Disney World fanatics try to tackle all 46 rides in a single, hectic day
By GABRIELLE RUSSON | Orlando Sentinel | Published: December 20, 2018
Shane Lindsay and Kristina Hawkins know their quest might be impossible or just crazy: Go on every ride at Walt Disney World’s four theme parks in just one day.
“There are lots of people who are Disney fans,” said friend Ted Tamburo, who along with Lindsay runs a website chronicling what’s known as the Parkeology Challenge. “There’s not many who can say they’ve done this.”
Lindsay and Hawkins realize that luck must fall their way to reach and ride all 46 open attractions at the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom.
About 6 percent of the 325 official Parkeology teams that have tried so far since 2014 have completed the challenge, which can involve more than 20 miles of walking and running through the parks, often zigzagging among them.
Plenty can go wrong. A torrential rain shut down the final two rides the first time Lindsay attempted the challenge in 2013 with Tamburo, who didn’t quit even when he broke his toe that day.
Once, a herd of stubborn rhinos parked themselves on the road at the Animal Kingdom safari, refusing to move for 20 minutes.
“If you’re a regular guest, it’s amazing,” Lindsay said. “But on challenge day, it’s terrible!”
Challenge day starts on a recent Wednesday at 6:30 a.m. It is a brisk 45 degrees.
Hawkins, 30, a stay-at-home-mom of four from Clermont, packs us an impressive amount of snacks — energy bars, cheese sticks and Oreos that will taste as good as any French dessert by Ride No. 15 of the day.
“Good luck, seriously, from the bottom of my heart,” says the Uber driver dropping us off. “I’ll be thinking of you all day.”
The odds of finishing, the driver adds, “are pretty damn low.”
Yet, everyone’s spirits are high throughout the day and well into the night. Hawkins leads a chorus of “Jingle Bells.”
Lindsay, 45, a software developer from Davenport, has a head full of Disney statistics. He has memorized which rides close early and how long each takes from a speedy roller coaster to the Carousel of Progress that lasts more than 20 minutes.
The creator of the challenge, Lindsay has successfully finished it twice.
The idea developed from when Lindsay was a boy living in the Midwest when his family vacationed at Disney for one day and he crammed in as many rides as he could.
Lindsay is “like a runner wanting to beat his best time,” said Tamburo, who’s from Chicago.
Lindsay’s and Hawkins’ first ride of the day seems like a surprising choice. It’s Main Street Vehicles, an old-timey car that putzes along Main Street USA to the Cinderella Castle.
“As a normal guest visiting Disney,” Tamburo said. “It’s probably not No. 1 on your list.”
But it only runs early in the morning, so Hawkins and Lindsay knock it off the list at 7:51 a.m.
“Only 45 more to go,” Lindsay says cheerfully as we hurry to Animal Kingdom next.
They dart from park to park using Uber, the Monorail and Lindsay’s car where a cooler is stashed with Gatorade and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Lindsay and Hawkins jog slow enough to not get yelled at by Disney workers. We go single file; I follow behind. Their pace is steady, darting around double-wide strollers and couples holding hands.
The morning is full of promise. The line at Na’vi River Journey at Animal Kingdom is non-existent. We land a rare FastPass for Flight of Passage, a thrilling ride that draws long waits.
But the cold brings unexpected trouble. Expedition Everest is shut down. There is a weird silence coming from the roller coaster.
We pepper employees with questions, clues when it will open if at all. We don’t get answers.
We face a choice: Stay and wait an unknown amount of time? Or return to Animal Kingdom later in the day just to ride the only one we are missing? Neither option is particularly good.
“We are doing fine, guys,” Hawkins tries to reassure us as we decide the latter and venture to Epcot.
Part of the Parkeology Challenge means dealing with the unforeseen, like the Everest ride delay. We follow certain rules, like not asking Disney employees for special favors and always stay together as a team.
The game requires that we post photos on Twitter of every ride we successfully encounter. There are actually 49 rides in all, but three are down for renovations.
At Epcot, I feel a wave of tiredness around lunchtime, six hours into the challenge.
Listening to the narrator describe how plants are helpful for society makes my eyes heavy on Living with the Land. I don’t have time to buy a cup of coffee. I feel bad enough asking Hawkins and Lindsay to stop every few hours for bathroom breaks.
“You are going all day. You’re not stopping,” Hawkins warned me beforehand. “You do have chances to sit down on rides. And then you go again.”
Several times, Hawkins and Lindsay recognize other challengers on the same quest and encourage them. There is a camaraderie with doing something crazy like this. We share seats with one, Daryl Amos, on Mission Space.
Amos, a Coca-Cola truck driver from Pensacola, says he flew to Orlando for the challenge because he likes trying to conquer the inconceivable. On this, his third challenge attempt, Amos hits 39 rides in one day and then flies home only to drive back with his family later in the week for the rest of his Walt Disney World vacation.
“It’s a pleasure flying with you,” Amos says when Mission Space is over.
Much of the day, Hawkins and Lindsay scroll on their phones, frantically searching for FastPasses to save time.
“This is the unfortunate boring part of the challenge,” Lindsay says.
At 3:40 p.m., we have finished all nine rides at Epcot, and it’s back to Animal Kingdom where Everest is finally running.
In an adrenaline-filled run, sweat dripping on our faces even in the cold, we sprint across the Animal Kingdom parking lot and then to the roller coaster.
The ride over quickly, we are back running again, off to Hollywood Studios.
By 6 p.m., it’s clear we won’t finish. We needed a perfect day to pull it off, but our list of troubles is growing longer. The Tower of Terror broke down while we waited in line. We were ushered out, having to return again later in the night.
Hawkins and Lindsay don’t relent on the pace. We rush to finish strong in the chilly night. Lindsay sounds sick and Splash Mountain _ ride No. 29 _ surely didn’t help at the Magic Kingdom. The water splashing on my face jolts me in the 50-degree temperatures.
We reach Seven Dwarfs Mine Train before the park officially closes at midnight, so we’re allowed to stand in line for one final ride.
I shriek with laughter on the turns, the cold air whipping my face. This is one of my favorite rides. It feels like a victory lap of sorts, even though we technically have failed the challenge.
The roller coaster was our 38th ride. We finished all of the rides at Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios and two-thirds of them at the Magic Kingdom.
Disney is closed now; the clock expired on the challenge. Our team logged 19 hours on Disney property and 21 miles of running and walking.
We limp past Cinderella Castle where the dozen or so other Parkeology Challengers gather. We share Ibuprofen and stories of ride breakdowns and miracle, last-minute FastPasses.
“I’ll be sad when it’s over,” I had told Hawkins before we reached our cars at the Animal Kingdom at 1:30 a.m.
Hawkins smiled at me wickedly.
“Well, then, you’ll just have to try it again,” she said.