Accessible Travel Destinations
As the summer begins, and we look at a busy season of special needs travel travel, I fondly looked back to some of our favorite places around the United States. We have been fortunate enough to have traveled widely and done so many interesting, and accessible, activities while on the road that it was hard to narrow it down! I thought I would share with you some of my favorite places in hopes that it might spark your wanderlust, too!
Coeur D'Alene, Idaho - Just 30 minutes east of Spokane is the lovely Lake Coeur D'Alene, which is surrounded by 55 other lakes that were carved out of the earth by ice age glaciers. Spectacular sunsets make the water glisten, and the town is filled with lovely shops, restaurants, and inns. It is easy to get around, too. We went there for the water sports, spending our time boating and kayaking. Fishermen will love the area! Special Needs Recreation is a great resource if you are looking for accessible activities and adaptive sporting in the area: http://www.motleyelectric.com/SNR/SNR.htm
Epcot Theme Park - Orlando, FL - Of course, we love all of the Disney Theme Parks, but we found Epcot to be the most enjoyable, from an accessibility standpoint. We were able to enjoy the great variety of cuisine, films, and rides in the eleven countries of the World Showcase. Future World exhibits were easy to navigate, educational, and a lot of fun! Disney World Resorts is first-class when it comes to wheel chair accessibility, so you will have no issues at any of their parks. For more information on access, check out: http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/plain-text/#/EPCOT
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum - Tucson, AZ - I can still remember the hummingbirds coming nose-to-nose with my daughter, Kelsey, when we visited this lovely zoo, natural history museum and botanical garden. We were able to see a variety of displays of animals and plants native to the desert quite easily. It does get hot, so bring lots of water and sunscreen, as the majority of this museum is outdoors. They do have wheelchairs available on loan, and scooters for rent. You can get more information about the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum at: http://www.desertmuseum.org/
Liberty Bell - Philadelphia, PA -- Independence National Park is comprised of the Liberty Bell Center, Independence Hall, and Independence Visitors Center, all in the heart of Philadelphia. We were amazed at how close we actually got to the Liberty Bell! Parking is available at the Independence Visitors Center, although we did find convenient street parking on the weekend. Rangers provide free tours that provide visitors with a wealth of information about the founding of our country and our constitution. Tickets are required most of the year, so check out http://www.nps.gov/inde/index.htm before you go!
Circle Line Cruise - New York City, NY - See the sights while touring the Hudson and East Rivers that surround Manhattan on the Circle Line Cruise. We were able to see many of famous New York buildings, bridges, Yankee Stadium, and the Statue of Liberty, all from the comfort of our cruise deck. If you are driving down to Pier 83, parking will be expensive, but fairly convenient. Otherwise, public transportation does drop you off right in front, and we found it to be very special needs accessible! Entrances and the decks were accessible, but we did not find there to be an accessible bathroom, so go before you cruise. There are sightseeing cruises of varying lengths, so you can pick one that suits you best! For more information, go to: http://www.circleline42.com/new-york-cruises.aspx
The Pier at Clearwater Beach, FL - Daytime fishing on the pier turns to a nighttime of entertainment at the Pier at Clearwater Beach, FL. Be entertained by flame eaters, animal trainers, and a variety of other odd acts, while taking in the vendors that line the pier every night from 6 - 10 p.m. You may even get the chance to get a picture of yourself with a parrot on your shoulder, like we did! There are a variety of restaurants in the area, but be forewarned, parking can be tricky. Here is some more information on this very entertaining venue: http://www.florida-beach-lifestyle.com/clearwater-beach-access.html
Lincoln Park Zoo -- Chicago, IL -- Lincoln Park Zoo is located just off the lakefront a few miles north of downtown Chicago. It is a haven for animal lovers with over 16 different habitats for everything from birds of prey to lions, tigers, and bears, oh my! Be sure to visit the Children's Zoo and get up close and personal with the zoo's newest inhabitants. Our favorite exhibit is the Spider Monkey cage that is in the center of the zoo. We've spent hours watching the monkeys and their antics! The zoo is extremely accessible, and better yet, it's FREE! There is free disabled parking on the west side of the zoo, on Stockton Blvd., but it fills up very quickly, especially on weekends. A paid lot is easily accessible, as well. For more accessibility information visit: http://www.lpzoo.org/plan-your-visit/accessibility-information
Discovery Cove - Orlando, FL - If you've ever wanted to swim with the dolphins, Discovery Cove is the place to go in Central Florida! The park is a wonderland of aviaries, lagoons, beaches, and a variety of areas to swim with stingrays, tropical fish, or lounge around. The Dolphin Discovery program is fantastic! Even better, the park limits visitors to 1,000 per day, so you will never feel like you are fighting for space with a ton of people. Park accessibility is excellent, with beach wheelchairs and assistance everywhere. We had no issue getting around the park, using the facilities, dining, etc., and Kelsey got to enjoy all of the activities. Although the entrance fee may seem steep, it also includes multiple day passes to Sea World, Aquatica, and Busch Gardens, so if you are planning to go to either of these parks, it may be well worth the price. If you would like more information, go to: http://www.discoverycove.com/Plan/ParkInfo.aspx
Broadway - New York City, NY - Broadway theaters may be historic, but many have done a great job of providing access to those with disabilities. They strive to include people of all disabilities to their shows and provide many services to assist. If you have a documented disability, you may qualify for discounts on tickets for you and your companion through the Theater Development Fund. Check out http://www.tdf.org/TDF_ServicePage.aspx?id=71 for more information.
National Sports Center for the Disabled, Winter Park, CO -- We've had a blast skiing the slopes in Winter Park with the NSCD. However, they also have a wealth of recreational activities in the summer, as well! Whether it's horseback riding, camping, rafting, golf, or sailing, you can find a ton of things to do in this beautiful setting. If you'd like more information on NSCD, go to their website at: http://www.nscd.org/programs/summerbrochure.htm.
There are so many, many more opportunities to enjoy the summer, no matter what your abilities and interests are. I look forward to bringing you many more, as we hit the road this summer, visiting Maui, Colorado, Michigan, and Texas. If you know of any places that would be interesting to others, please write a travel story and share it with us!