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Welcome to Disney Week at The Points Guy! All week we’ll be covering everything there is to know about Disney parks all around the world. After you’ve read this guide to riding all 48 rides at Walt Disney World, make sure to check out our other Disney stories — the list is at the bottom of this page.
With 40 square miles of fun, Walt Disney World can easily keep a family of all ages entertained for a week or longer. You’re almost guaranteed not to be able to take advantage of all of the seemingly endless shows, restaurants, resorts, theme parks and water parks that entice you to come back and try to finish them all another time.
But what if you could do it all, not in a one-week trip, but in just one day?
More specifically, what if you could ride every single Disney World ride, not just within one park, but in all four theme parks in a single day? This is the question that TPG contributor Ed Pizzarello and I pondered.
Is It Even Possible?
As Disney-obsessed nerds who love to maximize our time, money and points at Disney, Pizzarello and I fantasized about riding every ride in the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom in a single day. Indeed, there are a few people who have done all that, and even more who’ve failed.
After weeks of watching the wait times in the Disney World app, researching Touring Plans, stalking FastPass+ reservations, creating spreadsheets and doing on-the-ground research, at 6:48am on Wednesday, it was finally our turn. All 48 moving attractions at Walt Disney World in one day (a 49th is under refurbishment), while trying to shatter the speed record in the process. We had 14 hours from park open to close — already a challenge, considering the current “Parkeology” record for riding every Disney World ride in one day is 16 hours and 47 minutes.
We knew the odds were long, but this was for charity. We were raising money for Give Kids the World, an 84-acre Orlando-area nonprofit that fulfills wish vacations for families on trips through organizations like Make-A-Wish.
For every ride we completed on our challenge, we asked people to donate something, whether it was 50 cents a ride or more. (TPG and its parent company, Red Ventures, gave $50 per ride.)
There were ground rules, of course: no special access, no VIP tours, no purchasing extra FastPasses via Club Level, no guides, no outside help with FastPass+ management, no making breakfast reservations to get into the parks early, no help with transportation between the parks. In other words, we had nothing beyond a normal ticket to the park and our cellphones to check wait times and grab as many FastPasses as possible.
Spoiler alert: In our 14-hour day at the park, we rode 41 of the 48 currently-operating rides at the four Walt Disney World theme parks. We didn’t ride every ride at Disney World in one day this time, but we came darn close and learned lessons for those who will come after us (or just want to maximize their Disney visits).
Here’s what we learned.
Every Day Is Not the Same
Officially, we had 9am to 11pm to work with — longer than many days in September but still shorter than the peak times of the year, when the parks stay open for 16, 17 or even 18 hours. If you really want to experience as many rides as possible, check the operating schedule and target the longest days possible.
Make Plans but Be Prepared to Ditch Them
Don’t just show up at Disney World without a plan and hope to enjoy as many rides as possible. Maximizing Disney takes strategy, and boy, did we have a strategy. There were spreadsheets, checklists, optimized Touring Plans, time estimates and more.
But then we had to change everything on the fly. Expect the unexpected: thunderstorms, broken rides and, in our case, unexpected motion sickness forcing people to take a break. We had everything laid out one way, but when we (finally) scored Avatar Flight of Passage FastPass+ reservations the night before the challenge, it all changed. So keep adjusting plans as you go along.
Wear the Right Shoes
This is not the time for cute shoes and tops. Dress for a cross between running a marathon and an all-day hike, because what you’re doing is a combination of the two. (We racked up over 17 miles.)
]You need: a hat, broken-in running shoes, socks, backup socks, Band-Aids, granola bars, premade sandwiches … and mouse ears. This is Disney, after all.
Early Bird Gets the Ride
Some days, the theme parks open as early as 7am with Extra Magic Hours for Disney Resort guests. You need that early jump on the crowds, which means staying in a Disney hotel in the resort to get access to Extra Magic Hours, or staying at one of the Disney Springs properties that also have EMH privileges. (Here’s our top pick.) On our challenge day, all of the parks opened at the same time: 9am. This was not good news from a strategy perspective, but we made the best of it by getting to Magic Kingdom at 7am.
Our predawn arrival coincided with the time Magic Kingdom welcomes visitors with early-morning breakfast reservations (7:45am). Regular park guests are admitted onto Main Street for coffee, shopping and photos shortly after, no reservations required.
While the normal rides at Magic Kingdom don’t open before 9am, there is one that does: The retro cars and trolleys that take people up and down Main Street USA begin operating at 7:45am. They also stop operating early in the day, often around 10am. In other words, if you don’t get to Magic Kingdom very early in the day, your quest to ride all the rides is over as soon as it starts, because you need that ride down Main Street and can only take it in the morning.
