A theme park writer shares her “four-park challenge” tips and hacks.
The most magical place on earth, Walt Disney World, covers over 25,000 acres in Central Florida. The house of Mickey Mouse is not only home to the adorable characters of our childhood, but also four different theme parks — Magic Kingdom Park, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, EPCOT, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom. For the true Disney connoisseur, the happiest visit can be accomplished by visiting each and every park. However, considering current restrictions mean you can’t park hop until the afternoon, you might be wondering how to do all four Disney World theme parks in one day — and if it’s even possible.
Known as “the four-park challenge,” this popular feat for Disney fans requires the ambitious guest to ride at least one attraction and eat one snack in each park. While the current regulations, which restrict you from park hopping until 2 p.m., make it a little harder to accomplish, I’m a theme park writer who visits Walt Disney World once a month with my family, and I’ve come up with some Disney insider tips and tricks — as well as an itinerary — that helps me hit all four parks during my visits.
Are you up for the challenge? Armed with a little faith, truth, pixie dust (and comfortable shoes), you can visit all four Disney theme parks in one day. But first, you’re going to want to get familiar with some key Disney lingo to help you navigate your magical day.
The Disney Dictionary
- Park Reservations: Walt Disney World requires advanced park reservations for your visit. After purchasing your park tickets, you’ll have to reserve a starting park for each day of your vacation.
- Park Hopping: This is Disney speak for starting at one theme park and then visiting another in the same day. At Walt Disney World, guests can park hop to the next park beginning at 2 p.m. After that, they are free to visit the other parks.
- Disney Genie+: This paid service replaced the former FastPass system. Disney Genie+ allows guests to book time slots for expedited access to select attractions beginning at 7 a.m. on the day of visit for resort guests and every 2 hours or after checking into current selection.
- Lightning Lane: This is the expedited line used to enter the attraction. You can access the Lightning Lane for most attractions via Disney Genie+ but certain high demand attractions are surcharged and available on an a la carte basis.
- Virtual Queue: Disney World’s newest attraction, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, can be accessed through a virtual queue for free or by purchasing an a la carte Lighting Lane. Within the Disney mobile app, guests can enter the virtual queue at 7 a.m. and 1 p.m.. Disney Deluxe resort guests will have a third opportunity to access the virtual queue at 6 p.m.
- Advanced Dining Reservations: Guests can make advanced dining reservations up to 60 days in advance. Last minute available tables are able to be reserved via a walk-up feature in the Disney app.
Now that we’ve gotten the basics over, let’s dive into how you and your unwavering enthusiasm can successfully complete the four-park challenge. In addition to a list of the must-dos in each park, I’ll be sharing some attractions and food offerings you can skip if you’re crunched on time. After all, Walt Disney World is literally a world and while you won’t cover everything in one day, this schedule offers a nice taste of the very best it has to offer.
How To Do All Four Disney Theme Parks In 1 Day
12 a.m.: Yes, you’re on vacation, but the makings of your magical day begin as soon as the clock strikes midnight. And no, you won’t turn into a pumpkin. This is when guests can purchase the Disney Genie+ service. It is subject to availability, so it is highly recommended to purchase thhis immediately when it becomes available.
7 a.m.: It’s go time, and those without the fastest fingers will be left behind. This is when Disney resort guests can begin booking attractions via Disney Genie+ as well as individual lightning lanes. Keep in mind that the first virtual queue for Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind is only available for guests starting at EPCOT.
Morning: Begin your day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. After snacking on a breakfast Ronto wrap from Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, it’s time to knock out some of the most sought-after Disney park attractions. Here, you can use Disney Genie+ service to experience in-demand attractions, like Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, while also using traditional standby queues for attractions with shorter ride times.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios Must-Do Attractions:
- Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster
- The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
- Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
Disney’s Hollywood Studios Must Eats:
- Ronto Roasters’ Ronto wraps
- BaseLine Tap House’s charcuterie board and pretzel
- Hollywood Brown Derby Lounge’s signature cobb salad and grapefruit cake
Things To Skip At Disney’s Hollywood Studios:
- Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular!
