Four Parks, One Day & A Birthday Celebration

I brought up the Four Parks One Day idea and the only one who seemed to have much interest was Diva. Grumpy just gave me a look and Peanut said “okay” without much enthusiasm. As I continued to mention it Grumpy started to think it was a crazy idea. I wasn’t sure how far we’d make it and how the kids would hold up. How long was the day going to be? Was I actually crazy?

Every time I saw something about visiting all the parks in one day it was by an adult, either alone or with another adult. Never with kids. Then I came across Magical Moments on Twitter and watched their YouTube videos successfully hopping through the parks with their children. It helped my confidence that we could do it.

Before park hours released I started making a tentative plan. Our location at Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club Resort became pivotal in the plan and helped provide super easy park access. It even let me schedule a midday break at the resort!

The plan was to start at a park with Extra Magic Hours and end at whatever is open latest, which is almost always Magic Kingdom. Once the hours were released it was tough to pick a day. We obviously won’t do it the day we arrive and don’t want to save it until the day before we leave. We were planning to attend Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween party, so that day was out. But there were other days that Magic Kingdom closed early because of the parties we weren’t attending that further limited our options. Hopping to all the parks the day after we went to the Party made no sense because what if we were tired and wanted to sleep in. The only day left on our calendar was October 22. It was Diva’s birthday!

In very simple form my plan looked like this:

  • 2 hours at each park
  • 1 hour between for transportation
  • 2 hour to take a break at the hotel and commute between parks

or when I actually filled in the parks and times:

  • 8:00a-10:00a      Animal Kingdom
  • 10:00a-11:00a    Transportation (bus)
  • 11:00a-1:00p      Hollywood Studios
  • 1:00p-3:00p        Transportation (boat and/or walk) and Break
  • 3:00-5:00p          Epcot
  • 5:00p-6:00p        Transportation (monorail)
  • 6:00p-8:00p        Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom was open until 10pm, but it was going to be a long day, so 8PM sounded like a good time to wrap up the day.

Once I knew where we were going the next thing on the list was to figure out what to do. There are a variety of versions to the “challenge” because anyone could easily enter all the parks in the day and then walk out. Our goal was going to be to meet Mickey Mouse in each park. I hoped to be cute and do a Modern Family-style picture in picture at each park. I made sure to know where each park’s Memory Maker Sales Center was located in order to print out of pictures.

The biggest challenge was where to book our FastPass reservations. Animal Kingdom was easily off the list. Extra Magic Hours should give us an advantage in the park and short morning wait times. Magic Kingdom was too late in the day. I teetered back and forth between Hollywood Studios and Epcot. Ultimately Epcot won the battle due to the time of day and likely higher wait times. Unfortunately, Disney threw a monkey wrench in my plans by moving the Character Spot to a Tier 1 FastPass. This meant we had to choose between Frozen and meeting Mickey and friends at the Character Spot. We’ve never been on Frozen and this was going to be the day to do it. Since I have a Disney Visa my fingers were crossed that Mickey would be at the special meet and greet for cardholders.

So, that was the plan. Here’s what actually happened…

Everyone knew we needed to be out of bed and to the bus by 7:15. In reality, I just hoped they would get moving to be there by 7:30, even though that could make us late. I was impressed that we actually walked out the door of our room at 7:04am.

Breakfast was on the go. The line at Beach Club Marketplace was longer than I would have hoped, but we grabbed two bounty platters to share and walked out to the bus stop at 7:23am as the bus was loading.

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Animal Kingdom

We arrived at Animal Kingdom and were taking pictures at the 20th-anniversary sign by 7:45.

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We had scanned into the park at 7:50 and walked towards Africa to ride Kilimanjaro Safari. We were only allowed to the Africa entrance and held there until exactly 8:00 when they let the crowd move into the area. Everyone filed to the safari queue and a cast member was there announcing that it wouldn’t open until 8:15. They weren’t even letting people into the queue. He probably repeated “8:15” at least ten times. I had been expecting to be on Safari by that time, but there was nothing we were going to do but wait. We eyed the snacks at the snack stand across from the line for a short time. To my surprise, the line started moving at 8:07 quickly filling the queue.

At 8:17 we boarded the vehicle and were off to see…. not really very much. It ended up being the quietest safari we’ve taken. There were only a couple giraffes, some sleepy hippos and crocodiles, a rhino, and a cheetah. We did manage to find some playful lions, but that was all.

 

 

 

We took a quick turn onto the Gorilla Exploration Trail. We had heard we may catch a glimpse of a new baby, but only found the fish pond, zebras, and gorillas.

