Every Ride Kids Challenge
The time is 11:43 pm and after waiting nervously for 46 minutes, thinking the whole time “please don’t break down on us now” John aka Little Dude and I were next to load onto the 7 Dwarfs Mine Train. A journey that had started at 7 am that morning was about to end in celebration. We sat down, strapped ourselves in and took our 40th and final on-ride photo of the day. As the train left the station I looked at John and his infectious smile that never wavered the entire day was bigger than ever. I put my arm around my son and screamed “we did it John!” Without missing a beat he looked up at me and said “I knew we were going to complete it!” At that moment we threw our hands in the air and I let out the biggest Ric Flair “woooooooooooo” I could muster up. Upon entering the mine we sang along to Dig-A-Dig Dig and Heigh Ho capping off our Singing Challenge (Thank you @CheshAndTigg & @DisneyBerg) which earned donations for our Give Kids The Rides page. As we exited the ride I picked up John and we hugged and cheered some more all the way to the castle. We took the picture below as is tradition with most challengers who end their night at Magic Kingdom and headed toward the park exit. Walking up Main Street I turned around and let the moment sink in at what we just accomplished. 40 rides, 4 parks, 1 day. The first team to ever attempt and complete the #EveryRideKidsChallenge. We set out on a two missions that day…one was personal and the other (more important) was to raise money for Give Kids The World. We accomplished both!
Little did I know that by the end of this vacation I would go on to complete two more challenges. One with John (#EveryRideToddler) and one solo (#EveryRideWDW). Three celebratory pictures in front of the Cinderella Castle one three separate nights. It was an incredible journey!
So how did we get there? What was the strategy behind each attempt? How was I able to convince my 5-year old son to go on this crazy adventure with his father? Who watched John while I was doing the solo challenge (yes that was a question I was asked multiple times)?
Well you’re about to find out!
But, before I go any further I just want to say Thank You to everyone who takes the time to read this. This is my first time writing an article of this length and I am not a master of the English language so please bear with me at times.
And also to everyone who followed, donated, supported and cheered us on along the way. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. John and I could not have done it without you.
ONE LITTLE SPARK OF INSPIRATION…
I first learned about these theme park challenges back in 2015. I stumbled across the Parkeology Challenge and was immediately hooked. I thought it was a great idea and a new way to experience Disney. The challenge required an individual to ride every moving attraction in all four parks in one operating day using only the resources available to the “typical guest”. You can’t pay for special access, including all hard ticket events. Extra Magic Hours are allowed (available to any guest staying on property) as well as all forms of transportation to move from park to park. The official ride list is taken from Disney’s website. If it moves, it’s a ride. So Carousel of Progress is in, Country Bear Jamboree is out. You must tweet a photo of yourself on every ride throughout the day using proper tags as well as posting every FastPass you intend on using. There are other smaller details but I think you get the idea. Basically you’re running, jogging & fast walking back & forth across four parks constantly on your phone monitoring wait times trying to get as many FP’s as possible while also remembering to tweet out a picture of yourself on every single ride all in one action packed day (takes a breath). This challenge is a physical & mental grind that puts everything you know about WDW to the ultimate test!
Now I know what a lot of you are thinking and trust me when I say I’ve heard it all before from family and friends….”I would never spend my vacation doing that” “That’s impossible!” “You’re crazy!” “I prefer to move at a slower pace at Disney” “You’re 35 and still vacationing at Disney?!”
I understand that this type of thing isn’t for everyone and not the way most people would like to spend their vacation. Personally, I love slow paced Disney vacations, taking in all the sights and sounds that this magical place has to offer. I have countless memories growing up travelling with my mom and little sister. As an adult, I proposed to my wife in front of Cinderella’s Castle and our honeymoon was you guessed it at WDW. So for me, I was really intrigued to find out if I had what it took to complete a challenge such as this. The best comparison I could make was a person who loves climbing. What might their ultimate goal be? First thing that popped into my head was climbing Mount Everest. So this challenge became my Mount Everest!
