All Four Disney World Parks In One Day!
This is a blog post written by the biggest Disney fan I know -- my youngest daughter, Lucy Hess. Lucy's longtime goal is to work at Walt Disney World, and she will be applying for the Disney College Program later this year. Should you desire assistance with planning your own Disney vacation, please contact our Disney experts at Outside the Lines Travel.
Walt Disney World is so massive, it may seem impossible to do it all in a week. Well… try doing it all in a day! My mom and I wanted to try to hit all 4 theme parks in one day, and though it turned out to be easier than we had thought, it didn’t happen without careful planning. The rules of the “4 Park Challenge” (as we called it) were this: eat/drink something in each park, and ride at least two attractions per park.
The first thing we did to prepare for our adventure was to figure out in what order we would visit the parks. Then we had to find the most efficient measures of getting from place to place. For us, we decided on visiting Animal Kingdom first for the sake of getting on Flight of Passage first thing in the morning. The next park on our list was Disney’s Hollywood Studios. From there, we made our way to Epcot and then finished out the evening with a trip to Magic Kingdom. Our logic here was that Hollywood Studios and Epcot are connected by boat (this trip was taken before the Skyliner was an option), and Epcot and the Magic Kingdom are connected by monorail, so going to Epcot before Hollywood Studios would add an unnecessary bus trip. Getting to any park from Animal Kingdom requires a bus trip, so this seemed like the most streamlined way to arrange our roadmap. Keep in mind, we did this challenge before Galaxy’s Edge was open, so if you are set on riding either of the new Star Wars attractions, I would recommend visiting Hollywood Studios first.
The FastPass Conundrum
For those of you that aren't familiar with the FastPass+ system at WDW, you get three FastPasses to start with and then once they’ve all been used, you can then schedule one at a time using the MyDisneyExperience app or a FP+ kiosk. The difficulty this brought to our challenge was that we were only shooting for two rides per park. With the FP+ system, you can’t schedule your first three FastPasses in more than one park. We didn’t particularly want to ride more than two things at Animal Kingdom, so we decided to schedule a random third Fastpass that we cancelled once we used our first two. This gave us an opening to schedule one of the extra FastPasses. For the rest of the day, we kept on high alert to snatch up an available FastPass so that we could keep our wait times down, but our number of rides high.
And so it begins!
Our first stop was Animal Kingdom. We got there relatively early in the morning (around 9:30am) because our first FastPass was at 10:15. I decided to take benchmark pictures at each park to chronicle our adventures!
The first ride of the day was Flight of Passage. It was both of our first times riding this attraction, so needless to say we were pretty excited. I don’t want to give any spoilers for those of you who haven’t had the chance to ride, but it was incredible. Disney really outdid themselves on this attraction!
Our next FastPass was for Expedition Everest, but before we made our way back there, we decided to make our first food stop of the day. It was a little early to eat a huge meal, which was disappointing considering Animal Kingdom’s many delicious food options, so we opted to swing by the Starbucks in the park. Even though coffee isn’t necessarily a Disney World staple, we decided to count it towards our food quota for the park.
It was time to face the Yeti on Expedition Everest. This is one of my all time favorite attractions on property, and my mom and I lucked out with the front row. The front of the train gives you the best view of the landscape and theming of the attraction, so if you can, ask a cast member on the loading platform if you can sit in the front. Hopefully, they can accommodate your request; it’s a special experience!
Following our ride on Expedition Everest, we cancelled our last FastPass and made our way out of the park. Since we were on our way to Hollywood Studios, we decided to take a look at the MyDisneyExperience app for any available FastPasses. Lo and behold, we were able to find a Tower of Terror FastPass for 12:30. It was only about 11:45 when we left Animal Kingdom, so we knew that we had just the right amount of time to get to Hollywood Studios and arrive for our hour-long FastPass window. We made our way our of the park and boarded the bus to Hollywood Studios.
Park #2: Hollywood Studios
Hollywood Studios has undergone quite a few changes in the past couple of years with the addition of both Toy Story Land and Galaxy’s Edge. Like I mentioned before, Galaxy’s Edge wasn’t open when we did this challenge, but Toy Story Land was practically brand new at the time. Once we entered the park, we made our way to Tower of Terror to use our FastPass, but not without taking the obligatory picture at the park entrance!
After our ride on Tower of Terror, we went to the back of the park to explore Toy Story Land. If we could have, we would have gotten a FastPass for Slinky Dog Dash, but it is an extremely popular attraction which makes it nearly impossible to get a FastPass for it the day-of. Because we were working on a bit of a schedule to get from park to park, we elected not to ride anything in Toy Story Land because of the long wait times, but that didn’t stop us from taking pictures and enjoying the colorful atmosphere.
We were still one attraction short at this park, so we decided on another one of my favorites, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. Luckily for us, this attraction has a Single Rider line. This allows for a shorter wait time, but do be aware that if you get in a Single Rider line with more than a party of one, you will be split up from your party. This line is usually a great way to get on the ride if you are in a rush, but it isn’t guaranteed to be shorter than the posted Stand-By wait, so don’t always count on it. It just so happened that the park wasn’t very crowded on the day we visited, so we essentially walked straight into the pre-show of the ride once we entered the queue.
