From gravity-defying drops to dizzying loop de loops, the thrill of going to an amusement park is synonymous with summer, and many places are making sure families of children with special needs can join in the fun. Here’s a park-by-park breakdown of various policies that can help you plan a successful trip.
Santa Claus, Indiana
This southern Indiana amusement and waterpark is known for embracing children with special needs and their families. Each May, the park offers discounted admission to 2,500 children with special needs for Play Day, a partnership with Easter Seals Rehabilitation Center in Evansville.
Play Day 2016 will take place May 11 and is open to school-affiliated groups only, high school and younger. Teachers who would like to be on the list to receive information should contact Kandace Encarnacion at [email protected] or (812) 437-2609.
The rest of the season, the Holiday World Ride Boarding Pass program allows individuals who are unable to wait in ride lines the option to check in and return later to ride, waiting the same time as other riders, but outside of the actual line. The passes also include up to three guests. Stop by In-Park Services inside the front gate to request a pass. The park also has a detailed Accessibility Guide on its website.
Mason, Ohio and Sandusky, Ohio
Owned by the same company, Kings Island and Cedar Point both have a Boarding Pass Program, which enables those who are unable to wait in ride lines and up three guests to check in and return later to ride, entering via Alternate Access Entrances (usually the ride’s exit) to avoid the crowds. At Kings Island, a Boarding Pass can be requested at Guest Services at the front gate. At Cedar Point, visit Guest Services at the front gate or Town Hall. The parks each have a thorough Guest Assistance Guide.
This Louisville park offers an Attraction Boarding Pass for those who are unable to wait in ride lines, along with up to three guests. Passes can be requested at Guest Services at the front gate, and families may be required to confirm in writing that the individual requesting the pass needs the accommodation. After receiving a pass, families can go to the exit of any accessible attraction, hold up the pass and wait for the ride operator to tell them how to board the ride. Wait times may be assigned for five of the park’s major attractions. For those with sensory sensitivities, the park offers a quiet resting space for up to two people at the Health Services building in the Carousel Courtyard.
This park is the closest Six Flags to Indy, located just outside Chicago, and features an Attraction Access Program allowing those who are unable to wait in ride lines and up to three guests to check in and return later to ride, entering through an alternative entrance. If you haven’t requested this pass at a Six Flags park before, you will need to bring a doctor’s note stating that the person has a disability that prevents them from waiting in a standard ride line. The note, which should not describe or indicate the nature of the disability, should be provided to the Ride Information Center, just inside the front gate when picking up the pass. For more on these requirements, see Six Flag’s Safety and Accessibility Guide
To make the most of your amusement park experience, plan to visit at less busy times, like on a weekday early in the season. It’s a good idea as well to map out your family’s route in advance taking into consideration ride wait times, show times and park food options. Also, be sure to pack plenty of the essentials like water bottles, sunscreen, a change of clothes and any special items that may be helpful, like noise-canceling headphones for kids with sensory sensitivities.
About Maggie: Maggie Loiselle spent 10 years as a writer, producer and web editor in television news before making the switch to freelance writing in order to stay home with her young son. She is a Michigan native and a graduate of Butler University. Maggie lives in downtown Indianapolis with her husband and son.