Should theme park visitors sit or stand for outdoor shows?

April 11, 2017, 3:48 PM · What's the best way for people to watch fireworks, parades, and other shows at theme parks that aren't held in established theaters? Should everyone be required to sit or to stand on the park's streets for the performance? Or should it just be left to everyone's own personal preference?

That's the question I ask in my Orange County Register column this week. The inspiration — as you might have guessed if you follow the news from Central Florida — was the Michigan woman who was arrested last week after allegedly choking a girl the woman said was blocking her view during the Magic Kingdom fireworks.

At least the woman did get one job offer after the incident — as a flight attendant for United Airlines.

All too easy

Personally, I love it when the entire crowd sits for a parade or show. That allows more people to enjoy good views of the shows, while also allowing us older folks to get off our darned feet for a little bit... though getting up afterward always kills my back. /geezer

But if I were to change into my old Disney "audience control" suit for a moment, I hated sitting crowds. That meant people tripping over one another after the show and slow-dispersing crowds, creating a giant human traffic jam. (I mean, an even worse human traffic jam than when people stood for the show.) If only American theme park crowds could watch shows like the guests at Tokyo Disneyland, who all sit but then seem to launch up to standing immediately after the last float clears.

But we don't. So I can see both sides of this argument. The only option I can't accept is the "leave it to everyone" choice, which seems to be the default for most shows at the Disney theme parks. A mix of seated and standing guests just fuels conflict like the one last week at Walt Disney World. And that's hardly the only time people have come to close to blows over blocked views for Disney shows. The Disflix people had their business model all wrong. They should have gone with DisWorldStar, charging $10 a month to show nothing but guests fighting each other in the parks. Now that would have made money! /cynicism (Oh, who are we kidding? The cynicism never stops here! Wait, was that actually sarcastic, instead?)

Enough from this salty old (ex-) pirate. Let's put it to a vote.

Read Robert's column:

Replies (25)

April 11, 2017 at 4:09 PM · I voted for sit, just because that's the more comfortable option. But is there a THIRD option -- could you have designated areas for standing and designated areas for sitting? Or would that just make the cast members' jobs that much more difficult?
April 11, 2017 at 4:11 PM · Sorry! Didn't realize I wasn't logged in. When the comment pops up that proposes a third option (standing OR sitting), that's mine.
April 11, 2017 at 4:56 PM · People will always stand for these events, even if they don't want to. Once people in front of you stand, you have to get up yourself, in order to see anything!
April 11, 2017 at 5:07 PM · As long as I've been going to WDW viewing area's for whatever (parades or shows) are a mess. Attitude, stress and anger are growing with the rise of price tickets. Disney is hardly doing anything to add quality viewing spaces, if anything they add paywalls taking up huge amounts of space in relation to the amount of guests who use them. Why not build on the roof of Tomorrowland Terrace Restaurant a deck and have the paywall viewing area there, relieving the hub and have it payed for by their richer guests. Or add second levels to mainstreet adding balconies to add additional viewing area's for both the parades and the fireworks. Between the Plaza Restaurant and the Tomorrowland terrace coul an elevated viewing area be erected, leaving the relief entrance below it free but add additional viewing space. Make controlled area's where people can sit on the fake grass, separated by dividers and put enough castmembers around to control it. Universal makes holding area's in front of their stage at Mardi Grass to keep the crowd safe and controllable and it works fine.
April 11, 2017 at 5:36 PM · Most of the time standing would not be a problem UNTIL you get the 6'4" guy put his kid on his shoulders directly in front of me, so that I now have an 8'7" giant right in the middle of the picture. The kid needs to see the show- I understand that- so hold them at the same head level as your own head.

My favorite (said sarcastically)are the people who wait patiently for the parade to start, sitting on the curb politely with nobody in front of them. I find a nice spot behind them, also sitting ( or kneeling if I feel so inclined, but trying to be sensitive to the people behind me. As soon as the parade appears, the people in front of me, the people in the front row, the people with NOBODY IN FRONT OF THEM suddenly spring to their feet to "see better".

When they start to speak Portuguese as their friends push through the crowds to join them in the front row, it makes the parade experience that much more magical.

What? Me? Bitter? Perish the thought.

