is dominated by a vine-covered cascade of “floating mountains”—an impressive sight that’s hard to photograph. (Scrutinize the waterfalls on them—notice anything unexpected about the most distant ones?) To simply wander is the best way to experience it, taking in the sumptuous floral creations and listening for weird alien animal calls coming from the foliage.
At night, vegetation and walkways are illuminated with fluorescent light (Disney likes to call it “bioluminescent”), and that spectacle necessitates a second visit after dark. Set aside the veiled, almost Victorian tropes about the Noble Savage that Disney seems to celebrate here. Seek out a cast member dressed as a guide for Alpha Centauri Exhibitions, the fictional tour company that purportedly brought you to Pandora. They can point out some of the hidden secrets of the land—such as secret pressure points in the trees that trigger flashes of light. There’s a tiered viewing terrace in the center to better enable your admiration. The must-get souvenir, sold for $70 at the Rookery shop after Flight of Passage or at Island Mercantile: little banshee puppets that sit on your shoulder.