If your child with additional needs is a thrill seeker, an accessible amusement park is a great way to experience a fun day out with the whole family. Heading into the summer holidays we have looked into some of the best theme parks and days out in the UK which strike a good balance between fun, entertainment and accessibility for wheelchair users and visitors with additional needs.
10 days out for kids with disabilities:
- Thorpe Park Resort, Surrey
- Sandcastle Waterpark, Blackpool
- The Blackpool Tower Circus, Blackpool
- Longleat Safari Park, Wiltshire
- Cadbury World, Birmingham
- The Wave Project, Devon
- Yorkshire Wildlife Park, Doncaster
- Lake District Calvert Trust, Cumbria
- Thames Valley Adventure Playground, Berkshire
- Chill Factore, Manchester
An increasing number of amusement parks in the UK have accessibility policies for visitors with disabilities. We would love to hear your first-hand experience if you have visited any of the places on our list, or if you have other suggestions.
1. Thorpe Park Resort, Surrey
Home to thrilling rides, attractions, live events & themed hotel, Thorpe Park Resort is the ultimate destination for a family day out. Their Guest Experience team will help create a personalised Accessibility Day Planner where individual needs are met. This includes their Ride Access Pass, a system they have in place to help guests who require extra assistance or are unable to queue due to a condition or disability. This allows access to rides and attractions via a virtual queuing system for the person and up to three assistants. Guests with a disability are entitled to a free carer ticket and a second carer ticket at half the day price of a standard Theme Park ticket.
Changing places facilities are available, and include a hoist, adult changing bed, height adjustable sink, shower and toilet as well as plenty of floor space to allow room for two assistants. The park offers accessible parking and several other services. Start planning your visit by visiting their Accessibility web page here.
2. Sandcastle Waterpark, Blackpool
Great for those rainy ‘summer’ days, or just to assure comfortable and warm water in combination with thrilling attractions, check out the UK's largest indoor waterpark.
Sandcastle is an award-winning Accessible Venue, carefully designed to give all guests an inclusive and great experience. Visitors with mobility issues meet barrier-free and step-free access throughout, well equipped changing rooms including ceiling-track hoist, and water wheelchairs are available free of charge. Read more in the extensive accessibility information on their website.
3. The Blackpool Tower Circus, Blackpool
While you’re in Blackpool, why not stop by the famous Blackpool Tower. No other show has the rich heritage that The Blackpool Tower Circus possesses. Delivering incredible stunts with belly laughs aplenty, meet legendary clowns Mooky and Mr Boo, and experience first-hand the show’s latest spectacle: the terrifying yet thrilling ‘Wheel of Death'.
The Blackpool tower team pride themselves on making every effort to ensure all of their attractions are accessible for all guests, with lift access and seating available with step-free access, although arriving early is recommended as they are unable to allocate seating.
Find out more on their accessibility page here.
4. Longleat Safari Park, Wiltshire
Longleat is the UK’s number 1 safari park, based in the Wiltshire countryside, and is a realm waiting to be explored. Discover various species of animal from around the world at Longleat including lions, tigers, wolves, koalas, red panda and sea lions as you travel by road, rail, waterway and foot.
Their ‘Queue Assist Scheme’ is designed to allow eligible guests to access some of the Longleat attractions with greater ease. Though the scheme will not reduce the waiting time for these attractions, it enables eligible guests to forgo waiting in the queue line and to access the ride via alternative means at a designated time.
Accessible toilets and changing facilities can be accessed with a radar key at various points throughout the park, and hearing Loops are installed on all Longleat safari buses.
More information can be given by the guest services team or by visiting their accessibility page here.
5. Cadbury World, Birmingham
Uncover a world of chocolate delights and enjoy a fascinating, fun-packed day out at Cadbury World!
Discover the origins of the cocoa bean amidst trees and waterfalls in the Aztec Jungle, before jumping on board the magical Cadabra ride and visiting the 4D Chocolate Adventure zone. You'll play in chocolate rain and add your favourite treat to a delicious pot of warm liquid Cadbury Dairy Milk.