We were on the Main Street trolley by 7:50am and lined up outside Hollywood Studios at 8:22 am to await the opening of that park. Here’s a critical Disney secret: Opening time isn’t always opening time. Sometimes it’s earlier.
Likely because of the popularity of Toy Story Land, Hollywood Studios has been opening a little earlier than the stated 9am time. On our visit, the park officially opened at 8:32am.
Since we were at the front of the line, we walked onto the popular (and wickedly fun) Slinky Dog Dash at 8:38am and avoided what would quickly grow to be a 60- to 90-minute wait. In fact, we also got into Alien Swirling Saucers immediately after Slinky Dog and had less than a five-minute wait for Toy Story Mania! By 9:55am, we had ridden every ride in Hollywood Studios (and had already logged a visit to the Magic Kingdom).
Walk Fast — Or Run
You have to keep a brisk pace the entire day, but sometimes you’ll want to jog. Or sprint. You’ll want to be especially quick during park openings, just before park closings and during fireworks shows. But more on that in a minute.
Had we leisurely strolled to Slinky Dog Dash when the park opened, those three to five minutes would have cost us at least 30 extra minutes of waiting in line. At the end of the evening, if we hadn’t returned to jogging pace, we wouldn’t have made our final two rides of the night: Astro Orbiter and Peter Pan’s Flight.
Maximize FastPasses on the Fly
Disney World lets you book three FastPass+ attractions in advance of your trip, but once you use those, you can get more in the My Disney Experience app. The only restriction is that you have to use those one at a time. You need strategic FastPasses (and luck), and FastPass+ availability changes quickly. You can’t just check every hour or so and hope to score amazing FastPass+ bookings.
To get the best FastPasses, you have to book 60 days out. Once you’re in the parks, check obsessively. At various points in the day, we had a FastPass+ for Flight of Passage, Kilimanjaro Safaris, Kali River Rapids, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Soarin’, Frozen Ever After, Haunted Mansion, Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean and more. You can get way more than your initial three FastPasses, but you need to be willing to select anything that will work, and then keep trying to modify either your time or ride. Collectively, we checked FastPass+ availability literally hundreds of times that day.
Know the Shortcuts
Every step counts (and we know, we did over 40,000 of them that day), so take every shortcut possible. This meant quickly walking through the Emporium Shop instead of going down crowded Main Street USA, skipping the shrinking room of Haunted Mansion (just ask, they’ll let you, claustrophobia and all) and just generally being well-versed in park geography so that you take the fastest path between two points.
Hydrate and Eat French Fries
It was 93 degrees and sunny in Orlando, and it felt even hotter. We each drank the equivalent of 10 to 12 bottles of water and Gatorade, but by midafternoon, we all started to crave French fries. We finally realized what we really wanted was salt.
If you’re in it to win it, you probably won’t have time to really sit down and eat French fries, but we took about 11 and a half minutes to sit and eat our fries with extra salt.
Don’t Waste Time on a Single Ride
A 15- to 20-minute wait for a ride may not sound like much of a delay in a major theme park, but when you want to ride all 48 rides across four parks in one day, it simply isn’t an option. We wouldn’t wait in any line that was more than 5 to 10 minutes long unless we had no other option. Our longest line of the entire day was 15 minutes, and that was for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, which frequently has a two-hour wait. The second-longest line was for Peter Pan’s Flight, close to a 15-minute wait, but we got in line at 10:59pm, one minute before park closing. As long as you are in line for a ride when the clock strikes, you get to enjoy a final thrill of the day.
The My Disney Experience app is your friend for monitoring wait times, but you should also check the wait boards as you pass rides, as the app isn’t always 100% accurate.
Watch for Rides That Close Early
The Main Street Vehicles aren’t the only rides that shut down early. The boat to Tom Sawyer Island closes around dusk, while the Walt Disney World Railroad at Magic Kingdom shuts down at 7pm. The Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover and Carousel of Progress are also known to close earlier than other Magic Kingdom attractions.
On the day of our challenge, Splash Mountain and Jungle Cruise didn’t participate in Extra Magic Hours, and closed at 9pm rather than 11pm, like most of the park. We missed out on several rides because of this.
Wait for the Fireworks
We entered the Magic Kingdom the second time at 6:12pm and only had 23 rides under our belts. Having not ridden Na’vi at Animal Kingdom (it was broken at first and then had massive wait times when it reopened) or Frozen Ever After at Epcot (we didn’t stay in the park until our FastPass+ time), we knew there was no way we could play to win. But we still wanted to ride as many rides as possible to raise money for our charity.
