Fat at Disneyland California: My Fluffy Adventures in the Happiest Place on Earth

Updated: Nov 7, 2021


Growing up in Southern California as a kid I had the privilege of frequenting several amusement parks like Disneyland, Knott's Berry Farm, Universal Studios, Sea World and Six Flags. And, to no surprise, Disneyland has and forever will have a special place in my heart. Every time I imagined going back as an adult, the flood gates of magical memories come to mind. But, of course, as a fat-bodied adult that has had embarrassing experiences at other theme parks over the years, the thought of trying to reclaim the magical nostalgia of Disneyland always brought me great pause.


Aside from my own physical limitations, my mom also has a great deal of limitations and challenges that prevents her from doing many things. As she continues to age, the realization that long distance traveling is becoming more of an issue, therefore I am always on the search for activities that she can experience and enjoy creating as many memories as we can.


Can you be FAT and HAPPY at Disneyland?

The short answer is YES!!! Disneyland is by far one of the most fat-friendliest and accommodating places in California. Aside from mindful accessibility and inclusive design (compared to other parks), the customer service provided by cast members is absolutely top notch. Their job is to make sure that EVERY guest has a magically positive experience. Therefore, it is so important that you take advantage of all the resources they provide to ensure that you have an amazing time for yourself and all members of your party.


Keep reading to see my reviews and ratings for fat-friendliness and accessibile attractions at Disneyland.


To skip to just the ride reviews, click the below links:

Splash Mountain

Haunted Mansion

Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

Pirates of the Caribbean

Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance

Star Wars: Smuggler's Run

It's a Small World

Mark Twain Sternwheeler

Jungle Cruise

Indiana Jones


***PLEASE NOTE: I am not an expert on ADA/accessibility or the needs for various disabilities,

especially as it pertains to the breadth of Disneyland's accommodations and services. I am simply sharing my observations and experiences to hopefully help someone else gain additional insight or perspective. Please do your own research that answers the question you may have about your own individual needs. I highly recommend contacting Disneyland directly on any questions you may have.


For reference, I am a women's US size 26/28 (size 4X at most plus-size retailers like Torrid, Target, etc). I am considered evenly proportioned in terms of how I carry my weight throughout my body with slightly more carriage in my stomach and hips/thighs. On airplane seats, I usually need a seatbelt extender to get an extra 2-3" of length for my comfort. I am 5'7" in height and wear a size 10 women's shoe.


First, What NOT to Do: Tips for Surviving the Day

Parking & Use of Assistance Aids

One of the unfortunate things about visiting Disneyland right now during Covid (as of Oct 2021) are the limited services outside of the park to get guests close access to the front entrance. Therefore, services like the Monorail and Trams are not available for the foreseeable future. So, if you plan to park at Disneyland's Mickey & Friends or Pixar Pals garages, expect a long walk (about 1-1.3 miles). My mom uses a motorized scooter to get around, so she had no issue. However, for me, it was a trek especially for not getting this level of activity in quite some time. This ate into some of my energy at the beginning of the day and was a daunting task at the end of the day, especially after some injuries and general exhaustion from the long day.


Now, if you do not need to park at Disneyland and can get dropped off via Uber/Lyft or other hotel shuttle/bus services, there is a drop-off area on Harbor Blvd only 0.2 miles walk from the park gates. So, check into which hotels around the area that offer free/low-cost parking and shuttle/bus services that can drop you off at that area. Either way, be sure to plan effectively your options ahead of time - buffer extra time than you think you need, be patient, don't underestimate the effort it will take to get there! Now, I did do research, but completely underestimated the trek from the garages. I just wish I found this article first!! There's a great tip in here about the Toy Story parking lot with shuttle service to the Harbor Blvd drop off.


Inside the Pixar Pals parking garage (and to the east side of the park's gate entrance) are a big assortment of ECV's, manual wheelchairs and strollers to rent. Note to self: don't wait until you have exhausted yourself to no-end before breaking down your ego to get an ECV (electric wheelchair) - get it at the parking garage when you arrive and return it there as well. It will be a life saver and worth the fee, especially if you are only needing it to go long distances or in-between rides to save on your energy. ECV's are $80 (includes $20 refundable deposit). Manual wheelchairs are $35 (includes $20 refundable deposit). Double and single capacity strollers are also available at a low cost. Don't forget - get there early - these are all first-come, first serve!