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Our intention was to meet Mickey & Minnie right after the Safari. The Gorilla Trail wasn’t our only distraction. The drums in Africa are hard for any kid to pass up and a very short line to meet Timon, a character we had never met was another easy detour.

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We also stopped in front of the Tree of Life for quite possibly the worst PhotoPass picture ever! 

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Finally, we made it to Mickey & Minnie’s line at 9:32. It was a 40 minute posted wait. There was a very high probability that we were going to be off schedule. It was a very slow line. There was a lot of Tic Tac Toe, posing for silly pictures, some eye rolling, and tons of Rock Paper Scissors before finally made it to the room to meet Mickey & Minnie. 

 

 

 

Minnie made such a big deal over Diva and her birthday. Then she pointed out our shirts to Mickey and was excited we were visiting all the parks. They were a lot of fun. We rushed out at 10:30, almost a full hour after we entered the line. We were definitely off schedule. As we waited for the bus to go to Hollywood Studios I found another PhotoPass disaster: 

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Our plan to print the pictures was already thrown out the window. With some adjustments, I was able to see it was a rather cute photo. 

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Next stop, Hollywood Studios

Despite a long wait for Mickey & Minnie we weren’t as off scheduled as it may have seemed. We didn’t wait very long for a bus and once the few of us leaving the park that early quickly boarded it took less than 15 minutes to arrive at Hollywood Studios. The bus dropped us off at the park at 11:04AM. We were right back on schedule. 

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We had just been at the park the prior day and visited many of the rides. There was little chance that Slinky Dog would be an option. A quick check of the wait times had most attractions rather high. Mickey & Minnie’s line was long as well so we took a restroom break and decided to order lunch. ABC Commissary has been a good option for us on prior trips and it is right across from Mickey & Minnie’s location. I placed a mobile order and we made our way to the restaurant. We found a perfect spot in the shade and could watch the line while we ate. (Well, not really the line but the number of people going into it.) 

We took our time eating. When we finished, the wait was only about 25 minutes (until we met Minnie). It was our first time seeing visiting the Red Carpet meet and greet. I think it might be my favorite of their meeting locations and outfits. The movie theme outside the building and into the queue was super cute. 

 

 

 

Diva was obsessed with Minnie and her beautiful pink dress. Mickey the Magician and his magic studio were the best!

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We checked around to see if Goofy or Chip and Dale were meeting on Grand Avenue, but no luck. A quick glance inside Animation Courtyard also said that Vampirina’s line was too long. So we took a few pictures around the park and on the way out. 

 

 

 

The line to the Friendship boats was very short, unlike the prior day, and the boat was just approaching. It was 1:22PM as we walked towards the dock. The ride back to our hotel was 20 minutes, the same as our walk. It was just more relaxing. 

A short break

I was aware that a special delivery was coming to our room, but as we approached the room I saw someone (ahem, Grumpy) left the room occupied sign on the door. I walked in and confirmed there was no delivery. A message was waiting from the front desk to let us know it couldn’t be delivered. I called to let them know the room was now open and Grumpy took the kids to the arcade. I took some time to straighten up since we had left pretty quickly in the morning. Once cleaned up I went to meet them at the arcade. As I walked down the hall I saw our delivery on the way and chatted with the Cast Member briefly. 

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Forty-five minutes and probably way too much money later we went back to the room. Diva closed her eyes to see her surprise: A birthday package full of balloons, cake, popcorn, and Mickey rice krispy treats sent by my sister. Diva was super excited about her balloons. We sang “Happy Birthday,” Grumpy took a short nap, and the kids and I enjoyed some delicious chocolate cake. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The cake was more than enough for our snack while in the room and for the next few days too!

On to Epcot

We were about to make our first stop at Epcot for this visit. Our resort location also allowed us to walk to Epcot and enter through the International Gateway. We were scheduled for a FastPass on Frozen from 2:55-3:55pm. We left the room at 3:15pm and the walk took us only eight minutes to get to the gate. The countries were a bit crowded with visitors enjoying The Food & Wine Festival but we navigated through and arrived at Frozen at 3:40pm. We created our own mini-version of the Frozen Sing-A-Long all singing and laughing as we traveled through the scenes. 

Diva was in full Frozen mode when we exited the ride. She was signing “In Summer” and talking about Coronation Day (still!). “It’s Coronation Day. No, it’s my birthday!” she exclaimed. Our family split up briefly so she and I could go meet Elsa and Anna while Peanut dragged Grumpy back to China to look at something he saw when we passed through a few minutes earlier. 

