So, you’ve taken on the 4 Parks, 1 Day Challenge for your next Walt Disney World trip? You’re in the right place!
Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Blue Loop. Today we are strategies to tackle all four Walt Disney World parks in one day!
One of the coolest things about Walt Disney World is that each resort and park, and even each land within the parks, tells a different story. When we’re asked time and again why we go to Disney parks as often as we can, there are a number of solid reasons – but a big one is the theming, back stories, and detail put into everything the Disney imagineers create. Nowhere else can you feel as whisked away from a former swamp in Central Florida (or former orange grove Southern California) as you can – over, and over, and over again – at Disney parks.
In making this list, we’ve tried to balance the kind of experiences you can have – squeezing in 4D shows, thrill rides, dark rides, and entertainment – the best we could. That said, I imagine the opinions about what is not to be missed are as numerous as the number of rides you’ll have from which to choose; we’ve come up with our list of must-see attractions, rides, and experiences to be sure you get the overall gist of each park’s unique theming, qualities, and stories!
“Fairytale dreams come true for children of all ages at Magic Kingdom park. Delight in classic attractions, enchanting fireworks, musical parades and beloved Disney Characters across 6 whimsical lands…as you explore Adventureland, Frontierland, Liberty Square, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland and Main Street, U.S.A.”
That’s what the Walt Disney World website has to say about the resort’s first park, Magic Kingdom. It’s accurate, but if you’ve visited you know it’s impossible to summarize the most magical place on Earth in just a few sentences. The Magic Kingdom allows you, at whatever age you visit, to be and do everything you ever dreamt as a child.
Main Street, U.S.A.
Walt Disney World Railroad. Note: if you start your day here, resist the urge to get off at another station. Ride it all the way around, so you can still experience the magical walk down Main Street, U.S.A. That is, arguably, the most important thing to do there!
Pirates of the Caribbean
Fantasyland / Storybook Circus
“it’s a small world”
Peter Pan’s Flight
Tomorrowland Transit Authority
Explore exciting attractions, enchanting international pavilions, award-winning fireworks and seasonal special events. Celebrating the human spirit, Epcot has 2 distinct realms: Future World, which features technological innovations, and World Showcase, which shares with Guests the culture and cuisine of 11 countries: Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, the United States, Japan, Morocco, France, United Kingdom and Canada.
I love the idea that the areas of Epcot “celebrate the human spirit”. It’s quite possibly the only way you can tie future inventions, space travel, the history of innovation, communication, and agriculture to an adventure around the world, yet it feels seemless when you go from Future World to the World Showcase. And for right now, Illuminations ties it all together at the end of the day.
Future World East
Spaceship Earth (note: this isn’t really in East or West, but you can’t miss it ;))
Future World West
Soarin’ Around the World
Living with the Land
Gran Fiesta Tour
One of: Impressions de France, Reflections of China, or O Canada
DISNEY’S HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS
Movie magic comes to life at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, awash in the glitz and glamour of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Step into the action with attractions based on blockbuster movies and top TV shows—including Star Wars—and delight in exciting entertainment that puts you center stage. With the vibrancy of a bustling movie set, this park features 7 sections: Hollywood Boulevard, Echo Lake, Muppet Courtyard, Sunset Boulevard, Commissary Lane, Pixar Place and Animation Courtyard areas.
When Michael Eisner dedicated the then Disney-MGM Studios park, he called it “the Hollywood that never was and always will be”. After visiting the real Hollywood Boulevard and being accosted by creepy fake Spider-Man and his friends, I absolutely get that. This park celebrates the regality and excitement of what we imagine “Hollywood” to be, with none of its shortcomings. Though it no longer allows a literal peek into production and celebration of filmmaking, it still has plenty to offer as it undergoes its transformation into its new form.
The Great Movie Ride
Star Tours: The Adventures Continue
Muppet Vision 3D
Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
Beauty and the Beast: Live on Stage
Toy Story Midway Mania
DISNEY’S ANIMAL KINGDOM
Encounter exotic animals and exciting adventures at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park, one of the largest animal theme parks in the world. Home to more than 2,000 animals across 300 species, the park reflects Walt Disney’s dedication to conservation and is committed to animal care, education and research.
While Animal Kingdom is one of my favorite places in the entire universe, it is for reasons that can’t possible be seen in a quick pit stop. That said, there is still plenty worth checking out. Just don’t (and you won’t hear me say this any other time) get caught up watching the animals in their amazing habitats when you’re pressed for time!
