Theme parks can be notoriously intimidating places for people of bigger sizes. It’s no wonder, with each ride having specific height and size requirements, that theme parks are an exclusive place made with the able-bodied in mind.
According to the LA Times, Cedar Fair, a company that owns iconic theme parks across the country, has a shockingly exclusive policy for “guests of larger size,” with a park operator stating that women over 200 pounds who wear a size 18 or larger could have trouble fitting on some rides. With 67% of American women wearing a size 14 and above, that’s a lot of women who might not be able to indulge their love of amusement parks.
But beyond just Cedar Fair parks, height, weight, and size restrictions abound. At Indiana’s Splashin’ Safari water park at Holiday World, riders are weighed using a walk-on scale to ensure that the 6-person raft won’t take on more than the 1,050-pound weight limit. Roller coaster and drop tower manufacturer Utah’s S&S Worldwide sets a maximum weight restriction of 300 pounds and includes a sensor on each ride to detect over-sized riders. These facts are enough to make most plus-size people nervous about stepping foot in a theme park.
Some theme parks, like Disneyland, are reportedly more accommodating of plus-size riders. Writer Sarah Springer wrote about her experience at Disneyland and the constant worry she experienced at the feat she’d be turned away due to her size. Though she was nervous about her body crushing her girlfriend’s smaller frame, about the lap bar not being able to go down far enough to accommodate their differing sizes, about her body weight causing the arm of the Dumbo ride off to snap off completely—nothing bad happened at all. All of her worries were for naught, and she was eager to share her pleasant experience with fellow fat people on the internet to ease their minds too. And she’s not alone—this size 26 blogger documented her experience of fitting onto every ride at the Happiest Place on Earth and plus-size model Tess Holliday frequently flaunts her visits to Disneyland, one of her favorite places.
Thankfully, the plus-size people who came before us have given the internet some incredible tips for making the most out of your trip to a theme park. In The Big Boy’s Guide to Rollercoaster Restraints, Mike Galvan, a passionate rollercoaster rider that was once too large to enjoy his favorite hobby, shares his vast knowledge on the topic.
His weight fluctuation and love of roller coasters has led him to create the most comprehensive list of how to ride those terrifying and scream-inducing rides as a fat person, while also sharing tips that tell riders which rows and seats to sit in to have the longest seatbelt, the way to position your body to get the bar to click properly, and which ride makes and models are the most accommodating for large bodies.
While Mike Galvan shares how to hack the amusement park experience into a more inclusive one, Jana Schmeiding’s personal essay, “I Was Kicked Off The Harry Potter Ride For Being Too Fat For The Seats” recounts her experience at Universal Studios. Jana decided to try the ride inside of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry but was turned away due to the safety bar not being able to click down over her bust. As she waited for her friends to complete the ride, she watched as other busty and disappointed riders were turned away as well. One woman even went so far as to file a discrimination complaint because of the fat-shaming experience she had at an amusement park.
What happens if you don’t fit on a ride?
Before you get to sit in the ride itself, there’s usually is a tester seat toward the front of the line that you can sit in to see if you fit. This is supposed to save you from the embarrassment of sitting in the ride, full of excitement, only to be asked to leave. However, some plus-size riders report that the tester chair has steered them in the wrong direction before, either having seatbelts that are shorter or longer than what the ride actually has. If the lap bar doesn’t make its three clicks or the seat belt doesn’t stretch across your body and click in place, the ride operator will (hopefully, politely) ask you to get out. Some of the rides now feature a handful of “big boy seats,” that you may be encouraged to sit in (even if you’re a big girl and not a big boy). But if not, you won’t be allowed to ride the ride you stood in line for and waited for.
How can you find out if a theme park can accommodate you?
From our research (from the many of the links included within this article), it seems that Universal Studios in Orlando is notorious for turning away plus-size riders, while many have found success on most rides at Disneyland and Disney World. Overall, we recommend checking The Big Boy’s Guide To Rollercoaster Restraints and searching online about the park and ride you’re interested in to minimize as many last-minute surprises as possible. Thankfully, you won’t be the first or the last plus-size individual to attempt to ride. Those that went before you and were courageous enough to write about the experience can attest!