So why did it take me until November 2018 to make my first challenge attempt? Well, up until July of that year the only way to complete the challenge was that every ride needed to be in operation. If a ride was under refurbishment a run would automatically be an #autofail. Due to work and family responsibilities planning a trip around Disney’s refurbishment schedule was difficult for me to do. But that all was about to change…
…..IT ALL STARTED WITH A BOAT….THE LIBERTY BELLE RIVERBOAT
Late July/Early August 2018 was supposed to be a time of major excitement in the challenge community. The Liberty Belle Riverboat refurbishment was scheduled to come to an end and Toy Story Land had just opened at the end of June adding two more rides to the challenge! But then disaster struck. Disney announced that the Riverboat refurbishment would be extended thus making all challenge attempts an #autofail. This was awful news to the dozens of challengers who planned trips around that time. There seemed to be no light at the end of the tunnel….until three men came together and changed the theme park challenge landscape forever.
THE EVERY RIDE CHALLENGE IS BORN
In late July 2018, Kenny “The Pirate” White, Jeff Stamp and Marty King created a challenge designed to benefit Give Kids The World (GKTW). It was called “Give Kids the Rides.” Marty pledged $100 to GKTW for everyone who completed all operating rides while the Riverboat was under refurbishment. Other benefactors stepped up pledging per-ride donations along with fun bonus challenges (ex. Singing on rides, drinking a full cup of the Beverly and petting a banshee in Pandora). In only a few months, Give Kids The Rides raised almost $60,000! It was a fantastic idea for a very worthy cause. I knew at this moment that I needed to be apart of it. What started out as a personal goal now had a greater meaning.
Shortly after, the group decided to create an ongoing challenge called the “Every Ride Challenge” which would provide the opportunity for individuals and families additional challenge options that were less intense. No longer would the term #autofail exist in the challenge community. The goal of each attempt was to ride all rides that were operating on the day of your challenge while promoting GKTW.
There are four different types of challenges in which you can participate at WDW:
#EveryRideWDW Challenge – All operating rides on the day you attempt challenge
#EveryRideToddler Challenge – Rides with no height limit
#EveryRideKids Challenge – Rides with height limit of 40” or less
#EveryRideTeens Challenge – No kiddie rides
PREPERATION AND GAME PLANNING
As you can imagine, just like any Disney vacation, there is a lot of planning that goes into it. When I first decided to make an attempt at the #EveryRideWDW Challenge in November 2018 I spent months researching the lengths of every ride, parade/fireworks schedules, average wait times and crowd levels throughout the course of the day. I studied maps to plot out the best routes to take from one ride to the next. I also followed dozens of runs by other challengers on Twitter trying to gain as much knowledge as possible. My first two attempts at the #EveryRideWDW Challenge resulted in back to back failed runs (11/11 & 11/12). Of the 46 rides needed for completion on each of those days I finished with 34 and 36 rides respectively. Solid efforts I felt for my first two runs.
When I came back home the first thing my youngest son John (5) said was “Daddy I want to do a challenge with you on our next trip!” I immediately hopped on to EveryRideChallenge.com to see if anyone had attempted/completed the #EveryRideKids Challenge. No one had and better yet no one had signed up to attempt it yet. I looked at my son and told him “you could be the first kid in the WORLD to finish the kids version of the challenge!” He and I were super excited and signed up that very day.
I know what some of you are thinking…”how could any five year old physically/mentally survive a day like the one I described.” Well there were times I thought the same thing. Now on previous trips, even as young as 3, John has gone open to close at every park numerous times without so much as a single complaint. He always fell asleep on the bus ride back to the resort (parents we’ve all been there LOL) but while in the parks he was always fantastic. My biggest fear in the planning was park hopping in a car and him possibly falling asleep and refusing to wake up! Absolutely a possibility but one I would just have to wait and see.
