The Best Amusement Parks for Children with Special Needs
Summer is in full swing and as parents, you are always looking for new and exciting activities to engage your child in. The following list encompasses some amusement parks throughout the United States and one just over the border in Canada, that offer accommodations to children with special needs along with their families. Although I have highlighted many aspects of each park, I advise you to visit their website and even call to speak with an individual who can answer any questions that you may have in addition to provide pertinent information so you are well prepared should you decide to visit.
They offer many services for guests with special needs.
Advanced Ticket purchase
Stroller and Wheelchair rental
Strollers that can be used as wheelchairs
Assistance in accessing attractions
Universal Studios and Sea World Orlando will assist guests who are visiting the park. If you are a family with special needs, the park suggests that you go to the customer service desk at the entrance to each theme park and notify them of your situation.
This amusement park is the only one in the world where all the rides are fully accessible and sensory friendly. The park is based on inclusivity and fun.
One example of a ride is an off road adventure where guests sit in vehicles designed to accommodate wheelchairs while they travel the rocky terrain and all the twists and turns that are associated with it. Additionally, the park includes a sensory village, a lake for fishing and a garden that has calming music and art. They also offer wristbands that are enabled with tracking devices that allows parents to know where their child is at all times. Admission is free to visitors with special needs, but everyone else entering the park pays $5. Reservations are required.
Some areas will include heated water for individuals sensitive to the cold. Attractions include a boat ride through a jungle setting complete with animal sounds as well as waterfalls, pools, geysers, jets, water cannons and tipping buckets.
Most attractions are accessible to guests with special needs along with detailed health restrictions that are posted at each ride. Legoland also has special hearing and vision accommodations for guests who have issues with sight and sound. If you plan ahead, and contact Legoland 2 weeks ahead at the least then you will receive specialized care and attention. Additionally, you can download an "Access Guide" from their website which outlines all the areas of the park that are wheelchair friendly.
This park has been named the cleanest and friendliest theme park in the world time and time again. Holiday World has an annual special day called “Fun Day” when it opens its doors to 2,500 special guests all of whom have some form of mental or physical special need. The admission is discounted and all the proceeds are donated to organizations that advocate on behalf of children with special needs. If you like, you can download their “Rides Guide & Information for Guests with Disabilities” online before you plan your visit.
This park is 30 minutes outside of Philadelphia and is popular among families with children of all ages and special needs. When you enter the park, families with children with special needs can sign up for the "Ride Accessibility Program." This program matches the individual abilities of the child to the requirements of each ride. At that point, riders can choose 6 dry rides and 3 tower water rides they would like to go on. Additionally, they can bypass the line.
Sesame Place also offers accommodations for children with vision or hearing impairments as well.
Sesame Place is the first theme park in the world to be designated as a Certified Autism Center
Sesame Place Team Members receive specialized training to ensure they have the knowledge, expertise and the temperament to work with all children especially special needs children. The training that the team members go through focuses on sensory awareness, motor skills, program development, social skills, communication and emotional awareness, just to name a few.
This amusement park is located between Buffalo and Rochester, NY. Not only do they have roller coasters and many attractions, they also have a 10 acre water park.
Darien Lake offers accessible parking which is conveniently located close to the park’s entrance as well as Priority Access Entrances to the rides that are most popular. Children with special needs can bring up to 5 family members or friends with them to the front of the line. There they will be assigned a riding time.
Guests with special needs can receive an “Attraction Access Pass.” This pass is available at all locations. The purpose of this pass allows riders who are unable to wait in line for an extended period of time to sign up for a riding time and enter through the EXIT line with 3 family members or friends. In order to take advantage of this great accommodation, the family MUST obtain a note from the child’s doctor that indicates the individual has a disability or other qualifying impairment under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and/or any applicable state law that prevents the individual from waiting in a standard line.
This park is known for their attractions that include shows featuring dolphins, beluga whales and orcas. They also offer discounted admission for individuals with special needs as well as a ride wristband for one rider and caregiver so they can skip waiting in line.
They also offer accommodations to individuals with special needs such as able to park in an area that is closest to the entrance. This especially is helpful to individuals who may require a wheelchair or assistive devices. Additionally, at the entrance, you are able to rent wheelchairs and therefore enjoy accessible friendly areas for shows, rides and restaurants.
Knoebels is located a few hours from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They feature games, attractions, gift shops, rides and food stands that are accessible for individuals with special needs.
Admission is free. Guests coming to the park can purchase individuals tickets for the rides they would like to go on. Guests with special needs can receive a “Courtesy Pass” from the First Aid Station. This pass allows the individual and up to 3 family members or friends to bypass the lines and enter the rides through the exit gate. Additionally, wheelchairs and ECV’s (Electric Convenience Vehicles) are also available to rent at the park should a family be in need of one.
This park provides "Special Access Pass!” for guests with disabilities. Once you sign up prior to your visit, you will be give a pre-scheduled time for each ride. Additionally, prior to your visit if you fill out a Ride Accessibility Questionnaire, you will receive a list of rides and attractions that are personalized to the guests interests and needs. SeaWorld also offers sign language interpreters for guests with vision or hearing impairments. This accommodation is offered for their marine life shows and tours however you do need to contact the park at least 2 weeks in advance of your trip.
If you are planning to visit any of these parks or any other similar ones, make sure to check out the section of their respective web sites that are devoted to accommodations for guests with disabilities.
As with everything else, do your homework! Leave no stone unturned so there are no surprises when you arrive. Your focus is on your child and their experience along with making great family memories. Most importantly - Have a Great Time!!!
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