April 11, 2017 at 6:40 PM · The way Tokyo does it , is by far the way to go , more people can see and enjoy it .
April 11, 2017 at 6:42 PM · The one that bugs me is people who stand up and then hold up a full sized iPad or other tablet to film the fireworks. I don't want to watch the fireworks on your tablet! That would deserve a choking. (OK, maybe not. But I'd feel like it.)
April 11, 2017 at 6:48 PM · I could not vote as my option is missing:

First Row(s) SITS - behind them standing Room - last Row Dads with kids on Top and Umbrellas..

It is also ok if you come late to go up front and SIT

April 11, 2017 at 6:59 PM · So far tablet cameras, kids on shoulders, upcharge viewing areas, holding spots for friends, umbrellas. It's apparent that the sit/stand debate is just the tip of the iceberg as far as parade/show frustrations go.
April 11, 2017 at 8:03 PM · Everyone should sit down because people in wheelchairs cannot stand and if people stand up they get to see nothing. Or maybe Disney should designate a wheelchair user only area where there is nobody standing up in front of them.
April 11, 2017 at 11:19 PM · Why is this even a question? If no one is sitting, the children can't see anything. No one is sitting during World of Color. The views are horrible for almost everyone shorter than 6 feet tall. The stadium was poorly constructed for standing viewing only. People standing won't make the crowds disperse faster. People at the far side exits first and they are usually standing.
April 12, 2017 at 12:17 AM · Sit for shows, stand for parades. Or, better, a few (front) rows for sitting and place behind them for standing - for the show, I mean.
Parades usually come too close to you to be really appreciated sitting in a front row. Standing is better in this case
April 12, 2017 at 2:13 AM · Whoever has gone to Tokyo Disneyland Resort knows that sitting is the right option.
April 12, 2017 at 2:35 AM · It should always be standing based off of space. Sitting guests take up 2.5 times the space of a standing guest. There are designated areas for ADA guests so that isn't a problem.
April 12, 2017 at 5:16 AM · Lazy people. Stand! It takes way less space and allows more people to see the show. People above complain about not having space for shows yet want to take up 2-4 times the space by sitting.
April 12, 2017 at 7:34 AM · I think it depends on where the parade/show occurs. If it happens along streets and sidewalks, guests need to stand for the safety of everyone. I'm sorry if you're short or don't have a great view, but guests sitting hours before and during parades/shows will get trampled if there's an emergency when they're sitting in spots that double as walkways. If you want to sit in an out of the way spot on some grass/turf or against a building, tree, or fence, that's fine, but you should not be able to sit in a walkway at ANY time, even while the parade is going on (including on curbs).

I also think Disney needs to be far more aggressive in managing viewing locations during shows and parades. They cannot let guests camp out 15+ minutes before the start of a parade. The whole mom laying down a blanket and saving space for the extended family of 16 an hour before Wishes needs to be curtailed. CMs should be constantly asking guests to "move along" if they appear to be loitering in prime viewing locations long before the start of the show/parade.

For shows/parades that have dedicated seating/standing areas that do not double as walkways (like World of Color and Rivers of Light), sitting in those areas is perfectly fine. However, CMs should closely monitor these areas so guests in the back of each divided section can see. If someone in the front of the section stands up when the show starts, they need to be asked to sit back down to avoid the chain reaction of guests standing to see.

Disney typically does a good job of spreading their shows out so there are few locations that are truly terrible spots to watch within the recognized viewing area(s). However, guests need to come to grip with the fact that there are very few "perfect" viewing spots for these shows/parades, and that a "good enough" spot should be sufficient. Some of this anger and frustration probably comes with the fact that guests are spending $100/day to visit the parks, and feel entitled to get the best spot for every ride/show. People need to understand as the parks grow even more crowded, the chances of being able to see and do everything continues to decrease even as prices increase.

April 12, 2017 at 7:49 AM · "The kid needs to see the show- I understand that- so hold them at the same head level as your own head."

I hear you James, but try holding a 50+ pound squirming kid on your hip for a few minutes and see how long you last. I consider myself a relatively strong guy, and I can't hold my 7-year old boy for more than 10 minutes with his head level with mine. It didn't used to be a big problem when he was under 4, since he could still fit in a chest/back carrier (think Baby Bjorn), but once he got over 30 lbs, that's no longer an option (or at least not without purchasing a much more expensive/rigid carrier that now has to be lugged around the park).

