How 1 Guy Rode All 48 Rides at Walt Disney World in a Single Calendar Day
People go to Walt Disney World for many reasons — to get married, to celebrate a birthday, to run a marathon. But a certain subculture of people goes to WDW to see how far they can push themselves. Disney Challenge enthusiasts may see how many attractions they can experience in 1 park in single day, or compete in a scavenger hunt, or even see how many Disney boats they can ride in a single day.
About a year ago, I started following a group of people who attempt to ride every ride at WDW in one day. This challenge was invented in 2013 by two guys at Parkeology, and it sounds simple enough: During normal operating hours, using only the resources available to the typical guest, ride every ride at WDW. Except the rides are spread across 4 parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom) spanning 40 square miles of central Florida and on any given day there are 150,000 other people trying to ride those rides.
What does “available to the typical guest” mean?
- If you’re a normal human being, you should just think: you don’t get to use money or tricks for special access.
- If you’re a Disney aficionado, you have many follow-up questions, so here goes: Yes to Extra Magic Hours, Minnie Vans, and the Express Bus if they ever bring it back. No to Early Morning Magic, Disney After Hours, club-level Fastpasses, Halloween Party, Christmas Party, Annual Passholder events, VIP tours, having your mom drive you from park to park, or begging Cast Members for a favor because you’re in a race.
- And if you’re a Club 33 member, I’m sorry to say you’re not eligible. You will have to be satisfied with your exclusive lounges, your VIP tours, your nearly unlimited Fastpasses, and your vast personal wealth.
What is a ride?
- Normal human: Go to the official list of attractions; if it moves, it’s a ride.
- Disney aficionado: Yes, the rafts to Tom Sawyer Island count even though the Island is the attraction and it doesn’t move. No the Epcot FriendShip Launches don’t count even though they’re practically the same idea. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ And yes, Carousel of Progress counts even though COP is obviously a show and not a ride. Don’t get me started.
The refurbishment controversy of 2018
As originally conceived, the Parkeology Challenge can only officially be completed when all rides are up and running. This ruled out the first 6+ months of 2018 while the Liberty Square Riverboat was scheduled for refurbishment. The opening of Toy Story Land with new rides Slinky Dog Dash and Alien Swirling Saucers on June 30, plus the return of the Riverboat on July 20, meant that a large number of teams were traveling to Orlando to try to ride all 49 rides in late July or early August.
But late on July 1, WDW extended the Riverboat refurbishment through the end of August, and the following day the Parkeology guys made clear that they were not planning any changes to their challenge, so any run would be an #autofail.
A wave of disappointment rolled through the Challenge Tour community, and many started to cancel trips. But after an impulsive tweet, a few offline discussions, a new hashtag, and a post on the website of well-known Disney Challenge Tour veteran Kenny “The Pirate” White, the event was reborn as the #Give Kids The Rides challenge, an expanded version of ToddlerofTerror’s fundraiser for Give Kids The World Village.
Other benefactors stepped up and added per-ride or bonus challenges and, long story short, most challengers decided to run on their planned dates after all to help #GiveKidsTheRides. (A couple weeks later, the Parkeology guys changed their rules too, and now anyone can attempt the Parkeology challenge any day of the year.)
The short section about all the other awesome challengers
Through the end of August, over 80 teams had attempted the #GiveKidsTheRides challenge and 14 completed it: 4 completed all 47 rides in July (Prince Charming’s Regal Carrousel was closed until July 31), and 10 more completed all 48 rides in August. You can see a summary of their runs and everyone else’s on the spreadsheet that MsTdWldRdCount and I painstakingly filled in whenever a team was running.
What you can’t see in the spreadsheet is that the stories of these challengers are full of drama and ride breakdowns and pouring rain and races to the finish, and you can read all about them as soon as they get a Medium account and write their own 5000-word stories. 😉
The much, much longer section about me
When I first told my wife that I wanted to do this, she said (and I think I married her in anticipation of this moment), “Yes! Go for it!” Then the preteen children in our house learned I was going to WDW and they were not. They were…not as thrilled. But the King Kids came around and were sweet, supportive, and excited by the time it came for me to run. I flew to Orlando on August 2, activated my annual pass, and promptly lost my hat and sunglasses on Splash Mountain.
