These 6 amazing autism-friendly family spots are well worth the trip

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  • Published on April 3, 2023
  • Last Updated June 8, 2023
  • In Passport

These six locations are some of the best for the whole family if you're considering organizing an outing or vacation that is autism friendly.

Here at Detour, we believe everyone deserves outings and vacations that are exciting and memorable for all. In recognition of Autism Awareness Month, we are recognizing destinations and attractions around the globe that have taken steps to ensure that their facilities are accessible to people with autism.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, autism affects one in every 36 children in the United States. Every year, additional attractions join the rising number of locations that are committed to making sure all visitors’ needs are accommodated so they feel welcomed and taken care of, and, most importantly, can have great times.

The International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards, an organization that focuses on autism and cognitive differences, collaborates with these locations to achieve this. IBCCES has created a comprehensive certification program for cities, zoos, restaurants, theme parks, hotels, museums, and similar tourist destinations that are committed to serving people with autism. This program is alongside medical care and public safety training.

Organizing a trip for the near future? Here are six places that are welcoming to those with autism.

Peppa Pig Theme Park

Cypress Gardens, Florida

As an IBCCES Certified Autism Center, Peppa Pig Theme Park opened its doors in February 2022 beside Legoland Florida Resort.

Peppa Pig Theme Park offers a comprehensive sensory guide on its website, sensory signage at each attraction, a skip-the-line pass for visitors with special needs, staff training on sensory awareness, and ongoing education on the needs of guests on the autism spectrum. There are also areas created specifically for people on the autism spectrum, such as an indoor theater where episodes of “Peppa Pig” are screened in a quiet, dark environment with plush floor cushions.

Visalia, California

The Visit Visalia tourism board, neighborhood hotels, and tourist attractions worked together for a full year to achieve the Certified Autism Destinations designation for Visalia, California, in December 2022.

You can find an up-to-date directory of Certified Autism Centers in Visalia on their website, complete with information on the training of staff, special accommodations, and amenities like sensory guides, quiet spaces, and exclusive low-sensory events that are necessary to earn this designation.

In addition, the city takes part in the “Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Program,” through which tourists receive a free lanyard featuring a sunflower design. This notifies the area’s hotels, restaurants, and attractions that additional assistance may be required.

Sesame Place

Langhorne, Pennsylvania (30 minute drive outside of Philadelphia)

IBCCES and Sesame Place have collaborated to make Sesame Place the first theme park in the world to be designated as a Certified Autism Center (CAC). They offer specialized services to visitors with autism and other special needs in order to give every family a pleasant and lasting visit.

Visitors to Sesame Place can meet Julia, an autistic resident of Sesame Street, in addition to receiving the necessary training and sensory awareness manuals. Since 2017, Julia has played a significant role in the “Sesame Street” television series.

Seaworld Orlando/Sesame Street Land

With the help of the IBCCES, Sesame Street Land at SeaWorld Orlando has also been recognized as a Certified Autism Center (CAC). It’s a lot like Sesame Place in that they cater to families with children who have autism and other special needs.

Because of the park’s crowds and intensity, visitors who require a more tranquil setting are recommended to head to the area between Dolphin Cove and Turtle Trek.

They also provide a quiet room for visitors who require some peace and quiet or a break from sensory stimulation. The room has amenities and cozy seating for visitors in need of a rest period and is situated inside the child care facility in Sesame Street Land at SeaWorld Orlando. The use of a quiet room is available to visitors on a first-come, first-served basis.

Sesame Workshop established Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children, a national program geared toward families with kids between the ages of two and five. This program gives families strategies for overcoming typical obstacles, streamlining daily tasks, and strengthening bonds with loved ones, friends, and the community.

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Apart from being among one of the top destinations for families, Myrtle Beach is also one of the few cities in the nation to be autism-friendly. In an effort to help visiting families with special needs, the city has been collaborating with nearby restaurants and attractions since 2018.

The CAN Card is one of Myrtle Beach’s distinctive features (short for Champion Autism Network). One of these cards, which serves as a no-questions-asked pass for families in locations where overstimulation may be a problem, is available for travelers to request at the Myrtle Beach Welcome Center. Using the CAN Card, families can check-in curbside at hotels, get private seating or expedited service at restaurants, and skip the line at crowded attractions.

Beaches Resorts

Jamaica/Turks and Caicos

Three family-friendly all-inclusive resorts owned by Beaches are located in Negril and Ocho Rios, Jamaica, and the Turks and Caicos Islands, respectively. These resorts strive to cater to a wide range of visitors, including those with autism.

These resorts are all Advanced Certified Autism Centers, and IBCCES has provided staff with specialized training. The Beaches resorts also provide sensory guides who detail the sensory stimulation levels for the various amenities and activities at these resorts, including those led by well-known Sesame Street characters. Each property also provides kids camps, personalized dining options, sensory-friendly areas, and sensory-friendly areas.

For an additional fee, The Points Guy notes that guests of Beaches resorts can take advantage of the resort’s “Beaches Buddies” or hire a “Fast Track Arrival & Departure Service,” to provide personalized assistance to them and their loved ones throughout their entire stay.

These six destinations have made significant efforts to accommodate visitors on the autism spectrum. Visit the IBCCES’s online autism travel directory for a complete list of approved establishments.

Evie Blanco is a journalist with nearly a decade of experience who was born in the Dominican Republic and raised in Queens, New York. She is extremely well-versed in hip-hop music and culture and is always aware of any developments within it. Whether it’s the latest in pop culture, a fascinating foreign destination, a truly amazing new restaurant, or breaking news, she loves to write about it all.


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