Four Parks/1 Day: The Ultimate Walt Disney World Challenge

By Sarah Chapman


As my winter trip with my oldest son was approaching I was searching for low-cost ways to “plus” the vacation and do something a little different.  Normally we add on a guided behind the scenes type tour, one year we did horseback riding at Fort Wilderness, lunch with an Imagineer—just something a little different & memorable.  But, I wanted to keep close to a budget this year so we decided to create a challenge of visiting 4 parks in 1 day, and with the Express Transportation I knew it would make it much more enjoyable.

You can find multiple challenges and check lists for doing all four parks in one day on various websites online.  We came up with our own, and it may match some of the options out there:

·       1 Headline attraction and 1 “Minor” attraction at each park

·       PhotoPass picture with the icon in each park

·       Consume a signature food item in each park

·       Meet Mickey Mouse at least once

·       Watch a nighttime spectacular

We really should’ve challenged ourselves a little bit more because with that Express Transportation option the day went much faster than I anticipated.  Knowing exactly when to be at the bus pick up point and not having to go back through security and the turnstiles at each park is a huge timesaver.  But, in the end not only were we able to complete the challenge but we were able to slow down and enjoy the day as well.  Here is how it went.

We started out at Animal Kingdom for Rope Drop without any FastPasses.  Our plan was Kilimanjaro Safari as our major attraction and Triceratops Spin for the minor attraction (since neither one of us can ride big coasters due to motion sickness).  I thought we might try to meet Mickey & Minnie here since it was early in the morning.  We ended up being the only people on our bus from Caribbean Beach resort to Animal Kingdom and we were at the front of the rope leading toward Africa.  We were still able to enjoy the opening show with the birds and off we went to hit the Safari.  We were on the first Safari truck and enjoyed a great Safari—it never disappoints but I think first thing in the morning or right at dusk is a great time to go.  Next we stopped by the Mickey meet & greet where the posted wait time was already 20 minutes.  I’m not sure I believed that, but I wasn’t willing to waste that time so early in the morning so on we went to Triceratops Spin.  Which was a walk-on.  Not thrilling, but limited options for us at Animal Kingdom without inducing motion issues.  Now it was time to have a signature food item—this proved more challenging than I thought since it was really breakfast time and a lot of the kiosk vendors were not open.  I did settle on the Elephant Ear from Kusafari and we had some time to kill before the Express Bus to Magic Kingdom so we settled in over at the Mombasa Marketplace to enjoy it.  A very pleasant, quiet & uncrowded start to our day.  We even caught a couple of minutes of live entertainment in Africa—bonus points.  And we stopped in two locations to get our photo with the Tree of Life.

After boarding the backstage bus VIP style (another private transfer), we arrived at Magic Kingdom where I had made our 3 FastPasses for the day. The plan here was to ride Seven Dwarfs Mine Train as our major attraction, Jungle Cruise as our minor attraction and most likely eat a Dole Whip for our snack.  I made one FastPass for the first hour the park was open, I didn’t think we would get there in time to use it, but it would expire allowing us to book our fourth FastPass right after we used number 3 on Jungle Cruise.  Our timing ended up just perfect to go straight to Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, our FastPass was already about 30 minutes into the start time when we arrived.  Then we stopped by the Castle for a PhotoPass picture, took a bathroom break and were ready to ride Jungle Cruise.  Two great attractions that were made possible by the FastPass booking and planning ahead.  As we entered the FastPass queue for Jungle Cruise I was able to make a new FastPass for our next park which was Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  I wasn’t able to get Toy Story Mania in a time that would fit in with our touring, so we settled for the Great Movie Ride.  After Jungle Cruise we grabbed our Dole Whip at Aloha Isle and had a seat to recap our Magic Kingdom touring. And to catch our breath for a minute.  We were doing pretty well schedule wise and so we stopped for a bit of the Castle Show and another PhotoPass picture before taking a bonus spin on the PeopleMover.  We boarded the Express Transportation for another private transfer over to Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

