THE BIG PICTURE -
Getting Ready for my Close-Up!
Every so often, I'm reminded that one of the joys of Walt Disney World is that the World really comes close to being One Size Fits All. What brought that on? Well, a friend here at work just got a snazzy new car. A BMW, no less. It's beautifully styled, with a luxurious looking interior. But here's the rub: I don't fit in the car (at least not in anything resembling comfort). I'm too tall and too wide - it just isn't going to happen.
If you're wondering how that reminded me of Walt Disney World, I'll be happy to explain. Attempting to get into that car reminded me of the last trip I took to Six Flags over Georgia, several years ago. With some WD-40, I might have been able to squeeze into a handful of the good rides at that park (emphasis on might), but I didn't have any WD-40 on me, and so I was left with a miserably long day of watching other people have fun. I did manage, just barely, to squeeze into The Mind Bender, one of my favorite roller coasters as a child, and it was painfully uncomfortable from the get-go. Half-way up the lift hill at the start of the ride, my hip seized up in a tremendously painful cramp due to the way I was pretzeled into the seat. I was hollering long before we ever even got to the first loop. When the ride was, mercifully, over, extricating myself from the ride vehicle was an excruciating process, but I couldn't do it fast enough!
NOTE: Due to my size and rather snug fit in the ride vehicle, my lap bar actually disengaged mid-ride on The Georgia Cyclone and lifted up, leaving me free to, potentially, fall out of the ride vehicle. I love roller coasters, and I'm not one to freak out aboard one, but that pretty well got my blood pressure up, I can tell you. There's nothing quite as exciting as literally hanging on for dear life aboard a normally pretty tame roller coaster. Needless to say, I haven't been back to that park since.
At any rate, this lovely yet small new BMW, coupled with a post-traumatic flashback to the Mind Bender, reminded me that I rarely feel like I don't fit in at Walt Disney World. Sure, there are exceptions - like the Tomorrowland Indy Speedway - that are just not built on a scale large enough to accommodate my frame, but those are few and far between at the World, where they are the norm at most amusement parks.
As a matter of fact, I have determined that I can enjoy 97.5% of the attractions at Walt Disney World. If you're wondering, yes, that is an actual calculation, performed by some of my more mathematically inclined friends with engineering degrees. The only ride in the parks I absolutely cannot fit into is the Tomorrowland Indy Speedway. And, while I can fit (by the skin of my teeth) into the Mad Tea Party tea cups , I don't usually find much reason for squeezing into them, so I opted to count that one as a negative for purposes of this calculation. That's out of 80 attractions/shows on property at Walt Disney World (I didn't count things like Pooh's Playful Spot or the various houses at Mickey's Toon Town Fair). I even fit in Goofy's Barnstormer, for crying out loud, and that's purposefully designed for children.
That's not to say that every ride at WDW is comfortable for larger people. Some of my favorite rides are less than comfy. Splash Mountain, for example, is an absolute knee killer, due to the combination of my height and weight and the way I fit in the ride vehicle. Some of the rides at WDW are extremely comfortable (Rock'n'Roller Coaster, Expedition Everest, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Soarin', Mickey's Philharmagic, etc.), but several of the rides/attractions have some degree of discomfort associated with them. Clearly, none of them are intolerable, because I keep going back and I keep riding these rides. And, perhaps more important, I feel safe at every attraction at WDW; not once have I ever felt like life and limb were at risk there.
Some rides - and we've covered this territory before in previous editions of The Big Picture - can have any discomfort you may experience mitigated in some way. On Test Track, you may not fit or be comfortable in just any seat, but the middle seat of the front row is great. If you're hitting your knees on Pirates of the Caribbean or It's a Small World (another real knee offender), a front row seat will absolutely take care of that problem.
Here's the key: Don't be afraid to ask! I have yet to encounter a Cast Member who was anything other than gracious and discreet when I put in a request for a special seat due to my size. I've heard the occasional negative report from other At Large guests, but I haven't personally experienced any negativity from a Cast Member in this regard. Sometimes you have to be a little patient as they work out the seating for a particular ride, but it really makes a difference when you experience an attraction in (relative) comfort instead of pain. When in doubt, ASK!
Another way that WDW makes their At Large guests feel at home is that they actually have merchandise available in some larger sizes. It's not always easy to find a t-shirt here (I can't speak for other articles of clothing - pants, dresses, etc. - as I haven't looked), but things have improved steadily on this front in the past few years. Mouse Gear at EPCOT routinely carries shirts up to 5XL now, and the World of Disney store at Downtown Disney does the same, carrying up to 6XL on occasion.
I don't want to complain, because, up until very recently, there were no plus size shirts to be had at all, but you should be aware before you go shopping that they only carry the generic WDW t-shirts and the generic t-shirts with the year on them in the larger sizes. If you're just itching for one of those cool Pirates of the Caribbean t-shirts or one of the funny Monorail shirts with the Spanish safety spiel on it, you'll have to get creative and figure out another way to get one, because they simply don't carry them in the larger sizes some of us require. My last visit, I spoke to a manager at World of Disney, and he was very apologetic, but said that, as far as he knows, there are no plans to expand the variety of larger sized shirts at this time.
So, if you
consider yourself to be a person of size and you wonder if a trip to WDW
could really be worth it for you, my answer is an unequivocal and resounding
YES! In all likelihood, there will be very few attractions - even at the
water parks! - you can't enjoy, so you can rest assured that you'll fit
in at WDW. And you might even be able to bring home a t-shirt that will
fit to commemorate the occasion. As they sing in one of my favorite old
Disney movies, Pete's Dragon: "There's room for everyone in this
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