Next on the docket was choosing the right day to give this a shot. We chose April 26, 2019, a 16-hour park day with Magic Kingdom opening at 8 am for extra magic hours and closing at midnight. The other three parks all opened at 9 am and closed at half hour intervals (8:30, 9 and 9:30).
In addition to this challenge, I got the crazy idea to give the #EveryRideWDW Challenge another shot at the end of our trip. I chose May 1st, the last day of our trip and a 15-hour park day. My lovely mother who helped cultivate my obsession with Disney would be accompanying us and she would get to spend that day at Magic Kingdom with her grandson. We were all set with our challenge dates!
MISSION #1 – EVERYRIDEKIDS CHALLENGE
At 5:30 am the alarm went off. It was go time! John was super excited and couldn’t wait to get the day started. After eating breakfast, I checked all my portable chargers (six in total) and packed the rental with a change of clothes and the cooler. We left Pop Century around 6:40 and made our way to Magic Kingdom. We parked at the Contemporary Resort a little before 7 am and walked over to the security booth rocking our Finding Nemo inspired “Big Dude, Little Dude” shirts! After a short wait we walked down to the main entrance. While waiting we struck up conversations with a few families and explained to them what we were doing. Most were really intrigued and supportive. A few just shook their heads and stated they could never do something like that.
We had 40 attractions to ride in this version of the challenge. 21 at Magic Kingdom, 9 at Epcot and 5 each at Animal Kingdom/Hollywood Studios. Our Fastpasses were booked between 10-12 at AK.
One of the first things you come to realize is just because you are starting at one park doesn’t mean you need to use your fastpasses there. Our plan would be to get on as many rides as possible from 8-10 am (8-9 EMH) at MK before heading to AK where wait times would be higher & the need for FP greater.
MAGIC KINGDOM – RIDES 1 THRU 10
At, 7:44 we were let into Magic Kingdom & a Main Street Vehicle was parked right out front just waiting for us. Now MSV is one of the trickiest rides to get and one that can end a lot of runs early. It’s important to know the operation schedule because the vehicles are only out for a few hours each day. After waiting a minute or so we were off down Main Street and started singing our first song challenge of the day. “Who’s the leader of the club that’s made for you and me?!” $1 would be donated for every song we sung (Thank you @CheshAndTigg & @DisneyBerg) on a ride. Our vehicle dropped us off in front of the castle and we walked over to the Tomorrowland rope drop pumped up and ready to roll!
Like I mentioned previously, our plan was to get on as many rides as possible in the first hour. Since most guests will try to get on the big E-ticket attractions (Space Mountain, 7 Dwarfs, etc) first that leaves minimal wait times for other attractions. In our mind, the ride count is important early on. You want to get the feeling that you are ahead of the game especially when starting at Magic Kingdom.
Our next 35 minutes went as follows: #2 Buzz, #3 Astro Orbitor, #4 Dumbo, #5 Barnstormer, #6 Teacups & #7 Carrousel. It was the perfect start for us. We knocked out a bunch of quick rides with little to no wait.
After the Carrousel, we walked back to the hub and found a spot near the Liberty Square entrance. What a lot of regular guests don’t realize is that during EMH at MK only half the park is open (Tomorrowland/Fantasyland). So at 9 am there is a second rope drop where the rest of the park opens up. Since we weren’t using fastpasses it was important to be at the front of this line for our next two rides: Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Splash Mountain. My hope was to get on both quickly and hop on the second Riverboat departure of the day.
Our strategy worked to perfection! And before hopping on the Riverboat we were able to stop and pick up a much needed snack. #8 Big Thunder, #9 Splash Mountain & #10 Liberty Belle Riverboat.
PARK HOP #1 – MAGIC KINGDOM TO ANIMAL KINGDOM
We left Magic Kingdom at 10:22 am and entered Animal Kingdom at 10:52 am. So a 30 minute park hop which is considered pretty good when doing a run. Now there are plenty of different ways to hop from park to park and every challenger has their preference. Personally, I feel that driving is the only way to run a challenge. There are few instances throughout the course of the day where you can make up time. Park hopping is one of them. Every second you spend outside of the parks is a wasted second. So I take my hops very seriously. We run to the car (in this instance it was parked at the Contemporary) and get to where we need to go. We eat/drink/change clothes in the car if need be and once parked we run to the entrance.
