Would you like to spread your wings and visit some of the most famous wheelchair accessible travel destinations in the world? Luckily, there are an array of places that capture the imagination and offer accessible travel options. Whether you’re looking to head down under, rub elbows with royalty, visit the capitals of the United States or Austria, marvel in architectural delights, or immerse yourself in Chinese culture, these famous vacations are sure to create memories that will last a lifetime. Here are 13 of the most wheelchair accessible destinations recommended by Scootaround:
Wheelchair Accessible Travel Destinations
- Sydney, Australia
- London, England, U.K.
- Washington D.C.
- Vienna, Austria
- Barcelona, Spain
- Hong Kong
- Atlanta, Georgia
- Paris, France
- New York City, New York
- Amsterdam, Netherlands
- San Francisco, California
- Melbourne, Australia
The perfect mix of nature and culture, you’ll probably want to begin your journey on Coogee Beach’s accessible walkway. This walkway hugs the coastline and offers awesome views of the ocean vista and features many wildlife viewing opportunities. You’ll probably spot breaching whales, sea turtles along the shoreline, and a host of fascinating birds. There are two or three accessible parking lots near this walkway (near the swimming pool and by Wisdom or Alexandria Parade streets) and a keyed accessible bathroom just a short distance from the walkway.
The Royal Botanical Gardens feature wheelchair accessible entrances, restrooms, paths, and indoor venues. This is a photography hotspot to capture views of the famous Opera House, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and of course, the sparkling water, stunning plants, and beautiful flowers. The gardens are home to a well-known Wollemi Pine, a tree once thought extinct, dating back over 200 million years. You’ll probably want to take your picture by this coniferous equivalent of a living dinosaur.
What’s a visit to Sydney without attending a performance at Australia’s most famous landmark, the Sydney Opera House? Nothing sparks your imagination like the dramatic theatrics found at the opera. From the stunning costumes to the range of vocal chords, you’ll probably never forget the sound of the lingering high notes filling your auditory senses with emotions beyond words. The Sydney Opera House is committed to accessibility and offers level access seats, wheelchair locations, and companion seating.
London, England, U.K.
One of the most notable wheelchair accessible travel destinations, London’s old-world charm mixes with a bundle of accessible options sure to please the most discerning wheelchair traveler.
London features the Black Taxi Cabs, the most accessible taxis in the world. These cars are designed with wheelchair users in mind. Every car has a ramp, high door openings, and extra room inside for wheelchairs.
The Black Taxi Cabs are an excellent way to visit royal landmarks like Buckingham Palace and the Royal Mews. Buckingham Palace offers step-free access through a private front entrance, and the Royal Mews has level access throughout. These two royal destinations offer visitors the opportunity to see the Changing of the Guard ceremonies and delight in fine art and stagecoaches fit only for the Queen.
Adventurers can take in 360-degree views of the city from the London Eye, a giant Ferris wheel-like structure that will make it feel like you’re atop the world. Not only will you have a panoramic view of the home of Big Ben, but the glass-enclosed capsules are also step-free.
Another favorite on our list of wheelchair accessible vacations, the capital of the United States offers an abundance of accessible activities. Many of the historic attractions and museums are free to visit, which is a nice bonus, especially if you’re traveling on a budget. Since there are so many things to see and do, you’ll probably want to consider transportation options first. The Washington Metro is renowned as one of the most accessible transportation systems in the world. The rail stations and rail cars are accessible, as are the buses. If you want to rent a scooter or wheelchair in Washington D.C., Scootaround offers many options which can be rented for three days, a week, or longer.
And what would a trip to D.C. be without seeing the Bill of Rights, the Constitution, and the Declaration of Independence? Stop in at the National Archives, which is in the area known as the National Mall. One can easily traverse this area by wheelchair, as the walkways are smoothly paved and the streets have excellent curb cutouts. The National Mall and most of the monuments offer accessible restrooms.
Another must-see in this area are 10 of the Smithsonian Institution’s museums, with exhibitions ranging from fine art to space exploration. There is even an International Spy Museum with a large collection of espionage artifacts on display.
Whether viewing historical sites, the ever-famous cherry blossoms in March or April, or visiting the Capitol building, one must also take time to rest and eat while traveling throughout the city. Luckily, D.C. offers so many accessible accommodations and eateries that you could stay and eat in a different location hundreds of times over.
