Are you thinking about doing something really special or different on your Disney World vacation? Or maybe you are a Disney World pro, and want to take your next trip to the next level.
Doing the 4 park challenge might be a great way to do just that. Recently my son and I decided to take on this challenge. I really thought it would be easy. After all, I do consider myself a Disney expert. So I was a bit surprised how challenging this challenge actually was (and I mean that in the most fun way. I promise).
There are lots of different versions of the 4 park challenge. So how you do it, and how difficult you make it, is really up to you.
But typically the 4 park challenge means that you visit all 4 parks in one day. While at each park you have 3 goals that you must meet.
The challenge is often tweaked by families based on their own needs or abilities, but these are the typical requirements.
First, you'll want to think about where you are starting and where you are ending. And any breaks that you might be taking during the day. Knowing this will help you decide what transportation you should be using. Can you walk to any parks or take transportation other than the bus?
You'll also want to have an idea of how crowds will be. Are you doing this challenge during a busy time of the year? If you are, you might want to consider adding Genie+ to your day. Or purchasing Individual Lightning Lane for rides.
Lastly, you'll want to have an idea of where the rides and snacks on your list are located. If you aren't familiar with the parks, check out park maps (I have all of them here) or look at the maps in My Disney Experience. You can plan your ride, snacks, and photos so you aren't backtracking or running around needlessly.
I decided to do the 4 park challenge on a quick trip I took to Disney World with my 11 year old son. Since this was a quickie trip, we thought this would be a fun way to see all of the parks, when we otherwise wouldn't have had the time in this trip to do so.
I did some planning before our challenge day. First I wanted to decide what order we'd be visiting the parks.
We were staying at The Swan Hotel (in the Epcot hotel area), so when I was planning ahead for our day I took that in to consideration. I decided the best place to start would be Animal Kingdom. I knew that this park was the farthest out from where we were, and we could start our day by taking the bus to Animal Kingdom from our resort.
The next thing I considered was whether or not we would taking a break at the resort at any point. I decided we should for two reasons. First, I know me. And I know I'll be crabby if I don't take some sort of a break. Second, at the time we did this challenge I knew that park hopping wasn't allowed until after 2pm. Which meant we could start early and have time for a break before we allowed to head to our second park.
The next thing I thought about was how I was going to get from one park to the next. I figured the most obvious thing to do would be to go at Magic Kingdom after our break. From Magic Kingdom we would be able to hop on the monorail to Epcot. And from Epcot we could take the Skyliner to Hollywood Studios. Buses can have long waits, so I wanted to avoid them if at all possible.
Lastly, we decided to pick snacks and rides. Can we find snacks we want near rides we want to hit? We definitely discussed this before the big day.
I started the day by purchasing Genie+. I knew it was going to be a busy weekend at the parks, so I wanted to be sure we could get on the rides we wanted.
Park #1 Animal Kingdom
We went to Animal Kingdom first thing in the morning. I grabbed a Lightning Lane for Navi River Journey first thing in the morning.
But before we rode, we had to get a photo in front of the Tree of Life. Goal #1 at Animal Kingdom was crossed off our list.
Next we hopped on Navi River Journey. Goal #2: Complete.
We had planned that our snacks would at one of our favorite stops in that park, Pongu Pongu. We grabbed a Navi Sized Pretzel, Pongu Lumpia, and Night Blossom. Goal #3 was done!
It was still early, so we stayed at Animal Kingdom for a while before heading back to the Swan Hotel for a rest.
Park #2 Magic Kingdom
In the afternoon we decided it was time to make our way over to Magic Kingdom to hit our second of four parks. And we wanted to go in style, so we called a Minnie Van. This was mostly for the convenience. Since the Swan isn't technically a Disney Resort, the bus to Magic Kingdom actually takes guests to the Ticket and Transportation Center and not to Magic Kingdom itself. So this brought us right up to the front.
It was an incredibly busy day, so we used Genie+ to get a Lightning Lane for Pirates of the Caribbean. On our way to Pirates, we stopped for a quick photo in front of Cinderella Castle to knock out our first goal. Photo in park 2 is complete.
There were two snacks we were dying to grab in Magic Kingdom. First were the Cheeseburger Spring Rolls (delicious) in the cart outside of Adventureland.
Next was a Citrus Swirl at Sunshine Tree Terrace. Both were delicious, met our second goal, and were on the way towards our Magic Kingdom ride.
After we stuffed our faces we hopped on Pirates of the Caribbean to complete our Magic Kingdom challenge goals.
After Pirates, we walked to the front of the park to head to the Monorail.
Park #3 Epcot
When we got off the Monorail at Epcot is was later afternoon. After I had scanned in to Pirates I grabbed a Genie+ Lightning Lane for Soarin'. We had a bit of time to kill before our start time, so we stopped for a few photos in front of Spaceship Earth. We opted for a fun Magic Shot for our first goal of this park.
We then grabbed a few snacks. The real winner being a limited edition chocolate bundt cake that was only available at Sunshine Seasons. It was so gooey, so rich, and so delicious. Goal #2 = COMPLETE.
We then made our way to Soarin'. While we love this ride, even with Lightning Lane the wait and preshow can be a bit long. So this took us a bit longer than I had planned for. So by the time we met goal 2 in Epcot, it was starting to get late. And we could feel ourselves getting tired.
But we kept going. We only had one more park to go, and we were determined to do it, and do it right!
So to World Showcase we went. We exited the park through International Gateway and hopped on the Skyliner to Hollywood Studios.
Park #4 Hollywood Studios
It was dark by the time we jumped on the Skyliner to Hollywood Studios. And we were getting tired.
But we were armed with a Genie+ Lightning Lane for Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway, and excitement for being so close to conquering the challenge.
We arrived to Hollywood Studios and immediately got in line with a photopass photographer to get a photo in front of the Chinese Theater. Our final photo goal was complete!
Next we decided to get some food while we waited for our Lightning Lane for Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway. So we headed to Woody's Lunchbox in Toy Story Land.
We ate Tachos and a Raspberry Tart. These are two of my absolute favorite foods, so it was a fantastic way to end the food portion of our 4 park challenge goals!
Finally, we jumped in line for Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway. It's such a fun ride, and we loved ending our night with this ride.
It was about 8pm. We were exhausted, but we did it.
4 park challenge = COMPLETE
We decided to hop on Alien Swirling Saucer for a victory ride after completing our challenge! Although I'll admit, after eating so many treats that might have been the best idea I've ever had. But we didn't care. We had done it!
And because of how we planned our evening, we were able to avoid the bus and walk back to our resort to rest.
I'll admit it, by the time we got to Hollywood Studios I was exhausted. I truly was not expecting this challenge to take so much out of me.
But even knowing that, I will say it's worth it.
It was such a fun way to bond with my 11 year old son, who in any other situation would probably not want to spend so much time with his mom. But during this challenge we laughed as we ran from park to park. We had real discussions about the best rides and snacks. We also hugged in SO MANY photos (seriously. The photographers must have a pose list for parents/kids because every single one of them had us hug. And I didn't hate it!).
It was a blast.
It was also a really great way to see all four parks on our super quick trip. We otherwise would not have been able to do that, since we only had two park days total planned.
In the end the 4 Park Challenge is right for you if:
We fell in to all of these categories. I would can't recommend this challenge enough!
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