The Disney Workout

I’ve always been a fan of all things Disney. I’ve grown up watching their big screen animated and live action classics as well as their small screen favorites like The Mickey Mouse Club and The Wonderful World of Disney, but it was that first trip to the Magic Kingdom in California, which really cemented the bond. Living in Florida has made that bond all that much stronger, as the entire “world” of Disney is just a short drive away.

A day at one of its theme parks is guaranteed fun as well as exhaustion in the best way possible. Anyone who has spent a full day at any one of their parks knows well that by days end, your beat, but you happily wake up early the next day for more fun.

I’ve often wondered just how many miles you walk as well as the total number of calories you burn during a full day of fun at the park. Could a day of magical fun actually be a substitute for your workout? I’ve touched on this subject in pervious posts, mentioning typical/average miles guest rack up during their stays, but I have never actually measured my own results. So I decided to conduct a little experiment to see if “The Disney Workout” actually exists.

As a full day of fun at the Magic Kingdom in Florida can easily last more than 12 hours, I’d have to rely on a fitness tracker instead of a dedicated GPS watch/computer. The GPS devices battery would be long dead before days end. That said, I decided to use my Apple iPhone 6 with its built in M8 chip, which has proven to be quite the bad ass for tracking your activity.

Let the experiment begin….

The alarm sounds at 5:00am and my wife jumps into the shower (you didn’t think I’d be attempting this little experiment on my own did you….my wife and son are unknowingly willful participants too). I get in another welcomed 30 minutes of sleep before it’s my turn to hit the shower. I towel off, dress and wake my son while Mom’s finishing up some pancakes for breakfast…a hearty breakfast is key to a successful “assault” on the Magic Kingdom. By 6:30am we’re dressed in our best Disney wear, fueled and rolling out the driveway for our 70-90 minute drive to the Magic Kingdom…traffic permitting.

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We reached the park at 7:40am and were directed to our parking spot by a friendly army of smiling Disney cast members. Our spot was on the heroes side of the lot (the magic Kingdom divides its lot into 2 sections…heroes and villains), Simba 11, near the very edge of the lot itself.

The trams were just starting to roll out, so instead of waiting, we just walked to the ticket and transport center, adding a little over a half mile to what was sure to be a day of many miles. The monorail was offline, so we hopped onto the Admiral Fowler and steamed across the Seven Seas Lagoon to the entrance of the Magic Kingdom.

As very well seasoned Disney veterans, our assault plans were committed to memory and our first round of fast passes were strategically scheduled for the first three hours of the day. We made a beeline straight to Space Mountain in Tomorrowland. You can easily get in a few rides with little or no queue right when the park opens, and ride we did…4 trips of rip-roaring fun, rocketing through the darkest reaches of outer space, all before our designated 9:00am Fast Pass, for Space Mountain again! Yes, 5 rides on Space Mountain completed in a little over an hour.

A quick glance at the Health app on the iPhone revealed 5,405 steps so far, which applying some fuzzy math of roughly 2,250 steps per mile meant I had already walked a little over 2.4 miles since leaving home.

We had a little less than an hour before our next scheduled Fast Pass for the Haunted Mansion, so we squeezed in a ride on the Astro Orbiter and the Tomorrowland Transit Authority People Mover, and then headed over to Liberty Square for a spine-tingling tour of the Haunted Mansion and its 999 happy haunts.

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It was now 10:15am, and according to the iPhone’s Health app, I had tacked on an additional 2,012 steps as we exited the Doom Buggies of the Haunted Mansion, for a total of 7,417 steps, putting me at roughly 3.3 miles. The early morning pancakes were beginning to wear off, but we had another FastPass coming up on the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, so lunch would have to wait.

We had plenty of time to make it to Frontierland so we cut across to Adventureland to explore the Swiss Family Tree House as well as setting sail on a swashbuckling voyage on Pirates of the Caribbean. Our timing was spot on as we were able to catch a hilarious tale of pirates at the Treasures of the Seven Seas right before the ride.

We disembarked from our sailing ships and headed back to Frontierland. There was still plenty of time remaining in our FastPass window, so we stopped at the Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade to test our “gunnin’ skills”. While my son was shooting up Boot Hill, I checked the iPhone and saw I had walked another 2,229 steps. That’s 9,646 steps, roughly 4.3 miles so far. Needless to say we were all hungry now, but the “The wildest ride in the wilderness” was up next.

