The Expedition Everest Challenge at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is officially scheduled for Saturday May 7, 2011. Last year’s date was in mid-June, which was more convenient for those on school and/or college schedules. The move to May means most schools and colleges will still be in session, making a Disney vacation difficult. On the plus side, it won’t be as humid and the temperature will (likely) be lower in the evening.
The Expedition Everest Challenge is unlike any other race held in Disney World. It is one part traditional run, one part obstacle course, and one part scavenger hunt. Past obstacles have included walking on beams, climbing up cargo nets, crawling under nets, and jumping through tires. Anyone who is uncomfortable with the obstacles may elect to skip them. There’s no penalty for doing this, other than the fact that you won’t be eligible to win if you elect to skip over any of the elements. After completing the run/obstacle course, the real fun begins. Participants will be given their first scavenger hunt clue and they must solve a series of riddles. The race clock does not stop after the run – the winner will be decided based on their overall time, including the scavenger hunt portion. If you plan to participate, I would recommend reading this website from top to bottom so that you’re prepared to answer any question that might come up. For 29 cents per minute, you can also call my “Expedition Everest Challenge Phone-A-Friend Line” if you get stumped. 1-900 number available soon.
Participants will also enjoy a special pre-race fireworks display. Since firework spectacles are extremely rare at the Animal Kingdom, this is a special treat. The race should begin around 8:30pm in the parking lot, well after the Animal Kingdom closes and guests have left. To ease congestion, racers begin in waves, starting with solo males and ending with co-ed teams. Racers are expected to keep up with a 15-minute mile average. Because this is not a “serious” race like the half and full marathons, people who can’t keep up will have the option to hop on golf carts and be moved up the course so that they can finish.
According to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Website:
Each participant in the Expedition Everest™ Challenge will receive:
- Expedition Everest™ Challenge finisher medal
- Champion® tech t-shirt
- Goody bag
- Personalized race bib number
- 1-day theme park ticket* to scout the course at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park
- Admission to an exclusive post-race party at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park
The Expedition Everest™ Challenge features:
- Fireworks to kick off your trek
- 5K adventure run with obstacles spread throughout the course
- New Scavenger Hunt format
- Timed event with online results
- Athlete refreshments at the finish line
- Disney’s Kids’ Races
- Awards presented to the top three finishers in the Team Divisions (Men’s, Women’s, Coed, Military) and in Individual Divisions (Men’s, Women’s, Military)
Because one-day theme park tickets are included, tickets to participate in The Expedition Everest Challenge are expensive. While 2011 ticket prices are not yet available, we can expect them to be about $115 per individual or $220 per two-person team, with discounts available for early purchases. Depending on your situation, this can make the race a very good deal. Considering a one-day theme park ticket costs about $87, the additional cost for the race is just about $30. That’s not bad at all. However, if you have Annual Passes or don’t need tickets, you’ll need to find something else to do with those one-day tickets. Luckily, the tickets are good through December 31, 2011 and can be used at any of the four major theme parks. In the past, the tickets have expired 14 days after the race and were only good at Animal Kingdom. Officially, the tickets are non-transferable, but you can either give them to someone else or sell them (you didn’t hear that from me). If you find yourself with no use for the one-day ticket and don’t want to break Disney’s rules, the cost of the event is expensive.
In the past, there has also been a special race for kids between the ages of four and ten. The race consists of a short run, obstacle course, and a surprise challenge at the end. Participants receive a race t-shirt, race bib, and special commemorative medallion. The cost to participate should be about $15, which is what it has cost in previous years. This race begins around 7:30pm, prior to the state of The Challenge. Participants must be 11 years old or older to join in the “regular” Challenge.
Overall, the Expedition Everest Challenge is a unique experience. The race is short enough that most people should be able to participate and the obstacles and scavenger hunt make the mood more fun than your typical marathon. On the other hand, there are a lot of people who take it seriously and there will be plenty of competition for those trying to achieve the best time possible. In other words, you can enjoy the race however you would like. After-hours events at Animal Kingdom are also much rarer than they are at other Parks and I can’t think of another event where the Animal Kingdom features a fireworks display.
Tickets to the after-hours Party can also be purchased individually (without a need to participate in the Challenge) for those wanting to meet up with Challenge participants. They should cost about $30 per person for adults (ages 10 and older) and $15 for kids (ages 3-9). Many of the Animal Kingdom’s rides should be open for the Party, including Expedition Everest, Kali River Rapids (which will feel great after the run), Dinosaur, and several other rides. Kilimanjaro Safari will not be open and the shows have not been available during past years either. Since the Animal Kingdom is not offering evening Extra Magic Hours in 2011 after February, this is a rare opportunity to ride Expedition Everest in the dark.
For Those Planning a Vacation During the First Week in May
We’ll want to avoid the Animal Kingdom on May 7th. As you’ll notice on the listing at the Wide World of Sports Website, Disney states that tickets include: “1-day theme park ticket to scout the course at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park.” A lot of people will take this cue and head to the Animal Kingdom on the day of the race. If possible, I would plan Tuesday May 2nd as your day at the Animal Kingdom, just like most weeks. The Challenge isn’t a huge event like the Marathon in January and it doesn’t have a great effect on crowd patterns or bookings. Overall, there should be about 3,000 total Challenge participants, which isn’t enough to make a substantial dent on the crowd level. I’m still recommending that we avoid the Animal Kingdom on May 7th if possible. If you already have your heart set on visiting the Animal Kingdom on May 7th, you don’t have a ton to worry about. It will just be more important that you arrive early and head to Expedition Everest and Kilimanjaro Safari first in the morning. FASTPASS whichever you enjoy more and head to Kali River Rapids, on your way to DinoLand USA for Dinosaur, Primeval Whirl, and TriceraTop Spin. You shouldn’t have any trouble getting these rides completed in the morning, provided you’re standing outside the gate by 8:45am.