Only have one day to experience Disney World? No problem!
It is entirely possible to visit all four Disney parks—Animal Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Magic Kingdom—in one day.
My family and I recently visited the Orlando resort and packed in quality time at all four parks, riding at least three rides at every park, including each one’s signature ride. In order to visit all of our chosen attractions, we sacrificed visiting a few of the kids shows, parades, and children’s rides, but the experience was definitely worth it.
If you’ve already visited Walt Disney World once, or are up for an extreme adventure, I’d recommend trying for the Disney Grand Slam (DGS). I thought I’d share some best practices and our itinerary for others who’d like to try it. Be aware: the adventure is not for the faint of heart!
Things to Bring on the Big Day
- Maps – Maps are essential to navigate the parks quickly. Since all the park maps are available online, you can check them out ahead of time and plan the most efficient route for you. We took four separate maps with our planned paths, but also grabbed maps at the beginning of each park so we could make sure we had the most up-to-date attraction and show times.
- Teenagers – Due to the nature of the activities, visiting all four parks would be difficult with younger kids. A family needs to be able to walk fast (and around slower traffic like families with strollers) and be patient while waiting in lines. Additionally, nixing the character appearances, like meeting Cinderella, made more time for rides like Space Mountain and the Tower of Terror.
- Walking shoes – Walking through acres and acres of Disney World can wear on you. Since one can easily walk 10 or more miles that day, pick something comfortable with good support to walk in. We found out the hard way that sandals can get uncomfortable quick, so plan ahead.
- Tickets – You can save a lot of time buying your Park Hopper tickets online and having them shipped to your house weeks before the vacation. This helps you avoid the long lines in the morning at will call and lets you go straight into the parks.
Check out the park hours online, so you can visit the parks in the order that lets you get the most out of the experience. Then park your car where you plan to finish your day so when your DGS is complete you won’t have to use the transportation system to get back.
Animal Kingdom – 10:00 am – We started our day with the animals. The signature ride at this park is the Kilimanjaro Safaris Expedition and according to our safari guide, the animals are most active in the morning. The wait here was over an hour and a half, so we used a FastPass and saw the 3D movie It’s Tough To Be A Bug during the wait.
After going on the amazing safari, we headed to the Dinosaur ride, which is surprisingly exciting. We finished this park by walking through the Tree of Life. The resort transportation buses run every 15 minutes or so, so we hopped on a bus to Epcot because it closed earlier than the other parks.
Epcot – 2:30 pm – We knew we wanted to eat lunch at one of the pavilions in Epcot. There are 11 different countries represented at the World Showcase, and the architecture at each pavilion is incredible. Disney has a way of making you feel like you are really visiting the countries the pavilions represent.
After lunch at the Liberty Inn, we went to Spaceship Earth, Epcot’s signature ride. It’s located inside of the structure that looks like a huge golf ball and it’s a slow, high-tech ride about the history of human communication.
Since Soarin’ was down and we’d already done Mission: SPACE, we gave Ellen’s Energy Adventure a try. This attraction is all about the science of energy, narrated by Ellen DeGeneres (the 90’s version) and Bill Nye the Science Guy. The intro was packed full of information, but unless you are really missing your college lectures during the summer, I’d recommend avoiding it for more thrilling attractions.
We rode the Three Caballeros boat ride on the way out and hopped on the buses again for Hollywood Studios because Magic Kingdom was open two hours longer.
Hollywood Studios – 6:15 pm – As soon as we got in to the park, we headed to the Tower of Terror (my favorite) where we got lucky with lines. I rode that ride as a kid 12 years ago, and it’s just as fun as I remembered.
We walked around and visited the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and then waited in line for Toy Story Mania. Though the line is normally always long there (we waited over an hour), the waiting area is pretty cool with a giant talking Mr. Potato Head to keep you company.
We wanted to spend the rest of our time at our favorite park, Magic Kingdom, so we took our last bus to the transportation center and took the monorail over.
Magic Kingdom – 8:45 pm – We arrived at Magic Kingdom the same time as hundreds of other families because they all flocked to the park for the Main Street Electrical Parade and the fireworks show. Since so many people were watching the parade, lines were really short and we got to hit most of the main rides very quickly.
After getting a FastPass for Space Mountain, we ate dinner, went to the Haunted Mansion, Mickey’s PhilharMagic, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, Pirates of the Caribbean, and all of Tomorrowland. Definitely visit Mickey’s PhilharMagic—a short movie about Donald and the most realistic 3D experience I’ve ever had.
We watched the fireworks display right above Cinderella Castle and finished our day at Space Mountain. Though it was very exhausting, we got to do more than I ever thought was possible in one day and it was an experience I will always remember.
If you plan to visit all four parks or have any Disney tips to share for our next adventure, I’d love to hear it!