When our son was diagnosed with Autism shortly after his third birthday, our lives instantly changed. At the time of his diagnosis he was non-verbal and dealing with a host of behavioral and social issues. Getting his diagnosis early helped us get him educational resources to help him with speech, behavior, social, and life skills. The following summer we were planning a family vacation and quickly felt overwhelmed. We wanted to do so many different things but felt either nervous or worried about how it would affect our son. That’s when I started looking for options for children with Autism.
We never wanted to use Autism as an excuse to stop living life, so we took small with travel and eventually found great options in and around our state for our son. I wanted to share a list of Autism Friendly Theme Parks for children, so parents looking for options don’t feel overwhelmed and as frustrated we did when we were looking for options. If you’re planning any family vacations for Spring Break or Summer check out these options:
Sesame Place®, Philadelphia PA
In 2018 Sesame Place® became the first theme park in the world to receive certification to become a Certified Autism Center. Sesame Place®, the nation’s only theme park based entirely on the award-winning show Sesame Street®.
As a Certified Autism Center, Sesame Place is required to provide ongoing training to ensure that team members have the requisite knowledge, skills, temperament, and expertise to interact with all families and children with special needs, specifically on the autism spectrum. Training takes place in the areas of sensory awareness, environment, communication, motor
The park offers robust pre-visit planning resources including a sensory guide, developed by IBCCES. This sensory guide helps parents plan activities that satisfy their child’s specific needs and accommodations by providing insight on how a child with sensory processing issues may be affected by each sense for each attraction. The park also has two quiet rooms located on Sesame Island. These rooms have adjustable lighting, and a comfortable seating area for guests to take a break.
Sesame Place’s certification aligns with Sesame Workshop’s commitment to increasing awareness and understanding of autism. Sesame Workshop launched the Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children initiative in 2015 and Julia, a Sesame Street Muppet with autism, came to life on the award-winning broadcast last spring, signaling a strong, continuing commitment to the autism community. Julia made her debut at Sesame Place in 2017 as a walkaround character and is available for guest meet & greets. The park is developing in-park programs that will be implemented this season giving guests additional opportunities to interact with Julia.
Ticket Prices: purchase tickets online for Sesame Place online. There are several ticket options for families.
- 23 months and younger: Free
- 2 years and older: $59.99 single day ticket
- 2 years and older: $69.99 two day ticket
- Season Passes
- Cookie Monster: $119.88 or $9.99 per month, per person
- Big Bird: $155.88 or $12.99 per month, per person
- Super Grover: $203.88 or $16.99 per month, per person
- Transferable: $179.88 or $14.99 per month, per person
- Platinum Multi-Park Pass: $242.88 or $20.24 per month, per person
Hersheypark, Hershey PA
Hersheypark is located in Hershey, PA and it’s a family favorite for us. It’s one of the first amusement parks we took our son to visit after he was diagnosed. I have shared on my blog about their accessibility pass program and the benefits for special needs families. It’s one of the best I’ve ever used and seen. The folks at Hersheypark did an amazing job with creating this system for families, and it’s very easy to use.
Hersheypark has three quiet room locations in the park for families that need to unwind while visiting the park. They also have a family finder program that’s free to sign up and use in the event a child is displaced from their parents while visiting the park. The park even features wheelchair ride access for some of their rides, which are easily highlighted when you sign up for the pass before starting your time in the park. Even water park attractions offer special access for wheelchair rides when visiting the park.
The Hersheypark Accessibility Pass offers no-wait times for pass holders and three other family members. Guests use the exit gate of the rides to show their passes and get on the rides. Check out my detailed post on the Hersheypark Accessibility Pass Program to learn more.
Ticket Prices: purchase Hersheypark tickets online. They also offer several price options for families.
- 2 years and younger: Free
- Junior & Senior (3-8 & 55-69): $46.95
- Regular (9-54): $64.95
- Springtime in the Park Pass: $35.95 (9-54) & $24.95 (3-8 and 55+)
- Hersheypark in the Dark Pass: $35.95 (9-54) & $24.95 (3-8 and 55+)
- Christmas Candylane: $26.95 (3+)
- Season Passes
- All Season Pass: $171 or $26 per month per person
- Early Season Pass (valid May and June only): $115 per person
- Hersheypark Discovery Pass: $186 per person
All Hersheypark tickets include admission to Zoo America. It’s a great bonus and I highly recommend it to parents of special needs children looking for shaded spots in the summer months. It’s also the best place to purchase drinks since the lines in the zoo food area are usually shorter.