Footwear

I made two horrible mistakes regarding my footwear that has me in major pain and will most likely for the next few days. With good intentions, I purchased some padded inserts for my shoes to give my feet a little extra cushion to get through a long day of standing and walking. It was something I decided to do last minute without testing them - and that was a big no no #1. My go-to sneakers are my Nike Frees with a knit upper - I wear them for everything. They stay cool, dry quickly, lightweight, flexible, comfortable and feel like a second skin. But, for this adventure in combination with untested inserts, this was a big no no #2. The reaction between my inserts and my socks caused my foot to slip around in my shoe, and since the shoe itself had a knit upper, there was no structure to keep my foot from moving around. This resulted in my socks getting tighter and tighter at my toes while adding a bunch of friction to the soles and tops of my feet. This also caused me to overcorrect my gait as I was walking which ended up causing sharp pain in my calves, ankles and hips throughout the day. After several hours, I really noticed how badly my feet and back were starting to hurt - and not just getting sore from the usual standing/walking for too long - but as if I was developing blisters rapidly on my feet. After two-thirds of our day passed, I couldn't take it any longer and had to take the inserts out and see what was going on - but the damage was done - blisters were forming and I was in throbbing pain. My feet were toast. So, never get brand new shoes and/or inserts without breaking in and testing before doing a big adventure like this! Such a rookie move and I knew better. Ughhhhh!!!!


At the end of the evening, I was able to rent an ECV at the Disney gates to ride back to the garage. Without it, I wouldn't have made it back to the car! The cast member was so incredibly sweet and rented it to me for no cost (just a refundable $20 deposit).


Must DO's: Tips for Surviving the Day

Download the Disneyland App

Although not required, your entire experience will be greatly enhanced and simplified if you have the Disneyland app installed on your mobile device AND have a Disney account setup. You can purchase/link your tickets, pay for parking lot vouchers and make your park reservation thru the app (don't forget that you MUST have a ticket AND a park reservation to gain entry - a ticket alone doesn't get you into the park). You can also order your food items, make restaurant reservations, join virtual queues, and more all thru the app. Believe me, you will be on it ALL DAY! Especially during Covid when almost everything is encouraged to be touch-free and done by timed reservations. I personally see this as a mandatory thing you should have before it's time for your visit.


Virtual Queues

There are currently 2 rides that require virtual queues, meaning that you cannot just show up to the ride and be able to get on. They are difficult to get into even with the virtual reservation so here's a couple tips. Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance (Disneyland Park) and Web Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure (California Adventure) are the rides currently requiring this. In the app, you can request to join the virtual queue at 7am and Noon and if you get a reservation you will be given a group number and estimated wait time to come to the ride - please note that you cannot join more than 1 virtual queue at a time. The 7am time is very hard to get as you can request this without being inside the park, but all members from your party should go into the app just before that time (make sure all members have everyone's tickets loaded onto their app as well) - after you confirm members in your group, keep hitting refresh until "join the queue" shows up. All of us tried at 6:59:00am and by 7:00:01am it was sold out (yes, a single millisecond and it sold out). We tried again at Noon and luckily was able to get a reservation for Rise of the Resistance. To request at Noon, you must be inside the park already.


What I Packed

I wanted to keep it light - weather was planned to be overcast without rain and cool (68F-70F). So, I didn't have to plan on bringing portable fans, hats, sunglasses, raincoats, etc. We also were only going for the day and not planning to stay late into the evening (leaving the park by 8pm). So, aside from a light/medium weight jacket to take the chill off in the early morning, we only needed to bring essentials. Here's a quick list of items I found helpful throughout the day:


*Small backpack

*Refillable water bottle (there are several refilling stations throughout the park)

*Sunscreen balm & chapstick (just to keep my fair skin protected)

*Ibuprofen (when you know you're going to hurt at some point, you just always have it on ya)

*Portable charging stick and charging cables for cells/devices (you will drain your battery being on the app and capturing photos/videos)

*Hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes

*Extra pair of clothes/bottoms + plastic bags (just in case of clothes getting wet)

*Granola bars/snacks

*Mints/floss sticks

*Some emergency cash


Be sure to check out the park's rules before deciding what to bring into the park.


