Height Restrictions

Hey all. I was just wondering if there was anyone on this site who might have industry knowledge about how the parks or ride manufacturers come up with their height restrictions for each ride. One site mentioned that the negative physical consequences of g forces on a younger body could be responsible and I'm sure the restraint design plays a large part as well.

As a father of kids going through various levels of rides, I find this interesting. When comparing some rides and heights, there seem to be some odd choices.

For instance, Superman/Bizarro/Superman is 54" but Millennium, which is a much taller ride by the same manufacturer, is 48". Are the restraints that different?

My son is angered at B&Ms since they are almost all 54", yet he has done El Toro all year. Maybe next year he'll be ready for Banshee and Gatekeeper next year and with Intamin, Maverick and Top Thrill Dragster.

Many mention that X2 is one of the most intense coasters in the world, yet the height is 48”. This seems crazy!

B&Ms at 54" seem to make sense with the clamshells I suppose, since most have no belts.

I also thinks it's pretty amazing that my four year old could do Phoenix and Twister last year. If these were at major parks, is there any chance that they would be 42"?

Finally, drop towers seem to follow the same odd patterns. Zumanjaro and Lex Luthor, the two tallest, are 48", and all others are 48, 52, or 54. Many are from the same manufacturers and the height of the ride does not seem to matter.

Jeff's avatar

I imagine most of the time there is a real limitation to the design of the restraint, but height is also used sometimes as a proxy for age.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

slithernoggin's avatar

Yes. I don't think it's practical to determine whether each and every guest can safely ride each ride; using height as a proxy for age is the path of least resistance.

Life is something that happens when you can't get to sleep.
--Fran Lebowitz

bjames's avatar

It's the park, or in this case, the chain. I remember when I was a kid in the 90s, I could get on everything at Hersheypark (even Wildcat) and when we went to Riverside the next year I couldn't get on anything but the kiddie coasters. Riverside was already owned by Premier at that point.

"The term is 'amusement park.' An old Earth name for a place where people could go to see and do all sorts of fascinating things." -Spock, Stardate 3025

And sometimes height restrictions change. In 2014 when Iron Dragon went from 46" to 48" it caused a heated reaction. Well, over at PointBuzz, anyway, where to this day the discussion still pops up.

Height can be a convenient proxy for age, but I'm not sure it's all about the kids. I've witnessed adults getting turned away for being too tall or too short, just like they might for being too large. Not as often, surely, but it happens.

I've always been under the impression that ride manufacturers have the first recommendation for height restrictions. And that makes sense, as they know best who the ride is made for and what physical requirements are necessary to ride. They have the added interest in avoiding liability in the case of an accident.
Also, I'm sure amusement park owners will contract with manufacturers and order new rides based on the target rider's height and the audience they hope to draw.
But I also wonder how much insurance companies ultimately control restrictions. Back to Iron Dragon as an example, perhaps raising the minimum height helped Cedar Point avoid an increase in insurance costs.

State ride inspectors and safety training also come into play here as well. Through experience and analysis, rider guidelines are assigned to insure safety for the riders and the operators, and equally as important, to be able to pass inspection and open. There's nothing to say that thoughts on what's safe for a particular ride can't change over time, either.

At any rate, I'm certain parks aren't setting or changing requirements to drive kids away or exclude families as some would have us believe.

My understanding has always been that the manufacturer sets the height requirement (I believe there are even ASTM items relating to height requirements/restraint relations, but RideMan would be the one to confirm if I'm thinking correctly on that), but that the park can set the requirement higher if they want, but setting it below the manufacturer spec is a no-no. I do know of at least one instance, however, where height is used mainly as a proxy for age and is not generally related to the restraints (a stationary attraction where the restraints function as a part of the experience). So given that, I would not be surprised if other attractions have used the height requirement as a proxy for age.

Last edited by maXairMike,

Original BlueStreak64

slithernoggin's avatar

RCMAC said:

I've witnessed adults getting turned away for being too tall or too short, just like they might for being too large.

True, and I've typed up minimum/maximum height requirements so often working on ACE's event fliers, I should have remembered that.

I'd guess that ride height requirements are slightly arbitrary: someone who is 48" tall and 110 pounds couldn't ride a ride safely while someone 48" tall and 140 pounds could. A 76" tall, 220 pound person could ride a ride safely while a 79", 190 pound person could not. And that's not even getting into where on each person's body weight is carried.

Height is the easiest way to quickly determine if a person can ride a ride safely.

Life is something that happens when you can't get to sleep.
--Fran Lebowitz

So any ideas about the difference between MF and Superman/Bizarro height restrictions? Are the lap bars very different or is it simply Six Flags vs. Cedar Fair? Is X2 too much for a 6 year old compared to a B&M?

rollergator's avatar

Very few hard-and-fast rules in my book as to who's "ready" for what...

But I'm going to go with "X2 is too much for a 6-year old."