On August 3, I was the 4th car in the Hollywood Studios parking lot at 5:45 am. Almost all #GiveKidsTheRides challenge runs have started at Hollywood Studios because the park opened at 7 am most days in July and August, usually at least 1 hour before every other park. On my day, HS was also open late, so I didn’t have to complete all 6 rides during the morning stop. Shortly after 6 am the other team competing that day (MouseMomKris on Twitter) and I were joined by Kenny White (ThePirateKenny) — a thrill for me since I’ve been following his Disney challenge runs for at least 8 years, and another team who completed 48 rides on August 1 (soccerra and katerpillar56). By 6:30 am we were waiting for Cast Members to walk us back to Toy Story Land.
Rides 1–3. Toy Story Land
I rode with Kenny for the first 3 rides. He’s wearing a shirt my wife commissioned to commemorate a hashtag from ToddlerofTerror (#bankruptmartinking, to encourage people to make the most of my per-ride pledge). Per the rules, you must tweet a photo of yourself in the ride vehicle for each ride. Here’s the tweet showing Kenny and me on Slinky Dog Dash (a fun ride!) and the ride photos from Alien Swirling Saucers and Toy Story Mania. Kenny is so nice that on TSM he stopped playing halfway through so I could get the best-in-vehicle score.
Ride 4. Rock ’N’ Roller Coaster
We had a 5-minute pre-boarding delay due to technical difficulties and I was a little antsy — ToddlerofTerror and ThePirateKenny had come up 1 ride and 3 minutes short just a few days prior — I promised myself if it got to 7:30 I would bail on the ride and head to Magic Kingdom.
Ride 5. Main Street Vehicles
Efficient park hops are essential to a challenge run, so I ran and walked to the car after RNRC and totally followed all traffic laws before arriving at Magic Kingdom at 7:54 am (official opening time: 8 am). I was pleased to see one of the Main Street Vehicles waiting near the front gate, but it was full. No standing on the running boards allowed. (I asked!) The MSV typically only run until 10:15 am, so I waited there for the next MSV. I was happy to get this ride out of the way, although it meant I was late for the 8 am “rope drop” for Extra Magic Hours in Tomorrowland.
Rides 6–7. Tomorrowland
The Space Mountain line was way out the door and the posted wait time was 35 minutes, so I hopped on Astro Orbiter instead, followed by the Buzz Lightyear ride. I didn’t score very high on Buzz, but I was still basking in my Galactic Hero status from the day before.
Rides 8–11. Fantasyland small rides
I had planned to ride Space Mountain and Tomorrowland Speedway during the first hour, but both lines were too long, so I headed to Fantasyland instead. I knew I should be able to get a Speedway Fastpass later, but not riding Space Mountain early in the day concerned me.
I started with Dumbo, then moved on to the Barnstormer, Little Mermaid, and the Teacups. A bit of excitement on the Teacups as a woman got ejected from the ride for reasons that were unclear to me (selfie stick? spreading the ashes of a loved one?). She was unhappy. The rest of her party got to ride. Security arrived. Shouting ensued. Before 9 am is pretty early to be so unhappy at WDW —better to save the meltdowns for 3 pm when it’s hot, you’re tired, and the kids are overdue for a nap.
Rides 12–16. Frontierland and Adventureland
After the Teacups, I headed across the park for the 9 am rope drop for the west side (not open for morning Extra Magic Hours). Cast Members walked us through Adventureland to Frontierland. I started with Splash Mountain because it had caused problems for a number of recent teams; this time I hung on to my hat.
Back at Pirates of the Caribbean the posted wait time was 5 minutes, but it looked longer and in fact I waited about 18 minutes to board. After POTC I used the first of my 3 pre-booked Fastpasses (FP1) at Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
The rafts to Tom Sawyer Island trip up some challengers because their hours are limited and they close readily in bad weather. No normal human considers these to be a ride; they’re just how you get to the island. But they’re on the list, so I caught the first raft of the day and made the traditional round trip before heading to nearby Frontierland Railroad Station for ride 16 (just missing the previous train). If you’ve secretly been dying to hear me sing Clementine, find my tweets from the raft and you’ll be in luck.
Rides 17–21. Back to Fantasyland
Exiting the train at the Fantasyland station, I used my 2nd FP at the 7 Dwarfs Mine Train.
I was happy with efficient order of the next few rides (to minimize walking distance), but not the efficiency of the rides themselves — the Regal Carrousel loads painfully slowly, Peter Pan stopped briefly, and It’s A Small World stopped for several minutes. Laughter/tears/hopes/fears, I get it, I’m with you, but I was eager to move on.
Peter Pan was my 3rd FP, and immediately after “tapping in” I took advantage of the fact that after using 3 FPs, you can book additional FPs, one at a time. I got FP4 for IASW and moved the time up to 11:10 am (tap, grab, and modify). After tapping at IASW, I grabbed FP5 for the nearby Haunted Mansion.
