Recently a fellow Disney fan and I embarked on a long standing bucket list item – tackle all 4 theme parks at Walt Disney World Resort in one day. At first it was just a goal – like climbing Mount Kilimanjaro or finishing a marathon. I had heard of other theme park Guests taking on the same challenge, and had watched videos of fellow die-hard Disney fans racing from one park to the next. Others had successfully traveled through all four theme parks in one day so why couldn’t I?
What I didn’t realize was that it was much more than just physically visiting 4 theme parks in one day. It’s an opportunity to see and experience all the different aspects of Walt Disney World Resort in one day, offering the chance to truly appreciate the similarities and distinctions between all four theme parks. The lush green landscape of Disney’s Animal Kingdom and keen focus on animal conservation sharply contrasts with the old Hollywood charm and theming of Hollywood Boulevard in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. And while Disney’s Hollywood Studios is all about Star Wars, nary a Stormtrooper will you see in Epcot, but rather a flag throwing Italian or Mexican mariachi band, or maybe even a purple flying dragon encouraging you to use your imagination. Best of all, take in all of this in one day and then head to the land of princesses and fantasy at Magic Kingdom Park and a trip down Main Street, U.S.A. For any true Disney fan, this is something to experience at least once in a lifetime.
Off season or at least a slower season is the best time to attempt to travel through all four parks in one day. Peak season would be quite a feat – not only are lines longer for everything, from rides to the bathroom, but just getting through the parks and between and into the parks takes longer. All of this cuts into the time available to enjoy each park. So word to the wise: don’t try this on Christmas Eve or the day after Thanksgiving.
What will you need to rise to this challenge should you decide to embark on a similar quest?
- A Park Hopper ticket or Annual Pass, allowing you to visit more than one park in a day. Both myself and my friend are Annual Passholders so we had that covered.
- A plan. Yes, you could probably proceed willy nilly and just meander from one park to the next, but to really get the most from the experience, you should:
- Identify one or two rides in each park you don’t want to miss. The recent upgrades to Disney FastPass+ service will help ensure you get on those rides and spend less time waiting in line. More on that below.
- Have an idea where you may want to eat a meal or pick up a snack or treat. If you plan far enough ahead and allot enough time in the day, make an Advanced Dining Reservation for a table service meal. Taking a break midday and sitting for a while to enjoy a table service meal will help get you to park closing later that evening.
- Know how you plan to travel from each park to the next and factor the transportation time into your overall plan.
- Wear comfortable shoes. I walked over 11 miles the day my friend and I traversed all of the Walt Disney World Resort theme parks. Even with wearing my tennis shoes my feet were tired and sore by the end of the day.
- Stay hydrated. It’s a long day if you start at park opening at one park, and end at park closing at another. The long day is well worth it but you want to make sure you will be up to the task and staying hydrated is one of the best ways to do this.
- Make use of Disney’s Magic Hours if staying on property so you can add time in the morning or evening to your day.
How can the recent updates to Disney FastPass+ service help you get the most out of your day? Under the old system, 3 FastPass+ options could be booked in advance, all at the same park. All of these had to be used before selecting a new FastPass+ option, at a FastPass+ kiosk in the park where it was to be used. When my friend and I planned our four theme parks one day escapade, we were dealing with the old system. We wanted to end the day riding specific rides in Magic Kingdom Park. Because we were dealing with the old system, we had to make all three FastPass+ selections in Magic Kingdom Park, which meant for the other three parks earlier in the day we had to rely on luck in standby lines for other rides. We survived as we were visiting during a relatively slow period, but not the best idea to hit three parks in one day with no FastPass+ options at all.
Now Guests can book 1, 2 or 3 FastPass+ selections at a time, rather than having to book all 3 at one time. Why does this make a difference for a 4 theme park one day quest? After using the last FastPass+ selection (or letting it expire), Guests can now book a new FastPass+ option from the My Disney Experience App on a smartphone or at a FastPass+ kiosk, including booking a FastPass+ selection at a different park. So if there is only one ride or attraction you want to experience in one park, you can now book just that one FastPass+ option, use it, then automatically book another one, even at a different park, all from your smartphone, saving you tons of time to enjoy Walt Disney World Resort.
This is key to visiting multiple parks in one day. No more using all three original FastPass+ selections (or letting them expire), waiting to arrive at the new park, finding a kiosk, and then trying to find available FastPass+ options.
On our big day, my friend and I had a goal at the outset: ride at least one ride in each park, and eat a trademark snack, treat or meal from each park. We began the day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park as close to park opening as possible, and we ran to Kilimanjaro Safaris to get as far ahead in the standby line as we could. There’s nothing like watching all of the wonderful animals on the safari start their day.
From there we walked to Asia and Yak & Yeti Local Cafes (quick service) for the Korean BBQ Chicken, a food item on my personal foodie bucket list, and it certainly did not disappoint. So yummy.
We walked around a bit, especially through Harambe Market, and then made our way to the exit to take a bus to Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
First up at Disney’s Hollywood Studios was a trip through the great movies of our time on the Great Movie Ride. Again we used the standby line, waited approximately 25 minutes, and thoroughly enjoyed our travel through motion picture history.
Since we had just eaten at Yak & Yeti Local Cafe we opted for a churro and Carrot Cake Cookie snack here. Don’t miss the carrot cake dessert from heaven, which can be found at Starring Rolls Cafe or Writer’s Stop.
Here is where the new Disney FastPass+ service is key. Under the new system we could have reserved a FastPass+ selection on a busier ride, such as Star Tours, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerospace, or the The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, in advance through the FastPass+ service, and then once used, automatically booked another selection either at Disney’s Hollywood Studios or our next park. This opens up a whole new level of possibilities now that FastPass+ selections can be made from one park to the next, all from your smartphone.
From Disney’s Hollywood Studios we took the boat to Epcot. This was a nice break from walking and gave us a chance to rest up a bit as it takes about 20-25 minutes to get from Disney’s Hollywood Studios to Epcot. Not to mention it’s a beautiful and peaceful ride.
We visited Epcot during the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival so we planned to spend extra time in this park sampling the delicious food at the various Outdoor Kitchens.
Since the boat from Disney’s Hollywood Studios docks at the International Gateway we started our culinary tour of the Outdoor Kitchens first, then took a ride on Spaceship Earth on our way out of the park. To me, Spaceship Earth only has a long standby line during peak season, so this was a great ride for us to ride having to use the standby line.
From Epcot we headed to Magic Kingdom Park to end our day, taking the monorail to travel to our final destination.
All in all, we took a bus, boat and monorail all in one day. Not bad for a tour of Walt Disney World Resort transportation.
We arrived at our final destination at dusk, such a beautiful time at any of the parks.
At Magic Kingdom Park we rode some of my most favorite rides – Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Carribbean and “it’s a small world”. Doesn’t matter how old I get, I will always want to ride these rides at least once each visit. Since we had just toured several of the Outdoor Kitchens at Epcot, I decided it was time for a dessert and headed to Sleepy Hollow in Liberty Square for a waffle sandwich with strawberries and whip cream.
After a little retail therapy on Main Street, U.S.A. and the Main Street Electrical Parade I was ready to call it a day.
I cannot say enough about how special and unique this experience was (made more so by my fellow Disney fanatic Joyce). Personally I cannot wait to do it again, as the updates to the Disney FastPass+ system now make it even easier to really enjoy all four parks in one day. I hope everyone gets a chance at least once to enjoy the journey through all that makes Walt Disney World Resort so special in one day. For me, that’s one thing marked off my Disney bucket list.