Also, pretty much everything RCMAC said...

Tommytheduck's avatar

Warning, it rambles a bit...

I'll guarantee you they are tied to insurance premiums more than anything else. It's how much a park is willing to pay. A good example is Disney. They have some of the lowest req's out there. Why? Because they have to. Really, what good is Disney if little kids can't ride stuff? Tower of Terror would be 48 inches at any other park in the US, but at Disney, it's 40. Disney can afford to pay higher premiums, and it pays off for what they are doing.

Toro, you said it yourself. Twister at 42 inches is absolutely insane! We went to Knoebels when our son was exactly 42 inches, (his 5th b-day) and the thought of letting him ride it alone was scary. But it must be safe, because I've not heard of little kids dying on Twister. Have you? But you're telling me that a 42 inch kid can ride Twister and Phoenix but not Blue Streak? Give me a break. Hershey has lower req's as well. But again, it comes down to being able to attract families to come visit. Some parks want to appear more user friendly. I'm guessing the CF and SF parks value savings more than user friendliness. They'll point you to their kiddie areas and say "we'd love to see you again next year when he's taller."

People don't fall out of coasters because they're too short. (Yes, you could argue that the height req's are a reason for that, but see the above Twister, Blue Streak comment.) People fall out of rides because they are too large, missing limbs, circumnavigate the restraints, or are mentally handicapped, scared, and want to get off the ride *right now* but are unable to comprehend that they shouldn't do so.

Is that callous? I don't know, maybe, but it's also true.

I saw the looooong discussion about the Iron Dragon height change on PB. Wow, that caused some ire and repetition.

Sometimes callous is true. I agree that the issue is more that the parks don't want little ones freaking out on bigger rides. I felt like my four year old was completely safe at Knoebels but not every four or eight or fifty year old can tolerate such rides.
I know it's not that big a deal as all kids have the rest of their lives to ride. Many interesting comments.

Lord Gonchar's avatar

Toro Padre said:

I agree that the issue is more that the parks don't want little ones freaking out on bigger rides. I felt like my four year old was completely safe at Knoebels but not every four or eight or fifty year old can tolerate such rides.

But it's still a flawed approach if height is being used as a proxy for age. I have to think body size has something to do with it. Hell, age and insurance likely do too. That's probably why it seems so random - add a few variables and it cn seem really nonsensical.

My daughter (now a senior in high school) rode Millennium Force when she was 5. She was always really tall as a kid - which is super funny because as soon as she hit 5'4" (like 6th grade) she just stopped.

Seemed (and still seems) funny to me because I think I'm MUCH more comfortable putting my kids on B&M's with the OTSRs than the openess of the tiered seating and lapbar of an Intamin like MF. Yet she had to wait another couple of seasons to ride those B&M coasters.

Although if you really stop to consider how the body fits into each, I suppose it does make sense. Perception, I guess. (or a little too much knowledge of Intamin's track record)

janfrederick's avatar

Speaking of Disney, perhaps my memory exaggerates this a bit, but I remember distinctly pulling our 5-year-old back into his seat on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Probably the scariest moment we've ever had with him. Doesn't help that the trains have single lapbars for the rows, and my circumference at the time left a huge gap for the little guy. Felt much safer on X2 three years after that.

"I go out at 3 o' clock for a quart of milk and come home to my son treating his body like an amusement park!" - Estelle Costanza

What rides are comparable to X2 in intensity would you say?

Lord G,

What was your recollection of how she handled it at 5? Did her interests continue to get more extreme with rides over time?


I would say rides like Maverick, I305, Fury 325, Dragster/Kingda Ka, Afterburn and other old school B&Ms are about the same intensity.

Lord Gonchar's avatar

Toro Padre said:

Lord G,

What was your recollection of how she handled it at 5? Did her interests continue to get more extreme with rides over time?

She was fine. By then her track record was closing in on 100. Which, I think, makes enthusiast kids not really a great real world example.

She did Dragster at age 8. She had 221 coasters on her track record before her 10th birthday. We had her on WDW's Tower Of Terror a couple of months before her 4th birthday.

She was always good with whatever. I think mostly because that's just what we did. Both of my kids were pretty nonchalant about riding. "We go to amusement parks and ride coasters. Isn't this what everyone does" sort of mentality, I think. We never pushed or coerced them into doing anything. Not sure I can really remember a time when either didn't want to ride something. I think that comes from just doing parks from Day 1.

Jeff's avatar

I still don't have 200 coasters...

My kid still has a lot of anxiety about rides he hasn't been on. At 46 inches, he can ride everything at WDW other than Primeval Whirl and R'n'R. It's a little frustrating.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

Lord Gonchar said:

She did Dragster at age 8.

Oh yeah - my youngest kid did Dragster at 7 years, 326 days. And my dad can beat your dad up:)

Although it took him a year to work up the courage to ride it again.

Last edited by Shades,

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