The Casual Runner

Casual Adventurer: 6 Parks – 1 Day

6 Parks – 1 Day

Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando
Orlando, Florida

Casual Runners know that while running is a part of our lives, it is not our entire lives. Better yet, as Casual Running allows us to be healthier and live more active lifestyles, it allows us to experience new and wonderful adventures. In this special series, we will look at fun Casual Adventures that our Team takes on when we are away from our training, even if its only for a day or two! And remember, adventure is out there!

Check out other installments in our Casual Adventurer Series by clicking here.

The Setup

My 30th Birthday was soon approaching and I was trying to come up with what I wanted to do for it.  Mike had originally planned surprising me by getting a room for us and our friends at Universal so that we could get early admission and front of the line passes, but with the Annual Pass we have for Universal these are amenities we already have. Instead we got to talking on our long drive to Florida, and I came up with the idea that we should visit all six theme parks we have admission to in one day, and thus the adventure was born.

The Scene of the Adventure

Our adventure was to take place by visiting all six theme parks, four at Walt Disney World (Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and Epcot) and two at Universal Orlando (Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios).  We planned on doing this Saturday before my Birthday when we knew park attendance would be high.  We also knew trying anything like the WDW47 challenge would be silly on top of trying to add Universal into the mix.  However, we did have to have some rules for this challenge we were about to embark on.

We had three rules for this adventure.  Rule 1) We had to take at least one picture in every park, more specifically at Walt Disney World they had to be in front of the park icon.  Rule 2) We had to ride at least one ride in every park.  Rule 3) Have fun!

With early admission we knew we would go to Universal first and ride all the rides in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter before they became super crowded.  Next we would head to Walt Disney World.  The only plans we had there before we started our adventure were fast passes at Disney’s Hollywood Studios for Tower of Terror and Toy Story Midway Mania.  Then we planned to end our day at Universal Studios where we could use our Front of the Line passes after 4:00PM.

Adventuring the Adventure

Our good friend, Tim had flown to town for my Birthday celebration and the first step to our adventure being successful was going to Universal the day before to get him his annual pass!   After a day spent at both Universal parks and a wonderful dinner cooked by Mike we were ready for bed and our early 6AM wake up call to begin our adventure.  Helene, our fellow Floridian and casual runner, arrived at the house at 6:57AM just in the knick of time to join us on our casual adventure! Early admission to Universal was at 8AM that morning, so it was important that we left our house by 7AM to begin our adventure.

In the car, packed, and ready to go!

Another vital step before beginning our adventure was having a cooler and lots of snacks.  We loaded up the car with all of our favorite essentials; diet coke, water, powerade, crystal lite, iced coffee, uncrustables, Reese peanut butter eggs, Cheetos (yes we do love Cheetos)and almonds.

We arrived at Universal a little before 7:30AM and parked our car in valet (another perk of our Annual Pass) and headed to the right to make our way toward Universal Studios.  Helene had to upgrade her pass, and while she did that we would head into the park.

Adventure Awaits!

The three of us headed straight back to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter where we entered Diagon Alley.  Next we walked right into Gringotts to begin our journey on Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts.  We walked straight thru the cue, and the first wait we had was to board the elevator.  After we got off the elevator the ride was basically a walk on, but of course we waited for the front row!  Helene was waiting for us at the exit and now it was time to try out some of the interactive wands while the boys found some Butterbeer.

Boarding Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts

Next we boarded the Hogwarts Express to head over to Islands of Adventure to enjoy even more of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. We hopped off the train and strolled right into Hogsmeade.  We promptly headed straight for some more Butterbeer and then to the Hogwarts Castle. It was time to ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.  After that it was time to ride the Dragon Challenge rollercoaster then make our way out of the park.  We were back to our car around 10:30AM and now it was time to head to Walt Disney World.

We decided with crowds it was best to head to Magic Kingdom first.  Unfortunately driving to Magic Kingdom can be very time consuming by the time you take the tram from your car to TTC then a monorail or boat to Magic Kingdom.  We decided to head to the Contemporary Hotel and try our luck at parking there so we could walk to Magic Kingdom.  Fortunately for us we were able to park there and walked right up to the Magic Kingdom where we joined Laura and Jason shortly after 11AM.

