Theme park cast member stories: Walking the theme park power walk

August 17, 2009, 12:07 PM · You think it's frustrating walking through a crowded theme park on a busy summer day?

Try walking through those crowds while the 15 minutes of your precious sit-down, air-conditioned break are ticking away.

Every new theme park employee faces this problem. You go on break for the first time, then waste 10 minutes of your break wading through the crowd to get to, and then back from, the break room. (Or the cafeteria.) That's why theme park employees develop what I call the "theme park power walk."

RapidsIt's the ability to walk through a theme park crowd like a kayaker steers through Class IV rapids. You watch the crowd to see how fast it's flowing, go with the swiftest stream, then keep your eyes open for obstacles downstream that you'll need to steer around.

The biggest mistake people make when trying to navigate a theme park crowd is looking at the bodies in front of them. Look at their heads, instead. Stay with folks looking straight ahead, and prepare to swing around those who move their gaze to either side. They'll soon stop or slow down, throwing the current around them into turmoil.

Strollers are the jagged boulders of the theme park rapids. Swing well away from them.

Big groups are trouble, too. All you need is for one in the group to get distracted, and all will slow or stop. Find the people walking alone, eager to get to their destination, and slice through the crowd with them.

I laugh at folks who try to run in theme parks. Forget the rules prohibiting it. Runners are like those sports cars on the highway that rush up to pass you, never noticing the slower traffic ahead that's gonna force them to eat their brakes. A good power walker, keeping his or her eyes on the current flowing ahead, will beat a runner through the crowd almost every time.

Of course, my power walk drives my family nuts when I've brought them along to a park. My wife worked one summer at Epcot, but she was "talent" (in the orchestra) and rarely had to get through the park alone, so she never developed "the walk." So they hang back like "civilians," wondering why I'm plowing through the crowd when I'm supposed to be on vacation and relaxed.

Hey, old habits die hard. Plus, I've got a ride to get to!

Replies (19)

August 17, 2009 at 12:30 PM · It's finally happened, Robert. You've lost your mind.
August 17, 2009 at 12:33 PM · What stinks are the few times you, as a cast member, are required to run as part of an emergency response. A 3 yr old girl zigged when I thought she was zagging once, and I've twice had surgery on my knee to repair the resulting injury.

But I hate walking in crowds with people for the exact reason you mention Robert.... They just can't keep up :)

August 17, 2009 at 12:47 PM · The one time I ran in a theme park, after the park had closed and as I was trying to get to a Pirates evac class I was teaching, I ran into a low wooden bench in Frontierland, crunched my shin and flipped a 180, slamming my shoulder on the ground.

My leg still has the scar, and I was in physical therapy for my shoulder a year later.

Power walking for me now, thank you.

And Joshua... I run a theme park website for a living. It took you until now to realize that I've lost my mind?

August 17, 2009 at 1:19 PM · I don't even work at a theme park and I've picked this walk up. The worst thing is when you have groups of, like, 10 or more people and they HAVE to all walk side by side at the pace of a snail. I hate when people do that.
August 17, 2009 at 1:33 PM · I tend to Power/Speed walk in the parks, My wife will call out when she gets too far behind "hey were not in the middle east" to which I reply "Hurry up were behind schedule"
August 17, 2009 at 1:39 PM · Its not just the cast members, but many of us seasoned theme park people got the power walk down really well, especially when you got 3 minutes to get from Mexico to Japan in World Showcase for dinner at EPCOT.

The worst area?
Main Street USA (lets stop in the middle of the road and stare and take pictures! Come on people :) )

August 17, 2009 at 1:40 PM · Never was an employee or cast member, but I'm a tall power walker who uses that height to plan my movements through a crowd. Pity the people that come with me to a park. But like you said - I've got a ride to get to. We can stand and talk then.
August 17, 2009 at 2:24 PM · I learned early on to bring my redskins jersey to work with me so that people wouldn't realize i actually worked there. heaven forbid that they looked at my tan shorts and boots or else the guests would have figured me out. trying to get out of splash mountain for a break or even just ending a shift was a hassle because the closest door to the tunnels was a gift shop just past country bears. man...thanks for bringing up bad memories of me trying to weave my way through the "stroller armadas" and Brazilian tour groups while trying to clock in on time. soooo many points ;)
August 17, 2009 at 2:57 PM · When I worked for Disney, I started my 10-15 break when I got into the break room. I never counted walking back and forth as break.
August 17, 2009 at 3:30 PM · im the same as a visitor, for me its all about crowd dodging, i keep an eye on the people in front of me and prepare for anything they may do!!
August 17, 2009 at 3:48 PM · I developed the power walk long before becoming a Cast Member. I took the girl I was dating (now my wife) on her first real visit to Disneyland and taught her. It sure came in handy that night trying to work through the Fantasmic crowds. Now she's as good as me and teaches our other friends who come with us now.