Once my mom and I got off of Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, we still needed to eat something at the park to keep with the rules that we had set for ourselves. I was quite excited for this little snack stop because I got one of my all-time favorite snacks at Disney World: the Mickey soft pretzel. My drink of choice at this park was a frozen lemonade from Anaheim Produce in the Sunset Boulevard section of the park. This is a hidden gem in Hollywood Studios, and if you love fruit like I do, this is a great place to grab a quick refreshing snack.
To get to Epcot from Hollywood Studios, we took one of the Disney Friendship boats that take off just outside the entrance of Hollywood Studios and take you to the back entrance of Epcot. We elected to take the boat in place of the bus because the back entrance of Epcot has far less people than the front entrance (which is where the busses drop you off). It saved us a little bit of time, which is always good when you’re trying to make it to all four parks in one day. While waiting for the boat, we were visited by an adorable duck who really seemed to want to be my friend. Still riding a particular stroke of luck, we managed to schedule a FastPass for Soarin’ in Epcot once we got on the boat.
Park #3: Epcot
Once we arrived at Epcot, we made our way through World Showcase and into Future World to use our FastPass for Soarin’. This is one of my mom’s favorite attractions, so it is a must-do for us each time we visit the parks. An old tradition for us is taking a picture of my feet matching the arrows on the floor of the loading station. A bit silly, but a special way to keep track of our many Disney visits over the years.
At the halfway point in our journey, we were definitely ready for a full meal. Checking the MyDisneyExperience app, we found that there was a reservation open for the San Angel Inn located in the Mexico pavilion. It is a beautiful waterside restaurant with amazing atmosphere. Though the food isn’t something to rave about and the menu is limited, you really eat there for the experience of being in the captivating environment.
After our meal, we wanted to get in another attraction, and what better attraction to ride than the Gran Fiesta Tour! This short, charming boat ride takes you through the Mexico pavilion in search of Donald Duck. It isn’t extravagant by any means, but it is cute and another favorite of mine.
Since we were essentially working back-to-front in Epcot, we hadn’t even seen the iconic Epcot Ball yet. We had to get the monorail to the Magic Kingdom, which departs at the front of the park, so we had to make our way out of World Showcase and towards the front exit. We couldn’t leave Epcot, however, without riding the classic attraction, Spaceship Earth. Of course, before we left, I had to have my picture taken in front of the Epcot Ball to keep track of our park progress!
I attribute most of our success in this challenge to the amount of luck we encountered on our visit to the parks. Just as we were cresting the ramp of the Epcot Monorail Station, there was a monorail already sitting there! We speedwalked the rest of the way up to the train, and then were able to enjoy a short ride to the Ticket and Transportation Center, where you need to transfer monorail lines to get to the Magic Kingdom. Have no fear, everything is very well marked and the signs are easy to follow!
The Final Countdown
We had made it to our final park with much more time than we had expected, which made our evening in the Magic Kingdom much more relaxing. As we stepped inside, we pulled off to the side on Main Street to see what FastPasses we could find. We managed to schedule a FastPass for Pirates of the Caribbean, so that was our first stop.
It was time for a snack after Pirates, so I opted for a churro in Frontierland!
While I was eating my churro and browsing the General Store in Frontierland, we managed to get a FastPass for Splash Mountain: my all time favorite attraction! There was a bit of time before that FastPass window opened, so we decided to make our way to Liberty Square to ride The Haunted Mansion. Be sure to check out the Pet Cemetery on your way out of the attraction; it’s a fun detail that really adds to the atmosphere of the mansion.
It was time for our Splash Mountain FastPass, so we headed back to Frontierland. Another ride tradition I do is pet the Br’er Rabbit statue on the front of the ride vehicle before we take off from the station. As I said, this is my favorite attraction in all of Walt Disney World, so I had been waiting all day to ride!
To close out our evening at the Magic Kingdom, we made our way to the Peoplemover. This attraction is a slow moving train ride of sorts that takes you all through Tomorrowland and even gives you an inside look at some of the attractions. It is a great way to end a day at the parks, and it gives you a nice view of Cinderella’s Castle.
On our way out of the park, I couldn’t forget to get my picture in front of the castle!
Once we were back at our resort, we realized that we hadn’t eaten the most iconic treat: the Mickey Premium Ice Cream Bar! Luckily, all resorts on Disney property carry them in their merchandise shops, so to unwind from our long day, we each got a Mickey Bar and sat in one of the lounges together.
Disney doesn’t seem so big and bad if you know what your plan is. If it’s your first time visiting Walt Disney World, don’t stress yourself out by trying to get to all four parks in one day. My mom and I are seasoned Disney travelers, so this challenge was more for fun than anything else. Take it slow and enjoy the little details that Disney is so good at hiding, and if you don’t get to everything, don’t worry! The memories of being together with your family are what are most important.
-written by Lucy Hess