Rides 22–23. Finishing Adventureland
At HM, I grabbed FP6 for Jungle Cruise. It was great to have a FP to shorten the posted wait time of 80 minutes for the “Standby” line, but it still took 40 minutes from entering the line until we disembarked at the end. I got on the nearby Magic Carpets of Aladdin (Ride 23, FP7) at 12:49 pm, and at that point I had 5 rides left at Magic Kingdom: 4 in Tomorrowland (Space Mountain, Speedway, the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover, and the Carousel of Progress), plus Winnie the Pooh around the corner in Fantasyland.
Rides 24–28. The rest of Magic Kingdom
I had spent the Magic Carpets ride humming the song Steppenwolf famously composed for the Aladdin movie (“…why don’t you come with me little girl, on a magic carpet ride”) and trying to improve the time of a Speedway FP. I couldn’t move it closer than 1:15 pm, so I headed to the PeopleMover (a non-FP ride) to fill the time and then went to the Speedway with FP8.
In line for Speedway I got a big break. When looking for a FP for a specific ride, it’s easiest to get one at any time for that ride, then try to modify the time. I had tapped and grabbed an evening FP for Space Mountain and was modifying when, at 1:21 pm, a 1:30 pm FP became available. I gladly took it and drove off in my stupid, smelly Speedway car. (I didn’t get unlucky, that’s just how Speedway cars are. It’s not a good ride.)
I went from there to Space Mountain for ride 26 and FP9 and tapped and grabbed FP10 for Winnie the Pooh. Looking at your bright phone in the very dark Space Mountain queue is not advisable, but I only ran into the group in front of me 3 or 4 times.
In line for Pooh and the Woozles, I found FP11 for Na’vi River Journey. Not as good as Flight of Passage, but I was happy about it. My final ride at Magic Kingdom was the Carousel of Progress, which is a show that only counts as a ride because the seats rotate instead of the stage. I got on at 2:07 pm, for a total of 6 hours 8 minutes from first ride to last ride. I had thought my best possible time was about 30 minutes faster — extra time at the Railroad, Small World, and the Jungle Cruise made that impossible — but overall I was very pleased and knew that the dream was still alive.
The hop to Animal Kingdom and Rides 29–31.
I hustled to my car and drove to Animal Kingdom. I parked in Butterfly 17, which is…not close. It is literally closer to a McDonald’s on Buena Vista Drive than to the Tree of Life.
I walked to the waiting parking lot tram. Shortly after the tram started moving, I checked my pockets. I didn’t carry a backpack, so I had everything in my cargo shorts: 2 phones, 1 spare battery, 3 charging cords, 1 fuel rod, 3 inches of duct tape, 3 Band-Aids, a bottle of water, and a poncho. Notably absent: the key to the rental. Ohshitshitshitshitshit. Everything out on the tram bench. No key. OK, where is it? Let’s try checking the pockets again. Hmm, no luck. What next? How about one more check of the pockets, just in case. Settle down. I used the key to drive here, so it’s either in the car or on the ground between there and the tram stop.
Hopping off the moving tram seemed like it would have several unpleasant consequences. Riding it back to the car would cost me at least 20 minutes. I was here to ride Na’vi River Journey, the early-closing Wildlife Express Train, and Kilimanjaro Safaris. And my NRJ Fastpass window was closing. So into Animal Kingdom I went. I rode NRJ (ride 29 with FP11), grabbed FP12 for the Safari, and took a round trip on the train (just missing team MouseMomKris, I would find out later).
After the train, I hopped on the longest safari (ride 31) I think I’ve ever taken (move it, rhinos!). I grabbed a late FP for Frozen Ever After (the Epcot FP that’s most difficult to find) and modified it to 6:15 pm. Except: you see how the “Save Changes” button is grayed out? If you don’t scroll to the bottom before you press that button, it doesn’t save your changes!
I discovered the phantom FP 15 minutes later while walking out. I got a FP for Soarin instead and that was fine, but I was preoccupied because it was the moment of truth. I felt a little sicker with each step toward the parking lot. Would the key be there? Would my stuff be there? Would the *car* be there? If the key was gone, would I search the parking lot? Would I give up the challenge and call Avis? Or pull up the Lyft app and keep going? At first I couldn’t find the car because I didn’t have the fob to make it beep. Okay, silver SUV with a Florida license plate, piece of cake. But in the end it was all very anticlimactic — the key was sitting there on the back seat.
Of course I instantly calmed down and put the incident out of my head, as evidenced by how coolly I handled a minor backup at the Epcot parking booths.
