The challenge: visiting all four Walt Disney World parks in one day
Despite living less than 30 minutes from the Walt Disney World Resort, we very rarely visit the parks for more than a few hours, and certainly never visit more than one park in one day. I’ve always wondered what it would be like, however, to visit all four Walt Disney World parks in one day: to hit Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Epcot and Magic Kingdom all within 24 hours. When I put this idea to my 5-year old, Harrison, he loved the idea, and we decided to take on the challenge. We even gave ourselves some rules to make it even more fun. Firstly, we had to ride at least one ride in each park. Secondly, we had to get something to eat (you never have to force me to eat snacks!), and it had to be something unique to that park – no Mickey bars or popcorn! Thirdly, we had to prove we’d been to the park by taking a photo in front of the park’s icon. We also planned to use every form of complementary Disney transportation to get around. We had planned to take on the challenge in July, but had to postpone when the kids both got sick. Last week, I asked Harrison if maybe he wanted to give it a shot before going back to school and he said yes! With less than a week to plan, I made some FastPasses, looked at food options, and quickly threw together a plan. Read ahead to see how we did, and my tips for visiting all four Walt Disney World parks in one day!
Planning your visit
The best time of year to try to complete the challenge
We’re locals so in theory, we could have given this a try any time of year, but since we came up with the idea last month, we’ve been itching to give it a go. We decided on August, the week before Harrison went back to school, and we’re actually going to make it an annual back to school tradition, which will be fun to do every year. Having said that, there were definite downsides to doing this in August!
The first was, of course, the heat. The high hit 97° the day we visited, and we certainly felt it – even waiting in line for Animal Kingdom to open at 8am we were starting to sweat with crazy high humidity and no clouds in the sky to help with the hot sun. By the time we were at Epcot, our third park, we were hot, sweaty messes. It was also crowded, with locals making the most of the Disney parks before the kids went back to school, as well as plenty of people still enjoying their summer vacation. There were perks, however. Visiting during such a busy time meant longer park hours, and no risk of ride refurbishments that often happen during slow season. We made this time of year work for us, but honestly, I think I’d recommend doing this in the cooler months for sure – just make sure it’s not a day when the parks close on the earlier side so you have as much time as possible to complete the challenge! The picture below was taken at the end of the day and boy do I love disheveled!
There are numerous ways to get around Walt Disney World between the four theme parks, and we decided to challenge ourselves to use all three of the complimentary Disney transportation options: monorail, boat, and bus. This actually somewhat dictated the order in which we visited each park, since some of those options are only available between certain parks, but you can get a Disney bus from any of the four theme parks to another park. We took a bus from Animal Kingdom to Hollywood Studios, then a boat from Hollywood Studios to Epcot, and the monorail from Epcot to Magic Kingdom. Since we drove to Animal Kingdom, we then had to make our way back to Animal Kingdom from Magic Kingdom when the day was over, but if you’re staying onsite, you can just get a bus back to your resort hotel.
One of the biggest challenges when trying to visit all four parks in one day is that you can’t make your three FastPass reservations for more than one park on any day; this means you can only make FastPasses for one of the four parks for the entire day. While this does create an additional challenge, there are ways to fix this.
Firstly, you should plan on being at the first park for rope drop – that means being there 30-45 minutes before the park opens, so that when the figurative rope drops, you are some of the first to get into the park. For this park, you don’t need to make FastPass reservations; you will be at the park early enough that most rides will either be a walk on or a very short wait. Our first park of choice was Animal Kingdom and our ride of choice was Fight of Passage, which is still undoubtedly the most popular ride in all of Walt Disney World, and yet we planned on rope dropping this ride instead of trying to book a FastPass. This meant we didn’t need to make FastPasses for Animal Kingdom.
My recommendation is to make your three FastPasses for the second park you plan on attending. This is what we did, with our three FastPasses made for Hollywood Studios, which we were aiming to arrive at around 11am. We knew there were only two rides at Hollywood Studios we wanted to ride, so made our first two FastPasses for those attractions. However, we made a thrid FastPass reservation for a ride we had absolutely no intention of riding – in fact, we made it for a time we knew we wouldn’t even be in the park. Why did we do this? Well, once your three FastPasses have been used up or the time has expired, you can make one additional FastPass at a time – for any park, not just the original park you chose. But all three of the FastPasses must have been used or expired, so we needed that extra one for the ride we knew we wouldn’t want to ride. If you’re going to do this, then I would suggest making that extra FastPass for a ride you know isn’t a popular one, or one that consistently has FastPasses available all day; this way you’re not taking a FastPass from a family who might want it. For us, we made that third FastPass reservation for Muppet Vision 3D at 9am, and by the time we planned to leave Hollywood Studios at around 2pm, we would be free to make a FastPass reservation for another park. We managed to make an additional three FastPasses (two for Epcot and one for Magic Kingdom) but we would have been able to make more than that if we’d wanted to.