If you’re looking for a wheelchair accessible city that is steeped in rich history and culture, look no further than Vienna. The best times to visit are during the warmer weather months, from April through October. Like Washington, Vienna has a wheelchair-friendly public transit system and many accessible attractions, restaurants, stores, and hotels. Luckily, this city is flat and has level paving, and the outdoor cafes and parks offer a welcome break from sightseeing and rolling about.
A trip to Vienna would not be complete without visiting Stephansplatz. This is a pedestrian-only area in the heart of the city and is bustling with activity. Here you can roll by centuries-old cathedrals, monuments, souvenir shops, and many restaurants with level entry access, all within a span of an hour or less.
Home to the famous Lipizzaner stallions, the Spanish Riding School offers visitors the chance to experience the elegance of the horses while listening to a classical repertoire of the famous composer Johann Strauss. Wheelchair seats can be purchased by phone or email. When you arrive at the school, you’ll push a wheelchair access button by the main entrance and a staff member will take you to a private entrance with a manual wheelchair ramp.
Additionally, the Schönbrunn Palace, Belvedere Palace, and the Albertina art museum are accessible attractions that highlight the history and art of this fine city.
When you think of Barcelona, the smells of the sea, quaint open markets, and legendary architectural sights probably come to mind.
Since cruising is one of the most accessible ways to travel, you’ll probably want to embark upon the Mediterranean Sea. The port of Barcelona is beloved by wheelchair users because reservations are not needed to use the fully accessible routes to the city center. All access points offer ramps, elevators, and level walkways.
Land travel throughout the city offers equally good options. The buses are 100% accessible with extendable ramps at the rear doors and priority spots for wheelchairs. Additionally, the metro is fully accessible and offers step-free access or elevators to the platforms.
Barcelona has designed accessible walkways throughout the city and one can mostly avoid cobblestones. A visit to Barcelona wouldn’t be complete without taking time to visit medieval Barcelona. This is an excellent rolling tour and abounds with tantalizing sights such as the Barcelona Cathedral, built over 500 years ago, and the Santa Maria del Mar church, erected in the 14th century. As you roll about, you’ll also take in the sights and sounds of Sant Jaume Square, Las Ramblas boulevard, and the former Royal Palace. Outdoor cafes and restaurants dot this area, so you can take time to enjoy paella, bombas, and so many other Spanish-themed culinary delights.
When you think of Hong Kong, you may think of Chinatown on steroids. Here you can barter with street vendors, taste the best of Hong Kong, and spend hours just people watching.
One of the most magnificent attractions is the multimedia show A Symphony of Lights. This 14-minute show is the largest light and music show in the world and can be comfortably viewed from the Avenue of Stars located in Kowloon.
The bus and subway systems are wheelchair accessible, although the buses rotate between wheelchair equipped doors and regular doors, which requires closer inspection than some cities. Being an island, many areas are reachable only by ferries. The Star Ferry at Victoria Harbor is wheelchair accessible and offers panoramic vistas of the soaring city line.
Victoria Peak provides visitors an eagle eye view of the city. Adventurous travelers can reach the mountaintop by tram or car. The tram is not wheelchair accessible, so a private car or taxi is needed to accommodate wheelchair users. Once atop this spectacular mountain, visitors will enjoy paved, level walkways perfect for traversing by wheelchair.
Atlanta is home to several well-known attractions that were designed with wheelchair users in mind. Many visitors opt to purchase a City Pass, which not only provides access to these locales but also saves you up to 40% on the standard price of admission.
- World of Coca-Cola: Find out first hand how the world-renowned soda goes from the production line to store shelves! At the end of the tour, you’ll have the opportunity to sample a wide variety of Coca-Cola flavors, and every guest gets a free bottled soda to take home.
- Georgia Aquarium: This gigantic facility is home to thousands of different animal species, and every part of the aquarium is wheelchair accessible.
- Zoo Atlanta: Nearly 2,000 animals reside here, and there are ramps and concrete pathways available throughout.
- Centennial Olympic Park: Located in downtown Atlanta, this 21-acre park is a popular gathering place for concerts and other outdoor events. Every sidewalk inside the park is wheelchair-friendly, and the restrooms are all ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant.
- SkyView Ferris Wheel: Want to experience the best panoramic views of the city? The SkyView Ferris wheel is almost 20 stories high, and each gondola can hold up to six passengers, including those in wheelchairs.