The absolute best time of the day (other than park opening) to ride rides is during the evening fireworks show, when waits plummet. We walked onto Tomorrowland Speedway and only had a 15-minute wait for Mine Train, unheard of during most of the day.
But you need to make the very best use of that fireworks sweet spot because it doesn’t last long. The second the show wrapped up, waits started to shoot back up. Tomorrowland Speedway was back to a 35-minute wait and Mine Train was back to over an hour within five minutes of the fireworks ending.
Even if you aren’t trying to ride every ride in a day, you can still use the fireworks showtime to your advantage to quickly ride otherwise very popular attractions, assuming you’re OK skipping the show.
Our Day in a Snapshot
In compliance with the Parkeology rules, we tweeted out a photo of ourselves on every single ride. (You can see the archive on our Twitter feeds (@mommypoints and @pizzainmotion.) Here’s the round-up, with some times included, to give you a taste of our day.
- 6:48am Depart Caribbean Beach in a Minnie Van
- 7:03am Arrive at Disney’s Magic Kingdom
- 7:46am Enter Disney’s Magic Kingdom
- 7:47am Ride 1: Main Street Vehicles
- 8:22am Arrive at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
- 8:32am Enter Disney’s Hollywood Studios
- 8:38am Ride 2: Slinky Dog Dash
- Ride 3: Alien Swirling Saucers
- Ride 4: Toy Story Mania!
- Ride 5: Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
- Ride 6: Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster
- Ride 7: Star Tours
- 9:55am Depart Hollywood Studios
- 10:02am (approximate) Get sick in a Minnie Van
- 10:25am (approximate) Enter Animal Kingdom
- 10:48am Ride 8: Flight of Passage (original FastPass)
- Ride 9: Kilimanjaro Safaris (original FastPass)
- Ride 10: Wildlife Express Train
- Ride 11: Kali River Rapid (original FastPass)
- Ride 12: Expedition Everest
- Ride 13: Primeval Whirl
- Ride 14: TriceraTop Spin
- 1:26pm Ride 15: Dinosaur
- 1:29pm Get sick (again, sorry, Dinosaur!)
- 2:07pm (approximate) Enter Epcot
- 2:11pm Ride 16: Spaceship Earth
- Ride 17: Living With the Land
- Ride 18: Soarin’
- Ride 19: The Sea With Nemo and Friends
- Ride 20: Journey Into Imagination
- 4:14pm Must have French fries
- Ride 21: Gran Fiesta Tour
- Ride 22: Test Track
- Ride 23: Mission: SPACE
- 5:54pm Depart Epcot on the monorail
- 6:12pm Enter Magic Kingdom
- 6:29pm Ride 24: Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (FastPass 4)
- 6:42pm Ride 25: Pirates of the Caribbean (FastPass 5)
- 7pm Requisite Purple Wall photos
- Ride 26: Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover
- Ride 27: Carousel of Progress
- Ride 28: Space Mountain
- 8:10pm Ride 29: Tomorrowland Speedway
- 8:36 Ride 30: Mine Train
- Ride 31: Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
- Ride 32: Mad Tea Party
- Ride 33: Dumbo the Flying Elephant
- Ride 34: Barnstormer
- Ride 35: Under the Sea — Journey of the Little Mermaid
- Ride 36: Prince Charming Regal Carrousel
- 10:00pm Ride 37: It’s a Small World
- 10:21pm Ride 38: Haunted Mansion
- 10:36pm Ride 39: Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
- 10:50om Ride 40: Astro Orbiter
- 10:59pm Get in line for Ride 41: Peter Pan’s Flight
- 12:03am Get 24-hour Disney McDonald’s via the Minnie Van
The sum total was 41 Walt Disney World rides, over 17 miles walked, multiple verified blisters, two bouts of motion sickness, lifelong memories and, most importantly, more than $10,000 raised for an amazing charity. Speaking of which, it isn’t too late to show your support so that kids battling life-threatening illnesses can build amazing memories of their own.
Want to read more about Disney parks around the world? Check out our other Disney guides…
- The Best Points Hotels Near Disney World in 2018
- TPG’s Ultimate Guide to Disney World
- In the Shadow of the Mouse: Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista – Disney Springs
- 9 Things Families Should Know Before Visiting Disneyland
- How to Save Money By Renting Disney Vacation Club Points
- The 10 Best Disney Thrill Rides Around the World
- How to Use Points to Buy Disney Tickets
- Disney World Without Kids: 10 Ways to Enjoy an Adult Trip to Disney
- 10 Things Kids Will Love at the Disney Aulani Resort in Hawaii
- How to Eat Healthy at Disney World
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