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Once we arrived at Hollywood Studios with a FastPass in hand for our headliner we decided we had time to slow down a little bit and have a good lunch.  Hollywood Studios is not my favorite quick service place, but we saw that there were some tables available at the Brown Derby Lounge as we came down Sunset Blvd.  Perfect!  I think the Cobb Salad is an ideal signature food item for Hollywood Studios.  We were served quickly, had a beautiful view and the food was delicious (see my separate review for details).  Plus we caught our live entertainment while eating—the Star Wars show on the stage.  After lunch we used our FastPass for the Great Movie Ride and I was able to make our next one for Soarin’ that afternoon at Epcot—score!  We still needed to meet Mickey and I hadn’t done the meet & greet for Mickey & Minnie at Hollywood Studios yet so we got in line for that one.  That was the longest we waited all day, probably 20-30 minutes, but it is a really nice meet & greet location.  For our minor attraction we chose Indiana Jones which was full with room to sit along the back wall only.  Indiana Jones is not a bad use of a tier 2 FastPass at Hollywood Studios in order to get a good seat.  On our way back to Express Transportation we stopped for our PhotoPass picture with the Chinese theater.  While waiting on our bus there were a gaggle of characters out in the area behind Rock N Roller Coaster so I got to meet Bert!  Checking things off our list & heading to Epcot.

Once we got to Epcot we really had it in the bag with time to kill.  We headed into World Showcase and rode the Gran Fiesta Tour and went over to Norway for some delicious School Bread as our signature food item.  Then we had time for our PhotoPass pictures and some shopping at MouseGear before using our FastPass for Soarin’.  So now we’ve done everything on our list except the nighttime spectacular.  We walked around World Showcase a bit stopping to shop and watch some of the entertainment.  Believe it or not we were still a bit hungry so my son went to Tangerine Café and I went to Katsura Grill and we enjoyed our dinners outside by the waterfall in Japan (love that area).  Now we were starting to feel the effects of the go-go-go of the day so we scoped out our spot for Illuminations and sat down to wait on the show.  We had a great spot over by Italy & Germany with a nice view of all of the show elements.

To recap:

·       Animal Kingdom:  Kilimanjaro Safari; Triceratops Spin; Elephant Ear

·       Magic Kingdom:  Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (with FastPass); Jungle Cruise (with FastPass); Dole Whip

·       Disney’s Hollywood Studios:  Cobb Salad/Cheese Selection at Brown Derby Lounge; Great Movie Ride (with FastPass); Meet Mickey (& Minnie); Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular Show

·       Epcot:  Gran Fiesta Tour; School Bread; Soarin’ (with FastPass); Illuminations

This was such a fun day!  It is not a challenge I would recommend to someone going on their first few trips to Walt Disney World, but for repeat visitors it adds a new level of planning to your vacation.  And I highly recommend using the Express Transportation if you are going to attempt the 4 parks challenge.

Have you done 4 parks in 1 day?  What were your guidelines?

About Sarah Chapman

I am a long time Disney fan since I was hooked on Walt Disney World with my first trip in 1987. Since that time I’ve tried experiencing everything I can in the parks, with a total of 30 visits and counting (I’m always planning my next trip) to Walt Disney World—not to mention Disney Cruise Line and even (shhh!) Universal Orlando and Sea World. I’ve turned my Disney obsession into a profession helping others plan their magical vacations as a Dream Vacation Maker at LBAC Travel. I am a work at home mom to three wonderful boys, and each one has been properly indoctrinated with all things Disney. Walt Disney World is definitely our “Laughing Place.” Look for me on Facebook at Facebook.com/SarahLBAC for updates, discount announcements, tips, tricks and planning advice for your next vacation. You can also find me on Instagram (sarahdreamvacationmaker) and Pinterest (sarahlbactravel).