During your first several visits to Walt Disney World, you’re likely to be fully consumed with logistics and checklists. How do I get from my hotel to the Magic Kingdom? Did little Susie get to meet Mickey? Where did I park the stroller? But once you’ve gotten a few trips under your belt, you may be ready to spice things up by adding some Challenge activities to your vacation.
What’s a Challenge?
A challenge is really anything you construct to make part of your trip into a game, quest, contest, or hunt. Some well-known challenges include:
- Hunting for Hidden Mickeys. Popularized by Hidden Mickey Guy Steve Barrett, hunting for Hidden Mickeys involves scanning attraction and resort decor for camouflaged illustrations of Mickey Mouse’s head. See how many you can spot in a designated location.
- Drink (or Eat) Around the World. Consume a particular food or beverage item in each of Epcot’s 11 World Showcase countries. The classic version involves ingesting an alcoholic beverage in each country. But there are snack versions (famously, the WDW Today Sip & Snack trip in which TouringPlans’ fearless leader Len Testa chugged a bottle of Canadian maple syrup) and candy versions as well.
- Pin or Vinylmation trading. Purchase and trade to collect all of a particular series, or focus your search on finding all depictions of a particular character, film, resort, or attraction.
- Ultimate Touring Plans. Virtually compete with other guests to see who can do the most theme park attractions in the least amount of time. Requires stamina, speed, and a strong bladder.
Why Would I Undertake a Challenge?
Adding a Challenge to your vacation is somewhat like adding a theme to your birthday party. It’s a way to bring everything into focus, giving you a plan or structure for your time.
Challenges can be unifying tools for a group. For example, your kids might naturally snipe at each other if left to their own devices, but give them a mission to complete together and they’ll be more likely to act as a team rather than adversaries.
Frequent Disney visitors may find that Challenges are a way to differentiate one trip from another. Instead of a fuzzy picture of “that trip where we went on Soarin’ again,” you’ll have a crystal clear memory of “that trip where we had chocolate in every country and had an insane sugar rush when we rode Soarin'”.
Plus, they’re really pretty fun.
Once you’re familiar with the basics of Disney parks planning, there are zillions of ways to spice up your trip by adding a Challenge element. With a few minutes of brainstorming, here are some I’ve come up with:
- Count/list the number of Disney/Pixar films you can find represented in the parks. Don’t just look at the obvious (Lilo & Stitch is represented by Stitch’s Great Escape), but examine decor and merchandise for other references. To get you started, here’s a list of just some of the films depicted in the parks.
- Count/list the number of different songs played in the parks.
- Count/list the number of guests wearing inappropriate footwear (stilettos, Uggs, etc.). Please be discrete.
- Take a photo wearing a different representative hat in each Epcot country. Beret, sombrero, fez ….
- Take a photo with as many different styles of Mickey ears as you can find. Are there one dozen, two dozen, three dozen? More?
- Take a photo of as many different signage fonts as possible.
- Take a photo of as many different cast member costumes as possible.
- Like the road trip license plate game, try to find cast members wearing name tags mentioning all 50 states and as many countries as possible. Take photos.
- See how many times in a row you can experience a single ride. It helps to visit during a low-crowd time and to find a sympathetic cast member. My personal record is seven consecutive trips on Goofy’s Barnstormer without getting off. Bonus points if you can manage to do this on the Teacups, Mission Space, or any other spinning attraction.
- See how many characters you can meet in a single day at Walt Disney World. (Park hopping is allowed.)
- See how many differently costumed Mickeys you can meet in a single day.
- See how many 15-Minutes-of-Fame experiences you can have in a single Disney trip.
- The fabulous folks over at Disney Food Blog have developed dozens of food-related Challenges. Search there for “crawl” or “challenge” and you’ll find themed hunts for, among other things, cupcakes, waffles, gingerbread-flavored items, milkshakes, and my favorite: Mickey-shaped items.
- See how many different languages you can hear spoken in a single day.
- See how many FastPass+ reservations you can use in a single day.
- See how may different things you can find to do in a park without going on a ride.
- Do all the theme park interactive games in a single day (Agent P’s Adventure, Pirate Adventure, Wilderness Explorers, etc.). Bonus points if you complete multiple versions of each game.
- Find the lowest and highest priced souvenir in each park.
- Find the lowest and highest priced food item in each park.
- Get a stamp from the Kidcot Fun Stop in each Epcot country.
- Find the most regionally stereotypical souvenir item in each World Showcase country. (Is an Eiffel Tower statue or a bottle of wine more representative of France?) Family members present their rationales and vote on the winner.
- Try to ride as many different forms of transportation as possible in a single day: bus, boat, monorail, train, tram, etc.
- Play “Spot the Letter.” Again like a road trip car game, find signs in the parks depicting each letter of the alphabet. You can also try this with numbers – find signs in the parks with progressively larger numbers depicted.
- Count/list the different types of animals depicted in a theme park. (Rabbit is a rabbit, Pooh is a bear, Eeyore is a donkey, Tigger is a tiger, Piglet is a pig, Mickey is a Mouse, Donald is a duck ….). Bonus points for doing this with real animals at the Animal Kingdom.
- Experience Spaceship Earth using each of the different language tracks.
- Try to uncover all the possible alternative futures on Spaceship Earth. Film with your phone for proof.
- Make a pressed penny at every possible penny machine.
- Count all the times the cast members you encounter say a particular word or phrase. “Magical,” “How Many,” and “Princess” are good starters.
- Aggregate the results on the attractions with scoring (Buzz Lightyear, Toy Story, Test Track, etc.) to find the family’s “Master of Disney.”
- Complete all the attractions of a particular type in a single day. For example, go on all the roller coasters, view all the 3D movies, watch all the live performance shows, etc. Park hopping is a must.
- Play “bus roulette” to see how many Disney resorts you can visit in a single day using only Disney’s free transportation.
In addition to single-visit challenges, hard core Disney World fans will have likely set some personal challenges that take several (or more than several) trips to accomplish.
These might include:
- Staying at all the resorts in a particular location or price category.
- Staying at ALL the resorts. (The only one I have left is Fort Wilderness!)
- Eating at all the restaurants in a particular theme park, eating at all the character meals, eating at all the signature dining restaurants, or eating at ALL the restaurants at Walt Disney World.
- Participating in a particular combination of runDisney events. Coast-to-Coast Challenge anyone?
- Taking all of the backstage tours.
- Collect all the colors of MagicBands.
- Visiting all the Disney theme parks in the U.S.
- Visiting all the Disney theme parks in the world.
What Can YOU Come Up With?
My family has done a few of the Challenges mentioned above, and we’ve got several more on our to-do list for our next big Disney trip this summer. We’ve found them to be a real hoot.
I’m curious about whether other families regularly make challenges a part of their Disney vacation. Do you use them for fun? Or to shake up a routine? Do you all work together to complete a task? Or do you create teams within your party and actually compete against each other? Is this something you find appealing? Or just plain weird?
We’d love your thoughts on Disney Challenge games. And we’d like to hear your ideas for Challenges that other guests might enjoy. Let us know in the comments below!