The plan, when it started out, was pretty straightforward: on the last full day of our trip we were going to go to Animal Kingdom in the morning, and then head on over to Magic Kingdom.
Plans change, though. One thing leads to another and before you know it you’re traveling all over Walt Disney World and visiting all four parks over the course of one day.
It was exhausting, amazing, and it was a whirlwind of rides and shows and just a little bit of booze. Here’s how the adventure played out:
9:15am, Animal Kingdom
We had figured from the start, when planning our trip, that we’d only be spending a few hours at Animal Kingdom. We had Fastpasses for three attractions, and there were a couple more we wanted to see, but we didn’t have any strong desire to wander around there all day.
We got through the gate in the morning, and leisurely headed towards the Kilimanjaro Safari for our Fastpass window (9:15-10:15). We stopped to learn about tarantulas from a cast member, got our picture taken by Photopass photographers, and eventually made it to the attraction. It was a sunny morning, though a little chilly, and there were lots of animals to see on the safari. In fact, I think it’s the highest number I’ve personally seen on the attraction so far. Our driver was fun, funny, entertaining as well as informative, and probably the best I’ve encountered on that ride so far. So that was a pretty cool start to the day.
After the safari we desperately needed breakfast, so we stopped at Pizzafari (which, to be honest, was really underwhelming, but it was food) and then we headed over to the Festival of the Lion King to use our next Fastpass. We’ve seen it before, and it was no less stunning this time around. From there we went over to the Dinosaur ride–which I consider an underrated gem–and after that we used our third Fastpass to get into Finding Nemo: The Musical. It’s a show we missed the last time we were at Animal Kingdom, so we wanted to be sure and see it this time. Great performances, amazing set pieces, and just a lot of fun.
We also did a bit of the Wilderness Explorer game while we walked around. You get a Wilderness Explorer handbook from any of the stations around the park and then as you go to each station and learn about the world you earn stickers to put into the handbook. It can really take you all over Animal Kingdom, but we just did a few stations (that we happened to pass) just to get a feel for the experience.
We ended our Animal Kingdom adventure by seeing the It’s Tough to be a Bug 3D show, and then took a bus towards our next destination.
3:15pm, Hollywood Studios
When we were originally planning our itinerary for this trip, we weren’t going to see Hollywood Studios at all. But we really wanted to see Baymax (from the incredibly amazingly awesome Big Hero 6) and he’s only there for a limited time–in terms of both the daily meet & greet hours and how long he’ll be in the park at all–so before we even got to Florida we factored that into the day’s schedule between Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom. Then we ended up flying into Orlando early and spending a few hours at Hollywood Studios earlier in the week, and we got to see Baymax that day (and Hiro too, but really it was all about that Baymax). We still wanted to visit Hollywood Studios, though, as by now achieving the ‘hitting all four parks in a day’ goal was in motion. Plus, we hadn’t gotten to ride Tower of Terror yet.
So the first thing we did when we got to the park was grab a Fastpass for that, and then go get lunch at the ABC Commissary (our favorite quick service restaurant in Hollywood Studios). Then, we rode Great Movie Ride. We had ridden it when we were at the park earlier in the week, but I wanted to try to get a few pictures at certain points. Unsuccessfully, as it turned out.
After we rode Tower of Terror we headed towards the main gate. We had gone on Star Tours–one of our Hollywood Studios ‘must ride’ attractions–a few days before, and decided that there simply wasn’t much else that we needed to see on this trip. I may regret not catching Muppets 4D if the rumors are true and it does in fact get shut down at some point soon, but I’ve seen it plenty of times before.
We had spent a full day at EPCOT earlier in the week, so we didn’t figure on being there long this time around. I wanted to get a bunch of photos (I do have a Magic & Misadventures Instagram feed to keep up, after all) and we wanted to play some more of Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure and maybe get some drinks in the process.
