Nine theme parks in one day seems like a near-impossible feat, but one mother and son theme-park-superfan duo looked at the possibility and said, “Challenge accepted!”
We spoke with Kathy to find out what it was like to spend 16 consecutive hours, walk a total of 13.5 miles (that’s 32,500 steps, for those of you keeping track), and ride one attraction in each of Universal Studios Orlando, Islands of Adventure, Volcano Bay, Fun Spot Orlando, the four Walt Disney World theme parks, and Fun Spot Kissimmee, all on the same day.
Have you ever done anything like this before? If so, where, and what did you do?
This is our very first time doing a challenge like this! We normally only visit 1-2 parks at a time, like normal people, but we felt like shaking things up and trying something new.
How did you come up with the idea?
We normally go to a theme park at least once a week, even if it’s only for a couple hours, to eat and do a ride or two. We’d talked about trying to do multiple parks in one day in the past – inspired by videos Tim Tracker and PC Dev have made in the past. It’s been something on our bucket list that we finally got the chance to do.
What did you do to plan for this adventure?
The biggest thing was making sure we knew all the park open and close times, as well as logistics of which to drive to first. We didn’t want to be back-tracking all over Orlando and waste time driving, so this was key to making the day successful. We already have annual passes to all of these parks, so entry wasn’t an issue, other than at Disney. We chose Epcot for our park reservation so we could try getting a Virtual Queue for the new Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind ride.
How long did planning take?
We decided about a week in advance to give this a shot. I’m off of work every Friday, so that’s normally our park date day during summer break. Throughout the week we’d chat here and there about what time to leave, which rides we wanted to do, but it wasn’t really until the day before that we starting making a to-do list and rough agenda.
Were there any challenges during the planning stages?
Planning-wise, the biggest challenge was with Disney. Since you cannot park hop until after 2 p.m., we had to be strategic with which park we got a reservation for and what order we planned to do the parks in. We chose Epcot so we could attempt to get a Virtual Queue time at 7 a.m. for Cosmic Rewind, the new Guardians of the Galaxy rollercoaster. Getting that would ensure we had our favorite ride at Epcot included in the challenge. If we didn’t get a time at the 7 a.m. distribution, we’d have to plan to be in Epcot before 1 p.m. to try again, for the mid-day release of virtual queue times.
How did you choose the parks you’d visit and the rides you’d experience at each park?
We decided to start the day with the three Universal Parks and Fun Spot Orlando, since they are so close to each other, and since park hopping at Disney isn’t allowed until 2 p.m. That really makes multi-park challenges difficult right now. If that was not a rule we could have done the Disney parks first, since we live much closer to them and they usually open earlier than the Universal Parks.
For ride selections, we really wanted to include rides we love and not just the baby rides with five-minute waits. Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit is my son’s favorite ride at Universal Studios, so that was a clear choice for the first ride of the day. We got to that park at opening so it was posted at only a 15-minute wait… but ended up being 40! This lost us a bit of time, but didn’t keep us from completing the challenge, thankfully.
Our ride selection for Islands of Adventure was Hulk or Velocicoaster, but both were 60+ minutes. Islands was very busy by the time we got in, with the exception of Popeye and Bluto’s Bilge Rat Barges water ride, which was a 10-minute wait. This is one of our favorite water rides, so we thought it was a good plan B.
Volcano Bay was also very busy. Krakatau Aqua Coaster, our absolute favorite slide at the park, had over a two hour wait! So we opted for Tonga of Taniwha Tubes, which is a great two-person water slide.
Fun Spot Orlando has never been busy for us, so we were in and out of there very quickly. We opted to do the wooden rollercoaster, White Lightning, which I had never done before (and really needed a chiropractor after trying it haha!). Since we were good on time, we snuck in a ride on Head Rush 360 before heading over to Disney.
Since we had a Virtual Queue time for Cosmic Rewind, that was our first stop of the four Disney Parks. It took about 30 minutes to get onto the ride, and we got “Disco Inferno” as our song, which is one of my favorites! That ride is truly amazing!
Expedition Everest, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, and Pirates of the Caribbean were our choices for the three remaining Disney parks. Pirates was another Plan B choice, since Space Mountain was over an hour wait and it was already 10 p.m. (park close was 11 p.m. that day).
Last up was Fun Spot Kissimmee, which we had never been to before. We opted to do the first ride we could see when you enter, which was Galaxy Spin. A small, sharp-turn ride similar to Primeval Whirl (RIP).. which we ended up loving! Rode it three times in a row!