We grabbed our photos in front of Cinderella’s Castle then headed back to Tomorrowland.  We used Jim Hill’s Touring Plans app and realized all the rides had over 45 minute waits, and our best luck at riding a ride was the People Mover.  With little to no wait we enjoyed a nice ride around Tomorrowland then made our way out of the park as it was time for our fast passes at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

We arrived at Disney’s Hollywood Studios around 12:30PM and headed straight to Tower of Terror as our Fast Passes were from 12PM-1PM.  After we enjoyed our elevator ride our Fast Pass for Toy Story Midway Mania was open and it we headed straight there.  Much to our surprise the standby line was posted at 10 minutes!  So we rode standby (which was less than 10 minutes) then did an instant repeat with our Fast Passes.  It’s always a lucky day when you get to ride Toy Story Midway Mania twice in one day.  Unfortunately BB-8 was not meeting guests quite yet, so it was time to head to our next park.

Riding Toy Story Midway Mania for the first of two times

Next we headed to Disney’s Animal Kingdom where we headed straight to the Tree of Life for our photo shoot.  Before heading to the park we knew Expedition Everest would be our best bet for a quick ride as they have a single rider line, however the ride was down and by the time we got to the park single rider was posted an 85 minute wait.  No thanks, so we headed to the shortest line, which was a posted 30 minute wait for Dinosaur.  Luck was definitely on our side though, because there was absolutely no wait for this ride and we walked right on.

It was time to say goodbye to Laura and Jason and the four of us made our way to our final park, Epcot.  Luckily I had made a third pass earlier in the morning at Disney’s Hollywood Studios so that we could make a fourth later at another park.  Our final fast pass was for Journey Into the Imagination.  We headed into the park, enjoyed a lovely ride with Figment, enjoyed a refreshing drink in the DVC lounge of the Imagination pavilion, and headed out of the park where we grabbed a quick photo in front of Spaceship Earth and the Flower and Garden topiaries.

We finished our adventure by heading back to Universal Studios to use our after 4PM front of the line passes.  We were able to enjoy a nice bike ride with E.T., felt the heat of the Revenge of the Mummy, and rocked out on Rip, Ride, Rock It!  It was time to head home and get some rest because the next day we were going to have another day of adventures at the Walt Disney World Water Parks and Miniature Golf Course!

Typhoon Lagoon the next day

Adventure Tips

It is important that you dress appropriately for this adventure.  You will spend a lot of your day on your feet and out in the hot sun.  Tennis shoes are a must!  At the end of the day of Health apps said we had walked about 10-11 miles that day.  Also make sure you have comfortable clothes on.  No one wants their day to be ruined by chafe.  You may even want to consider Body Glide if it is going to be a very hot day.  Sunscreen is also a must, no one wants their day ruined by a sunburn.   You may also want to consider carrying the bare minimum into parks to save time and avoid going thru the lines to have your bags checked.

If you are finishing your day at Universal Orlando do NOT valet park.  We learned this the hard way.  When the park closes the wait to get your car at valet is insane!  We would have been much better off parking in the parking deck and getting out more quickly instead of waiting over a half an hour to get our car.

Make sure you stay hydrated throughout the day.  Bringing a cooler was probably the best decision we made that day.  Between every park we made sure we drank a bottle of water and had caffeine intake.  We also ate every time we got in the car.  Running around six parks will make you hungry.  Bringing your own food can help cost save throughout the day.

You also want to plan your day in advance.  Having the Fast Passes at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot definitely helped us have a more enjoyable day.  To get the most of your challenge you may want to watch park crowds and choose a day to go that is less crowded so you can ride more rides.

Wrapping it Up

This was a great way to spend my Birthday.  I love theme parks and I am always up for a challenge when it involves the parks.  Unfortunately this challenge would be pricey if you don’t have annual passes to these parks.  In total you would be looking at spending close to $450 to do this challenge if you bought theme park hoppers at Walt Disney World and Universal along with paying for front of the line at Universal.  I do have to say that this challenge would not be worth spending that money.  I only recommend this if you have annual passes.  Overall great day, spent with great friends!

Enjoy the freedom of going wherever your feet, imagination, & determination take you!

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Enjoy the freedom of going wherever your feet, imagination, & determination take you!