We planned to start our day at Animal Kingdom so we could rope drop Flight of Passage. The park opened for the day at 9am, but a little research online showed that the park was typically allowing guests in around 8.30am to get in line for the Pandora rides, and guests were arriving early to line up. We arrived at the park at 7.45am, and there were probably about 50 people there already!
We stood in line outside (in the 85 degree heat…with 90% humidity…and no shade…) for about 30 minutes before they allowed guests into the park to line up at the entrance to Pandora. I’ll be honest: rope drop is not my favorite thing to do, in fact, I avoid it at all costs usually. People kind of lose their minds and start pushing and running – Harrison referred to it as the ‘Animal Kingdom stampede’! We arrived at the entrance to Pandora and were about 10 rows back in a huge group of people. It was hot, it was sweaty, and I seriously started to question deciding to do this in August, but at 8.30am, we were allowed in to Pandora to get in line for Flight of Passage.
The line moved quickly, and we were on and off Flight of Passage by 9.03am – and were able to check the first thing off our list by riding a ride at Animal Kingdom! Oh, and did Harrison enjoy the most popular ride in all of Walt Disney World? No. He cried.
Next up was the food unique to Animal Kingdom, and we decided Pandora was the best place to get this. I went for the Pongo Lumpia for Pongu Pongu, the little food and drink hut outside Sat’uli Canteen. This was a warm, sweet spring roll filled with pineapple cream cheese, and was exactly what I need after being up at 6am! Harrison also picked up some banshee toys in the gift shop, because he was so brave for riding the ride (his words, not mine!) and we moved on (for more on the rides and food options in Pandora, read through this post).
We decided to head to DinoLand USA since we were running ahead of schedule, and managed to walk right on to Dinosaur – twice! This is Harrison’s favorite ride ever, and he loved getting to do it twice! We also stopped to say hi to Scrooge McDuck, who was meeting guests as part of Donald’s Dino Bash this summer.
We finished up with our picture in front of the park’s icon, the Tree of Life, before heading out to the bus stop to catch a bus to Hollywood Studios.
There are buses that run in between each park, and this is usually one of the quickest ways to get between parks because the buses run so frequently. We waited about 15 minutes for our bus to Hollywood Studios, and it was so nice to be in the air conditioning for a bit! Harrison used this time to play with his banshees, and I went on to the My Disney Experience app to change around some FastPass times. I find it really quite easy to modify FastPass times day of, especially with only two people in the party, and found a much better time for our Toy Story Mania FastPass – score! We arrived at Hollywood Studios around 10.30am.
After watching the March of the First Order and the Entrance of Captain Phasma as we entered Hollywood Studios, it was time for our first FastPass: Toy Story Mania! We hadn’t really been back to Toy Story Land since our preview (when we were virtually the only people there) and opening day (when everyone was there!) so it was fun to be back. We rode Toy Story Mania and checked out the wait times for Slinky Dog Dash and the Alien Swirling Saucers, but both were over an hour, so we headed to Backlot Express for an early lunch. If you want to know more about the new Toy Story Land, read through this post.
Since so much of Hollywood Studios is dedicated to Star Wars, we figured our unique food item should be Star Wars related, and Backlot Express has some great Star Wars themed food. We went for the Dark Side Chicken and Waffles, which gave us some much needed protein, and a break in the shade since we were so hot. Just to reiterate: don’t do this challenge in August!
We had one more FastPass for Hollywood Studios, and needed to use this one up so we could make our fourth FastPass for another park, so we headed to Star Tours. As soon as we tapped in, I was able to make another FastPass for Epcot; we opted for Soarin’ and although the only time at that point was 4pm, I was confident I’d be able to modify it later. We rode Star Tours, stopped in to say hi to BB8 and Chewbacca, and then headed to have our picture taken in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater (note: I kind of thought maybe Tower of Terror was the Hollywood Studios icon, but I asked on my Instagram account and was told it was definitely the Chinese Theater!) It was about 1pm at this point, and we headed to the boat dock to catch our boat to Epcot.
We arrived at Epcot hotter than ever after a VERY hot boat ride from Hollywood Studios! The boat’s outdoor areas were all taken so we had to sit inside, which is completely enclosed and completely un-air-conditioned! We had to make stops at a couple of different resorts on the way, and as soon as some outdoor seating opened up, we grabbed it! Harrison took this opportunity to take a quick power nap, and I was able to modify our Soarin’ FastPass for 2.15pm. The boat ride took about 30 minutes from start to finish, so definitely not a quick way to travel, but the waterways around Walt Disney World are very pretty.