Disneyland Ride Recaps

Ratings & Reviews for Fat-Friendliness and Accessibility

Helpful note about riding with a disability: Visit the City Hall at the park entrance to chat about your individual needs. Ask about DAS (Disability Access Service) options throughout the park. The cast member we spoke to was incredibly helpful and gave us a very useful map guide specific for guests with disabilities. She circled which rides allow for return times. Simply check in at the main entrance for each ride and ask for a return time - from there you will have your tickets scanned and will be informed at which time to come back so you are not having to stay in line. Each ride is a little different in terms of how the ride is accessed for guests with disabilities. The map guide explains several of these details, and it is also easy to just ask the cast member at each ride as to what your options are.


If for whatever reason you have physical limitations that prevent you from standing for a long period of time and you are not using a wheelchair, talk to a cast member about getting the DAS return time as well so you can wait outside of the line somewhere more comfortable.


Please also note that you can only get return times for 1 ride at a time, same with virtual queues. Typically return times are for the length of the standard wait time when you arrive to request it.







Splash Mountain

Located in Critter Country next to New Orleans Square, this ride is a classic log ride that ventures through a variety of animatronic scenes and a few rises and drops with a risk of getting splashed.


Fat Friendly Quick Notes:

*Turnstile - YES

*Seatbelt/Lap Bar - NO


Accessibility Quick Notes:

*DAS Return Time - YES

*Must transfer from wheelchair to ride vehicle

*Wheelchair access point - EXIT LANE (across from Pooh's Corner)


Fat-Friendliness Overall Score: 8.8/10

*Queue Line: 9/10

- marked down a notch for having a turnstile. I didn't have an issue getting thru it. If you have concern of going thru a turnstile, simply enter thru the exit and inform the cast member that you are unable to proceed thru the standard queue due to the turnstile. There are also a few steps up/down throughout the queue, so if this is also an issue ask to go thru the wheelchair access lane.

*Vehicle/Seat Size: 8/10

- there is a wide seat in the back of the log, It was wide enough with access to hand rails and plenty of leg room. Downside is that the seat in front of you (depending on your belly size) could be a bit tight, but I had about 1-2" of space to spare in front of me. When the attendant had me slated to go to a middle row seat, I informed him right away that I require a rear seat for my comfort and without an issue he made sure I was able to get that seat. This ride doesn't have seatbelts or lap bars. Getting out of the seat was a little harder than getting in - it was wet/slippery and getting enough grip onto the floor to stand up was a little tricky. Just take your time - they are very patient and will never move the ride along if you are not safely in or out of the vehicle. So, if you need a little extra time for your safety, don't feel rushed or panicked!

*My Fat Experience: 9.5/10

- this ride is just so much fun. We got a bit wet, but benefited being at the rear of the log - front of the log got drenched!


*Accessibility Score: 6/10

Although the queue can accommodate wheelchair access thru the exit line, the ride itself can be difficult for those with certain mobility issues if stepping into and getting out of the vehicle is difficult. A close simulation to test this would be getting into and out of a deep bathtub. My mom opted not to go on this ride due to her limited mobility on getting down and back up. The ride is worth the try if you are not quite sure though! Again, the cast members are incredibly accommodating and will ensure that it is safe and going to result in a positive experience for you, so just let them know what you need. Cast members are located at the main entrance and exit for each attraction. Speak to them about your options before queueing.


Haunted Mansion

This attraction is a tied favorite with Pirates for me. I love the original ride the most, but this time of year thru the holidays is the Nightmare Before Christmas take-over. Don't get me wrong, I love the movie and all the themed decorations that come with this. But, I am a traditionalist when it comes to Haunted Mansion and simply want my grim-grinning ghost pals in their cheerfully spooky spirit. With that said, we found that HM is one of the few nearly perfect attractions for accessibility and fat-friendliness. If you're not familiar with this ride, it starts with entering the stretching room (elevator). The room stretches revealing various morbid but humorous pictures finished with a surprising scare just above. From there, you will enter thru a haunted hallway before getting to the conveyor belt which is lined by doom-buggies.