Insider Tip: When traveling with a child with special needs, special identification items help ease some of your stress about traveling. Since our son easily removes items on his wrist, we like items like Shoe ID, because he can’t remove it from his shoes, and we know identifying information is always on him.
Edaville Family Theme Park, Carver MA
If you have a child or children who are fans of trains you’ll want to check out Edaville Family Theme Park. The park features a Thomas & Friends themed section with 11 rides and attractions inspired by Thomas and other characters from the popular series. Edaville also hosts an annual Autism Awareness Weekend the last weekend in April.
Special needs guests visiting the park can ride in a special Quiet Car on the park’s 20-minute train ride. The Quiet Car is a train car transformed into a quiet room is equipped with weighted blankets and puzzles, and a restroom with quiet-flush toilets and manual hand dryers accommodate sensitive kids. There are also two additional lands for guest to explore, Cran Central and Dino Land.
Ticket Prices: purchase tickets for Edaville Family Theme Park online. Be sure to check their site for special offers when booking.
- One Day Pass (2 -3 & 60+): $32
- One Day Pass (3-59): $37
- One Day Pass (date specific): $30 & $35
- Elite Members Pass (2-3 & 60+): $116
- Elite Member Pass (3-59): $132
- Thomas & Friends VIP Experience: $49
Morgan’s Wonderland, San Antonio TX
When it celebrated its grand
Morgan’s Wonderland readily provide free admission for serious, long-term physical and cognitive disabilities such as Down syndrome, deafness, blindness, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, cystic fibrosis, spina bifida, autism (including Asperger syndrome), orthopedic impairment, muscular dystrophy, seizure disorder (including epilepsy), sensory integration disorder, Tourette Syndrome, etc. The park’s Joy Fast Pass allows children with autism no-wait one-time access to four major park rides, along with three accompanying family members. Each park guest is issued a GPS Adventure Band upon admission, which lends an additional measure of safety via tracking technology.
Ticket Prices: You can purchase tickets online for Morgan’s Wonderland. Be sure to visit their site to learn about any specials and when they open for the 2019 season.
- Guest with Special Needs: Free
- Children 2 and under: Free
- Single Park Admission
- Children (1-17) Seniors (62+) Military w/ID: $11
- Adults: $17
- Dual Park Admission
- Children (1-17) Seniors (62+) Military w/ID: $21
- Adults: $27
LEGOLAND, Winter Haven FL
LEGOLAND Florida Resort has a reputation for rolling out the red carpet for guests with special needs. Their services for families visiting with a child on the spectrum includes designated quiet rooms, free sensory supports, social stories
The Blue Hero Pass, available at the park’s Guest Services department, enables a child with autism and his or her accompanying family members to enjoy immediate boarding on the first ride of the day, then bypass the standby lines on subsequent rides. When kids need a break, they can retreat to quiet rooms, which are equipped with sensory tools such as noise-cancelling headphones, weighted blankets, fidget toys and LEGO building tables.
Ticket Prices: You can purchase tickets online for LEGOLAND Florida. They offer a variety of options including a popular 2 day pass.
- 1 Day Pass Super Saver: Child $80.99 Adult $85.99
- 1 Day Pass All Inclusive: Child $96.69 Adult $97.18
- 1 Day Pass Plus Water Park: Child $103.99 Adult $108.99
- 1 Day Pass All Inclusive Plus Water Park: Child $119.99 Adult $125.19
- 2 Day Pass Plus Water Park: Child $123.99 Adult $128.99
- Awesomer Pass: $169.99 Per Person (yearly membership)
Save money on LEGOLAND Florida passes by purchasing online and at least seven days in advance for the best savings available. Visit their website for tips on planning your trip.
Autism Day Six Flags Great Adventure
Last year Six Flags Great Adventure teamed up with Gersh Academy to host their first Autism Day at the park. It’s returning this year and it’s shaping up to be the premier event for families with children on the spectrum.
