Getting the flavor of...
Disney World’s new dreamland
On May 27, Disney will unveil its most technically ambitious fantasyland to date, said Todd Martens in the Los Angeles Times. Pandora: The World of Avatar, at Orlando’s Disney World, recreates the universe depicted in James Cameron’s 2009 sci-fiepic, but Avatar isn’t required viewing to enjoy the 12-acre site. Pandora, named after the movie’s tropical exoplanet, has two main attractions: The Na’Vi River Journey is a tranquil boat ride through bioluminescent forests full of jellyfish-like creatures and other alien flora and fauna that respond to your presence. For Flight of Passage, the other highlight, you hike an artificial mountain and arrive at a research facility where you “become” an avatar, then soar off, in a virtual-reality thrill ride, on the back of a dragonlike banshee. Pandora offers far more, though, and you’re encouraged to explore its wonders, including floating mountains so impressive they look like they should be in a national park.
South Carolina’s swampy sanctuary
Congaree National Park is a reminder of “just how great America’s forests used to be,” said Christine Dell’Amore in The Washington Post. When large-scale logging began in the 1880s, 11,000 acres of dense wetland forest dodged the ax and plow; today, that forest harbors an incredible array of wildlife. The park’s many snakes and spiders might keep away some visitors, but I felt lucky to join a guided canoe tour last month. Peering up to the rustling treetops of 150-foot elms, cypresses, sweet gums, and loblolly pines, I listened to the calls of woodpeckers, warblers, and countless other birds, their songs “stitched together into a never-ending avian orchestra.” Coffee-colored water lapped at the canoe, while water bugs twirled on the glassy surface. A huge barred owl, a thick brown water snake, and a colorful freshwater turtle all showed themselves as we glided between moss-covered trunks, ducking under the trees’ low-hanging limbs. ■