Once in the park we made a beeline for World Showcase, picked up a handset for the interactive Agent P game, and then went to Norway to play. On our EPCOT day earlier in the week we had played in the UK, but it was raining, which sort of dampened the experience. This interactive game sends you to specific locations within a pavilion and you use the handset to find clues and solve a mystery, with seemingly ordinary objects around the area coming to life as you progress (like a wooden troll in the window of a shop opening to reveal a robotic interior). After heroically saving Norway we decided to end our game rather than continue on in another pavilion, so we wandered the World Showcase with a stop in Mexico so Gilly could get a margarita and China so I could get a green tea plum wine slush.
By now the sun was going down, which was perfect for some of the photos I was hoping to get. So we walked through Future World towards the front gate, stopping now and again to take a picture or have one taken of us by a Photopass photographer. I also spent an inordinate amount of time standing in one spot, with my camera ready, waiting for a monorail to go by to get a very specific shot for the Instagram feed. Which was probably a little silly, but I had a very specific image in my head that I wanted to capture.
Then we took a monorail ride to the Transportation and Ticket Center, and another to Magic Kingdom. Part of the reason we chose this particular order of parks, in fact, was so we would get the chance to ride a monorail. Had we visited Animal Kingdom-EPCOT-Hollywood Studios-Magic Kingdom (which was discussed), we wouldn’t have been able to do that.
7:30pm, Magic Kingdom
Well, we did it! Four parks over the course of one day! Go us!
Since we had been to Magic Kingdom the day before, this was an opportunity to see some things we had missed rather than try to get to everything. We never feel like we get enough time at Magic Kingdom on our trips, so this was a chance to just get a few more hours there.
The first thing we really wanted to do was see the Mickey Mouse meet & greet at the Town Square Theater. This new costume is a huge leap ahead technologically, with a moving mouth and blinking eyes. Plus, the character can talk! At first we had assumed that it was limited to a few pre-recorded phrases, but once it was our turn it quickly became clear that this was not the case. Mickey noticed my Haunted Mansion shirt and commented on it, sparking a conversation about the attraction and then he suggested that we pose for our photo like the hitchhiking ghosts. Supposedly it’s a new technology that allows the person in the suit to talk, and it comes out sounding like Mickey Mouse, by which I obviously mean that there’s NO PERSON IN A SUIT AND WE GOT TO MEET THE REAL MICKEY! Either way, though, the experience was amazing and we were thrilled that we finally got the chance to check it out.
Then it was time for dinner, so we headed to Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe in Tomorrowland (though, sadly, Sonny Eclipse was ‘on tour’ and therefore not available to entertain us while we ate), and after that we went to New Fantasyland to stake out a spot to watch Wishes. It’s actually a really cool spot to watch from, as the fireworks are firing from fairly nearby and it’s all happening right above your head. We wanted to go see Hall of Presidents next, but it had closed for the night, so we headed back to Tomorrowland to ride the Astro Orbiter. I hadn’t been on it in years, and Gilly had never been, so it seemed like something to do.
With less than a half hour before the park closed we went from Astro Orbiter to the Peoplemover, and after that (and with about five minutes left) we hopped onto Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin.
The night ended with a walk down Main Street to do some shopping as we worked our way towards the bus that would take us back to the Pop Century resort and the bed that we very sorely needed to fall into at this point.
So that’s it, the saga of our four park blitz. It started as a plan for a two park day, then stretched into three, and ultimately became a crazy misadventure that brought us to all of them.
What’s funny is that at no point did we feel rushed or like we weren’t having fun. We were doing things that we wanted to do (visiting EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, and Magic Kingdom earlier in the trip helped) at a pace that was surprisingly relaxed, and the day was actually a lot of fun. Not that we’re in any hurry to repeat it, of course. It was still exhausting and there were some things that we may have otherwise done (like the aforementioned Muppets 4D) if we hadn’t been focused on hitting all of the parks. But we also didn’t feel like we were intentionally skipping things just to get to the next park.
To commemorate this exciting day, we purchased a magnet that has the icons for each park on it. So now every time we look at our refrigerator, we can be reminded of that day, and the fact that we’re just a little bit insane…