A visit to Cadbury World is not a factory tour. Instead, you'll discover the history, the making and the magic of Cadbury confectionery as you journey through the delicious chocolatey zones.
As well as Changing Places facilities, level access, hearing loops, and display information in audio, large print and BSL formats, there are also wheelchair spaces and non-moving chair spaces in the 4D cinema attractions.
There is an abundance of information on all things accessibility at Cadbury World here.
6. The Wave Project, Devon
The Wave Project strives to be totally inclusive and make surfing as accessible as possible to all young people, whatever their level of ability. Their expert staff have developed the necessary skills, training and specialist equipment to deliver safe and enjoyable surf sessions from their Adaptive Surfing Hub in Croyde, North Devon.
Sessions are delivered by experienced, International Surf Association-accredited Adaptive Surfing coaches, alongside a team of committed, enthusiastic and trained volunteers. All of the Wave Project volunteers have completed our one-day Adaptive Surfing Volunteer Award training, which has been endorsed by Surfing England, and written with input from Activity Alliance, the leading voice for people with disabilities in sport and activity.
Find out more here.
7. Yorkshire Wildlife Park, Doncaster
With around 475 animals including over 60 different species, Yorkshire Wildlife Park is a fantastic place to experience a truly breathtaking walk-through wildlife adventure! Most animals you will discover at the park are endangered or threatened in the wild.
All pathways throughout the park are accessible to wheelchair users, with plenty of seating and rest areas as well as wheelchair wash stations. The team have worked where possible to design animal enclosures so that all animals can be seen without looking through fences. For safety purposes the stand-off barriers are a minimum 1,100mm in height, with mesh panel infills to allow for visibility. Changing places facilities are also available, and assistance dogs are welcome throughout the park, except in animal walkthrough areas.
More information can be found on their website here.
8. Lake District Calvert Trust, Cumbria
A registered charity, for over 40 years, the Lake District Calvert Trust has been welcoming guests with disabilities to their dedicated centre, so that everyone can enjoy the benefits of outdoor activities in a safe and accessible, yet challenging environment. Although part of the Calvert Trust family, with other centres in Exmoor and Kielder, the centre in the Lake District was the first to open and retains a unique feel and approach.
Set in a stunning location overlooking Bassenthwaite Lake, they offer lots of outdoor activities, including Zip wire, wheelchair challenge course, canoeing, hand biking, trapeze, sailing, horse riding and more!
All facilities are designed to allow inclusivity for visitors with any level of disability, and they offer weekend, midweek and full week breaks for families.
Find out more on their website.
9. Thames Valley Adventure Playground, Berkshire
Run by a charity who supports children and adults with all types of special needs, however mild or profound, as well as their siblings and parents and carers.
The specialist indoor and outdoor play, recreational, sensory and learning facilities at TVAP are available to all children, teenagers and adults, whether they have a physical or learning disability, a sensory impairment, behavioural difficulties or autism, or whether they are socially disadvantaged or unable to make meaningful use of alternative mainstream provision.
TVAP is open throughout the year, and advance booking is essential for all sessions.
10. Chill Factor, Manchester
What says summer fun more than real snow – and lots of it? Chill Factor is the longest indoor real snow slope in the UK, based near the Trafford Centre in Manchester. From sledging and sliding to ski lessons and private tuition, Chill Factor have got something for everyone.
The Chill Factor team are dedicated to providing a high level of service to all guests, and aim to treat each guest as an individual and work with them to meet their specific requirements.
Chill Factor is home to Disability Snowsport UK, a nationwide registered charity providing adaptive skiing for individuals with any disability, including physical, sensory and learning disabilities. By using adaptive equipment and specialist instruction and support they are able to cater for even those with very limited mobility. Changing Places are available with ceiling track hoist facilities.
Find out more about experiences available on the Disability SnowSport UK website.
The author worked as Head of Marketing for Made for Movement for 7 years before she pursued other adventures in her own company. Trine Roald has over 20 years of international experience within a variety of industries. As Head of Marketing for Made for Movement she was passionate about communicating stories and know-how featuring possibilities for improving the quality of life among people with severe disabilities.
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