I am a plus-size person. I am morbidly obese. There’s a cocktail of self-loathing that comes with writing those words. There was a time when it would have hurt me to do so. But the mirror-like ride vehicles at my favorite theme parks don’t lie. The other day, I made the mistake of reading a fellow overweight person’s essay on the internet. Well, that wasn’t the mistake. The mistake was, that I read the comments. Don’t read the comments. Nothing good happens in the comments.
The essay was well reasoned. It didn’t ask for major theme park changes but suggested a few reasonable accommodations that would neither be onerous nor expensive. But the comments ranged from understanding to clueless to mean. For the record, if you’re reading this and want to offer a caustic comment, let me assure you there is no insult you can hurl that would inspire me to change. Have I thought about eating less and exercising more? Of course, I have. What I haven’t been able to do is get to the bottom of the various roadblocks and dams that make taking that simple advice and putting it into a plan of action.
What does fat friendly mean at a theme park?
Before we get into this, I don’t expect Disney or Universal or Six Flags or anywhere else to spend millions and override the laws of physics so I can ride every roller coaster in the park. When we ask if a place is fat friendly, it doesn’t mean we expect the world to change to accommodate our every whim. It just means it seems like some thought and effort has been made to accommodate us at all. Many of the online physics experts got caught up on weight limits and safety. I want to be clear. I’ve never been turned away because I weigh too much. However, it’s usually a matter of fitting safely within the ride vehicle or the safety restraints.
For instance, one of the Harry Potter rides at Universal Studios had theming on the ride vehicle entrance that unnecessarily closed the gap. I couldn’t get past the decorative side of the vehicle to see if the seat could accommodate me. No one is asking amusement parks to rewrite the laws of nature. Certainly, no one wants to put people’s safety at risk to save a few hurt feelings. But a few thoughtful gestures would surely go a long way.
Is Disney World fat friendly?
Yes. In my experience it is. Disney has, in my estimation, done its best to make its experiences able to accommodate larger guests. Fat friendly is more than just the ability to ride, it’s about empathy, not pity. And simple kindness. It’s about showing some planning and training and understanding that obese people exist.
I usually am pretty aware of where any potential issues may lie and so I typically have my guard up when going to an attraction that may be an issue, like the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, which I found doable but uncomfortable. A few years ago, however, I was surprised while boarding the Astro Orbiter. It’s not that I didn’t fit in the ride vehicle, it’s that when I got in, I couldn’t get my legs under me and panicked, afraid I couldn’t get out.
The 30 seconds of my worst-case scenario – that doesn’t involve forgetting to wear pants or someone getting injured – overwhelmed me. With help, I got my legs under me and got up off the ride. Feeling the stares of everyone just waiting to ride was too much. If I could run, I would have. At that moment, the cast member was kind and helpful and spoke to me in such a way that I will forever be appreciative. That kind of treatment isn’t always the norm.
How big is too big for Disney World rides?
First of all, there are a variety of rides at Walt Disney World’s parks and for the majority of them, I think it’s pretty safe to say that almost anyone can ride. The exception, I imagine, is that some of the kids’ rides would be tough for very tall people. For overweight people, I think some of the thrill rides will be challenging. I think anyone under 300 pounds should be mostly fine even on the roller coasters. At more than 350 pounds, some rides may be difficult or uncomfortable. Below, we’ll talk about the rides to look out for in each section of the park.
What rides can a plus-size person ride at Disney World?
Honestly, it may be easier to list the rides that might be an issue, but I’ll try to break this down through personal experience. I’m around the 90th percentile or so, so if I was able to ride, you will most likely be able to ride too.
Is Magic Kingdom fat friendly?
Yes. I can ride almost all of the rides in the Magic Kingdom. From Jungle Cruise to Small World to Splash Mountain to Pirates of the Caribbean to Winnie the Pooh, I haven’t had many issues. The cars at the Tomorrowland Speedway are tricky, but I’ve been able to ride. I’ve never had a problem at the Haunted Mansion or the Little Mermaid ride. Pooh-sized people can ride the Winnie-The-Pooh ride as well as the Buzz Lightyear ride. No problems with Peter Pan, either.
I’ve ridden the Goofy Barnstormer several times without incident as well. Astro Orbiter is the only non-thrill ride I’ve ever had an issue with. I honestly don’t know about Space Mountain. It frightened me as a child and I’ve never had the desire to ride it as an adult. It does not have a specific size warning, so I think most riders will be fine. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is a bench seat with a pull-down bar, so you might want to request a row for yourself so that smaller riders have the full safety of the lap bar, but you should be able to ride even at 400 pounds.
Is EPCOT fat friendly?
Almost all of the rides at EPCOT can accommodate most riders. This includes Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, Frozen: Ever After, Soarin’, Finding Nemo and Spaceship Earth. The Test Track is also fine. Mission Space will accommodate almost all guests, but some body types will not be able to ride. Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind is more fat friendly than most coasters, but I will note that some plus-size riders haven’t been able to ride.
Is Animal Kingdom fat friendly?
Yes. Everything in Animal Kingdom except for Expedition Everest and Flight of Passage should be fine. Even the Dinosaur ride should be fine for most people.
Is Hollywood Studios fat friendly?
I was worried that I wasn’t going to be able to ride Millennium Falcon Smuggler’s Run. As we approached the entrance, after an already long wait, I asked a cast member for her opinion. She was nice and honest. “I don’t know,” she said. “It may be close.” Happily, I was able to ride fairly easily. And I was also able to ride Rise of Resistance and Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway.
I have ridden Star Tours many times, though I try to discreetly request an end seat. The seat belt buckle is awkwardly located under the armrest. Therefore, it is difficult to get in and out of it. I usually ask my wife to help me buckle before she sits down, and after that, everything is fine. No problems to report at Toy Story Mania, the Alien Saucers ride or the Slinky Dog Dash. The Tower of Terror is likewise doable for almost all plus-size guests.
The only ride at Hollywood Studios that is questionable is the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. If you’re concerned, ask a cast member to direct you to the test vehicle, which is discreetly placed.
Do you have any ride tips for plus-sized guests? Tell us about your experience in the comments.