The sensory friendly event of the century returns May 8th, 2019. With adjusted lights and music, shortened lines and wait times, decompression areas throughout the park, Gersh Academy trained staff, and local autism-related resources, Autism Day at Six Flags Great Adventure is a “can’t miss” event for individuals on the autism spectrum and their friends and family.
Ticket Prices: You can purchase tickets online for Six Flags Great Adventure Autism Day.
- Autism Day Individual Ticket: $39.99
- Autism Day Group Ticket: $36.99
Autism Awareness Week Kings Island
A trip to the amusement park can be overwhelming for kids with Autism. Kings Island teamed up with Autism Society of America to host an annual Autism Awareness Week at their park. It’s a filled with special activities and opportunities for guests with special needs. Check with their Guest Services team for times and locations of sensory-friendly shows, quiet rooms, gluten-free food options and more.
Kings Island offers a Boarding Pass program for guest with Autism. Guests who are in possession of a Boarding Pass will obtain a boarding or “ride” time on the Boarding Pass that is equal to the anticipated wait time for a particular ride from the ride associate at the Alternate Access Entrance (usually a ride’s exit). Information on where guests access the ride is posted on each ride’s Safety Guide sign. All guests, regardless of point of access, are required to meet all riding requirements for the ride, including height and medical restrictions in order to safely ride/participate. The past can be used for the pass holder and up to three companions.
Ticket Prices: You can purchase Kings Island tickets online. Be sure to check their website for the dates for Autism Week.
- Good Any Day Tickets: $39.99
- Funday Bundle Ticket: $49.99
- Two Day Ticket: $59.99
- Coaster Combo Ticket: $65.00
Kings Dominion offers the same program as Kings Island. They host an annual Autism Awareness Week to showcase their park options for families with a child on the spectrum. You can sign up for their boarding pass program and get a rider access form with rides that are safe for your child. Visit the Kings Dominion website to learn more and read my post on Kings Dominion rides for kids.
Tip: Kings Island and Kings Dominion are apart of the Cedar Fair Entertainment Company. I recommend checking all their parks for Autism programs, they may each offer something to fit your family needs.
- Dorney Park, Allentown PA – https://www.dorneypark.com/blog/2018/july/autism-awareness-week
- Carowinds, Charlotte NC – https://www.carowinds.com/help/accessibility
- California’s Great America, Santa Clara CA – https://www.cagreatamerica.com/help/accessibility
- Canada’s Wonderland – Vaughan ON – https://www.canadaswonderland.com/help/accessibility
- Cedar Point, Sandusky OH – https://www.cedarpoint.com/help/accessibility
- Knott’s Berry Farm, Buena Park CA – https://www.knotts.com/blog/2018/july/autism-awareness-week
- Michigan’s Adventure, Muskegon MI – https://www.miadventure.com/help/accessibility
- Valleyfair, Shakopee MN – https://www.valleyfair.com/blog/2018/july/autism-awareness-week-at-valleyfair
- Worlds of Fun, Kansas City MO – https://www.worldsoffun.com/blog/2018/autism-awareness-week?page=4
Kings Dominion also offers a Pre-K Pass for children ages three through five, that offer a free season pass to the park. It’s another great way to enjoy the park with your child while saving on admission.
Dutch Wonderland, Lancaster PA
Dutch Wonderland has a great program for families who need it for their children. Visit Guest Services to enroll in their Ride Accessibility Program which helps with cutting your wait times significantly or giving guests the extra time they need to get into and off the rides.
Signing up is super easy and only takes a few minutes max. The park also offers a special discount for guests visiting the park with a disability. You can ask about the discounted ticket price at Guest Services as well. The park has a great rain day policy as well, if it rains
Ticket Prices: You can purchase Dutch Wonderland tickets online, save by purchasing food vouchers online when buying tickets.
- Season Passes
- Basic Season Pass – $99.99
- Premium Season Pass – $121.99
- PA Pass (4 Parks Pass) – $199.99
- Royalty Admission – $37.99
- Two Day Flex – $62.00
I hope to continue to update and add to this list, if you know any Autism friendly theme parks please contact me so I can add them to the list.