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NEWS: Disney Announces Two Major Park Opening Dates

Two big opening announcements came out of the February 7 Walt Disney Company Earnings call. Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger announced the opening date forPandora: The World of Avatar and for the first time gave a time frame for the opening of the Disney Parks Star Wars Lands. Details below.

 

Bob Iger announced that Pandora: The World of Avatar will open at Disney’s Animal Kingdom on May 27, 2017. Here are some highlights of the new park from Disney Cast Member Thomas Smith:

This new land will transport guests to the visually stunning world of Pandora. Here, guests will wonder at floating mountains and bioluminescent plants, and can join the Na’vi on two excursions that take adventure to the next level.

First, the family friendly Na’vi River Journey will send guests through a bioluminescent rainforest. Their journey will end in an unforgettable encounter with a Na’vi Shaman, a figure who has a deep connection to the life force of Pandora. And second, Avatar Flight of Passage will offer guests the jaw-dropping experience of exploring the world of Pandora atop a Banshee.

Guests will also be able to dine at Satu’li Canteen, grab a drink at Pongu Pongu or shop for Na’vi cultural items, toys, science kits, and more at Windtraders.

No information regarding FastPasses for Pandora have been announced. Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to receive news updates!

Additionally, Star Wars fans will be pleased to learn that Star Wars Lands in both Disneyland Park and Disney’s Hollywood Studios will be opening in 2019. The Star Wars themed lands are the largest-ever, single-themed land expansions at Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resorts. At each location, guests will be transported to a never-before-seen planet – a remote trading port and one of the last stops before wild space – where Star Wars characters and their stories come to life. We are thrilled to learn that we only need to wait another two years for this opening! That being said, Disney has a history of major projects stretching longer than anticipated, so be prepared for this date to get pushed back.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: Disney Releases New Pandora Details and Concept Art

by Chad and Cindy N

This weekend the Contemporary Resort at Disney World in Orlando, Florida is hosting D23: Destination Amazing Adventures. Anytime Disney hosts a D23 event we sit at the edge of our seats waiting for news. We didn’t have to wait long and we weren’t disappointed. Attendees were treated to an update on the (extremely) long awaited Pandora expansion at Animal Kingdom. Walt Disney Parks & Resorts Chairman Bob Chapek shared new details and concept art. Artwork and details below.

 

From Disney writer Jennifer Fickley-Baker:

Just moments ago at the D23’s Destination D: Amazing Adventures presentation, Walt Disney Parks & Resorts Chairman Bob Chapek gave a construction update on Pandora – The World of Avatar and shared the exciting news that the new land is set to open at Disney’s Animal Kingdomin summer 2017.

Bob also shared a look at a recent construction milestone -scaffolding has just been removed from the entry bridge into the new land (near Tiffins restaurant), officially connecting the land with the rest of the park.

Opening in summer 2017 at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Pandora-The World of Avatar will bring a variety of new experiences to the park, including a family-friendly attraction called Na’vi River Journey and new food & beverage and merchandise locations. Disney’s Animal Kingdom is one of four theme parks at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (David Roark, photographer)

(David Roark, photographer)

According to the storyline developed by Walt Disney Imagineering and Lightstorm Entertainment, this bridge was built during a time when a destructive company called the RDA came to Pandora. Now that they’re long gone, nature is breaking down evidence of their presence. This bridge will soon serve as an entry into the base camp of Alpha Centauri Expeditions, the eco-tour group that is preparing Pandora for future explorers and adventure seekers.

The story of the bridge is just our first look inside this land, which fulfills the original mission of Disney’s Animal Kingdom of being a park that honors animals and natural environments “real, ancient and imagined.”

The entire Pandora – The World of Avatar land is set to open in 2017, and will transport guests to a visually stunning world complete with floating mountains and bioluminescent plants. Here, guests will be able to experience two excursions that will truly push adventure to the next level. First, the family friendly Na’vi River Journey will send guests down a sacred river hidden within a bioluminescent rainforest. Their journey will end in an unforgettable encounter with a Na’vi Shaman, a figure who has a deep connection to the life force of Pandora. And second, the Avatar Flight of Passage excursion will offer the jaw-dropping experience of riding on a Banshee over the world of Pandora.

