This past weekend, my friends and I took on a self-imposed challenge: Do one thrill ride at each of the seven Orlando-area theme parks in one day! After a bit of discussion, the tentative schedule we’d decided upon was:
- 10:00am: Incredible Hulk at Universal’s Islands of Adventure
- 11:00am: Revenge of the Mummy at Universal Studios Florida
- 1:00pm: Kraken at SeaWorld Orlando
- 2:00pm: Expedition Everest at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
- 4:00pm: Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
- 5:00pm: Test Track at Epcot
- 6:00pm: Space Mountain at the Magic Kingdom
We figured most attractions and travel to the next park would take roughly an hour. We allowed 2 hours between Universal and SeaWorld to allow for lunch, and another 2 hours between Animal Kingdom and DHS because in the early afternoon, we figured Everest would actually have a pretty decent line. We also knew that Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster would probably have a long line, but we decided to have everyone pre-book a FastPass+ for that attraction, securing a reservation window that included 4:00pm (we all managed to get 3:50-4:50pm).
On Sunday morning, my girlfriend and I drove to Universal and made our way into IoA and over to the Fantastic Four Café, the planned meeting point. We were eventually met by our friends Kevin & Michelle and their son, and David. We waited a few minutes past 10am to allow for anyone else to join us (more people always RSVP “yes” to our Facebook events than actually end up going), but no one else seemed willing to take on the challenge. So, our group set, we took a group shot and then joined the queue for Hulk.
This early in the morning at IoA, everyone is over at Harry Potter, so the queue was virtually empty. We waited maybe 10 minutes, max, and then we were on the coaster and feeling the “rollercoaster of emotion” that poor Dr. Banner experiences as he transforms into the Hulk. In fact, since we were done with the ride so early, and were so far ahead of schedule, we decided to already alter the schedule. We added a bonus attraction – Dragon Challenge, all the way at the other side of the park. We walked over to The Wizarding World (passing by the development for the new King Kong ride – wow is there a lot of foliage gone!). Universal had posted a wait time of 5 minutes, but honestly it takes longer than that just to walk through the whole darn queue!! Once we finally reached the load zone, we had virtually no wait to actually board. Dragon Challenge is a great pair of coasters, and we enjoyed it.
When we got out of the exit queue, we decided to check on the wait for Hogwarts Express, and seeing that it was only listed as 10 minutes, decided to use that to get over to Universal Studios to continue our challenge.
Once we arrived in “London”, we walked on over to the Mummy. This is such a weird ride. I’m never clear on the story line. Are we actually in the world of The Mummy? Or are we in a movie studio, where Mummy movies are being filmed? Or, what seems both the weirdest but the most supported by the props, are we in the studio where the Mummy movies are being filmed, but the “real” Mummy has come to life and is taking over the studio?! I guess that’s it (it’s a PA whom the Mummy first captures and is therefore unable to deliver Brendon Frasier his precious coffee, right?), but it just feels very disjointed to me. But I digress. We took our next group shot and then joined the queue. I think it wasn’t much more than a 15 minute wait to ride.
Our first set of theme parks complete, we now had an almost 2 hour break to get lunch and make it over to SeaWorld. The group broke up a bit as we all wanted lunch in separate locations, and we agreed to meet in front of Kraken at 1pm. My girlfriend and I decided to get ours at Tijuana Flats on Sand Lake Rd. Lunch took a little bit longer than we’d intended, so by the time we made it to SeaWorld’s parking lot, it was nearly 1pm. We therefore opted to upgrade to preferred parking for the $5 upcharge, to reduce our walking time into the park. We arrived at the attraction at about 1:05 or 1:10pm, to find Kevin & Michelle and David (and his wife Jenny) waiting for us. We took our group shot, and it was off to face the Kraken!
