What to Do if You Have 1 Day – Disney World

If life takes you to Orlando and you have the time to sneak one day in at the parks, what do you do?! A friend recently asked me this question and I’ve seriously been thinking about what to recommend, because this is a tough one. There are weeks worth of things to do at Disney World! But I landed on the following few recommendations.

Go to Animal Kingdom, not Magic Kingdom

Alright alright, this one has to come with a few qualifiers. If you have never been to Disney World, or Magic Kingdom, go there with your one day! It is absolutely magical and worth seeing! However, if you’ve gone once or twice OR if you go to Disneyland often, I wouldn’t prioritize it. I will write more later about how I love Disneyland SO much more than Magic Kingdom, but in short if you can go to Disneyland often, you don’t need to see Magic Kingdom on your one and only day in Disney World. 😉

Animal Kingdom is truly unique and there is so much to do! It is Disney magic of a different type, and for this west coaster it is so different than anything I’d ever experienced at a Disney park. In fact, we often spend the most time in this park when we are there for extended vacations. Animal Kingdom used to have a reputation as a “half-day” park but after the addition of Pandora, the extension of the Animal Kingdom hours to night, and addition of the night show Rivers of Light there is plenty to do all day long.

Keep in mind that Animal Kingdom is the least “Mickey” of the parks, if you have kiddos who really want that typical Disney experience, but there are some epic Character Meet and Greets so you can still grab those autograph books and cameras! Here are my Fast Pass rec’s! (Keeping in mind you can only get one Pandora (Avatar) Fast Pass at a time, so you’re going to have to mix and match these.)

1. Flight of Passage (if you can get it)
It is no secret that this attraction is insanely popular, but for good reason. In my opinion it is the most immersive and advanced attraction Disney has ever created. It is not overly intense but it does reflect a feeling of flying. If you have the opportunity, do. it.

2. Expedition Everest
This is MY FAVORITE roller coaster in Disney World (sorry, Rock n Roller Coaster, you’re a close second). This ride is just a FUN coaster, and I really love the entire theming of the Asia land in the back, and don’t miss my top pick to grab a beer in all of Disney World right next to this attraction! 😉

3. Na’vi River Journey
This is the second attraction in Pandora and it is VERY family friendly. Think something like the most gorgeous Small World you’ve ever imagined, with less repetitive music. This line still can be quite long, so a Fast Pass, while not AS exciting as a Flight of Passage Fast Pass is still definitely worth it!

Honorable mentions, or rides to stand-by:

– Kilamanjaro Safari
I actually prefer this to Na’vi River, but I bumped Na’vi for the new-ness factor. Kilamanjaro is a literal Safari! Live animals are simply roaming the grounds, while you are driven through in a open windowed vehicle. I’ve actually been stopped on this ride for about 10 minutes because a rhino stopped in the middle of the road where the ride vehicles drive, and so the ride vehicles were stopped until the Rhino safely moved away. This ride is also worth riding both at night and during the day because at night the animals are so much more active after sunset, and listening to lions roar while they roam mere feet from you is AWESOME.

-Festival of the Lion King
Think Lion King on Broadway brought to a small stage and presented in 30 minutes. This outstanding performance is not only truly amazing, but is also a great way to get into a cool air conditioned room for a while, which is very important.

– Primeval Whirl

– Dinosaur

– Meet Disney Pals at Safari Outpost (your way to see SAFARI Mickey and Minnie, so cute!)

– Rivers of Light (the nighttime water show. It’s so gorgeous!) *Quick note about Rivers of Light, I have never Fast Passed this show, and usually just show up about 20-30 mins before and have always gotten a great seat. Don’t use a Fast Pass on Rivers of Light. 😉

While in the parks, EAT the following:

  • Satuli Canteen
  • Flame Tree BBQ (get the BBQ Cheese Fries!)
  • Get a Hawke’s Grog Ale in Pandora OR a Safari Amber throughout the park, my two fave beers around!

Lastly, if you only have ONE day in Disney World, I kinda suggest to not park hop, because it takes 30-60 minutes to get somewhere else on the park busses.

Animal Kingdom is more than enough! BUT – if you get the itch to park hop and head somewhere else, I would do one of the following…

-Disney Springs!

I LOVE Disney Springs! GREAT food, fun night life, all the shopping (both Disney and non-Disney) you could want, and just a great way to spend the night. Bonus: its open pretty late on weekends (think 1am).

-Hollywood Studios

Another fun night spot! Hollywood Studios is the home of Fantasmic and the Star Wars Fireworks, two amazing night time options! Plus the home of Base Line Tap House, which is a top 5 fave spot for me to grab a beer in Disney World.

ALRIGHT there it is! My ONE DAY ONLY recommendation! (this is not, I will say, what I would do personally with one day- so keep an eye out for that! short answer: Epcot.)

Do you have more questions? Do you disagree? Comment or send me a note on the contact page up top, I’d LOVE to hear your thoughts!

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