Sensory Friendly Attractions & Things To Do
Special Needs families often encounter daily ups and downs along with struggles and milestones. Children and individuals on the autism spectrum or of different abilities should be able to go out and have some fun without any judgments.
It’s not always easy figuring out what do or where to go that is comfortable for everyone, especially with noise and lighting factors. Here are some helpful ideas. Many attractions welcome special needs visits, so be sure to ask. Visit njkidsonline.com for more activities that may be suitable.
1. Visit a Planetarium for some astronomy fun.
The Raritan Valley College Planetarium featuring “The Sky Above”. Show about planets, moon, and constellation synced to music and laser lights. Doors are open, lights are dimmed, and audio is lowered. 118 Lamington Road, Branchburg, NJ, 908.231.8805.
Saturdays, February 5, March 5, April 2, May 7, 2022 @ 5:00 pm
2. Relax and enjoy the water at a waterpark.
Sahara Sam’s Oasis Indoor & Outdoor Waterpark Special Needs night - judgment free evening for individuals with special needs and their families. Zero entry, transfer lift into pool, modified lighting, reduced noise, relaxed dress code. Book your ticket.
Upcoming date: March 21, 2022, 6-9PM. 535 North Route 73, West Berlin, NJ, 856.767.7580.
3. Ride horses
Therapeutic horseback riding at Seaton Hackney Stables in Morristown or Pony Power Therapies in Mahwah.
4. Visit animals at the zoo or go to a wildlife center.
Most have guide maps to accessible exhibits. Inquire about special programs and tours. Popular zoos: Bergen County Van Saun Zoo, Bronx Zoo, Cape May County Zoo, Central Park Zoo, Philadelphia Zoo offers KidZooU quiet spaces and Universal Design Graphics, Turtle Back Zoo.
5. Experience rides & shows at a theme park.
Storybook Land holds a Special Abilities night for Special Needs Families in the Fall. 6415 Black Horse Pike, Egg Harbor Township, NJ, 609.646.0103
Sesame Place in Langhorne PA is the first theme park designated as a Certified Autism Center. Extensive sensory guide of services, rides, & shows. Meet Julia, a sweet 4-year old Muppet with Autism. 215.702-ELMO.
6. Visit an aquarium and see aquatic life.
Pick a time, either early in the day or later in the evening, when crowds are less for a more relaxed experience.
Adventure Aquarium in Camden NJ has accessible viewing areas, sound reducing headphones, weighted blankets, shark shack tour, tactile maps, and sign language interpreters. Upcoming event: F.I.S.H. Night - Family Inclusive Hours April 9, 2022 5:30-8PM allows you to visit in a relaxed setting.
VIA Aquarium in Schenectady, NY has a Sensory Friendly Day on March 22, 2022 @ 11AM - 5PM. Also see Reptile presentations and stingray feedings as well.
7. Visit a museum with special needs accessibility and programs.
Museums are open and welcoming to all in general. 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 can be found throughout the museum. Their Sensory Alert Maps will guide you through certain devices or experiences in each exhibit that may have high levels of stimulation. The guides will give you helpful tips as you explore. Sensory Backpacks will be stocked with helpful tools like noise-reducing headphones, sunglasses, fidgets, and weighted toys to help reduce sensory stimulation while exploring exhibits. Quieter spaces can be found inside the museum. For instance, try exhibits like Amazing Machine or Space. And if you find the museum too overwhelming and need to leave within 30 minutes of purchasing your tickets, please stop by the Box Office to receive a voucher to try again on another day. 215.448.1200
The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC offers Create Ability monthly. Create Ability is 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. This is currently an online program. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Access Programs at (212) 408-6447.
Whitney Museum of American Art in NYC offers “Family Fun: For Families with Kids on the Autism Spectrum” - sensory-friendly gallery activities and a hands-on art-making workshop before the museum opens to the general public. For ages 6+. During this drop-in program, families will explore a current Whitney exhibition and create their own art inspired by works on view. This program occurs every three months for kids ages 6 and up.9:30-11AM. Free but Registration required, 212.570.3600.
Liberty Science Center in Jersey City NJ. Liberty Science Center features experiences for guests of all ages and stages of learning every day. But on Special Needs Days, they offer an entire day of science learning tailored to special needs classes. The program was developed by an advisory team of special education teachers, healthcare professionals, museum staffers, and parents of special needs children. Each Special Needs Day includes live science presentations, activities, and theater shows. Stay tuned for information on our next Special Needs Day event. For more information about Special Needs Days, contact us at 201.253.1310 or email@example.com
Intrepid Museum in NYC. Will be hosting Sensory Friendly Evenings. Citizen Scientists on May 13, 2022 from 5-7pm. Scientists need you! In order to gather data for large-scale projects, scientists are seeking help from people around the world. Explore projects related to sea, air, and space that scientists are asking everyday citizens to contribute to. Registration coming soon!
Montclair Art Museum's Access Program offers private studio instruction for kids, teens and adults of all abilities through live instruction online and on-site in MAM's studio. All are Welcome. Classes are accessible to all artists including people on the autism spectrum, people with physical disabilities, intellectual and learning disabilities, sight loss or hearing loss, chronic illness, or mental illness. MAM is an approved Goods and Services provider through the New Jersey Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) and we provide captioning or ASL upon request. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire about private classes.
8. Enjoy a sensory friendly or autism friendly performance or show.
Check venues for events: Union County Performing Arts Center, BergenPac, Mayo Performing Arts, Paper Mill Playhouse, State Theatre New Jersey, Upcoming shows:
- The Wanderer on April 17, 2022 @ 1:30PM, April 23, 2022 @ 1:30PM and April 24, 2022 @ 7PM at the Paper Mill Playhouse
- Pete The Cat on April 24, 2022 @ 1PM at the Union County PAC
- New Jersey's Ballet Cinderella on May 7, 2022 @ 1PM at the Union County PAC
- The Underwater Bubble Show on April 30, 2022 @ 3PM & 7PM at the Mayo PAC
- Aladdin on May 1, 2022 @ 1PM at the New Amsterdam Theater. NYC
- Sister Act on June 25-26, 2022 @ 1:30PM at the Paper Mill Playhouse
9. Watch a sensory friendly movie at select AMC Theaters.
Enjoy the magic of the movies every month in an environment that’s a little quieter and a little brighter. Getting up to dance, walk, shout and sing is all part of the experience at an AMC Sensory Friendly Film. Sensory Friendly Films are scheduled on the second and fourth Saturday, and the second and fourth Wednesday of every month. Lights are turned up and sound is down. AMC Brick, AMC Clifton, AMC Freehold, AMC Loews Jersey Gardens, AMC Mountainside, AMC New Brunswick, AMC Rockaway, AMC Wayne, AMC West Orange.
AMC's partner for Sensory Friendly Films is a national organization, which exists to improve the lives of all affected by autism. They increase public awareness of autism, advocate for appropriate services and provide the latest information on treatment, education, research and advocacy. Check out their website for what's on view each month.
10. Play and enjoy all-inclusive 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.
11. Jump at an indoor trampoline park.
Many have quieter and toned down jumping experiences.