PARK #2 – ANIMAL KINGDOM
Since this is the kids version of the challenge we only needed to get 5 rides. We were holding FP’s for 3 of them so I felt we could get through AK in a few hours. We ran on over to Pandora for #11 Na’vi River Journey (FP1) and then up to Africa for #12 Kilimanjaro Safaris (FP2). While on the Safaris I knew we needed to start looking ahead and grab a FP at HS. So I modified our Kali River Rapids FP so I would have more time to search while we did standby for the Dinoland rides.
While on line for #13 Kali River Rapids (FP3) I scored our first HUGE fastpass of the day….SLINKY DOG DASH!
After Kali we finished up Animal Kingdom with #14 Dinosaur & #15 Triceratop Spin completing our first park of the day!
PARK HOP #2 – ANIMAL KINGDOM TO HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS
With our Slinky Dog Dash FP in hand we left Animal Kingdom at 1:13 pm feeling really good. Ate lunch on the ride over to Hollywood Studios. John devoured a lunchables while I enjoyed eating a salad with no fork on the drive. We entered HS at 1:44 pm, so a 31 minute park hop which was a victory in my book.
PARK #2 – HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS (FASTPASS GRAIL)
This was John’s first time in Toy Story Land which wasn’t ideal because we couldn’t take our time and enjoy it. John of course was totally fine with this saying “Daddy, we’ll be back here in a few days…we have to finish the challenge!” Even so, I felt we were in pretty good shape so we snapped a few pics as we made our way to ride #16 Slinky Dog Dash (FP4)!
As soon as we scanned in at Slinky I was back on the app trying to see what else I could grab. After just a few refreshes I found an Alien Swirling Saucers fastpass! BOOM! Then while on AS2 I found a Tower of Terror fastpass! DOUBLE BOOM!! You see where this is going, right?! I ended up finding a fastpass for all 5 rides we were required to complete (Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster is not part of the kids challenge) for the holy fastpass grail! Things were looking fantastic. It was at this moment I felt we had a really good shot at a completion. By no means was it a lock but if our luck held we could do it. Recap (w/FP): #17 Alien Swirling Saucers (FP5), #18 Tower of Terror (FP6), #19 Toy Story Mania (FP7) & #20 Star Tours (FP8)
While in line for Star Tours our lucky fastpass streak continued as I was able to find one for Frozen Ever After! How did we celebrate? Well in the challenge community I am known for a few things….
1.) Whenever a challenger tweets out a photo on a water ride without a poncho I post the following GIF.
2.) Whenever a challenger completes a park I reply to that tweet with “Another Park Bites The Dust!” A tribute to one of my favorite bands Queen and I always thought it sounded cool LOL.
3.) Whenever a challenger is exactly half way through their run of I either post a GIF or an actual video of myself/kids singing Bon Jovi’s Livin’ On A Prayer (OHHHHH WE’RE HALFWAY THERE!!!!!).
So just before the ride started John & I belted out a rendition of Livin’ On A Prayer! We were halfway there! 2 down!
PARK HOP #3 – HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS TO EPCOT We departed HS at 3:53 pm & made the short drive over to Epcot entering at 4:21 pm. Another solid hop of 28 minutes.
PARK #3 – EPCOT
We had 9 rides to get done with a target goal of 3 hours. As we made the long walk from the entrance to the World Showcase John looks up and says “I love seeing that golf ball every time we come here!” I on the other hand was a bit nervous looking at Spaceship Earth. It has ended a lot of challengers hopes and dreams in the past with its tendency to break down or just stop for no apparent reason whatsoever. I’m a big GOT fan so I have dubbed it “The Breaker Of Runs.” But, for the time being we had other rides to check off the list first.