The Big Thunder Mountain Railroad tossed us about as we streaked through the haunted gold-mining town aboard the runaway mine train. Although tame compared to today’s gravity defying mega coasters, it’s still one of my all-time favorites.

We had officially exhausted our three FastPasses now, as well as any remnants of the morning’s pancakes. It was finally lunch time, well almost, reservations at Be Our Guest Restaurant were not until 12:25pm, so we had time to meander about and hit up the FastPass kiosk for more rides. The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train was out of passes, so we chose Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin instead, and meandered about exploring the all new Fantasyland.

Finally lunchtime! Another 2,831 steps logged for a total of 12,477 steps. A little over five and a half miles. We were starving! BTW you may ask, why not grab a quick snack between rides, after all, there’s an endless assortment of snacks offered throughout the park. Frankly, none of us are “snackers”, and the goal of this little experiment is tracking distance and calories, so we were sticking with “normal” meals.

Stepping inside Be Our Guest Restaurant was like stepping inside Disney’s Beauty and the Beast movie. The Grand Ballroom was magnificent with its high, domed ceiling, chandeliers, and snow laced gothic arches.  The West Wing recreated the Beast’s study complete with the enchanted rose, and the Castle Gallery had all the romance of Belle’s private library. Heck, there was even a life-sized Belle and Beast waltzing away.

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The lunch menu was far from the typical fare you find at the Magic Kingdom. It featured items like Tuna Niçoise Salad, Croque Monsieur, Coq Au Vin Style Braised Pork, and Potato Leek Soup, just to name a few. This was going to be our heavy meal of the day, so my wife ordered the Carved Turkey Sandwich served on a warm baguette with dijon mayo and pommes frites. My son selected the Seared Mahi Mahi served with finger salad and peach applesauce (believe it or not this was on the kids menu), while I went with a classic Croque Monsieur featuring hand carved ham and Gruyere cheese and Béchamel with pommes frites. We also ordered a sinfully good Triple Chocolate Cupcake featuring chocolate sponge cake, chocolate mousse filling and chocolate ganache to split between the three of us.

It was a delicious and well earned break from the crowds and Florida heat. Tummies happy, and batteries recharged we headed out of the castle and back to Tomorrowland for an epic space battle against the evil Emperor Zerg on Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin.

The FastPass window didn’t open up until 4:30pm so we hit up the People Mover again and queued up for some monstrously funny jokes at the Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor.  After giggling and guffawing to a gaggle of jokes, we headed to Buzz for some always heated laser blasting…..Mom won this time.

Time to get another FastPass. Another 3,368 steps were showing in the Health app for a total of 15,845 steps. A little over 7 miles of walking and the evening festivities had yet to start. At this point we were “freelancing” through the park. Being pass holders, there is never a rush or obligation to have to ride everything…BTW, it’s not possible to ride and see everything in the Magic Kingdom in a day…the average person rides about a dozen rides, so don’t try, you won’t even come close.

We decided to get FastPasses for the Main Street Electrical Parade. This would give us a fantastic vantage point to view the classic parade, as well as get us near the entrance to watch all the spectacular nighttime events, but now it was time to see the man in red….yes Santa was hanging out with Mickey and his crew, taking a break from his duties up in the North Pole.

We took the most indirect route up to the front of the park, strolling through many of the shops, taking in all the Holiday decorations on Main Street USA. Santa was on a break and would be back within 30 minutes, so we just decided to sit back and do some quality people watching….one of our favorite pastimes while at Disney.

While my son was mentally going over his Christmas wish list, I took another peek at the Health app. 1,909 more steps. 17, 754 steps in all. That’s 7.9 miles in roughly 9 hours of Disney fun, and we were all starting to feel it. Hopefully Santa had a little energy to give us as an early Christmas present.