Later, I became a CM for a time, working in TDA, and the power walk was very useful for getting from my cubicle in TDA (behind Toontown) to a meeting at Harbor Point (between Space Mountain and Main Street.) However, I was also one of the very few TDA CMs who wore a nametag and pins in the park, so I still wasn't particularly speedy.

August 17, 2009 at 4:59 PM · I laughed out loud reading this. It really brought back memories. If I was running late, I could get from cast parking at DAK to Everest in ten minutes most often, with only about a 1/4 of that being backstage.
August 17, 2009 at 7:23 PM · I love it, like you Robert I still have and use the walk, not only at theme parks, but malls or really any place I run into the slow walking traffic, still laughing... And here is my issue, I'm 6.1, and my g/f is 4.11 so figure out how she has to keep up with me in height with power walking LOL
August 17, 2009 at 10:22 PM · I have developed this walk too. About a month before a theme park trip me and my husband sit down and discuss all the rides and attractions to whatever themed park we are going to. We put them into three categories: (1)the must ride/see, (2)the secondary ride/see, and (3)the if there is time left in the day and we get around to it. Now when we are working on getting to the rides and attractions in category 1 when use the themed park power walk but when we get half way through category 2, usually after we eat, we get kind of in lollygag mode and from there anything goes. While we are in this mode we usually take plenty of pictures. So by the end of the day we turn into those people that no one wants to be behind. But when we are in this mode we are usually pretty good about staying out of the way of those who are power walking, we just stay behind the big crowds that are moving slow.
August 18, 2009 at 12:41 AM · ^And that's when you develop the other technique I use- The Power Photo Walk. You have to learn to watch in front of you, dodge crowds, and walk fast all while trying to get a good picture. I've mastered that!
August 18, 2009 at 6:57 AM · I developed the "theme park power walk" long before working for a park. At that time, it was the "I go to an over-crowded Jersey public school" walk, lol. It definitely got refined wen working for Great Adventure, and my stint as a CP at WDW. My friends hate it because they can't keep up with me between my long legs, and the walk, but my ex gf/best friend had the walk from jump (also thanks to another Jersey over-crowded public school). Definitely my best companion on park visits.
August 18, 2009 at 7:12 AM · People should learn to walk like they drive their car, CORRECTION, people should walk like they SHOULD drive their car.

Always have consideration for people trying to overtake you.

Check over your shoulder before you make a wild turn. Slowing down, check back to make sure no ones going to rear end you.

Be considerate for the other sidewalk users.

Too many times I've wiped out a kid, or knocked into some lane hogger.

But yes, I learnt the power walk many years ago when I worked sideshows at the Palace Pier in Brighton, UK.

15 minute break to walk half a mile from the attractions to the end of the pier, via a food vendor, begging people to hurry up and make thier selection, then eat and walk back again.

My trick is not to watch the people in front of you, but the people in front of them. Plan ahead and make decisions early. Walking against the flow of traffic sometimes works better because they see you coming and move after seeing the angst in your face to get through.

I'm 6ft 5, mostly leg (OK, 36 inches of inside leg) and that means I have a HUGE step, so when I'm walking, I'm walking, and wifey, at 5ft8, HAS to keep up with me. If shes too slow, I grab her hand and pull.

She knows the score and does her best, but on hot sweaty Florida summer days she starts to lag and thats when the Speed Walk and pull comes into play.

A casual stroll, with no intention to go on anything, still results in this fast pace as well.

Annoying, but neccessary!

One reason leave a park 15 mins before everyone else does, or I'll just sit back and wait 30 mins past closing time and then powerwalk back to my transportation.

August 18, 2009 at 3:44 PM · Working at Paradise Pier at DCA, it would be next to impossible to get to the DCAFE for lunch if you were to walk through the park or wait for the shuttle. So I had a little shortcut, I would walk through Midway madness towards Treasures Store. Walk down the path, and then take the back way to DCAFE. At first I got it down to 14-15 minutes of total walking until I mastered it down to 8 minutes tops.
August 20, 2009 at 10:51 AM · That is a great strategy that I have used a handful of times at theme parks and resorting to a jog when crowds clear when trying to get to a show having wanted to ride, say, The Mummy Ride at Universal just one more time =p. Is also a great tactic when at music festivals when crowds are abound and you want to get closer to the stage.

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