Event Parking: How Much Is Enough?

It’s the first thing and the last thing guests do when attending your events. Parking lots can impact a guest’s experience more than you might think. 


If you’ve ever circled a lot multiple times, hoping to see the brake lights of a car pulling out of its spot, or had to park on a residential street and walk several blocks in the rain to get to your destination, you know the pain of parking in a lot that’s too small. 


But as a business owner, you know that parking is also prime real estate. A lot that never fills up is wasted money. It’s space you’re paying for that could have been used to build something that generates revenue instead of sitting empty. 


So…how do you know if you have enough parking spaces? Here’s how to calculate how much parking you’ll need at your events. 


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What’s Your Event Format?

To calculate how much parking your event needs, you should first clarify what type of event format you’re planning. An event or venue that has one start and finish time will have very different parking needs from one that has multiple entry times. If all your guests are arriving for a timed experience, you’ll need enough parking spaces to accommodate the whole crowd all at once. On the other hand, if your event runs multiple times throughout the day, you only need enough parking for the guests who will be physically present at any given time. 


Examples of single start and finish time events:

  • Sporting Events
  • Concerts
  • Theater Performances

Examples of events with multiple entries:

  • Renaissance Festivals
  • Highland Games
  • Family Entertainment Centers
  • Escape Rooms
  • Ax Throwing
  • Food and Drink Festivals
  • Guided Tours

Happy senior woman driver giving a thumbs up out the front window of her car

How Many Guests Do You Expect?

A good rule of thumb is to have one parking space for every 2-4 guests


Let’s say you’ve sold 500 tickets for today’s event, and expect an additional 250 guests to buy tickets in person when they arrive. Does that mean you need 750 parking spaces? Not necessarily!


You just need to plan one space for every 2-4 guests who are at your event at any given time


If your event has specific start and end times, like a theater performance with one show a day, then you should expect all your guests to arrive and leave at roughly the same time. But let’s say you’re organizing a food and drink festival. Guests may come and go throughout the day and stay for varying lengths of time. 


For example, if you expect those 750 guests to arrive in even crowds throughout the day, from say 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., you might decide you need 35-40 parking spots. Keep in mind that crowds often come in rushes and lulls, and busier times might require more parking than slower times. 

How Much Space (Square Footage) Do You Have?

Another way to calculate your parking needs is by the size of your venue. For general retail purposes, most cities recommend something like one parking spot per 200 square feet of gross floor area. 


Here are a couple examples:


Square Footage

Divided By

Parking Spaces Needed








While these recommendations are for general retail purposes, your mileage may vary. Events operate very differently from a clothing store or restaurant, and your parking needs may be different as well.

Parking attendance wearing blue polo shirt with parked car in the backgroun

How Many Guests Can You Accommodate per Hour?

Unless you’re operating an event with a single start and end time, calculating your event’s hourly capacity can help you decide how much parking you’ll need. 


How many guests will you let in at a time? Knowing this number will help you calculate your hourly capacity. 


You’ll also need to know your Interval Time, or how much time you’ll wait before dispatching the next group of guests. That time will partially depend on how much time your actors need to reset, and partially on how fast you expect guests to walk through your attraction. 


Not sure how much time to leave in between groups? Do a few dry runs with your team, then extend it to family and friends to get an average, keeping in mind that some guests will try to rush through while others will want to take it slow. 


Let’s take a look at a few examples:


Guests per Group

Interval Time (Seconds)

Hourly Capacity

















How Much Time Will Guests Spend at Your Event?

If guests are spending a short amount of time at your event, you can probably get away with fewer parking spots, since they’ll be vacated to make room for the next guest quickly. 


Let’s say you’re operating an escape room which takes 60 minutes to complete. The time it takes to actually play the game is just part of the equation when calculating how much time guests will spend at your venue. Consider check-in times and post-game times as well. Most guests will probably arrive at least 15 minutes before their scheduled time and may linger afterwards for photos or to chat about the experience with their party. 


If you have a concessions area, bar, or gift shop, that can also lengthen the time guests will spend at your venue (in a good way…they’ll probably be spending more money, too!). Just make sure to include that in your calculations. 


Let’s look at an example. For simplicity’s sake, let’s say you have 40 guests arriving every hour and spending 2.5 hours at your venue. Each car in the diagram below represents four guests. Blue cars arrive during Hour 1, yellow cars arrive during Hour 2, and red cars arrive during Hour 3. 


Parking lot diagram with ten blue cars


Parking lot diagram with ten blue cars and ten yellow cars


Parking lot diagram with seven blue cars, ten yellow cars, ten red cars, and two green cars


In this scenario, the 40 parking spots would be more than enough to cover the traffic at your venue. But the numbers will look differently when you change up the variables, such as the amount of time guests will spend at your event. 


Young woman pays for parking meter on the street

What Is the Street Parking Situation?

An abundance of free or paid street parking around your venue can greatly reduce the number of spaces you need in a dedicated lot. Get familiar with the metered parking policies or surface lots near your venue so you can factor that into your decision about how much parking to allow for your venue. 


When street parking is available is also a key factor. If you’re located in a town where office workers and shoppers take up parking spots during the day, but tend to clear out on weekends, that’s great for event attendees looking for a space. Additionally, some cities stop charging for metered parking after 10 p.m. 

What Does Your Local Government Require?

Each local government has their own rules and ordinances around parking, so it’s important to understand what your community requires. Look for resources on your local municipal parking department’s website or whichever government agency manages parking and business services in your area. 


If you’re not sure, a good place to start is with the local Chamber of Commerce or other organization that supports businesses in your community. They should be able to provide you with the right information or at least refer you to the department who handles those regulations.  

Are You Using Timed Ticketing?

Timed tickets can help even out the crowds and ensure a steady flow of guests, rather than a rush of people clamoring to get in at peak times. If you’re not using timed tickets, you may want to consider adding some extra parking; the lot might be half-empty the rest of the week, but it will help accommodate those Friday and Saturday night rushes. 


Timed ticketing can also help you maximize profits. Remember: guests who are standing in line are not spending money. The less time they wait in line, the more time they can spend enjoying the concessions or add-on experiences. And the less time they’ll take using up a valuable parking space without opening their wallets. 

Angry woman driving a car honking the horn

Why Care About Parking?

Aside from the obvious reason, which is to stay in compliance with local laws, parking can be really important to your business. 


When an event’s parking spills into the lots of nearby businesses or onto the streets in a way that feels disruptive, it can hurt your reputation and relationships with your neighbors. We’re not talking about a few extra cars on the street or the occasional vehicle parked at the restaurant next door. But if your on-site parking is so limited that hundreds of cars line the street for blocks and start to encroach on the parking lots meant for other businesses, those neighbors may start to tow cars and complain to your local government. 


It also impacts the guest experience. Guests who can easily find a parking spot and start enjoying your event will leave with a more positive feeling about their visit overall. Think about it: the walk back to their car is the last impression they will have of your event. Don’t sour a fun night by asking your guests to walk five blocks in the dark. 

What About Handicapped Parking?

The ADA requires at least one accessible parking space for every 25 total parking spots. There are also requirements for the size and location of these spots, so it’s a good idea to review those rules to make sure your venue’s parking lot is in compliance. 

Final Thoughts

Parking is an often overlooked but critically important part of any event. The amount of parking you’ll need can vary based on factors such as the expected number of attendees, the location of your venue, and local regulations. For events, it's important to consider that guests might arrive in groups, and parking needs may be influenced by the popularity and size of your venue.


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