Height restrictions keep kids safe, but they can be frustrating. If you have ever taken kids to the parks, you know what I mean. Every cast member measures a little differently, so sometimes you make it all the way to the loading zone and then get turned away. Other times your kids are just slightly too short, and you wish they would have worn taller shoes.
One of the most difficult things, in my mind, is planning trips and figuring out how long it will be ’till your kids can meet height restrictions. Especially when some can ride and some can’t, the younger ones want to know how much longer ’till they’ll be big enough. I don’t know any parents that have memorized a growth chart and can say, “My child will grow 1 inch in the next 9 months, so we should plan a trip then.” When we plan trips with our kids, we just keep measuring them and telling them to eat a bunch in hopes they’ll be tall enough for more rides.
Fortunately, the CDC (Center for Disease Control) has released data that show average heights by age. If you know how to look up and read these graphs, you can guess how old they are going to be when they reach a certain height. In an effort to make things easier for me, and other parents out there, I’ve gone through the graphs and figured out the age ranges for each level of height restriction in the parks.
The problem is worse since not all kids are the same height; some kids are short, some are average, and some are tall. So for each height restriction, I have a range of ages. By the time your kid is about 2, most parents do have a good idea of if their kids are shorter or taller. Height is also genetic, so if you are taller, your child likely will be too, and they’ll be able to ride the rides sooner. There is a slight difference between girls and boys as well. Boys tend to be about 2 months ahead of the girls their same age, so you can expect your boys to hit the next height a little sooner.
For a quick reference, here is a chart with the different height restrictions found in the Disney parks and the age ranges that coincide with each height. For reference, I’ve included more detailed information and a list of which attractions below.
32 Inches or 82 Centimeters
- Disneyland – Autopia
- California Adventure – Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters and Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree
- Magic Kingdom – Tomorrowland Speedway
- Hollywood Studios – Alien Swirling Saucers
This height restriction is saved for rides liker Alien Swirling Saucers and Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree. Most kids will reach this height around 18 months. If you are particularly tall, a baby could reach this as early as 1 year. Shorter families may not have children able to ride until about 2 years old. Rider Switch is very easy for these rides because there are so few people who cannot ride them. They usually won’t scan your tickets like normal Rider Switch. To swap, just wait by the exit of the attraction and let the Cast Member there know you are rider switching.
35 Inches or 89 Centimeters
- Disneyland – Gadget’s Go Coaster
- Magic Kingdom – The Barnstormer
35 inches is saved for the small kiddie coasters. These coasters are small and made for young children. Most kids will be able to ride them a little after they turn 2. If your kids are nervous and not as adventurous, it does still jerk around a little and they may not like it. Kids could hit this height as early as 18 months or as late as 3 years depending on size. As I said, even if your child is tall enough at 18 months, they may not be ready until closer to 3.
38 Inches or 97 Centimeters
- Disneyland – Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run
- Magic Kingdom – Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
- Animal Kingdom – Kali River Rapids
- Hollywood Studios – Slinky Dog Dash and Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run
This next category takes a little more time as these rides are for older kids. Most kids will be tall enough a few months after they turn 3. If you have a tall child, they may be tall enough to ride around 2 and a half, but again, they may not be ready it. If your child tends to be on the bottom of the growth curve, they may be 4 and a half before they are able to ride. I also want to note that for Millennium Falcon, they may be tall enough to ride, but they likely won’t be tall enough to reach all the buttons for a few more years. The engineer’s buttons are placed pretty high for a young kid; pilot’s controls are the easiest. A child pilot can be helped by an adult copilot, too.
40 Inches or 102 Centimeters
- Disneyland – Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Star Tours, and Rise of the Resistance
- California Adventure – Radiator Springs Racers, Soarin’ Around the World, Jumpin’ Jellyfish, and Silly Symphony Swings
- Magic Kingdom – Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
- EPCOT – Mission: SPACE, Test Track, and Soarin’ Around the World
- Animal Kingdom – DINOSAUR
- Hollywood Studios – Star Tours, Rise of the Resistance, and Tower of Terror
This is the magic height in my opinion. Once a child reaches 40 inches, they can ride most attractions in the parks. Average sized kids reach this height around 4 years old. Most 4 year-olds are more independent, potty-trained, and can stand in line better. The days in the parks get so much easier when you aren’t having to worry about an infant or toddler and you don’t have to constantly do rider switches. If you want to wait until your child is old enough to handle Disneyland better, but not miss out on the experience of taking a young child who still believes in the magic, 4 years old is a great age.
Some kids may reach this height as early as 3 years and some may be a few months past 5. From personal experience, I will also say many of these rides are still scary for a 4 year old, so be patient and aware of how your child is doing and what they like.
42 Inches or 107 Centimeters
- Disneyland – Matterhorn Bobsleds
- California Adventure – Grizzly River Run and Goofy’s Sky School
- EPCOT – Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind
Kids that are about 5 years old will be tall enough to ride these rides. They can be anywhere from 3 and a half to 6 though. Even though your child may be tall enough, you can still get a Rider Switch for any ride with a height restriction.
44 Inches or 113 Centimeters
- Magic Kingdom – Space Mountain
- Animal Kingdom – Avatar Flight of Passage and Expedition Everest
Most kindergarten aged kids, 5 and a half year-olds, will be tall enough for these exciting attractions and are at the age where they may start liking the big attractions more. As the height restrictions get higher, the age range gets bigger. So your child may be anywhere from 3 and a half to 6 when they hit 44 inches.
46 Inches or 117 Centimeters
- Disneyland – Indiana Jones
46 inches gets you just one more ride at Disneyland. It is interesting that DINOSAUR at Animal Kingdom has a height restriction of just 40 inches even though the track is the same. This is likely because the car moves and jerks you around more in California. Most children won’t be tall enough for Indie until they are about 6 years old, though it may be as early as 5 or as late as 8.
48 Inches or 122 Centimeters
- California Adventure – Incredicoaster
- Hollywood Studios – Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster
If your child has finally reached 48 inches, it is a day to celebrate!! You no longer have to worry about any Rider Switches. Most kids won’t be this height till about 7, so it does take some time. Particularly tall children may get to ride these as early as 5 and a half, while others may not be tall enough till closer to 9 years old.