No Kids, No Entry?


Like many of you, I’ve been going to Disney parks since I first visited a Disney park with my family when I was a young child. Now an adult, I still visit the parks, but less often with family or friends, and more likely solo. I really appreciate the freedom of visiting the parks alone, following my own whims and fancies, not being bogged down by the agendas, interests, or weak bladders of others. Occasionally though, when on a solo trip and feeling particularly sorry for myself, I will admit that I have felt a little awkward when the cast members are loading rides, sad about not sharing such amazing experiences, or even slightly pathetic.

But never have I ever felt like a criminal for being a solo childless adult in a theme park.

That is the assumption of a recently established and enforced rule at Puxton Park, a small family run adventure park in Somerset, England. A November 2014 article on the BBC News website explained that the park established a rule banning adults unaccompanied by children from entry over fears that they could be pedophiles. The rule was enforced in November 2014 when a 54-year old grandfather returned to the park to watch a birds of prey show he’d seen days before with his grandchildren. Understandably, and rightly, he felt he was the victim of discrimination when he was turned away at the gates because he was a solo adult without a child.

Now until recently, single riders/visitors were more than welcomed at Disney parks; we had our own special lines (and still do at Disneyland Resort). Walt Disney World has done away with most of the single rider lines. As a frequent solo traveler, I have to wonder if someday soon I will no longer be welcome in any of Disney’s worlds.

You might think that this is merely conjecture, but I have actually experienced this kind of discrimination. To get to Podcast Cruise 5.0, I had to fly from Canada, therefore crossing an international border. This required me to go through customs. Having traveled to the US from Canada many times, I was accustomed to the kinds of questions asked by border security. However, my answers this time apparently triggered alarm bells for the agent. “So you’re a single male going on a Disney cruise, and you don’t have any children with you? Come over here with me.” When he summarized my answers that way, and then asked that question, I realized exactly what he was thinking. I quickly decided to not enlighten him on his assumptions and prejudice, and just followed him to the private room where we met my luggage which he’d had pulled off the line. I submitted to and answered his questions while he went through my luggage. “This will be a funny story”, I thought to myself. And it proved to be, as it was shared by many friends on the cruise. I was, in fact, introduced as “this is the guy…”

However, in light of this story about Puxton Park, I am no longer laughing. I’m now wondering if my solo days at Disney might be numbered. I do visit the parks with friends and/or family, but I also visit often on my own. As much as I love experiencing the parks with others, I also enjoy my alone time. Will I lose that privilege in the future? Will I have to somehow prove my innocence before allowed entry to the parks? Will they have to institute adults-only nights? I don’t know.

I also don’t know how parents feel about this subject. So I’m actively asking for feedback from parents. Have you worried about single adults visiting the parks? Knowing that there might be solo, childless adults in the parks, have you been concerned for your children’s safety? Is there something that you’d like Disney to do to ensure your children’s safety? Do you think this park in the UK went too far?

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