- Hollywood & Dine
- Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano
Lunch: The Florida sun is no joke, and since you have a long day ahead of you, it’s wise to take a moment to recharge with a sit-down lunch. Most of the table service options at Disney’s Hollywood Studios leave much to be desired but there are some delicious options for those in the know. Use the app’s walk-up feature to reserve a table at The Brown Derby Lounge or enjoy the casual vibes and standout food and beverage offerings at BaseLine Tap House (get the beer flight). As you’re making your Disney Genie+ reservations, begin considering attractions for the late afternoon and evening at the other theme parks.
1 p.m.: Join the virtual queue for EPCOT’s Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind.
1:30 p.m.: With park hopping opening shortly, use Disney Parks bus transportation to visit your second park of the day, Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
2 p.m.: Start at Jambo from Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Here, you can explore the illuminating world of Pandora – The World of Avatar, ride the steel roller coaster Expedition Everest using the single rider lane, and snack on globally-inspired bites. After experiencing Avatar Flight on Passage using Lightning Lane, a ride on Kilimanjaro Safaris provides breathtaking views of Disney’s largest theme park and the thousands of live animals that call it home.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Must Do Attractions:
- Kilimanjaro Safaris
- Avatar Flight of Passage
- Expedition Everest
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Must Eats:
- Nomad Lounge’s gluten free churros
- Satu’li Canteen’s fire-grilled meat bowls and cheeseburger pods
- Eight Spoon Café’s pulled pork mac and cheese
Things To Skip At Disney’s Animal Kingdom:
- Kali River Rapids
- It’s Tough to be a Bug!
4 p.m.: Use Disney Parks bus transportation to visit your third park of the day, EPCOT. Experience Disney World’s newest attraction, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind and classic attractions, like Spaceship Earth and Living with the Land. Instead of reserving a sit-down meal, snack (and drink!) around World Showcase pavilions or take part in one of the park’s food and wine festivals.
EPCOT Must Do Attractions:
- Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind
- Frozen Ever After
- Spaceship Earth
EPCOT Must Eats:
- La Cava Del Tequila’s avocado margarita
- Spice Road Table’s hummus fries
- Les Halle Boulangerie-Patisserie’s pastries
Things To Skip At EPCOT:
- Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure
- Mission: SPACE
- Space 220
7 p.m.: At the main entrance of EPCOT, hop aboard the highway of the sky, the iconic monorail, to venture to your fourth and final park of the day, Disney’s Magic Kingdom Park. Ride classic attractions, like Space Mountain and Pirates of the Caribbean, before enjoying their new nighttime spectacular, Disney Enchantment. Snack on DOLE Whip or enjoy small plates from Jungle Navigation Co. LTD Skipper Canteen by snagging a last-minute table through the mobile app’s walk-up function.
Disney’s Magic Kingdom Must Do Attractions:
- Space Mountain
- Pirates of the Caribbean
- The Haunted Mansion
Disney’s Magic Kingdom Must Eats:
- Aloha Isle’s coconut pineapple swirl DOLE Whip
- Jungle Navigation Co. LTD Skipper Canteen’s secret menu Pao de Queijo (Brazilian cheese bread)
- Sleepy Hollow’s fresh fruit and Nutella waffle sandwich
Things To Skip At Disney’s Magic Kingdom:
- Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
- Tomorrowland Speedway
- Casey’s Corner
- Be Our Guest
Late: Following fireworks, take the monorail to one of Magic Kingdom’s surrounding resorts along the Seven Seas Lagoon. Throw back a tiki concoction at Trader Sam’s Enchanted Grog Grotto or enjoy a glass of wine from the Beauty and the Beast-themed Enchanted Rose Lounge. You’ve earned it.
Four-Park Challenge Tips:
- Stay hydrated by bringing a reusable water bottle with you. There are free water refilling stations in all theme parks.
- A portable phone charger will be your new best friend. A successful Disney day relies heavily on using the mobile app, which unfortunately is a battery drainer.
- Don’t get caught up in trying to ride every attraction possible. Disney is so much more than just rides — expand your palate with a new-to-you snack or take in a show inside an air-conditioned theater.