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 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. Upcoming dates @5PM: Nov 3, 2018, Dec 1, 2018, 118 Lamington Road, Branchburg, NJ, 908.231.8805.

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: Fri, Nov 16, 2018, 6-9PM. 535 North Route 73, West Berlin, NJ, 856.767.7580.

3. Jump at an indoor trampoline park.

Quieter and toned down jumping experience.

Sky Zone Allendale - sensory hours 4th Monday of each month, 4-6PM, 201.574.1800
Sky Zone Mt Olive - sensory hours 3rd Monday of each month, 4-6PM, 973.527.7000
Sky Zone Pine Brook - sensory hours 2nd Monday of each month, 4-6PM, 973.396.4001
Sky Zone Springfield - sensory hours 1st Monday of each month, 4-6PM, inquire 973.671.5100

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.

Rizzo’s Wildlife World offers Special Needs group programs where you can feed, touch, and hold select animals. 1 Gold Mine Rd, Flanders NJ, 973.586.0444.

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. Upcoming themes: Halloween & Christmas, 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 Oct 20, 2018, 6-8PM allows you to visit in a relaxed setting, 844.474.FISH.

Other aquariums: The Maritime Aquarium Norwalk CT, New York Aquarium, Long Island Aquarium

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 Sundays. Exhibits modified for a comfortable environment for all. Special adapted exhibits throughout the museum 8AM-12:30PM - including Your Brain, The Giant Heart, Electricity, Changing Earth, Amazing Machine & Franklin Air Show. Upcoming dates: Oct 28, 2018, Dec 2, 2018, Free Admission if you pre-register, 215.448.1200

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC offers Discoveries Families Programs on select days. Take a Gallery tour plus do an art activity in studio, 212.650.2010.

Free but Reservations required for:
Discoveries Mysterious Creatures for ages 5-17, Oct 21, 2018, 2-3:30PM
Discoveries Mysterious Creatures for ages 18 & Older, Oct 21, 2018, 11AM-12:30PM

Free, No Reservations required for:
Discoveries @30 Exhibition Opening, Nov 18, 2018, 11AM-12:30PM - celebrate 30th anniversary of Discoveries program and view art made by participants.

Free but Reservations required for:
Sights & Sounds at The Met Cloisters - monthly workshop program for children ages 4-17 on the Autism spectrum or with learning disabilities; explore treasures from medieval castles and sacred places.

The Museum of Natural History in NYC offers special needs Discovery Squad Tours for ages 5-14 on select Saturdays. Depending on child’s age, you will take a 40-minute paleontology tour or see dioramas of animals and ocean life, plants, and rocks. Tours for rest of 2018 are at capacity. Upcoming open dates: Jan 19, 2019, Feb 16, 2019, Mar 2, 2019. Reservations required, 212.769.5200.

Whitney Museum of American Art in NYC
offers “Family Fun: For Families with Kids on the Autism Spectrum” - sensory-friendly guided tour and create a hands-on studio activity. Ages 6+, Nov 3, 2018, 9:30-11AM. Free but Registration required, 212.570.3600.

Queens Museum in Flushing Meadows NY
offers Drop-in Family Art Workshops for children with special needs, diverse learners, and those on the autism spectrum. Led by art therapists. Third Sunday of each month. Free with museum admission, 718.592.9700.

Liberty Science Center in Jersey City NJ. Special Needs Day: Dec 4, 2018, Apr 9, 2019, 201.253.1310.

8. Enjoy a sensory friendly or autism friendly performance or show.

Check venues for events: BergenPac, Mayo Performing Arts, Paper Mill Playhouse, State Theatre New Jersey, Union County Performing Arts Center. Upcoming NYC Broadway shows: Frozen Sun Nov 4, 2018, Aladdin Sun Mar 3, 2019.

9. Watch a sensory friendly movie at select AMC Theaters.

Films shown at AMC Theaters on the 2nd and 4th Saturday (family friendly) and Tuesday evenings (mature audiences) 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.

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.