Rides 32–35. Epcot West Side
Epcot basically has 4 rides on the West side and 4 on the East, with Spaceship Earth in the middle. Overall Epcot had caused a lot of trouble for challengers — Spaceship Earth or Figment were often closed, and Test Track shuts down whenever someone spills a soft drink within 100 yards of it — but I got lucky. There was no bad weather and no closures, so I had it easy. Maybe too easy.
I started on the West side because I had FP13 for Soarin, and the 2 rides that close at 7 pm are on that side. In Soarin, I found a conveniently timed FP for Frozen, and the other 3 rides (Living With the Land, Figment, and Nemo) were all walkons.
Rides 36–39. Epcot East Side
At this point I get a little over-confident. I thought I had plenty of time, so I went to Club Cool to drink a shot of Beverly for a bonus challenge and wandered through MouseGear souvenir shop on the way to Test Track. The single rider line was a walkon — see, I have plenty of time! (I gave serious consideration to riding Test Track a 2nd time just for kicks!)
After TT it was Mission Space, then up to Frozen for FP14. While in line I got FP15 for Dinosaur and saw several service dogs riding Frozen. Very good dogs, each one at least 13/10. Then into the Mexico pavilion for the first time ever to find the Gran Fiesta Tour.
Ride 40. Spaceship Earth and I almost blow the whole damn thing
Still thinking I had plenty of time, after Gran Fiesta Tour I stopped for a margarita for another charity challenge (It’s for the kids, how could I not, amirite ycatsdisneydogs?!) Then I waited for a PhotoPass photo and got some dinner at the Electric Umbrella. A mobile order, I’m not a complete idiot.
I ate my chicken nuggets while walking over to Spaceship Earth, where I got on the ride 26 minutes after the Gran Fiesta Tour. 26 minutes!
Rides 41–43. Dinoland, USA
Despite my lollygagging, I finished Epcot in 2:27 (time I boarded Soarin to time I boarded Spaceship Earth), which I was pretty happy with, but it really should have been about 15 minutes faster than that given the low crowds. On the hop back to AK, I got a call from my family (hi King Kids!) to cheer me on, and I finally got to park somewhere near the front of a parking lot.
I entered at 8:29. One reason I was overconfident was that 2 nights earlier, the dcwarriorswdw team had had the exact same rides to complete (3 Dinoland rides, Expedition Everest, Kali River Rapids, followed by Flight of Passage), and I knew their time to complete them was short (34 minutes from boarding Dinosaur until boarding KRR, as it turns out), but what I didn’t remember was that they rode those right after a huge rainstorm that cleared out the park. In any case, with 90 minutes to get to FOP, I was still feeling good.
I entered the Dinosaur FP line at 8:34 pm and grabbed FP16 for Primeval Whirl. It was 16 minutes until I got on board, even though I got to skip ~30 people in line when they were looking for a single rider. After Dinosaur I tapped in to Primeval Whirl and grabbed FP17 for KRR and waited forever (12 minutes) and tweeted my photo at 9:08 pm. The replies let me know that the Dinosaur photo hadn’t posted (and that no one had heard from me in 34 minutes). They were relieved to hear from me but I was getting pretty anxious. 50 minutes left and I still had 4 more rides (in 4 different locations, including two I’d never ridden before, one I’d never even seen except on Google Maps, and all of them in the dark). First up was Triceratops Spin.
Ride 44. Expedition Everest
Full panic mode now. Run from Dinoland to Asia. Catch glimpses of the Rivers of Light show. Into the Single Rider line. Single Rider line closed. Much standby line. Very walking. Wow. Loading area. Single Rider line now open. (Shake fist at sky.)
I was grouped with a family of 3 and rode next to 7-year-old Kayla. “Are you scared, Kayla?” her mom said from the row in front.
“Mom, this is my fourth time, I have ridden this ride three times before, I am not scared.”
“I think you’ve ridden this more than more than I have,” I said.
Patting my arm, Kayla replied, “Oh don’t worry, it’s not too scary. But there’s a monster and we do go backwards.”
Ride 45. Kali River Rapids
KRR is not far from Everest, but the Rivers of Light show had ended and the path was now filled with people. And I’ve never been to KRR before. And it was still dark. I finally found it and tapped in for my 17th and final FP of the day. I didn’t see a single person as I ran/walked through the very dark queue, which is approximately 3.4 miles long. And if the CM hadn’t stopped me I would have kept running out the exit. It was only 9:35, so I should have felt okay, but I didn’t. I boarded the raft and went down the river alone. (I got so wet that the King Kids got to feel Kali River water 18 hours later when I pulled my still-damp shorts out of the suitcase. Lucky King Kids!)