First on the list was our fastpass for ride #21 Frozen Ever After (FP9). Now I am not a huge fan of this attraction and miss the Maelstrom but we still had a singing challenge going on. So I waited for the scene when Elsa makes her grand entrance to belt out an awful version of “Let It Go”. I felt so bad that I turned and apologized to the folks behind me. They didn’t miss a beat and told me it was great and just added to the experience. Clearly they were just being nice.
While walking over to Mexico I scored another key fastpass….Test Track! Our string of good fortune continued as we made our way to ride #22 Gran Fiesta Tour!
Next up was ride #23 Test Track (FP10) & #24 Mission: Space completing the left side of the park. As we ran to the other side of the park I glanced over at Spaceship Earth and was mentally preparing myself for an epic showdown. Would the “Breaker of Runs” end our dreams of a completion? We would soon find out but we still had some business to attend to over at the Land pavilion. I quickly grabbed back-to-back fastpasses for #25 Soarin (FP11) & #26 Living With The Land (FP12)!
With 3 rides to go I was feeling good but still very nervous at what awaited us. Figment is usually a walk on as the day wears on so I knew we didn’t need a fastpass for it. But, just to be on the safe side I grabbed one for Nemo. Ride #27 Journey Into Imagination & #28 The Seas: With Nemo & Friends (FP13)!
It was time for our battle with the giant golf ball! I grabbed a FP for what would be our final one at Epcot.
Ride #29 Spaceship Earth (FP14)!
John and I love this attraction and on this day we needed it to run without any issues…and…it did! I couldn’t believe it. No stops, no slowdowns it was a perfect trip through time.
THANK YOU PHOENICIANS! And with that we completed our third park of the day!
PARK HOP #3 – EPCOT TO MAGIC KINGDOM
3 parks down, 1 to go! John and I were super excited when we got off Spaceship Earth. We were 11 rides away from completing our mission. While heading to the car the Fastpass magic that had been along for the ride all day struck again. I was able to grab a Peter Pan FP that didn’t start until after 8:30 pm. This was perfect as it would allow us to knock out the rest of Tomorrowland first negating any further need to run back and forth across the park. As we pulled into the Contemporary and parked the car I said to John…”well either we are going to return to this car later very happy or very sad!” Again without missing a beat John looked up and said “happy daddy, we’re going to be so happy!” And with that we jogged to the front gate of MK to finish what we started.
PARK #4 – MAGIC KINGDOM, PART 2
As we hooked a right past Cinderella Castle and headed towards Tomorrowland I only had one thought in my mind…”I hope he doesn’t fall asleep in Carousel of Progress.” My son loves this attraction and was showing no signs of slowing down but parents we all know that in a moments’ notice that can change! I got the thumbs up that he was ready to go as we sat down in the last two seats at the end of one of the last rows for ride #30 Carousel Of Progress. After 20 minutes of non-stop entertainment we hopped right next door to ride #31 The Peoplemover.
Next, we ran up to Fantasyland to knock out ride #32 Peter Pan’s Flight (FP15) & #33 It’s A Small World. Then we grabbed a fastpass for ride #34 Haunted Mansion (FP16). While on HM, John said to me “daddy I think we are going to do this!” I still didn’t want to jinx anything so I just smiled and told him we had a pretty good shot. But, in reality he was right. We had 6 rides left with 2 ½ hours until park close. As long as a ride didn’t break down or Daddy did something to sabotage our run we had a great shot at a completion.
For the next 3 rides we headed off to the land of Adventure where in fact daddy did almost sabotage things! At first, everything was going according to plan as we grabbed our next fastpass and hopped on ride #35 Pirates Of The Caribbean (FP17). Then picked up a Jungle Cruise fastpass and made our way over to ride #36 Magic Carpets of Aladdin.