By happy coincidence, about 2 weeks earlier, my girlfriend and I had purchased SeaWorld’s PhotoKey, meaning that we can get digital copies of every photo we take in the park, for a full year. So I was able to add our group’s ride photos to our PhotoKey and download them later that day:
David and Jenny had made alternate plans for the rest of the day, so we said goodbye to them, and made our way out of SeaWorld. A quick ride on I-4 placed us in Walt Disney World, and over to Animal Kingdom we went. Wow, there are construction walls all over the park these days. I can’t wait to see the finished product. We walked through Discovery Island and into Asia, over to Expedition Everest. The queue was all the way outside, near by where the old FastPass machines used to be. The posted wait was 35 minutes. We briefly toyed with the idea of changing our itinerary and doing Dinosaur instead, but we then remembered we’d had the foresight to take into account a long wait here. We’d given ourselves two hours to do Everest and get over to Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster at DHS. The actual wait ended up being roughly 45 minutes total. It’d been probably several months since I’d last ridden Everest, so I think I’d actually managed to forget just how great a ride it is. And the bird effect was even back too! (Of course, the Yeti is still stationary, but I’ll take what I can get….)
After our trek up the forbidden mountain had come to an abrupt end, we made our way back out of Animal Kingdom and drove over to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. By this point, we’d done four of our seven parks, so our challenge was more than halfway complete! We got over to RnRC, and Michelle decided to sit out as she wasn’t feeling all that great. We did finally convince Kevin to hand the camera to someone else so he could be in our group shot:
As I said earlier, we did all have FastPass+ reservations for the coaster, so the fact that it was a posted 60 minute wait didn’t impact us at all. We entered the FP+ queue around 3:55pm. We’re actually ahead of schedule! The FP+ queue took us all the way inside the building, just before the FP+/Standby merge point. Aerosmith kindly offered us some backstage passes, and we were off! Unfortunately, we seemed to arrive at the concert just as it ended. No matter, we had places to be anyway. We briefly considered walking or taking the boat over to Epcot from the Studios, but decided against it. Though, at some point, we should time it – is it faster to walk out to your car, drive, park, and walk into the park, or to take the walking path or boat between those parks? Hmmm. Another test for another day…
We arrived to Test Track at Epcot right around 5pm. The posted wait was 60 minutes, so we all agreed to do Single Rider. Magic Kingdom closed at 7pm that evening for a Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, otherwise we might have been willing to risk pushing the schedule back a bit. The posted wait for Single Rider was 30 minutes, but we got through the line in about 10 or 15 minutes. When my girlfriend and I were 2nd and 3rd in line, the CM at the merge point was asking for a party of 2 or 3 from the regular line. None were forthcoming, so he sent three people from Single Rider to fill that one row, so my girlfriend and I got to ride together anyway. Nice little bonus!
On the way out of the ride, we met up with two vacationing Disney fans who’d meant to join us for the challenge this morning, but their schedule prevented them from doing so. We talked for a few minutes in the post show area, before all remembering we had one last appointment to keep. We’d actually forgotten to take the group shot before entering the queue, but one of these new friends was nice enough to take it for us as we were leaving.
Six parks down, one to go! We left Epcot and made our way over to the Ticket and Transportation Center, and then onto the monorail to the Magic Kingdom. We finally entered the last park about 6:10pm. Just a little bit behind schedule, but in plenty of time to complete our challenge. As long as we’re in line for Space Mountain before the park closes at 7pm, we’re golden. We got to Tomorrowland and saw it posted a 35 minute wait. We quickly realized, however, that Disney was artificially inflating the time, because we’re so close to park closing. We didn’t wait more than 15 or 20 minutes to board our rocket ship. One quick journey through the stars later, and our challenge was complete!!
And there you have it. We’d done it. Seven Orlando Theme Parks. One thrill ride in each (well, two in IoA…). All in one day. While we were waiting in one of the queues, we calculated the cost of doing this challenge for anyone who bought just single-day tickets at the gates to be $416. That’s the cost of a 1-day 2-park ticket to Universal, a 1 day ticket to SeaWorld, and a 1 day Park Hopping ticket for Disney, plus parking at all three. Insane. And our little group of theme park obsessed friends just did this all using our existing admission media. I cannot state enough how much I love living here!!
Addendum: As we left the Magic Kingdom, my girlfriend and I decided to check for a last-minute ADR to Trail’s End at Fort Wilderness. We found one available for 7:40pm, and booked it through the MyDisneyExperience app. We took the boat over to Fort Wilderness, and had an amazing experience at Trail’s End, with a chef who is fantastic for creating vegan dishes – my girlfriend prefers to eat vegan, and we’d been hoping to have an experience with the legendary Chef TJ. Please check out her review. It was a great way to end a fantastic day.