Are you planning a trip to Disney World and wondering if Na’vi River Journey is a scary ride for sensitive kids?
Hopefully you can find your answer here!
Get ready to read a thorough overview of one of Disney World’s rides—Na’vi River Journey.
Na’vi River Journey for Highly Sensitive Kids: a Ride Review and Rating
There are lots of things that you experience on Disney World rides that could trigger a meltdown in sensitive kids. It could be sudden noises, how loud something is, being in the dark, being exposed to bright or flashing lights, how fast something is, or seeing “scary” visuals.
Sometimes, these seemingly “minor” things can result in sensory overload meltdowns. This is especially true when there is a barrage of overwhelming things to process throughout the entire day.
If you don’t like to read spoilers and it’s your first time going to Disney World, STOP reading now!
The reason for creating these ride reviews and ratings in the first place is to make sure there are NO surprises. If your kids are anything like mine, they are probably not the biggest fan of surprises.
We want you to feel fully prepared and aware of what you and your family are getting yourselves into.
But continue on if you’d like all the details about Na’vi River Journey, and want to know whether or not it would be considered a scary ride for your sensitive or anxious kids.
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Na’vi River Journey Ride Info
Na’vi River Journey is found in Pandora—The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park, one of Walt Disney World’s four theme parks. This land is themed after the movie Avatar, which admittedly I have never watched!
Na’vi River Journey is one of two rides found in Pandora—The World of Avatar, with the other ride being the extremely popular Flight of Passage.
This is a slow-moving boat ride along a visually stunning river, where you’ll see caves and a bioluminescent forest filled with exotic plants and animals. Eventually, you’ll come across the Na’vi Shaman of Songs, one of Disney’s most impressive audio-animatronics!
This ride officially opened to guests on May 27, 2017. Since then, it has continued to be one of Animal Kingdom’s attractions with consistently high wait times. Because of the high wait times, this is a good priority if using Genie+ at Animal Kingdom in order to skip the standby line. The queue itself starts outdoors and then goes into a covered area, which then leads into a darker tunnel-like area right before you get onto the boats.
The boat itself has two rows, which can fit about 2-3 adults in each row.
The length of Na’vi River Journey is about 4 1/2 minutes long.
There is no height requirement to ride Na’vi River Journey. This means everyone, including infants and toddlers, can go on this ride.
But it’s important to consider MORE than just height requirement when looking at Disney rides and attractions. There are lots of other factors to consider, especially if you have a highly sensitive, sensory sensitive, or anxious child. Let’s get into the nitty gritty and find out if Na’vi River Journey might be too scary or overwhelming for your highly sensitive child.
SUDDEN NOISES 1/5
One of the common trademarks of a highly sensitive or sensory sensitive child is that they are easily startled by sudden noises. And sudden noises occur frequently throughout Walt Disney World. The fireworks. The announcements over the loudspeakers. Special sound effects on the rides. It can really be a struggle for those who are startled by unexpected sounds.
Na’vi River Journey doesn’t fare too badly in this department. There are sound effects of various Pandoran creatures throughout, and there is music that slowly builds throughout the ride. But none are particularly startling or out of the blue.
NOISE LEVEL 4/5
Auditory stimulation, especially at a louder volume, can be overwhelming for highly sensitive children. Na’vi River Journey is a fairly loud ride, when it comes to noise level.
At the beginning of the ride, it starts off with the sound of waterfalls, and you hear a lot of sounds of creatures and birds who live in Pandora. As Na’vi River Journey continues on, there is music added to the background. The music gradually gets louder, and there is even louder singing as you approach the Na’vi Shaman of Songs
The noise level isn’t SO loud that it’ll leave your ears ringing. But if you have children who don’t enjoy a ton of auditory stimulation, Na’vi River Journey may be a little difficult to tolerate. It is definitely not quiet ride by any means.
Fear of darkness is pretty common among children in general. But it can be heightened in highly sensitive children.
Unfortunately, Na’vi River Journey fits into that “dark ride” category, that Disney is well-known for. The ride is entirely indoors and even the cave-like area in the queue is very dimly lit as well.
It isn’t AS dark as Pirates of the Caribbean or Haunted Mansion over at Magic Kingdom. This is due to all the special bioluminescence effects, giving plants and creatures a bluish-purpley glow. But it is still quite dark for those who prefer to be in an outdoor setting.
BRIGHT & FLASHING LIGHTS 2/5
Just like some kids are more sensitive to auditory stimulation, the same can be said about visual stimulation. And this can come in the form of bright lights, or flashing lights.
Na’vi River Journey does use quite a lot of lighting effects. There are things like the bioluminescence, lights reflecting off the car, and brightly lit spinning creatures on the ceiling. And there is the use of light projections on the walls of the cave.
But none of this is overly bright. Instead, it gives more of a glowing vibe. No need to pull out your sunglasses here.
Speed of an attraction is another factor to consider when doing Disney World with highly sensitive or anxious kids. If your kids are sensory avoiders, especially when it comes to fast motion, Na’vi River Journey fairs well in this department.