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Sure enough, that little break while waiting for Santa gave us a boost, so we hopped aboard the Walt Disney Railroad and headed back to Fantasyland for some more freelancing. We were going to queue up for the Prince Charming Regal Carrousel, but noticed that Mickey’s PhilharMagic was just getting out, so we made our way in for some 3D fun. From there, we backtracked to my wife’s favorite, It’s a Small World, where my son and I begrudgingly got on the boat for a trip around the world filled with diabolically, exuberant, robotic dolls, torturing us with the mother of all ear worm songs….come on, you know the words.

On a side note, when on Small World, look at the staggering number of coins that have been tossed in the water. It’s almost as if the entire river was paved with multiple layers of coins. Surely, they have to clean it out every now and then. As it turns out, it’s a lot of work for Disney to collect money from the water rides like It’s A Small World. They’d have to shut the ride down, drain the water and dig the coins out. Clearly, that is quite a process and doesn’t happen often therefore the money becomes corroded and unusable as currency. So, every now and then, during a major ride refurbishment, Disney will go through the process of digging out the money which is then turned into scrap metal. On the other hand, coins from fountains and wishing wells are collected regularly and donated to foundations that foster children.

We head back towards Tomorrowland and jump on the People Mover yet again. You really come to appreciate the long ride after 10+ hours in the park…even if you’ve already come to memorize the the script….”Paging Mr. Morrow, Mr Tom Morrow!

We all had a case of the munchies now, but really were not hungry enough to have a meal, so we made our way back up to Main Street USA for some goodies…yeah I know. we are not supposed to be snacking. Baked goods, no, ice cream, no, perhaps something salty. Popcorn…oh yeah. There’s something special about Disney popcorn, especially when freshly popped at the stand off to the right of the castle. I’ve no idea what they put in it, but it’s irresistibly good.

As we sat sharing a big old pot of freshly popped popcorn, in a comemerative Disney bucket no less, we just happened to catch A Frozen Holiday Wish, where Anna, Elsa and company turn Cinderella’s Castle into a magnificent glimmering ice palace….no exaggeration here folks, it is absolutely stunning.

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By now, my son was pretty tired…ditto for my wife and me. I knew he would’t make it through the late night fireworks, so we altered our plans a bit to take in the Main Street Electrical Parade and then call it a day. We slowly made our way up Main Street as throngs of people started to claim their spots for all the nighttime festivities. The FastPasses here were really a plus as we had a reserved, roped off area right on the town square. We’d be able to see the parade pass us on the left, right and head away from us down Main Street with the frozen Cinderella Castle as a backdrop…really choice location!

While we cuddled up for the parade at the base of a huge Christmas tree, I checked the Health app to confirm why my legs and feet were tired. 2,535 more steps since the last time I checked. That’s 20,289 or just a hair over 9 miles so far. Yep, that’s why we’re all tired.

My son almost fell asleep as we waited for the 9:00pm parade start, but was wide awake while watching the glowing floats with over a half million shimmering lights synchronized to a very retro/futuristic electronic soundtrack pass by….this is technology from the early 70’s, but still cool in every way.

The saddest and best part of the day, at least when it came to our tired legs and feet, came next, bidding adieu to the Magic Kingdom. That long walk out and up to the monorail platform, followed by the tram ride back out to the parking lot is always so bittersweet. Did we park in hero’s or villains….after a long day I always forget, so I make sure to grab a quick picture of the signage before heading into the park. Yet even knowing the location…Simba 11 this time, you still have to find your car. Thankfully the old trick of beeping your cars alarm in quick procession always leads you to it.

Finally at the car. One last check of the iPhone for the final totals….

  • 22,191 steps
  • 9.73 miles
  • 26 floors climbed (ok most of this is from the roller coasters)
  • 15 hours 27 minutes
  • 2,660 calories (approximate)

I consumed about 1,700 calories at the park. That includes lunch, the bite of a cupcake, popcorn and a coke. Breakfast was about 50o calories for a total 2,200 calories. According to the app, I burned 2,660 calories, putting me in caloric deficit of just under 500 calories for the day….impressive!

Now granted, this is all fuzzy logic based on standard calculations and Apples M8 chip, but even allowing room for error, as well as calories not tracked while, for example standing in long lines, a day trip to Disney is indeed a good workout, proving that the “happiest place on earth” can also be healthy, if done right.

Still don’t believe me, just ask anyone who has spent an entire day at Disney with kids…I’m sure they will all agree!

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