Fat Friendly Quick Notes:

*Turnstile - NO

*Seatbelt/Lap Bar - YES (lap bar)


Accessibility Quick Notes:

*DAS Return Time - YES

*Must transfer from wheelchair to ride vehicle

*Wheelchair access point - Accessibility queue at standard entrance

*Conveyor Belt - YES, but will be paused for guests with disabilities or as requested


Fat-Friendliness Overall Score: 9.5/10

*Queue Line: 10/10

- wide lane and many iconic haunted decorations to enjoy before getting into the mansion. Since this ride has the experience of entering a room as part of the queue for entertainment, it adds to the score for sure. It also doesn't have a turnstile.

*Vehicle/Seat Size: 9/10

- the doom-buggy is wide enough for 2 adults or 1 adult and 2 small children. 2 plus-size adults could fit together but might feel a little close quartered. I ended up on my own buggy while my mom and sister rode together. There is a lap-bar that comes down which can feel a little snug depending on belly size, but I didn't have an issue with it locking for safety. I saw several others that were larger than me and they didn't appear to have an issue.

*My Fat Experience: 10/10

- this ride is always worth the wait and I never felt that I had to question the ride experience due to my size.


*Accessibility Score: 9/10

The cast members were fantastic at managing wheelchairs coming in and out of the mansion. We were able to take the ECV all the way thru to the ride conveyor belt. They have flashlights to help with visibility, are great at making way thru the crowds to get you safely in and out, and stop the conveyor from moving so you can get on/off the buggy safely at at your pace. I only marked it down a little since the buggy swivels, so I needed to help hold it in place while my mom was able to get the right footing to step off. I am also not giving it a perfect 10/10 since you still have to transfer from your chair to the ride vehicle.


The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

This ride took over the former venue of the Bear Country Jamboree. It is now a track system vehicle ride that tells a quick but classic Winnie the Pooh story via animatronics and painted scenes. The ride vehicles are 3 rows each and are in the design of a large beehive (so cute)!




Fat Friendly Quick Notes:

*Turnstile - NO

*Seatbelt/Lap Bar - NO


Accessibility Quick Notes:

*DAS Return Time - NO

*Map guide states that the ride has a wheelchair accessible vehicle if the guest transfers from ECV to manual wheelchair (we were not offered this so can't confirm)

*Wheelchair access point - standard entrance



Fat-Friendliness Overall Score: 9.5/10

*Queue Line: 10/10

- very short queue line, ride doesn't seem to get busy.

*Vehicle/Seat Size: 9/10

- the vehicle has a door to walk thru that is pretty narrow. Aside from that, the bench was plenty big enough (there seemed to be a little more room in the back row).

*My Fat Experience: 10/10

- this ride was really cute. It had the vibe of the Fantasyland old-time rides but with more modern considerations for accessibility and comfort. So, if you worry about enjoying some of the old-time rides, throw this one on your list.


*Accessibility Score: 9/10

The cast members were so cute with my mom and very helpful. They let us go around twice just for fun! The only struggle my mom had was also with the narrow door getting out of the vehicle.


The Pirates of the Caribbean

Located at the center of New Orleans square, this boat ride is a traditional classic for pretty much anyone who comes to the Happiest Place on Earth. The catchy "yo ho yo ho the pirate's life for me" tune and story updates to include characters and references to the extremely popular movie saga, this ride is packed with adventure for the whole family.


Fat Friendly Quick Notes:

*Turnstile - NO

*Seatbelt/Lap Bar - NO


Accessibility Quick Notes:

*DAS Return Time - YES

*Must transfer from wheelchair to ride boat

*Wheelchair access point - exit lane


Fat-Friendliness Overall Score: 9.5/10

*Queue Line: 9/10

- queue itself inside the building is short, but due to it being very popular, the ride queue is typically wrapped for several hundred feet outside the building. There aren't many places to lean/sit within the queue, so expect to stand for the entire wait time. The queue does run pretty quickly though. So, don't get too turned off from the long line as it most likely be a consistent movement.