- CNN Center: Watch live broadcasts and get a bird’s eye view of the studio where it all takes place! Although most of CNN’s guided tours require using the stairs and escalators, there are specific tour times available for the disabled, where guests can use elevators instead.
There are hundreds of tourist attractions in the “City of Love,” with perhaps the most famous being the Eiffel Tower. The Tower has three levels, and the first two are wheelchair accessible (the third level isn’t because the only emergency exit is a spiral staircase). A reduced rate is available for those in wheelchairs and the guests who accompany them. Other fan-favorite sights include the Louvre Museum, Champs-Élysées Avenue, Tuileries Garden, Musée de l'Orangerie, Notre Dame Cathedral, Palais Garnier, and the Palace of Versailles.
Ireland’s majestic countryside is home to some of the most beautiful castles, mansions, and restaurants you will ever see, including:
- Kilkenny Castle: This castle resides in a visually stunning 50-acre park, and many of the rooms and artifacts within have been restored to their former glory.
- House of Waterford Crystal: Take the factory tour, and then finish up with a visit to the retail store, which has the world’s largest collection of Waterford crystal.
- Donegal: The vast landscape of County Donegal includes the small village of Ardara, where you can find a wide selection of hand-woven goods crafted by its artistic residents.
- Glenveagh Castle: Marilyn Monroe once graced the halls of this Scottish castle, which has welcomed many other celebrities since its creation.
New York City, New York
Want to know why New York is called “the city that never sleeps”? It’s because there is always something fun and exciting to do! Most of the attractions are wheelchair accessible, and like Atlanta, you can get a discount by purchasing a City Pass, which provides entrance to some of the city’s most popular tourist attractions, including the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, World Trade Center 9/11 Memorial & Museum, American Museum of Natural History, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Although not included in the City Pass, you should definitely add Central Park, Chinatown, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and the Brooklyn Bridge to your must-visit list too!
Amsterdam has a ton of options available to the wheelchair traveler, like the Van Gogh Museum, which has housed the largest collection of Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings since it opened in 1973. Amsterdam also has many canals, and you can find some boat companies offering cruises with onboard lifts and ramps designed specifically for wheelchairs. With its interactive exhibits, the Amsterdam Museum is an innovator’s dream come true, and if you love beer, you will want to tour the Heineken Experience Museum, which showcases the company’s extensive brewing process.
San Francisco, California
San Francisco -- or “The City by the Bay” -- is an excellent vacation spot for people with special needs. You can find a ton of tourist attractions here, and they are all accessible by wheelchair. Fisherman's Wharf is located on the waterfront of the San Francisco Bay and is overflowing with an eclectic collection of street performers, arcades, restaurants, and stores. Visitors converge on Chinatown for a taste of Asian and Chinese culture, while the Monterey Bay Aquarium was recently rated the world's best aquarium by TripAdvisor. There’s a little something for everyone in San Francisco!
Would you like to spend your vacation surfing along Australia’s southern coast? You can do just that with a little help from The Disabled Surfers Association of Australia. They are highly-trained professionals who are very passionate about helping people with disabilities live out their dreams on the water. While in Melbourne, you can also tour a massive skyscraper known as the Eureka Skydeck, take a hot air balloon ride, go on a safari tour, or just sit back and relax while the waves lap against the shoreline.
Whether taking a cruise or seeing the sights by land, you’ll probably want to think about renting mobility equipment. Scootaround offers a large variety of mobility rentals and cruise mobility rentals perfect for these vacation spots. They will even deliver them to your cruise ship cabin, hotel, or wherever is most convenient for you. These wheelchair accessible travel destinations offer some of the best shopping, cultural, and outdoor venues available to travelers. You’ll be sure to build memories that will last a lifetime!
Cory Lee is a wheelchair user, travel addict, and accessible travel writer.
On his blog, Curb Free with Cory Lee, he hopes to inspire others to roll out of their comfort zones and see all the beauty our world has to offer.
Images Used in This Article
Statue of Liberty image, "Statue of Liberty and Liberty Island" by Jiuguang Wang is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Amsterdam Canal image, "Amsterdam" by macchi is licensed under CC BY 2.0
San Francisco image, "San Francisco Skyline" by worldaroundtrip is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Melbourne Bridge image, "Queens Bridge. Melbourne.Aust" by Bernard Spragg is licensed under CC BY 2.0