Thunderstorms can happen often in Florida, especially during the summer months, but thankfully they are usually shortlived and you can soon carry on enjoying the rest of your day without interruption. However, they can cause problems with some of the outdoor attractions and Disney castmembers will keep a regular eye on weather forecasts to see when they need to close a ride. While there are plenty of other things to do at Disney, you may be disappointed if a ride you have set your heart on suddenly closes, especially if you have already been queuing for a little while. If like me, you like to be prepared, it is worth checking the weather reports yourself and having some alternatives in mind in case a thunderstorm strikes.
Flight of the Avatar is one of the most popular rides in the Animal Kingdom and something your whole party may well look forward to on arrival. Does this ride close during a Thunderstorm? Fortunately, since the ride itself and much of the queuing experience takes place indoors, Flight of the Avatar does not close and can be a great place to shelter from the weather while you wait for the storm to pass. The queues for this attraction can be very long, so you may find yourself outside for some of the time in which case it will be a good idea to carry ponchos for the family and possibly an umbrella.
Florida thunderstorms are often accompanied by spectacular lightning which can be frightening for some but offer some amazing sights. It is worth keeping a camera handy to capture some outstanding shots of the lightning while you wait. There are plenty of other attractions in the Animal Kingdom that are not affected by a thunderstorm, and many of these take place indoors where you can pass the time and take everyone’s mind off the loud rumbling outside. There are also precautions you can take to make sure everyone is comfortable when the weather is less than pleasant. The good thing about thunderstorms in Florida is that they usually don’t last very long and you may well find that spending a little time enjoying an indoor ride is all it takes before emerge once more to clear blue skies and the glorious Florida sun.
Flight of the Avatar Experience
Flight of the Avatar is situated in the Pandora area of the Animal Kingdom and is nothing like a conventional thrill ride but rather a whole experience that takes you deep into the world of Pandora. It is a simulation but to use that word somehow discredits how realistic the entire journey really is. While you sit astride a bike-like machine wearing 3D glasses, you are transported to the magical world of Pandora where all the amazing bioluminescence of this stunning environment come alive all around you. Flight of the Avatar is more than a relaxing exploration of the colorful wildlife of Pandora, as you are riding on a banshee that cavorts through the skies and takes you on an exhilarating adventure with heart-stopping drops, twists, and sharp turns through the air alongside the Na’vi people. As an indication of how much your banshee will move during the simulation, padded restraints are added to your calves and backs to keep you safe as the ride drops and throws you forward. Some people with claustrophobia find they are unable to take part due to these restraints. There is a minimum height of 44″ which means that children below about 7 or 8 years old will also have to sit this one out, and it is advised that pregnant mothers or those with heart conditions don’t take part. That doesn’t mean the whole family can’t stay together for the queue, though, as there is plenty to see and do undercover as the queue meanders through caves and an ACE conservation facility on the way to the ride. Once on the ride, the experience becomes a personal adventure as, although you could reach out and touch the person next to you, the sights and sounds transport you into your own journey through the spectacular bioluminescent sights and distinct sounds of Pandora just like in the Avatar movie. Feel the wind in your hair as you soar through the skies on your very own banshee, a rite of passage for the Na’vi people.
While some of the queuing takes place outside, it won’t be too long before you are taken indoors to the caves of Pandora where beautiful cave drawings depict the history of the Na’vi people and their relationships with the mystical banshees, dragon-like creatures that rule the skies of Pandora. Even waiting outside is a pleasure as you encounter some of the gigantic plants and trees of this colorful environment. A thunderstorm doesn’t make the area less beautiful, and you may find that it has an added advantage as many people seek more permanent shelter and leave the queue to reduce your waiting time. Once inside the caves, you will feel safe and dry as you peruse the cave drawings at your leisure before entering an old RDA base. This facility has been built into a crater in the side of a cliff caused by a bomb blast but the RDA has long since left and the base has now been taken over by ACE as part of their efforts to restore Pandora to its former glory after the devastation of endless RDA attacks. As you explore the ACE laboratory, you will learn how ACE is working on conservation projects to protect the Na’vi people and their beautiful planet. You will see ACE’s explorations of the flora and fauna of Pandora as they scrutinize the plants and animals and help nurture wounded species back to full health. You can watch some of the creatures come alive as they move and interact in their enclosures, including some interesting black amoeba-like specks that rush around energetically. As you learn more about the nature of Pandora and the Na’vi people, you will be surprised how quickly everyone forgets about the thunderstorm outside.
When you are taken into the next chamber of the laboratory, you will see an enormous avatar floating in a tank of fluid that is so realistic you can even see its chest move as it breathes and its muscles twitch. You will be taken into a room where you will be shown a video about the world of the Na’vi and ACE’s conservation work to save the planet and help different species to survive. A second video shows how you will be linked to your avatar just like in the movie. The whole experience means spending a great deal of time indoors, just what you need when seeking shelter from the storm outside. While on the ride, you are transported to a fictional universe far removed from planet earth and when the ride is over you may well step outside to find blue skies and the ground already beginning to dry in the glorious Florida sunshine.
Other Things To Do In The Animal Kingdom During a Thunderstorm
There are plenty of other activities and attractions that you can enjoy indoors at the Animal Kingdom while you are waiting for the storm outside to pass. If the world of Pandora has captured your heart, you can continue the experience on another nearby ride, the Na’vi River Journey. While you relax on a boat, you are taken on a relaxing journey through the luminous world of Pandora surrounded by beautiful plant life and creatures that come alive. This ride has no height restriction so it is suitable for the whole family to enjoy and both the queue and the ride itself is mainly indoors so you won’t need to think about the weather.
There are also some amazing indoor shows that can take your mind off a thunderstorm. The Festival of the Lion King is a musical theater performance as good as any you will find on broadway with exciting pyrotechnic effects and astounding acrobatics that keep you entertained until the thunderstorm ends. The musical Finding Nemo and the 4D show It’s Tough to be a Bug are also fantastic shows that will keep the whole family happily entertained in the safety of an air-conditioned indoor theater. It’s Tough to Be a Bug is a memorable show with 3D glasses to bring the characters to life and special effects that involve the rest of your senses as you experience different smells and feelings such as water and air.
To continue the theme of conservation, you could take a train to the Conservation Station at Rafiki’s Planet Watch where you can see how Disney supports our own natural environment and interact with different animals. Or, you could enjoy a safari at Kilimanjaro Safaris where you watch exotic animals in their natural environment from the shelter of a vehicle. While you stay safe and dry, you can see how the different animals behave in a thunderstorm which can make them more active than usual to give you even more to see. It may be worth wearing a poncho if you are sitting on the outside of the vehicle as the open sides could allow some rain to affect the outermost seats. There are also plenty of places to enjoy a meal or shop for souvenirs while you are waiting for the storm to end.
Fortunately, while thunderstorms can occur frequently in Florida during the summer months, they don’t usually last very long and there is plenty to do for the whole family to keep everyone safely indoors in comfort. Before you know it, the skies will clear and you can carry on enjoying everything that the Animal Kingdom has to offer.