We headed over to the Jungle Cruise and experienced one of the best skippers/group of fellow passengers I’ve ever had. She was so animated, funny and into the role that it got everyone on the boat locked into her every move. Yes the jokes are corny (which is clearly intentional) but how they are delivered can turn a boring ride into a phenomenal one. My fellow passengers completely got the humor and it was so much fun. I really wish I remembered her name AND something else I completely forgot to do….TAKE A PHOTO ON THE RIDE!
Yep, I forgot to take the on ride photo. Which is right up on the list of mistakes you really don’t want to ever make on a run. It ranks in the top 3 of challenge no-no’s along with forgetting where you parked the car and a dead phone due to not having enough portable chargers. Funny thing is I didn’t even realize it until we were up the stairs near the Tiki Room.
I turned in a panic to John that we needed to go on it again. Fortunately, standby was only 15-20 people deep so we only had to wait a short time to board but damage done. We sat down and I was so angry at myself. John again, always knowing the perfect thing to say “Daddy, I’m sorry I should’ve remembered to tell you to take the picture.” I looked at him a reassured him that he had nothing to apologize for and that daddy had messed things up. Then I reassured him that everything was going to be alright and we still had time to get everything done.
What followed was probably the worst group of fellow passengers I’ve ever encountered on this ride. You would’ve thought the skipper (who tried her best) was speaking in another language. It felt like the ride took three times longer to get through but we finally had our photo for ride #37 Jungle Cruise (technically FP18, but the re-ride was without one).
We finally departed from the Jungle Cruise a little after 10:30 and still in great shape. 3 rides left with an hour and a half until close. I grabbed us a fastpass for Winnie The Pooh and we headed to Fantasyland to close out the night. As we loaded onto Ride #38 Winnie The Pooh (FP19), John turned to me and said, “Daddy I think we are definitely finishing this challenge!!” I looked at him and said “We are almost there big guy!”
Next on our list, it was time to go under the sea! I grabbed our 20th and final fastpass of the day and as we ran around 7 Dwarfs yelling “Stay Open!” We loaded into our sea shell and sang every song on ride #39 Journey Of The Little Mermaid (FP20)!
AND THEN THERE WAS ONE!
When exiting UTS I looked at my phone and realized we still had an hour to go before park closing. As long as 7 Dwarfs did not breakdown we had it in the bag. As we walked over to our final ride John once again said “Daddy we are definitely going to finish this challenge!” The wait to get on was excruciating. We were both getting anxious and I just kept repeating for it to please stay open. While waiting I got a message….. Marty King has donated $125 to your donation page for being the first to complete the #EveryRideKids Challenge! Now this was fantastic news BUT we hadn’t actually gotten on the ride yet. You want to remain positive but when you are so close to finishing it’s very hard not to think of the worst thing imaginable. So to help John and I take our minds off things we went back through our tweets and I showed him all the fun GIF’s that my fellow spreadsheet HQ buddy Korrina (@SoarinOverWDW) posted throughout the day for John. He laughed and smiled and really helped when the little dude was starting to get really tired! When we finally got close to the CM I thought for a moment to ask for the front row. And then quickly slapped myself in the face and said no way. Just get us on this ride!
Well you already read how it ended so all that’s left is one last on ride picture…Ride #40 Seven Dwarfs Mine Train!!
On our day, we covered 17 miles over 4 parks across the WDW property. I took almost 36,000 steps so John probably took about 50,000 on his little legs. We took some pictures and videos on the way out and then celebrated by going to….McDonald’s! It was an incredible day and I was so proud of my son. A father/son moment I will never forget.
When John woke up the next morning the first thing he asked was “how much money did we raise?!” With a big smile I told him over $800 and his mouth dropped open. I shared his expression and was blown away by the support and generosity we received. Thank you again to everyone!
So I thought the next few days would be a relaxing Disney vacation but John had other plans. He wanted to do another challenge on this vacation and try and get to $1,000 in donations. So after an off day we recharged the batteries to take on……the #EveryRideToddler Challenge!