As mentioned earlier, Na’vi River Journey is a boat ride. It is definitely slow-moving, as you take in all the flora and fauna of Pandora around you. It moves at a pretty consistent slow-pace throughout. So this is a great choice for those speed-averse people in your travel party.
Those with a sensitive vestibular system, which creates the sense of balance, may dislike the dropping sensation on many Disney attractions. Fortunately, Na’vi River Journey has NO drops to be concerned about. This is unlike similar boat rides like Frozen Ever After or Pirates of the Caribbean which both have no height requirements, but have unexpected drops.
SCARY VISUALS 2/5
Many highly sensitive children tend to scare more easily. They are more likely to dislike images of villains, conflict, violence, tension, or even simple animatronics. While Na’vi River Journey isn’t the first Disney attraction you’d think of when it comes to scary visuals, there are a few important things to take note of.
First, we need to talk about the Na’vi Shaman of Songs, which is a 10-foot tall audio-animatronic. She is truly the star of the show here. For those who have a genuine appreciation for the Disney Imagineering team, you will likely be in awe of the smooth life-like movements. This animatronic is NOT intended to be scary. But I can expect some children to be scared of this part (namely, my youngest child who has had intense fear reactions when things start moving when they’re not “supposed” to be moving). It can also be confusing and unfamiliar to some kids, as she’s not a human but they may not really know WHAT she is. Blue skin and an alien-like face may feel foreign and scary.
There are also various creatures from the world of Avatar that you’ll see throughout the ride. You’ll see shadows of animals that pop up and disappear. And everything will be glowing in blue, purple and pink hues.
Again, nothing is overly scary. There are no visuals of violence, conflict, or villains. But what is considered “scary” is always very subjective. So be mindful of what your kids tend to react to and take that into account here.
Na’vi River Journey is actually visually quite beautiful, so you can try emphasizing the beauty that surrounds you as you become immersed in this attraction.
PROXIMITY TO OTHERS 2/5
Some highly sensitive or anxious children may feel overwhelmed in tight quarters with other people. Crowded places can result in overstimulation.
Na’vi River Journey isn’t too terrible in this department. The covered and indoor part of the queue can get a little crowded and tight.
If your child struggles from the overstimulation and being in close proximity to others in the queue, definitely look into the DAS (Disability Access Service) pass. This will allow you to wait your allotted time outside of the traditional queue, and then enter the Lightning Lane when it’s time for your return window.
Na’vi River Journey would be a good one to use the DAS pass, if you qualify, because the queue does get quite crowded. It can be a lot, especially when the wait times for this ride go up.
However, when it comes to the actual attraction itself, you don’t have to worry about being in close proximity to others. The boats are pretty small, compared to most other boat rides at Disney World. You will most likely riding with your party only in your row (or even the entire boat, since it is only two rows per boat).
STRONG SMELLS 1/5
Disney is known for using ALL senses to make their attractions more immersive. Strong smells can induce headaches or even nausea in those who are sensitive to smell. There are some scents while riding Na’vi River Journey, but nothing noticeably unpleasant or really strong.
Getting wet, especially getting wet unexpectedly, can be a sensory trigger for some people. While Na’Vi River Journey is a boat ride, there is no chance of getting wet. Na’vi River Journey would be a good choice for those who hate getting wet on Disney attractions.
How do we understand this rating? A LOWER score means LESS sensory overload. A HIGHER score means a GREATER likelihood of being overwhelmed and overstimulated. This is a helpful marker for deciding which attractions might result in sensory overload meltdowns for our kids.
Positive Aspects of Na’vi River Journey
Na’vi River Journey is designed to be a family-friendly attraction, with its slow speed and no minimum height requirement. It is low on the “thrill” level when it comes to speed, drops, and visual stimulation.
The intention of this attraction is to just immerse yourself in the world of the Na’vi and take in all the beauty around you.
And while the noise level is fairly high, none of it is particularly startling. And you can easily accommodate for this by having your noise sensitive child wear noise canceling headphones or ear plugs.
Potential Pain Points of Na’vi River Journey
However, Na’vi River Journey would NOT be a great fit if your kids dislike dark rides. This is your quintessential indoor Disney dark ride, which can really be scary for some kids. It is also not a good choice if your kids are scared of animatronics, as the Shaman of Songs is the main star here.
The wait times for this attraction do tend to be on the higher side. I would recommend utilizing DAS pass or Genie+ to bypass this particular standby queue if your children get overstimulated in long crowded queues.
This line gets quite tight and there isn’t much to see or do here while waiting. The alternative would be to use early entry or rope drop to get this done before the lines have a chance to accumulate
Related: How to Avoid Lines at Disney World
What has YOUR experience been on Na’vi River Journey? Did you or your kids love it or hate it? If you haven’t been yet, will this attraction be on your list of must-dos at Animal Kingdom?
If you need extra support and want to find community with other parents of highly sensitive or anxious kids going to Disney, I encourage you join my Facebook group! You can ask questions and get feedback from me personally, and other Disney-loving parents, who are all looking to better manage meltdowns and maximize the magic during their Disney vacation.
Lastly, don’t forget to download your FREE copy of my Disney Ride planner tool. Print this out and use it to keep track of which rides you want to avoid or try with your kids. It will make planning your park days SO much easier.