As we waited to meet Elsa and Anna she repeatedly told me “It’s Coronation Day!” with so much excitement. She said she couldn’t wait to tell Anna. She did get a little nervous and needed a reminder. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Diva continued singing after we left our Frozen adventure and searched for the boys in China. They had gathered in a rather sizeable crowd to watch an amazing performance of Jeweled Dragon Acrobats. There was just enough room for us to sit right in front of them. It’s crazy how such a big crowd can go silent as we all watch in awe mixed with a bit of fear and concern while the acrobats construct pillars for balancing. I was speechless as the show ended but the kids had so much to say as we left World Showcase. Peanut recapped the parts we had missed while visiting the princesses. 

We made our next FastPass at Spaceship Earth and took a few pictures around the attractions too. 

 

 

 

Now, we needed to find Mickey. The Disney Visa meeting spot isn’t marked on the park maps. I had reviewed the location online a few times, but we still asked a couple cast members to get pointed in the right direction. We walked in and NOT ONE PERSON was in line! The cast member greeted us, wished Diva a “happy birthday,” and then quizzed the kids on who they thought might be behind the wall. As they were yelling “Mickey” he was peeking his head around the wall. They got so excited. Mickey walked us back and we found Goofy too! It was such a great experience because there was no rush at all. We spent close to five minutes telling them about our day, chatting with the PhotoPass photographer and the other cast member about upcoming changes at Epcot, and finally telling Mickey we’ll meet him at Magic Kingdom. 

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One more to go… Magic Kingdom

We were behind the “planned” scheduled at 5:37pm as we left Epcot anticipating to ride the Monorail to Magic Kingdom. It was shut down! We were directed to use the buses, but the problem was the marquee at Epcot doesn’t list a stop for a bus to Magic Kingdom since the Monorail is the main form of transportation between the two parks. We certainly weren’t the only confused guests as we wandered around until we found a cast member to finally direct us to the bus that would lead to Magic Kingdom. The line was very long and leading past a few other stops. 

It felt like forever waiting for a bus to arrive. In reality, it was less than 15 minutes and TWO buses pulled in to load the masses. I think a third was arriving as we pulled away so my guess is that the breakdown of the monorail happened not very long before we arrived and the call immediately went out for bus transport. My thoughts raced to being stuck on the Monorail and I felt a bit of relief that we were running a bit late. 

Once again “late” was not very far off because of the transportation window built into our schedule. We arrived at Magic Kingdom at 6:14pm. The waiting in line, during loading, and a brief stop at the Ticket and Transportation Center let me look over wait times at Magic Kingdom. Meeting Mickey at Town Square was over an hour so we just threw that plan out the window.  We were actually really full of energy and just ready to have fun. 

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I had rattled off a list of available FastPass options while we were driving and Buzz Lightyear Space Spin was the popular vote. We went right there and then placed a mobile order for a meal at Casey’s. While we were eating I happened to check out a live stream from Gen at Earsome Emporium, a streamer Diva and I frequently watched at home. Diva had been asking as we approached our trip if she could meet Gen. It just so happened she was at Casey’s too! A little girl’s birthday wish came true and we even made it on the stream (just after the 28:05 mark) and she received lots of birthday wishes! 

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No one was ready to go home. The kids wanted to ride the Barnstromer and Dumbo, and the Barnstormer, and oh yeah, the Barnstormer again! I swear they could ride it nonstop. By this time it was getting very close to time for Happily Ever After. I mentioned to everyone that we could head out before we get trapped in Fantasyland or the bus lines got long. Nope, we’re not leaving! They want to ride the Teacups! 

 

 

 

The fireworks were starting… now! I had an idea and I didn’t know how good it would be until we arrived. We made our way through Fantasyland carefully watching the fireworks and navigating the crowd. I had heard the lines for the Tangled Lanterns PhotoPass may be short during the fireworks. It was certainly shorter than it had been last year. Little did I know the lanterns would provide a stunning view of the fireworks display as well! 

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I’m not certain if the Photopass would include the fireworks in the background or not since the finale was during the group directly in front of us. If it does that’s one stunning picture if it’s taken at the right moment. I chatted with the photographer to have the kids take a repeat of last year’s picture sitting on the ground with the lantern. She wasn’t convinced it would turn out, but with their heights the standing photo has the light right around their face. 

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Both photos turned out beautifully! 

With that our day was ending. We could make a stop in Town Square to see Mickey, but now we were starting to get tired. Diva was asleep before we even made it down Main Street. 

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It wasn’t quite a park closing, but we didn’t miss it by much. We hadn’t planned to be out late. Magic Kingdom was just too much fun at the end of our day. It was 9:40pm when we boarded the bus and 9:57pm when we arrived back at the resort. 

The day was long. It was fun. It was exciting! And I wouldn’t do anything different. It was perfect! 

Happiest 5th birthday ever! 

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