Even though Walt Disney World Resort offers a one-day “park hopper” pass that gives you unlimited access to Animal Kingdom, Disney Studios, Epcot and the Magic Kingdom, visiting all of them on the same day is almost impossible.
But not entirely.
Seeing it all requires careful planning, triathlete-like endurance and the kind of determination not typically found in a family of five on vacation.
We’ve come to call this the Kissimmee Challenge — and yes, it is doable.
Four years ago, we dragged our three kids — two of whom were still in strollers — to four parks while on assignment for the Miami Herald. We pulled it off, hitting three rides in each place. It was totally exhausting, and by the end of the day, we vowed never to try it again.
But then we started to wonder if our achievement was a fluke. Did we have an unfair advantage, with kids in a double stroller? Could we do it again, now that the children were a little older and, um, more independent? On a recent visit to Kissimmee, we decided to find out.
The Magic Kingdom (9 a.m.)
We started at the original Disney theme park because it’s the busiest. If we wanted to hit three rides, we’d have to choose carefully and get there early. Each child picked an attraction. Aren, our oldest, wanted to ride Pirates of the Caribbean. Our son Iden requested Small World. And our daughter Erysse wanted Peter Pan. We hit them, one-two-three, and were out of the park in less than two hours, despite the throng of people who, like a slow-moving river, were flowing toward Cinderella Castle.
Epcot (11 a.m.)
Epcot is only a short monorail ride down the line, and even though it is the least impacted of the parks, it probably has the best food options for kids. So after riding The Land (with no wait) we had an early lunch and then headed over to Nemo and Friends and the aquarium area. Alas, Nemo was briefly closed, so we strolled through the aquarium and then caught our ride. We were still on schedule!
Disney Studios (1 p.m.)
No wait for Tower of Terror, which we could all ride on (it freaked Aren out). Our plans to hit Toy Story fizzled when we saw a one-hour wait, so we zipped over to watch the 3D Muppets show, which is one of our favorites. In places, the park was filled wall-to-wall with guests. Although I wanted to check out the renovated Star Wars ride, there simply wasn’t enough time. On to the next park.
Animal Kingdom (3 p.m.)
We were starting to get nervous. Animal Kingdom was closing soon, and we needed to spend some meaningful time in the park. Plus, there was a parade coming our way. We started at Bug’s Life, which was practically deserted (but as amusing as ever) and then zipped over to Kilimanjaro Safaris, the open-air ride that gets you up close with giraffe, gazelle, lions and other African wildlife. By the time we reached the Tree of Life, a tide of visitors was emptying out of the park. We were swept away, back to the buses that returned us to our parking spot at the Magic Kingdom. We finished at around 5:30 p.m.
“So, what did you think?” I asked the kids as they slumped in their seats.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
“I’m hungry,” said Iden.
“I’m tired,” said Erysse.
“Too much,” said Aren.
Too much? Well, good thing we only try this only once every four years.
(Photos: Kiraca/Flickr; Christopher Elliott)