Upon arrival at Epcot, my 5-year old decided it was too hot and he was too tired and he staged a small protest at the entrance to International Gateway by sitting on the floor and refusing to move. Knowing that we were only halfway through and still had two parks to get through, I knew I was going to have to do something to prevent a total meltdown – from either one of us! So we took a small break; we sat on a bench and drank water and ate a snack, and then I rented a stroller for him that we could use at Epcot to give his legs a break. Harrison hasn’t used a stroller in real life for years, even on our usual Disney park visits, but this day was such a huge undertaking for him that he needed some help. Once he was tucked up in his stroller, Harrison was a lot happier and we were able to continue.
Our first stop was Soarin’ and we were right at the end of our FastPass window. As we waited in line for Soarin’ I checked the My Disney Experience app and discovered that there was a FastPass for Test Track in five minutes time! I grabbed it quickly and as soon as we were off Soarin’, we headed right over to Test Track. Unfortunately, this was where we hit our first – and only – snag of the day!
When we walked over to Test Track, we knew right away something was up; the FastPass line was stretched way back past the entrance, and it didn’t look like it was moving at all. I asked Harrison if he wanted to wait and he said that he did, so we got in line and hoped that it wasn’t as long as it looked. Well, that FastPass line took 45 minutes, and then within one minute of being on the ride, it broke down. It was frustrating to not get to ride the ride, but given what we were trying to accomplish in one day and the time constraints that we were under, it was more frustrating to have lost that time! It took about 20 minutes to evacuate us from the ride, and by that point, it was 5pm and we needed to head over to Magic Kingdom. We had a few minutes to hit the Mexico pavilion to get our unique snack item (a Fiesta margarita that I think was well deserved!) and then we pretty much ran to the monorail to head over to Epcot.
That experience made me realize that when we had extra time at the beginning of the day, we probably should have moved on to the next park a little quicker while we had the extra time and had a little bit more energy. We pretty much collapsed on to the monorail and very much enjoyed sitting down for a few minutes on our way to Magic Kingdom.
We arrived at Magic Kingdom and got a new wave of energy as we realized that we’d done it, we’d made it to our fourth park! We were both super hungry so instead of looking for our unique snack item at that point, we decided to get dinner and figure out our snack later. With the Test Track debacle, I had forgotten to make a FastPass for Magic Kingdom until we were on the monorail, and by then we were both getting too tired to really care too much about what we rode. Harrison asked if we could ride Dumbo, and maybe play in the play area they have in the line, and that sounded like a great idea to me! We finished up our meal and headed over to Dumbo, and by the time Harrison had played and we’d ridden the ride, we were ready to head home.
Of course we stopped by the castle to take our picture to complete our parks collection!
My plan had been to find a Dole Whip for my unique Magic Kingdom snack, but I didn’t remember this until we were already back on Main Street, and we were too tired to go back. We headed to the Main Street Confectionery instead, where I purchased a Mickey Mouse cookie that was, no joke, the size of my head. I have no idea if this is actually unique to Magic Kingdom or not, but since it completed our challenge, I don’t think I want to know if it’s not!
Top tips for those wanting to try visiting all four Walt Disney World parks in one day
- Choose the time of year carefully! The summer is hot and crowded, but the cooler, winter months might come with shorter park hours and less time to complete the challenge. August is NOT an ideal time to do this at all!
- Plan ahead, especially with regard to FastPasses; make sure you’re prepared to add FastPasses throughout the day and hit the first park early.
- Think about how you’re going to get around, and if you have a car, how you’re going to get back to pick up your car at the end of the day!
- Come up with some fun rules to make the challenge more interesting! We picked rides, snacks, and photos, but you could aim to meet characters in each park or even go on a scavenger hunt looking for certain things in each park. Make it fun!
- Be prepared for how tiring this can be, especially with young kids or if it’s a hot day. We didn’t take enough breaks early on in the day and it meant that by the time we hit Epcot, Harrison was pretty much done. I think if we’d taken it a bit easier early on, he might have conserved his energy a bit better. Also make sure you bring a bag that’s easy to carry, pack it lightly, and read through this post on things you probably didn’t even know you needed for your Disney parks bag!
- Plan your time carefully, and don’t underestimate how much time it will take to get from park to park, to ride the rides, to get food, etc. It’s hard to complete this challenge super quickly because Walt Disney World is so large, everything tends to take quite a long time.
- Have fun and enjoy the day! We were so tired by the end of the day, but we really enjoyed spending the time together and getting so much done in one day. We’re excited to try the challenge again next year!
Have you visited all four Walt Disney World parks in one day? What tips do you have? Let me know in the comments!