If you are heading to “The Happiest Place on Earth,” surely you will want to spend several days experiencing everything Walt Disney World has to offer? But what about if time constraints or budget means that spending a few days at Magic Kingdom et al. just isn’t a feasible option? Don’t worry, we have the perfect guide for you as we recently embarked on a challenge to explore Disney World in one day!
Crazy, stupid, exhausting, unrealistic…all words along with a few expletives that were thrown out when considering the thought of exploring Disney World in one day. Most people visiting Disney will spend at least one day in each of the four parks so how on earth could we even contemplate experiencing the best attractions in less than 24 hours. We had read a few articles of some of our fellow travel blogging friends accomplishing this, so we were up for the challenge.
Let’s take a look at exactly what our challenge entailed, how we went about achieving our goals and the final outcome! You may just be inspired to visit Disney World in the future, regardless of how much time you plan to spend in Orlando…I don’t want to give too much away but Disney World in one day can be done.
Disney World Information
Ok, let’s start with a few of the basics. Here are the four parks in question along with their opening and closing times which essentially gave us the window we were working with.
- Magic Kingdom – 9:00 AM to 10:00 PM
- Epcot – 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM (World Showcase opens at 11:00 AM)
- Animal Kingdom – 9:00 AM to 9:30 PM
- Hollywood Studios – 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM
Please note, these hours may vary at different times of the year and these are valid at the time of publication. For the latest hours, check out the following link: Disney World Park Times and Hours.
If you only have one day to explore Disney World, you will likely want to purchase the “Hopper” pass to have unlimited access to all four parks. Here are the rates (at the time of publication) for the various options available:
1-Day Value Ticket for Magic Kingdom – $107 (Adults 10+) $101 (Children 3-9)
1-Day Value Ticket for Epcot, Animal Kingdom or Hollywood Studios – $99 (Adults 10+) $93 (Children 3-9)
1-Day Value Ticket with Park Hopper Option – $162 (Adults 10+) $156 (Children 3-9)
For those of you that have already figured out that exploring Disney World in one day isn’t feasible, check out all of the tickets and pricing options here: Disney World Theme Park Tickets.
Parking and Transportation
Visitors staying away from Disney World will enjoy the benefit of ample parking that costs only $20 per day and provides access to parking lots across the resort. If you are planning on visiting multiple parks throughout the day, we strongly recommend using one of the following public transportation methods:
- Ferry – Water taxis and ferries offers visitors the opportunity to sail to and from Magic Kingdom. The cruise is only about 10 minutes but is definitely an experience you will enjoy, especially as you approach the infamous sight of Cinderella’s Castle.
- Monorail – Two different monorail routes are a great way to get around the Disney World resort. One of the routes will take visitors between the Transportation/Ticket Center and Epcot, while the other route stops between Magic Kingdom and several of the onsite hotels.
- Shuttle Bus – If neither of the other alternatives are available, you can be sure that a shuttle bus will be just minutes away from taking you to your chosen destination throughout Disney World. If you are planning a visit to Animal Kingdom from any of the other parks, a shuttle bus is your only option but the bus drivers will certainly make this an enjoyable trip!
Disney World in One Day
How do you even begin to contemplate exploring everything Disney World has to offer in just one day? The entire Disney World resort covers 40 square miles, essentially the same size as the city of San Francisco! Trying to accomplish as much as possible in just one day requires plenty of planning, research and a strong desire to achieve the goals you set.
We figured that we had about a 12-hour window to explore Disney World so rather than trying to visit all four parks, our challenge was made a little easier when we decided to visit just three. Easy right? Ok, maybe not given the vast size of these parks and having to take into consideration travel time between them etc. More on that aspect later.
Anyone visiting Disney World for the first time will certainly want to visit the iconic theme park, Magic Kingdom. It’s pretty much a given that everyone needs to experience the “magic” at least once so this was at the very top of our list of must-see parks.
As avid world travelers, the World Showcase at Epcot was another area we just had to experience so this was second on our list and the intriguing prospect of taking a Kilimanjaro Safari meant that Animal Kingdom was added to our itinerary.
After figuring out where we wanted to go and organizing times for “must-see” attractions using our Fast Pass privileges, we established the following “tentative” schedule to experience Disney World in one day!
Morning (8:00 AM to 12:00 PM)
Afternoon (12:00 PM to 5:00 PM)
Evening (5:00 PM to 9:00 PM)
Could we have added Hollywood Studios to this itinerary? We spent quite a bit of time exploring Epcot so had we opted against experiencing everything there and also not made lunch reservations at the Rose and Crown Pub, we could probably have visited all four!
Let’s not get too carried away though because three Disney World theme parks in one day is more than sufficient…I know many of you will still think we are crazy for even attempting this.
Rather than giving a full play by play insight into our visit to each of the three parks, I am going to save that for future posts. As I am sure you can imagine, it’s pretty easy to put together a 1000+ word post on each of these parks given the plethora of amazing things to do and experience in each one. However, I will give you a brief synopsis of what we accomplished in each one along with the transition phase to get from one park to the next.