Maharajah Jungle Trek
Finding Nemo, the Musical
*Choose a nighttime show based on which appeals most to you, which park you want to end your day in, or which offers the latest showing you can handle. You can’t go wrong with any of them!
I’m not actually going to go into how to do this. Even narrowing down the quintessentials, you’ll be hard pressed to get all of these attractions in during a single day, unless you choose a day with very long operating hours and have a lot of caffeine or natural energy. Still, a few pointers:
- It probably goes without saying, but either bring snacks or seek out “grab and go” type options. You won’t be dining at table service restaurants on this particular day, and probably should limit the time spent in food locations overall. We’ve got some seriously good, quick snack ideas in the following posts if you’re interested. Some are very filling for the cost! (Magic Kingdom | Epcot | Hollywood Studios | Animal Kingdom)
- As mentioned, choose the day with the largest overall span of operating hours. Very likely this will be the same day that any individual park has its longest hours, but double check – it may be possible to get to one park super early while another closes very late.
- In the same vein, utilize Extra Magic Hours! Some people avoid them, but especially in this case Early EMH will be your friend. You can get a ton done, before the crowds get out of bed and actually make it to the park. And it should go without saying, but….
- Be sure you have a park hopper or annual pass! One day passes obviously won’t cut it.
- Check out Touringplans.com for help and more detailed pointers. (Not an affiliate, just a fan!)
I know you’re probably shaking your head, shocked we left certain things off. This is actually much harder, I think, for avid Disney fans because just about everything can feel like a “must do”. For instance, we love all the nighttime shows, but you can only be in one place at a time. We could wander in World Showcase for hours (or days)! We enjoy Rafiki’s Planet Watch, but it takes a large chunk of time to get there and back, before even enjoying what it has to offer. The parades are arguably my very favorite thing in all of Walt Disney World, and would do an excellent job of providing the right feel… if you didn’t have to take a solid hour or two out of your day to adequately see them.
Still, what would you have changed if you were making the suggestions? 🙂
check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!
Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail Blue | 4 Parks 1 Day Loop:
- 1st Stop – Frontierland Station | 4 Parks, 1 Day: Challenge Accepted
- 2nd Stop – The Delightful Life | YOU ARE HERE 🙂
- 3rd Stop – Home is Where the Mouse Is | Completing the 4 Parks, 1 Day Challenge
- 4th Stop – Disney Nouns | Set Realistic Goals
- 5th Stop – My Dreams of Disney | Navigating All 4 Parks in One Day
Nice touch having the official description of each parks mission! Great post!
Thanks! I especially loved Epcot’s, such a great job connecting the two pavilions in a to-the-point but still poignant manner!
Awesome post and great tips! I’ve been fortunate that every time I’ve been to WDW I’ve been there for two weeks so I can take it at a leisurely pace and enjoy myself. That being said, the last day is always a mad rush trying to cram as much in as possible!
I am with you Joanna. I would much rather do the relaxing options for each park. Maybe strategic benches in each park? But my husband and sons would definite be in for this.
Ooooh, I like the way you think. Best spots to people watch while enjoying a snack? Best area loop/background music? That would TOTALLY give you the feel of each park… with much less effort! 🙂
I totally understand! We enjoy our longer trips as well. I have actually gotten in the habit of really front-loading our trip with the mad rush (for us – still a fairly leisurely pace compared to our first few trips!) so that the end has lots of downtime!
Mike @ My Dreams of Disney
Great post! I have some things I would do instead of yours, for example, I’d do both Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain RR, but that’s just me. Great job sharing your plan!
YES! I wanted to include all of the mountains, but I already think someone would have to be pretty on point to get all of this stuff done 🙂 I certainly don’t disagree with your choices!
I agree that the shows are probably the hardest choice to make. For the parades, it’s possible to time it right so that you see the Festival of Fantasy Parade right near the entrance of Magic Kingdom and exit right after to head to your next park.
We did this a few times on a shortened Magic Kingdom day before heading to the airport or leaving for home.
That’s a great tip! The parade itself isn’t too long, and a less-than-ideal view is still a chance to watch. Especially with Festival of Fantasy, you’d get a great view with such giant floats! 🙂
These are all great attractions! I don’t know that I could do all of them in one day, but I’d add Dinosaur to the list. It’s one of my favorites!
You know, I’m pretty sure Dinosaur never even crossed my mind. I’ll need to try it again someday, but as of right now pretty much nobody in my family ever rides it! 🙂