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Accessible Travel for Families

Feb. 7, 2019

Anyone can fulfill their travel dreams in California, including families with kids who have special needs. From wheelchair accessible parks, to water activities like kayaking and scuba diving, to dream playgrounds, we’ve rounded up the places that provide special accommodations, so you can travel comfortably through the golden state with your entire family.

Gorgeous & Accessible Views

    • Travelers in Visalia can ride the Sequoia Shuttle to see Sequoia National Park and the world’s largest and most famous tree, General Sherman; it was last measured at 275 feet tall, and over 36 feet in diameter at the base. Each 16-passenger shuttle is wheelchair accessible, features comfortable seats, luggage space, and an informative video during the trip.
    • San Diego features some of the best beaches in the golden state and to ensure that all visitors can enjoy the sun, surf and sand, San Diego offers free manual or power beach wheelchairs (a hybrid of the common power wheelchair and dune buggies) at nine popular beaches for travelers with disabilities or limited mobility.
    • One of the most highly recommended places to visit while in the southern part of Siskiyou County are the McCloud River Falls with 3 waterfalls that each have their own distinctive personality. Each of the trails to the falls is relatively flat and wheelchair accessible.

Water Activities That Are Available to All

    • The Monterey Bay Aquarium offers a free summer program for kids ages 8 to 14, with varying disabilities and special needs, that gives them the chance to experience a 90-minute surface scuba experience. The participants put on modified scuba gear and with the aid of certified dive staff, they encounter sea creatures while exploring the aquarium’s Great Tide Pool.
    • In the Central Coast, Santa Barbara Adventure Company has kayaking lessons suitable for everyone, accommodating children and adults with mental or physical disabilities. They offer custom private tours and guides are knowledgeable of adaptive paddling techniques and can handle kayak paddling if guests are unable to paddle themselves, ensuring everyone has a great and safe time.
    • In Mono County, anglers can spend an action-packed day reeling in fish after fish from ADA-accessible fishing platforms available at Convict Lake, on the West Walker River and Mountain Gate Park.

Art & Music for Everyone

    • In Costa Mesa, programming at the Segerstrom Center includes sensory friendly performances as well as specialized classes for those with disabilities. They also accommodate every show with wheelchair accessibility, assistive listening devices, large print programs, binoculars, open captioning, ASL interpretation and audio description, so everyone can enjoy the arts.
    • Don’t miss the amazing artists headlining Coachella this year. This festival is fully navigable for people with mobility disabilities as there are elevated platforms for ADA attendees who may need to see above the crowd. Sign language interpreters are available for select performances, and requests for closed captioning, braille/large font print, guided tours or other forms of assistance are available as well.

Dream Playgrounds 

    • Concord is home to Matteo’s Dream, a massive playground for children of all abilities. Liz and Rene Henderson’s son Matteo inspired this park and the goal was to create a space that Matteo, blind and in a wheelchair from Cerebral Palsy, could enjoy. The designer visited schools and special needs groups to ask what makes a “Dream Playground” and the result was a meaningful playground that brings joy to all children and parents.
    • Torrance is home to California’s first universally-accessible tree house in a public space, the Annenberg Tree House at Wilson Park. The tree house, a 2,500 square foot wooden structure, is designed to give children and adults of all ages and physical abilities an awe-inspiring experience — and a bird’s eye view of Torrance.
    • My Play Club is offered at the universally accessible playground at Fairmount Park in downtown Riverside. They encourage socialization between children with and without special needs and their families in a recreational, therapeutic, dignified and safe environment. Join hundreds of children throughout the year in arts & crafts, interactive games, face painting and much more.

Theme Parks

    • Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park takes pride in accommodating guests with disabilities. All pathways, buildings and rides throughout the park are wheelchair accessible and a special boarding pass program allows guests with limited mobility to enter rides through the exit ramp to avoid crowds and prolonged waits.
    • The world’s happiest place on earth is in Anaheim and they make sure every guest’s experience is magical. Disneyland Park offers various accommodations for guests with mobility, visual and hearing disabilities, and service dogs are allowed at the park to accompany their owners making their day extra special.
    • Universal Studios Hollywood prides itself on providing complete and convenient access for all their guests with disabilities. Many attractions and structures are designed to comfortably accommodate guests in wheelchairs. For guests with hearing impairments, assistive listening devices and sign language interpreting services are also available free of charge.
    • At SeaWorld in San Diego, they have two programs in place to assist guests with disabilities. The Ride Accessibility Program (RAP) matches the individual abilities of guests to the requirements of each ride. When enrolled in RAP, guests will be able to participate in the Special Access Program which assists guests in enjoying attractions throughout the park as some queue lines are not accessible to mobility-impaired guests.
    • Six Flags Magic Mountain has an Attraction Access Program that makes the park accessible to all. Six Flags strives to make sure that the experience is fun and available to everyone and lots of guests with disabilities enjoy the park every day.