Walt Disney Imagineering in collaboration with filmmaker James Cameron and Lightstorm Entertainment is bringing to life the mythical world of Pandora, inspired by Cameron’s AVATAR, at Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park. The awe-inspiring land of floating mountains, bioluminescent rainforests and soaring Banshees will become real for Disney guests to see, hear and touch. Scheduled to open in 2017, the AVATAR-inspired land will be part of the largest expansion in Disney’s Animal Kingdom history. (Concept art, Walt Disney Imagineering)

Walt Disney Imagineering in collaboration with filmmaker James Cameron and Lightstorm Entertainment is bringing to life the mythical world of Pandora, inspired by Cameron’s AVATAR, at Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park. The awe-inspiring land of floating mountains, bioluminescent rainforests and soaring Banshees will become real for Disney guests to see, hear and touch. Scheduled to open in 2017, the AVATAR-inspired land will be part of the largest expansion in Disney’s Animal Kingdom history. (Concept art, Walt Disney Imagineering)

Opening in summer 2017 at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Pandora-The World of Avatar will bring a variety of new experiences to the park, including a family-friendly attraction called Na’vi River Journey and new food & beverage and merchandise locations. Windtraders, (pictured here) travelers can find Na’vi cultural items, toys, science kits, and more.Disney’s Animal Kingdom is one of four theme parks at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (David Roark, photographer)

Using Na'vi-inspired shovels and assisted by a Na’vi (photo illustration), (left to right) George Kalogridis, president of Walt Disney World Resort; Meg Crofton, president of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Operations, United States and France; Tom Staggs, chairman, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts; a Na’vi; Jon Landau, AVATAR Producer; Bruce Vaughn, chief creative executive of Walt Disney Imagineering; and Joe Rohde, creative executive, Walt Disney Imagineering, pose Jan. 8, 2014 during the ceremonial groundbreaking of an AVATAR-inspired land at Disney's Animal Kingdom in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The multi-year and largest expansion in Disney’s Animal Kingdom history, the new land will invite Walt Disney World Resort guests to experience the wonders of Pandora when they fly with the banshees, encounter the Na’vi and explore a rich cultural environment with mountains that float and interactive plants that glow at night. (David Roark, photographer)

Walt Disney Imagineering in collaboration with filmmaker James Cameron and Lightstorm Entertainment is bringing to life the mythical world of Pandora, inspired by Cameron’s AVATAR, at Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park. The awe-inspiring land of floating mountains, bioluminescent rainforests and soaring Banshees will become real for Disney guests to see, hear and touch. Scheduled to open in 2017, the AVATAR-inspired land will be part of the largest expansion in Disney’s Animal Kingdom history. (Concept art, Walt Disney Imagineering)

Opening in summer 2017 at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Pandora-The World of Avatar will bring a variety of new experiences to the park, including a family-friendly attraction called Na’vi River Journey and new food & beverage and merchandise locations. Pongu Pongu (pictured here) will be a special drink location with a design that is as eclectic as its Expat owner. Disney’s Animal Kingdom is one of four theme parks at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Disney Parks)

Pandora – The World of AVATAR will bring a variety of new experiences to Disney's Animal Kingdom, including a family-friendly attraction called Na’vi River Journey. The adventure begins as guests set out in canoes and venture down a mysterious, sacred river hidden within the bioluminescent rainforest. The full beauty of Pandora reveals itself as the canoes pass by exotic glowing plants and amazing creatures. The journey culminates in an encounter with a Na’vi shaman, who has a deep connection to the life force of Pandora and sends positive energy out into the forest through her music. Na’vi River Journey will open with Pandora – The World of AVATAR in 2017. Disney's Animal Kingdom is one of four theme parks at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Disney)

Opening in summer 2017 at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Pandora-The World of Avatar will bring a variety of new experiences to the park, including a family-friendly attraction called Na’vi River Journey and new food & beverage and merchandise locations. Satu’li Canteen, (pictured here) will be the main restaurant in Pandora – The World of Avatar and will feature Na’vi art and cultural items. Disney’s Animal Kingdom is one of four theme parks at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (David Roark, photographer)

RELATED ARTICLE: 7 Must-Do Night Experiences at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

by Mike & Jamie Sylvester

Animal Kingdom’s additions of night experiences proves that wilderness and exploration never cease! You can head to Animal Kingdom now and enjoy night experiences that will bring out your adventurous side in so many wild ways! Here are our 7 must-do night experiences at Disney World’s Animal Kingdom theme park.