*Vehicle/Seat Size: 10/10

- large benches, with plenty of leg room and there are no lap bars or seat belts

*My Fat Experience: 10/10

- this ride is one of the most comfortable to ride as there really isn't anything at any point where I felt constricted due to my size


*Accessibility Score: 9/10

Even though you will need to step down into the boat, there are plenty of hand rails to grab onto for balance, and the boat is stopped completely by a track so it won't rock when trying to board or get off.


Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance

Located in Galaxy's Edge, this jaw-dropping experience is truly one-of-a-kind. See notes above in my tips on the Disneyland app on how to access the virtual queue for this ride. It is required to have a virtual queue reservation in order to access this ride. This is a multi-part experience and ride where you will pass through several rooms as you work through the story - it offers a little bit of everything from walk-thru, motion simulation and trackless ride. You join the resistance and are captured by the First Order to eventually make your escape. The cast members are in full character and truly add to the entire storyline.


Fat Friendly Quick Notes:

*Turnstile - NO

*Seatbelt/Lap Bar - YES (seatbelt)


Accessibility Quick Notes:

*DAS Return Time - NO

*Must transfer from wheelchair to ride vehicle

*Wheelchair access point - standard entrance


Fat-Friendliness Overall Score: 9/10

*Queue Line: 9/10

- the queue line is very long with lots of winding lanes through various caves as you edge closer and closer to the actual ride access. This is to accommodate long lines for waiting, but since they are currently doing group numbers thru virtual queues, we walked all the way through without having to wait in an actual line of people. They do have several spots to lean/sit along the way, which will be helpful.

*Vehicle/Seat Size: 9/10

- the seat in the actual vehicle for a portion of the ride is similar to a standard airplane seat, however the seatbelt is very long (it's retractable and I had at least an extra 12" length to the belt). TIP: pull the seatbelt out first before sitting down if you can, it will help from struggling with it and elbowing your seat mate. There is a door that closes as well, and it felt a little narrow getting into the row of seats. There are 4 seats across each row, so 4 adults (even average size) can be a little tight let alone plus-sized guests.

*My Fat Experience: 9/10

- overall this was a phenomenal experience. I wanted to spend all day in the large room with all the storm troopers!! Since we only had 3 of us in our group, I had a seat between me and my sister and mom, so it wasn't as crammed as it could have been, but just keep this in mind.


*Accessibility Score: 9/10

My mom was able to take. her scooter nearly all the way through to the part where we boarded the vehicle. There was a room we had to go in just before boarding the vehicle and we should have asked for her to continue to stay in her scooter - there was a 2-min show and she was struggling to stand during this time. She also struggled with pulling the seatbelt out before sitting and needed some assistance from my sister, otherwise this was the only issue we had.


Star Wars: Smuggler's Run

Also located in Galaxy's Edge, this ride is an interactive motion simulation that is sure to delight every age. Once you get thru the queue, you are moved into a room to get briefed by Hondo on a mission to find some important cargo to bring back - and best of all - you are flying the Millennium Falcon! Each group of up to 6 guests head into the cockpit to either be a pilot, engineer or gunner - and as you get into a space fight and getaway, you follow instructions on which action to take and the ride responds to those actions. It is a blast!


Fat Friendly Quick Notes:

*Turnstile - NO

*Seatbelt/Lap Bar - YES (seatbelt)


Accessibility Quick Notes:

*DAS Return Time - NO

*Must transfer from wheelchair to ride vehicle

*Wheelchair access point - standard entrance


Fat-Friendliness Overall Score: 10/10

*Queue Line: 10/10

- the queue line is very similar in design to Star Tours in terms of what you're able to see/experience while in line. You enter a large room filled with space ship parts and work via ramps going to an upper level to the ride entry.

*Vehicle/Seat Size: 10/10

- there are 6 spaced out seats on this ride similar to pilot chairs in an airplane. They are plenty wide enough on their own with very long seatbelts.

*My Fat Experience: 10/10

- this was a great ride for everyone, no matter your size or ability!


*Accessibility Score: 9.5/10

My mom was able to take her scooter all the way thru to the door of the cockpit. I am only marking it down half a point as she had to transfer from her scooter to the ride seat - but it was flat (no steps) and was easy to pull out the seatbelt easily.


It's A Small World