Fun experiences for Special Needs Children in the NJ area
Parks, shows, art, sports & more!!
Many attractions welcome special needs visitors and have set aside a special day with accommodations. Please use your judgment since each individual child has specific needs. Our goal is to help fill your days and months with fun filled excitement. Add some of these to your bucket list and visit njkidsonline.com for more ideas.
1. VISIT A MUSEUM
Museums are open and welcoming the general public, but on select days, the special needs community is made to feel extra welcomed.
■ The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia offers Sensory Friendly Every Day. Special adapted exhibits and quieter spaces can be found throughout the museum. Their Sensory Alert Map guides you through certain experiences that may have high levels of stimulation, with helpful tips. Sensory Backpacks are stocked with helpful tools like noise-reducing, headphones, sunglasses, fidgets, and weighted toys to help reduce sensory stimulation. 215.448.1200
■ Intrepid Museum’s Sensory Friendly Mornings and Evenings Offers early morning openings and sensory friendly evenings. By opening its doors early for children (ages 3-18) and their families or keeping the doors open at night for teens (14+) and adults, participants can experience the Museum in a sensory-friendly environment. In the morning, educators lead short, interactive tours designed for all learners, as well as drop-in art activities and structured social/play opportunities. In the evening, specific areas of the Museum are open for self-exploration. Special access programs are offered 8x a year on select Saturday mornings: 5/20, 7/15, 9/24, 11/5 and select evenings: 5/12, 6/25, 10/6. Monthly access family programs.
2. MAKE ART - discover your child's creative side.
■ The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC offers Create Ability monthly, a program for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. Each month participants focus on a different theme, exploring various artworks and creating artworks. In person and online. firstname.lastname@example.org or (212) 408-6447
■ Montclair Art Museum’s Access Program - Sensory Sunday Studio is designed for families with members on the autism spectrum or who have other sensory sensitivities. Each month features a different project designed by MAM Teaching Artists that is accessible to artists of all ages and abilities. Image above.
■ Whitney Museum of American Art - “Family Fun is for families with kids on the Autism Spectrum”. It’s a sensory-friendly gallery with activities and a hands-on art-making workshop before the museum opens to the general public. This drop-in program allows families to explore a current Whitney exhibition and create their own art inspired by works on view.
3. RIDE HORSES
Moderne Academie of Fine Arts offers Saturday adaptive learning classes in a dance setting with hands-on equipment for development.
Scotch Plains, NJ
5. GO ON A DINO HUNT
Field Station: Dinosaurs opens May 27, 2023 at the Overpeck County Park in Leonia, NJ. Walk the trail and look for T-Rex and friends.
6. ASTRONOMY FUN
The Raritan Valley College Planetarium features “The Sky Above” about planets, moon, and constellations synced to music and laser lights. Doors are open, lights are dimmed, and audio is lowered. Saturdays April 1 & May 6, 2023 @ 5PM. Branchburg, NJ.
7. ENJOY A WATERPARK
Big Kahuna’s Indoor & Outdoor Waterpark Special Needs night is a judgment free evening for individuals with special needs and their families. Zero entry, transfer lift into pool, modified lighting, reduced noise, relaxed dress code. Look on website for latest dates. West Berlin, NJ.
8. EXPERIENCE A THEME PARK
■ Sesame Place is the first theme park designated as a Certified Autism Center. Extensive sensory guide of services, rides, & shows, a quiet room, noise canceling headphones. Langhorne, PA
■ Six Flags Great Adventure is designated a Certi- fied Autism Center. Attraction Access Program is designed to accommodate guests with disabilities and matches the individual abilities to the ridership criteria for each attraction. Jackson, NJ
9. EXPLORE AQUATIC LIFE
Adventure Aquarium has accessible viewing areas, sensory bags, weighted lap pad, head- phone zones, designated quiet area. Shark Bridge attraction is a fully accessible, behind the scenes Shark Shack tour. F.I.S.H. sensory friendly night is on April 16, 2023, 6-8PM visit in a relaxed setting. Camden, NJ.
10. PARTICIPATE IN SPORTS
Special Olympics NJ offers many opportunities for kids to get involved in a sports play program. Walking, running, jumping, trapping, throwing, kicking, striking and and competition!
11. GO TO THE PROM
Summit Area YMCA SAY program is hosting an Extra Special Prom on May 5, 2023 for ages 7-21. Summit, NJ.
12. ENJOY A SENSORY OR AUTISM FRIENDLY PERFORMANCE OR MOVIE
Upcoming sensory friendly shows include:
■ Laurie Berkner Live, April 2, 2023 Union County PAC
■ Princess Aurora’s Wedding Ballet, May 7, 2023 in Union County PAC
■ Milk & Cookies: Alex and the Kaleidoscope, April 15, 2023, State Theatre NJ
■ Magic School Bus, June 10, 2023, Papermill Playhouse in Millburn NJ
■ Dragons and Mythical Beasts, April 2, 2023, Mayo PAC in Morristown NJ
■ Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, April 30 @ Lyric Theatre, NYC
Select AMC Theaters offer sensory friendly movies scheduled on the 2nd and 4th Saturdays.
13. GO SEE A SYMPHONY
New Jersey Symphony offers Sensory-friendly Chamber Music Programs for People with Autism. The New Jersey Symphony Autism Community Program brings the musical magic of the orchestra to children and adults with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Specially trained musicians create singular opportunities to interact with their world through the experience of live music.
14. VISIT AN ARBORETUM
This Spring, explore gardens, walk the trails and enjoy nature. Check out the events at your local arboretum.
15. DISCOVER WILDLIFE
Most zoos have guide maps to accessible exhibits. Inquire about special programs and tours. Bergen County Van Saun Zoo, Bronx Zoo, Cape May County Zoo, Central Park Zoo, or visit smaller zoos such as Cohanzick Zoo and Popcorn Zoo.
16. EXPLORE UNIVERSAL PLAYGROUNDS
Also known as playgrounds for everyone, barrier free playgrounds or all access playgrounds. Central Park of Morris County in Parsippany, Jake’s Place in Cherry Hill, Challenger Place in Colts Neck, Votee Park in Teaneck.
■ Monster Mini Golf lets you be among monsters as you glow in the dark. Play the arcade, laser tag, mini golf, games and prizes. Welcoming special needs families at Edison, Paramus, and Fairfield.
■ Iplay America indoor boardwalk and amusement park is full of games, arcades, lights, rides and fun.
■ Crayola Experience has dozens of hands-on, creative activities. They serve guests with special needs and is designed for everyone to enjoy. Easton, PA.
18. EXPERIENCE NYC SHOWS
Popular Broadway shows are now accessible thanks to TDF (Theater Development Fund) which provides Autism friendly performances for children and adults with sensitivity issues.
19. GO ON A NATURE TRAIL
Nature trails are full of sensory activities.