If you or your child have reduced mobility, but love the thrill of roller coasters and adventures, an accessible amusement park is where one gets to experience the fun. Going into the holiday season we have looked into some of the best theme parks striking a good blend between fun, entertainment and accessibility for wheelchair users and guests with special needs.
The good news is that an increasing number of theme parks change their policies for guests with disabilities. We would love to hear your first-hand experience if you have tried any of the theme parks on our list, or if you have other suggestions. This way we can ensure that we are continually improving our tips - and your holiday experience.
Morgan’s Inspiration Island – San Antonio, Texas
Water parks are notoriously inaccessible for the disabled, but Morgan’s Inspiration Island aims to change all that because it’s the world’s first water park designed specifically for people with disabilities.
“Our goal is to provide a great guest experience in an inclusive, safe, comfortable, not-overly-crowded environment,” says park founder Gordon Hartman, who worked with doctors, parents, teachers, special needs therapists, and caregivers in order to create an extension to Morgan’s Wonderland that caters to people with all varieties of disability.
The venue offers traceable bracelets that allow parents to locate their children, and it also provides PneuChairs, air-powered, waterproof wheelchairs that families can rent for free. Every part of the park is wheelchair-accessible and children with “special needs” can enter the park for free. The park even has the ability to quickly change the heat of the water in order to accommodate guests who are sensitive to the cold!
Morgan’s Inspiration Island promises to give individuals with physical or cognitive special needs a place where they can splash and play without barriers, [It] is not a special-needs park; it’s a park of inclusion.
– Gordon Hartman.
Disneyland in Paris, France
Disneyland Paris was the second Disneyland theme park to open outside the US and was launched in 1992. With all the Disney-themed rides and attractions it’s a must for fans of the films, and it offers several services so as to help guests with disabilities or special needs enjoy every magical Disney moment. All toilets, restaurants, and shops are wheelchair accessible. It’s possible to rent wheelchairs and request a minibus.
Tusenfryd, Oslo, Norway
About 20 km south of Oslo in Vinterbro, this amusement park is set up to welcome visitors with disabilities and a guide to the 31 attractions available shows each level of difficulty, so it’s easy to find out whether each one will suit your kids. The park itself is easy to navigate in a wheelchair.
Dyreparken Kristiansand, Norway
Dyreparken in Kristiansand welcomes everybody to some wonderful days at the Zoo, the Water park and Abra Harbour with the Pirates. Here you can rent el. or manual wheelchairs and carriages. Most activities are accessible for people with disabilities with own wheelchair entrances. Both restaurants, toilets, wardrobes and accommodations have been adapted to facilitate wheelchair users.
Gardaland, by Lake Garda, Italy
Experience the fantastic adventure of Gardaland Resort, Italy’s largest theme park, situated by Lake Garda, in the northern part of the country. The emotions of an incredible Amusement Park, a completely themed Aquarium and a unique adventurous hotel await you. The Gardaland Resort has developed guides for guests with disabilities to help you get the most out of your visit. Check out the guide for guests with mobility limitations here.
For rainy days, or just to assure comfortable and warm water in combination with thrilling attractions, check out the accessible, and also the UK's largest indoor waterpark.
The Sandcastle Waterpark includes rides such as Aztec Falls, where you drop – in complete darkness – from the top of the falls to the revolving gulf of the Aztec Bowl! Looking for something calmer? Head to Typhoon Lagoon, float about and wait for the waves to start.
This is an award-winning Accessible Venue, carefully designed to give all guests an inclusive and great experience. Guests with mobility impairments meet barrier-free and step-free access throughout, well equipped changing rooms including ceiling-track hoist, and water wheelchairs free of charge. Read more in the extensive accessibility information on their website.
Paultons Park, Romsey, United Kingdom
Close to the pretty New Forest area of southern England, Paultons Park has several thrilling rides and a specialty franchise with the character Peppa Pig. The park welcomes visits from guests with disabilities and those in wheelchairs are admitted free, while the majority of the rides, including Peppa Pig World, are fully accessible to disabled guests while the Rio Grande Train and The Victorian Carousel have special carriage accessible to wheelchair users. Special car parking and accessible admission booths complete the welcoming atmosphere.
This classic old faire started in the mid-19th century, and some of that nostalgic magic remains. But of course, the Tivoli has also been modernized and caters well for kids with different needs. You can try the many rides, have lunch or dinner – and if you’re not in the mood for adrenalin, the gardens are beautifully tended. All entrances to Tivoli are open to wheelchair users and guests with limited mobility, and those who use electric wheelchairs can recharge the batteries on-site.
PortAventura, Salou, Spain
This resort is on the Costa Daurada in Spain, near Tarragona, and is the most visited theme park in Spain and the sixth most visited theme park in Europe. It gets the thumbs up from many families, and here you’ll find rides suitable for everyone in the family and all abilities. At PortAventura you can rent wheelchairs and the park’s six theme areas have been adapted over the years so that guests with disabilities can enjoy themselves as much as everyone else.
Liseberg Nöjespark, Gothenburg, Sweden
This park is one of the most visited amusement parks in Scandinavia, noted for its wooden roller coaster Balder. It’s been a long ambition of Liseberg Nöjespark to make the amusement park and its activities accessible to everyone, including special parking and free access for carers, as well as a limited number of available wheelchairs (it’s advisable to pre-book if you want one of these).