Placing him on my shoulders not only is far more comfortable for both of us, but it frees up my hands to take pictures/video. I tend to look around before I pop him up on my shoulders, or stand in a spot where no one can stand behind us (against a light pole or tree), to make sure we're not blocking anyone, but I know many people are not nearly as considerate.

I think what parents and CMs should do is to make sure (and feel comfortable with) their kids work their way to the front of sections to stand with other kids so they can see. I know this is a big ask from protective parents, but if the kids can be allowed to congregate with other kids their age/size in the front row, they can see, and the parents behind them will be able to see also. The problem is that too many parents won't let their kids out of striking distance in a crowd, and/or insist having a front row seat themselves, even if they're blocking kids behind them. We travel virtually every year to the Pro Football Hall of Fame Parade in Canton, and families there (without cast members) have no problem letting kids stand on the curb to watch the parade while the parents sit/stand a few rows back. Certainly it's a little trickier in dense crowds and in the dark, but if kids can naturally migrate to the front untethered to their taller parents, more guests will have unobstructed views.

April 12, 2017 at 8:37 AM · This is the exact reason why I do my very best to avoid parades. I've seen Paint the Night a few times on weekday nights from the Main St. railroad station and been surprised by how few people use that ares. I've also stood on the raised area across the street from it's A Small World and found that to be a fairly good place to get an elevated view. I'd never ever try for a spot along Main St. for the parade. Why? Because I want to enjoy myself, based on everything this story and these comments are bring up, that would be nearly impossible.
April 12, 2017 at 10:18 AM · I pick Door Number Three! Unless I'm taking little kids to the park, I skip the parades and fireworks shows (In Louisville we have one of the biggest in North America that opens the Derby Festival every year anyway) and use that wonderful distraction to get ride time on my favorite attractions with much less wait time.
April 12, 2017 at 11:20 AM · The age demographic and size of the guests at the Tokyo parks are completely different than all the fatticapped people in the US. When everyone in the park is essentially under the age of 30 and kids younger than 10 are not that common the Japanese method works.
April 12, 2017 at 12:04 PM · Not to mention how disgusting it is to sit on the ground for an extended period of time in the first place.
April 13, 2017 at 4:32 AM · Unfortunately sitting is not an option with only one exception; due to the amount of people visiting the parks, if everyone was sitting down the capacity of the viewing are would be reduced considerably so many people would not be able to see the show from a good place (not to mention the logistic problems for crowd control). The only exception I can think of is the first row or two on the parade route.

Also many people can' sit down on the floor due to physical problems.

April 13, 2017 at 6:27 AM · With all the wonderful "multi-angle" recordings of most parades and shows, I think that is the absolute best viewing method!! :)
April 14, 2017 at 5:37 AM · I like the sitting option. We have paid more for the dinner/dessert parties so that we can sit in the sectioned off areas. You see more and it seems people are more relaxed when they aren't trying to view between heads, upraised children and ipads. Plus it's great to give your feet a bit of a break.

If sitting is not something all people like they should offer sitting and standing zones. Then everyone is happy.

April 14, 2017 at 9:01 AM · More standing can fit into any given space than if they're sitting. I'm most familiar with Disneyland, and they seem to do it as best they can given the space to people ratio.

For parades curb sitting fine standing behind them, and they keep people moving on the other half of the sidewalk. I personally am not hung up on being on Main St and there are other areas that have places to sit.

Fireworks sitting isn't practical from hub or Main St. If your child, ipad or balloon is having a negative impact on anyone behind you, stop it!

DCA parade route is so long sit ting is easy for everyone.

World of Color you néed to be at the front if the tier, front of the top beats back of the bottom.

With one exception in one incident, I think the Fantasmic crowd control people at Disneyland are greatly underappreciated and do a remarkable job given the circumstances. Close to the water must sit. Then a designated enforced walkway. Behind that must stand. Twice a night with thousands of guests. If there's a better way to do it, I haven't figured it out.

This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

Park tickets

Weekly newsletter

New attraction reviews

News archive