When it comes to family fun, what is more classic than visiting a theme park? At one time, most amusement parks didn’t offer very many accessible rides or attractions. Luckily, this has changed dramatically over the last decade, and there are now many wheelchair accessible theme parks for children and the young at heart alike. Get ready to strap on your seatbelt, feel the breeze waft through your hair, and laugh so much that your face and belly will ache by the end of the day!
Wheelchair Accessible Theme Parks
Here are five of Scootaround’s favorite accessible theme parks from around the United States:
1. Morgan’s Wonderland: San Antonio, TX
Inspired by his own daughter, founder Gordon Hartman set out to build a theme park designed specifically for individuals with special needs. The only theme park that boasts 100% wheelchair accessibility, Morgan’s Wonderland is located on 25 acres in beautiful San Antonio, Texas, and offers disabled visitors free admission. Just like a visit to any theme park, one of the first things you’ll probably want to do is hit the rides.
Want to try your luck at off-road driving? Climb aboard the snazzy off-road vehicle and cruise along the curvy track while taking in the sights of the park. When you’re ready to soar high, try out the wheelchair swings. Have you always wanted to ride a carousel? Look no further than the wheelchair accessible chariots that go up and down, round and round. When you’re ready to feel the rush of the Grand Prix, try your hand at virtual racing at the indoor playground. Pirate’s Wharf is an 8-acre lake where you launch remote-controlled boats and shoot your friends with water cannons. Other fun activities await you, such as a wheelchair accessible see-saw, a water play area, slides with controlled speeds, and so much more.
2. Morgan’s Inspiration Island: San Antonio, TX
When you can’t beat the Texas heat, you’ll probably want to visit a water park to cool down. It’s not always easy to find wheelchair accessible theme parks, but Morgan’s Inspiration Island was created with inclusivity in mind. Foremost, the park provides three types of waterproof wheelchairs on a first-come, first-served basis. It’s highly recommended to use these free wheelchairs to avoid costly damage to your wheelchair.
Once you’re all set, roll aboard the River Boat Adventure Ride and listen to the bird and animal sounds as you wind your way through the water canals of the jungle. Next, venture to Harvey’s Hideaway Bay, where you can battle it out by having a water cannon war or cool down by getting soaked by the large dumping bucket. When you’re ready to chill, head over to Hang Ten Harbor. Here you can roll under a giant 20-foot wave, get sprayed by squirting palm trees, and stay cool under “rain” trees. A trip to Inspiration Island wouldn’t be complete without visiting the other three splash pads. Rainbow Reef, a warmed-water play area, is designed for those who cannot tolerate cold water and hosts an array of ocean creatures. Lastly, don’t forget to stop by Shipwreck Island and Calypso Cove to finish off the day, splashing about and creating music on moss log and mushroom instruments.
3. Walt Disney World: Orlando, FL
Another favorite on the list of wheelchair accessible theme parks, Walt Disney World features four parks well suited for a wheelchair accessible vacation. Several of the attractions and rides offer shorter lines or priority seating for wheelchair users. Visitors can either bring their own wheelchairs or rent a scooter or wheelchair from Scootaround Orlando. Most transportation to and from the parks is wheelchair accessible. Some rides and attractions feature direct access, whereas others require a transfer. You’ll probably want to check online before visiting to make the most of your visit.
Take a roll through magical lands and visit with famous Disney characters on your trip to the Magic Kingdom. There are 13 attractions or rides throughout the Magic Kingdom which do not require transferring out of your wheelchair or scooter. These attractions vary in age ranges, but include family favorites such as Mickey’s PhilharMagic, Fairytale Garden, and Country Bear Jamboree.
Next, spark your imagination by visiting Epcot Center. From space-themed attractions to exhilarating rides, wheelchair users will find accessibility options throughout the park. A must-stop is Mission: SPACE, where you can become a NASA astronaut and travel to Mars or orbit the Earth in a family-friendly mission, but you will need to transfer into this ride. You can learn about the American Adventure in the American Gardens Theater and American Adventure Pavilion, or journey to far-away lands at the France, Canada, Norway, and China exhibitions.
If you’re an animal lover, you’ll probably want to visit Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Here you’ll experience wild animals, jungle adventures, rainforests, and tropical birds. Plus, you can even trek through Africa on a safari. In fact, you will see a wide variety of ecosystems and animal life, including fossils of animals and crustaceans that lived millions of years ago. This park features many attractions that do not require transfers. For those able to transfer from a power wheelchair to the park’s designated wheelchair or ride seat, there are a plethora of attractions designed to titillate your senses.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios will let your creative energy flow! Whether visiting Beauty and the Beast or the Little Mermaid, you’ll be sure to delight in these whimsical shows. When you’re ready for adrenaline pumping action, stop in at the Indiana Jones Extreme Stunt Spectacular. These attractions are among 10 others which can be entered via your own wheelchair. If you’re up to transferring, then be sure to board the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.
4. SeaWorld: San Diego, CA and Orlando, FL
Located in sunny California and in Orlando, SeaWorld is one of the best aquatic wheelchair accessible theme parks. You’ll probably want to contact the ticket office ahead of time to procure a Special Access Pass, which provides disabled guests with prescheduled boarding times for all rides. Additionally, by planning and filling out the Ride Accessibility Questionnaire, SeaWorld will create a customized itinerary outlining rides and attractions most suited to your interests and needs.
Nothing is as heartwarming as seeing dolphins wave hello, sea lions act like clowns, or rescued pets take center stage. Sea turtles, penguins, and otters all make their home at SeaWorld and offer up close and personal viewing opportunities. Take time to visit the Aquaria Touch Pool and experience the unique feel of oceanic animals like the spiny sea urchin, wavy top snails, and round rays. Of course, a trip to SeaWorld isn’t complete without basking in the wonder of majestic killer whales. You might even want to take a plastic raincoat to avoid getting soaked if you’re in the front row of one of their special shows!
5. Legoland: Multiple Locations
When you think of Legoland, you probably think of the famous movie. But this special park, with locations in Florida, California, and Missouri (to name a few), offers accessible shops, restaurants, and shows. Most of the other attractions are also wheelchair accessible. Many of the rides are accessible if you can transfer from a wheelchair with the assistance of a helper. The parks also offer Hero Passes, which allow you to board without waiting in long lines.
Let the “force be with you” as you explore the Star Wars exhibition and experience memorable scenes from the movies. If you’re interested in visiting America’s famous cities, like New York City, many Legoland locations have scale versions of these popular destinations that will blow your mind. If you or your children like to use your imaginations, visit a Building Center to make your wildest dreams come true. There are fun, musical shows featuring a Lego-like cast and even 4D movies at some locations. As with any theme park, planning goes a long way to make the most of your visit. You’ll probably want to download Legoland’s accessibility guide before visiting to have the best experience possible.
When you’re ready to embark upon your theme park vacation, you’ll probably want to consider renting mobility equipment from Scootaround. They offer a large selection of power chairs, compact wheelchairs, and even transportable wheelchairs customized to your experience. They will take care of all your mobility equipment needs while you sit back, laugh until your belly hurts, feel the joy of exhilarating rides, and the breeze upon your face. You are sure to build memories that will last a lifetime when visiting one of these famous wheelchair accessible theme parks!
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
Cinderella’s Castle image, "Disney World Trip – Magic Kingdom – Cinderella’s Castle" by Richard Stephenson is licensed under CC BY 2.0