Ride 46. Flight of Passage
It was 9:41 pm, so on some level I knew I was okay. But I ran to the exit of KRR, crossed to Discovery Island, threaded through the crowds, and made my way around to the bridge to Pandora. I’d never been in Pandora at night before. I knew FOP was on the right, so after the hitting the restroom, I headed that way but found myself at the Satuli Canteen near the exit. Where the $&#@ is the entrance? Oh, up the hill a little. And standing there was Reagan from dcwarriorswdw who, 2 nights earlier with his 10-year-old daughter, had become the first to complete all 48 rides in a single day. Reagan kindly joined me for the wait; I tweeted at 9:53 that we were in line and the family called me to celebrate so the King Kids could get to bed.
With someone to talk to, the time in the standby line passed quickly and we were on the ride in about 45 minutes.
Back in the car, I changed to dry clothes without getting arrested and drove back to Hollywood Studios to end the day where I started.
Ride 47. Star Tours
Inside HS, I met up with stevenamos of Give Kids the World Village (and a veteran of challenge runs) who was nice enough to come out and say hi. We walked to Star Tours together and I got on the ride at 11:32 pm.
As I settled into my ride seat, I pulled up the MDE app to check on the wait time at Tower of Terror.
If you had asked me ahead of time, I would have predicted that I would be pretty frantic in that situation, but I was calm and a little bemused. I still had almost an hour for the ride to open, and if it didn’t, well, I had proved to myself I *could* ride all the rides, and as failed attempts go, it would make for a pretty good story.
Ride 48? Tower of Terror?
I walked to Tower of Terror to find about 15 people in line at the gates. I’d been there about 5 minutes when team MouseMomKris joined me. Despite multiple rounds of bad luck at Splash Mountain and a foot injury they had still completed 40 rides!
Cast Members were nearby, letting people know that they were working on the ride and hoped to re-open before the 12:30 am park closing. And then without any fanfare they opened the ride at 11:55 pm.
Soon after, we were on the ride and the challenge was complete!
The night ended quietly — no fireworks, no marching bands, no celebratory beverages — the Parrishes and I just hobbled together out to the parking lot and said our goodbyes. I ate about 10 fun-size Snickers (🎶 I wanna stuff some chocolate in my face 🎶) and drove to the airport hotel. 7 short hours later I was headed to the gate on the MCO PeopleMover.
Some things I might do differently
- Ride just 3 rides at HS during the morning: Catching an earlier MSV and being at rope drop would have helped.
- Take a different train: When I just missed a train in Frontierland, I should have walked to 7DMT rather than waiting what turned out to be 12 minutes for the next train. Walking uses energy, but the parks are not as big as you think and too many extra minutes waiting will sink your run.
- Bail on Jungle Cruise: 9 minutes to the FP tapstiles, 13 more minutes to get on the boat, 18 more minutes until off the boat. I should have switched to Magic Carpets first and JC afterward.
- Buy preferred parking: the back of the AK and Epcot parking lots are far away.
- No dawdling at Epcot!
- Baby powder. Next time I will bring baby powder.
It was a weird couple of months. On July 1, WDW extended the Riverboat refurbishment, demoralizing those who had planned their runs for months. Then if not for some initial reluctance to change by the Parkeology guys, the #GiveKidsTheRides challenge wouldn’t have taken off the way it did. Among the 80+ attempts and 14 completions in July/August, teams rode over 3100 rides in total and raised over $29,000 for Give Kids the World Village.
I wasn’t the first to ride 48, and I wasn’t the quickest (well, I was for a couple of weeks until ycatsdisneydogs became #FastestTo48), and I certainly never expected to become mildly famous in one little corner of the internet for tweeting out color-coded spreadsheets. But I’m proud to have been a small part of it, I’m thrilled to have completed all the rides, and I’m humbled by the financial and emotional generosity of all the competitors and supporters.
If this challenge sounds like too much for you, don’t count yourself out — you might be surprised! And check out the Every Ride Challenge. They define some less-strenuous challenges you can try, and they sponsor an annual fundraiser.
But don’t wait for that to help Give Kids The Rides, you can give right now!
A few days after my run, the Wall Street Journal had a front page (!) article featuring several people mentioned above and a fabulous Slinky Dog Dash selfie by challenge completer VikkiMouse321. We all wished the article had focused a little more on the charitable aspects of the runs, but it was exciting to see so many friends in print, and it was a fitting tribute to Disney Challenge veterans.