As we mentioned above, our day started bright and early at Magic Kingdom. After parking our vehicle at around 7:20 AM, we headed through security (I will add that this was a breeze at that time!) and boarded the shuttle bus to the entrance.
The ferry and monorail are two other alternative transportation methods but at that time, neither of these were open.
TIP #1 – ARRIVE EARLY AT MAGIC KINGDOM TO BEAT THE CROWDS!
The beauty of arriving at Magic Kingdom “early” is that you can experience the Main Street which in itself is a cool themed area that you can enjoy before entering the main attraction through Cinderella’s Castle. Souvenir shops, restaurants, and even a Starbucks that fits the theme of the “turn of the century” American Main Street!
Moments before 9:00 AM, visitors that woke up bright and early are rewarded with the “welcome” from the one and only Mickey Mouse and a short introduction to some of the other iconic Disney characters ends with visitors having the opportunity to pass under the Arch of Cinderella Castle.
The masses of visitors all start scrambling to experience their favorite rides, so where do you even begin?
TIP #2 – DON’T LET THE ADVERTISED WAIT TIMES STOP YOU…FREQUENTLY EXAGGERATED!
Here are just a few of the rides and attractions that we experienced and again, we will share more details on these later:
- Mad Tea Party
- Princess Fairytale Hall
- Under the Sea – Journey of The Little Mermaid
- Swiss Family Treehouse
- The Hall of Presidents
- Jungle Cruise
- Gaston’s Tavern
Needless to say, there is a myriad of entertaining experiences awaiting visitors to Magic Kingdom and we cannot argue against the fact you could easily spend all day here.
However, we were able to walk around the entire park and enjoy a variety of attractions before heading back to the transportation hub on the ferry and then hopping on the monorail to Epcot.
TIP #3 – EXPERIENCE THE MAGIC KINGDOM FERRY AT LEAST ONCE!
Regardless of your chosen method of transportation to arrive at Epcot, the iconic sight of the geodesic sphere will greet you!
Spaceship Earth is one of the many attractions at Epcot and after heading through security, we waited about 25 minutes to take the journey through the dome and enjoy a look at technological advancements over the centuries.
Travel in time and explore the history of communication on a ride that takes you from the Stone Age to the computer age.
We quickly realized that Epcot offered a perfect blend of attractions for young and old alike. As avid world travelers, the World Showcase was undoubtedly our highlight attraction. Whether you have previously visited the countries in person or simply want to learn more about them, exploring the “themed” areas is definitely an inspiring experience.
Ready for a bite to eat? Enjoying lunch at the Rose and Crown Pub that we had previously made reservations for was a cool experience and definitely something that we recommend.
You will quickly realize that Epcot is far larger than Magic Kingdom in terms of size. Looking at the numbers, Epcot covers around 300 acres and Magic Kingdom is only 105 acres. This difference is particularly noticeable on your legs if you walk all around the World Showcase! But it’s well worth the effort.
TIP #4 – ENJOY LUNCH (OR DINNER) AT EPCOT! VARIETY OF WORLD CUISINES TO EXPERIENCE – WE RECOMMEND THE ROSE AND CROWN PUB IN THE UNITED KINGDOM AREA
If you are heading to Animal Kingdom as we did, you can leave Epcot and hop on the shuttle bus that will take you on the short journey to the entrance. Just to reiterate what we mentioned earlier, although the $20 parking pass provides access to all the Disney World parking lots, you will be better suited using the public transportation to get from one park to the next.
We arrived at Animal Kingdom shortly after 5:00 PM and I will be perfectly honest, we were already pretty exhausted! Perhaps this fatigue clouded our experience and overall judgment of Animal Kingdom or maybe it was because of the poor weather we experienced throughout the evening.
As we began our journey around Animal Kingdom, we started to hear that many of the rides were temporarily closed because of the storms throughout the Orlando area.
Unfortunately, the Kali River Rapids ride was one of these that was closed and we had fast-pass tickets for this but our other highlight experience, the Kilimanjaro Safari was still scheduled.
TIP #5 – BOOK A SUNSET TOUR ON THE KILIMANJARO SAFARI FOR THE BEST EXPERIENCES WITH THE WILDLIFE!
We spent a couple of hours walking around and enjoying the sights and sounds of this theme park before heading to the Safari to experience a variety of African animals roaming around the plains.
The Tree of Life is certainly a focal point inside Animal Kingdom and definitely an impressive sight, especially as darkness falls and it is illuminated and an unmistakable attraction.
Shortly before 9:00 PM, we headed back to the bus depot and took the shuttle to Magic Kingdom where we enjoyed the final few minutes of the firework display.
What a day!! 14 incredible hours and undoubtedly well worth the effort to accomplish our goal of exploring Disney World in one day. Realistically, I think it’s feasible to explore two parks (Magic Kingdom and one other) in the same day, particularly if you don’t have children and you are not necessarily interested in experiencing every ride at Magic Kingdom.
However, for anyone that claims that Disney World is overrated and a tourist trap, we would certainly argue that this is far from the truth. Yes, it’s expensive! Yes, you will spend money! But everything you experience is well worth it because there is a reason why this place is renowned globally as the “Happiest Place on Earth”…do we agree? 100% YES!!