 

1 – Expedition Everest

If you were terrified to ride Expedition Everest before, chances are riding it in the dark will step up that notch of fear in the pit of your stomach. When riding Expedition Everest at night, it feels like you are experiencing a completely new attraction versus riding it during the normal daylight hours. With the dark surrounding you, you’ll feel like you are going higher, faster, and well – slightly more out of control, as you try to gather your bearings. Plus, no one put the Yeti to bed so he is still angry and on the loose, tearing up the track!

2 – Tree of Life Awakenings

You may have seen the projection show on the Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom known as “Celebrate the Magic”. Well, now Animal Kingdom boasts a projection show on the iconic Tree of Life known as “Awakenings”. After night falls, be sure to look to the Tree of Life for a beautiful display of vibrant colors and incredible animal artistry. Thankfully, this show takes place every 10 minutes until the park closes so you’ll have several opportunities to see the Tree of Life awaken if not just once – but twice!

3 – Kilimanjaro Safaris

Take a ride in an open-air vehicle to spot majestic animals of all sorts. The bumpy ride and exotic surroundings will make you forget you are in the Animal Kingdom theme parks and not off exploring Africa! At night however, Kilimanjaro Safaris turns into a nocturnal hot spot. The animals seem to enjoy the late hours at Animal Kingdom as well, as they are very active in the dim, yet illuminating lighting provided. Catching the Safaris before the animals are tucked into bed for the night is definitely a nighttime must-do at Animal Kingdom!

4 – Discovery Island Carnivale

When the sun goes down, the party begins! You might try to stop those hips from swaying, but we suggest you don’t fight the urge! Join in this lively street party with dancing and excellent entertainment located close to the Tree of Life on Discovery Island. Musicians, stilt-walkers, and vibrant costumes will have you snapping pictures and joining in the fun jamboree. There are usually a couple of street parties per night so be sure to check the times guide to catch the party.

 

5 – Nomad Lounge

All that dancing likely made you thirsty! Head to one of the newest additions to Animal Kingdom – Nomad Lounge. This lounge is known for their specialty cocktails and exotic appetizers from around the world. Neighboring the newest restaurant, Tiffins, Nomad Lounge is the perfect way to enjoy some of the great selections at Tiffins in a lounge style, small plate, atmosphere. With non-alcoholic beverages, cocktails, wine, beer, small plate appetizers, and the incredible “Taste of Tiffins” dessert – there is something for everyone at this popular new lounge.

6 – Kali River Rapids

Are you ready to end your night with a big splash? Then you’ll want to take a ride on the Kali River Rapids! In the dark, this ride is dimly illuminated but still leaves a sense of wonder for what’s ahead. Travel down the water in the massive river raft and expect that you’ll be the one that gets drenched or at least mostly wet! Just think – you won’t need a shower before bed after all.

theater-animal-kingdom

7 – Rivers of Light

While at this present moment, Rivers of Light has yet to have an opening date announced, we still had to add it to our must-do list because we have a feeling opening day is just around the river bend! This long awaited nighttime entertainment was scheduled for the summer of 2016 but had some hold ups. We think it will be well worth the wait however, as it is said to be a remarkable water show with incredible floats, lights and lasers displaying the beauty of all things living! Animal Kingdom can’t bring fireworks to the park for the sake of the animals present, but the lighting effects are said to rival that of Illuminations at Epcot. We simply can’t wait!

What is your favorite must-do night experience at Animal Kingdom? We’d love to hear from you!

 

About Chad & Cindy N

Chad and Cindy met during their college days and both being huge Disney fans, it was a match made in heaven. They took their first family vacation to Disney World in 2004. Chad had gone as a child, but this would be Cindy’s first trip-a trip which she had dreamed of since she was a little girl. The trip was magical and began a Disney obsession that hasn’t stopped since. They traveled back year after year, sometimes many times a year. They watched their three kids grow up at Disney and inherit the same love of Disney. In 2010, their dream of living in Orlando became a reality. With Disney World as their backyard playground, they enjoyed even more time in the parks. Friends and family soon made them their go-to-people for Disney advice. With their love of Disney and desire to share that love and knowledge they gleaned over the years, they decided to launch DisneyLists.com in August of 2015. They still can’t believe how lucky they are to have such an amazing opportunity and will continue to share Disney with anyone who will listen!
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