Were there any challenges in carrying out the nine park visits?
Inaccurate wait times were a bit of a challenge, but thankfully only for one ride (Rip Ride Rockit). It didn’t seem like the ride went down at all, so not sure why they had it at a 15-minute wait when it was clearly longer.
Walking from the car to park entrances and then back to the car after doing a ride was the hardest, most exhausting part. We both wished teleportation was real that day!
One thing to note is that if you plan on visiting both Fun Spot locations in one day, do not take off your wrist band from the first park! We are newbies to the Kissimmee location and assumed we would have to get new bands there, so we took the ones from Orlando off. This took us a bit more time at check-in for the park, as they had to close out the old bands and assign us new ones. We were sweating a bit as it was already around 11:40 p.m. and the park closed at midnight.
Did there come a time during the day when you thought you might not make it to all nine parks, or were you energized by it?
When we hit Magic Kingdom (around 10 p.m.) the doubt started to sink in. This park has the most difficulty getting in, as you have to park, then walk through security, then take either the monorail or ferry, which can sometimes take a while. However, since it was so late and fireworks hadn’t happened yet, this ended up not being too bad.
We parked around 9:40 p.m. and were taking pictures in front of the castle by 10:05 p.m. Not bad, when some days I’ve had that take almost an hour. When we got onto Pirates I started saying to my son “Hey…eight parks is a great accomplishment, lets just call it a day after this!” But he was not having it. He said “We got this! We said nine parks, so we have to do it!” So off to Fun Spot we went.
What was your favorite part of this experience?
I am a big theme park fan (borderline addict since I could go every single day if it was up to me), so being able to go to every park was a pretty cool experience. Moving to Orlando was a huge life change for us, but being able to do things like this makes life down here so much fun! But by far the best moment for me was when we got home, and Jayden said “Thanks mom for such a fun day! I can’t believe we actually did it all!” Made it all worth it.
Do each of you have a favorite ride from the day?
Jayden said his favorite ride that day was Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. We normally don’t get to do that ride since there is always a long wait. It was posted as a 70-minute wait that day, but we were good on time so we got in line anyway. Ended up being only around 40 minutes, and man, the rush you get on that ride is so cool! Glad we were able to fit that in.
My favorite ride would have to be our very last one, at Fun Spot Kissimmee. Just the overwhelming feeling of having accomplishing our challenge, on top of being able to do the ride three times in a row, since it was midnight and no one else was there. Such a fun memory!
Did you pay for any or all of the tickets, or do you have annual passes for each park?
We’ve been passholders at Universal since 2018, and bought our Disney passes as soon as they went on sale again last fall. Fun Spot is our newest pass, which we bought during their Black Friday sale.
How much did the entire day cost for both of you?
Since we are already Annual Passholders at these three parks, the only things we had to pay for were gas and food/snacks. We spent about half a tank of gas driving around Orlando; $38 at Volcano Bay for lunch and ice cream; $12 for coffee and hot chocolate at Epcot; dinner at Woody’s Lunchbox for $23; and then $20 at McDonalds for a midnight meal to end the night. So, all in all, about $100 spent on food for the day.
How long did it take to finish the entire challenge?
We left the house at 8:45 a.m., got in line for our first ride at 9:30 a.m. and did our last ride at 11:45 p.m. Was 12:45 a.m. by the time we got home, due to McDonalds calling our name!
Do you have any future challenges planned? If so, can you share any insight into what you’ll do?
PC Dev has done an 11-park one, so that’s our next attempt! We don’t currently have passes to SeaWorld or Busch Gardens, but we visit those parks once a year. If we can get the planning right then we would add those two in, as well as Aquatica, to try and beat Dev by one.
Is there a story from your day that you’d like to share?
So, one funny thing was that since Popeye’s water ride was not on our original plan, I did not have my flip flops with me (they were back in the car in our Volcano Bay bag). So I had to suck it up with my Vans, and I attempted to hold my legs up the whole time – which proved to be a pointless leg workout since there is no avoiding getting soaked on that ride. When we got back to the car I switched over to my flip flops, but was stuck with them for the rest of the day, and seven more parks! Took me two days to fully recover and not limp, haha! I now see why my son wears Crocs.
We had also mentioned our challenge to folks in line that we met, and to our friends and family back home, so it was pretty funny to hear everyone saying how cool but crazy it sounded. My hubby and many others were texting us throughout the day to check on our progress and cheer us on!
Check out Kathy’s posts about the challenge on her Instagram account, @APadventures_Kat.