Sensory Friendly Philadelphia
If you’re the parent of a child with sensory sensitivities, you know that it can be challenging to find activities and attractions that both you and your little one can enjoy. I live near Philadelphia and we just love it here. There are so many autism friendly places and activities.
You will find a wide variety of fun places to take an autistic child. I’m also including events that cater to the autistic community.
I’ve compiled a list of some of our favorites for you to explore. Whether your child loves animals or wants to learn more about history and culture, there’s something on this list for everyone. So get ready to have some fun!
I love it here. Pennsylvania bred, born, and raised. I have now lived in my current house longer than I have lived any place else. And I don’t think I’ll ever leave. One of the main reasons is the plethora of recreation, education and medical opportunities for my son.
Sensory friendly Philadelphia, it’s one of the best places to live if you are on the spectrum.
I know that this list is not all recreation, but most of it is. You certainly wouldn’t take an outing to a law firm for fun. But those firms helped shape the disability community in Philadelphia, so they deserve to be on the list.
I also recognize that some of them are more than an hour’s drive from here. But, they are reasonably accessible to the people of Philadelphia, so they made the list.
I’m sure that I missed a few places, so don’t be offended if I did!
Sensory and Autism Friendly in Philadelphia
- Academy of Natural Sciences-The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University provides families of children with autism the opportunity to experience the museum in a secure and comfortable environment. The museum provides specific tools and tactics, such as museum stories, to help plan your visit. As you plan your visit to the museum, some of the best times to visit are the afternoons after 1:00 p.m., as the museum is quieter for you and your family. The Academy also offers Access to Science events when the museum is open only for families with children on the spectrum. These are scheduled at different times each year.
- Adventure Aquarium– Changing Attitudes Towards Autism Access (CATAAlysis) is an innovative initiative of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University (ANS), in partnership with the Center for Aquatic Sciences at Adventure Aquarium and Autism Inclusion Resources (AIR). This project includes the development of a set of staff training programs, digital and hands-on resources, and accommodations to help support the inclusion of families with children on the autism spectrum in museum exhibits, programs, and workshops. Also, host sensory-friendly nights. Tickets required.
- Art-Reach– The ACCESS Admission Program allows individuals with a PA ACCESS Card to attend 36 local museums, gardens, and other cultural sites for just $2!
- Battleship New Jersey– Participates in a job training program, hires people with autism.
- Beaches-Not only are we only 90 minutes from ‘downashore’ but many of them loan out beach friendly wheelchairs for free.
- BounceU-Has designated sensory friendly hours at discounted rates.
- Brandywine River Museum-Families with members on the autism spectrum or with sensory processing disorders may check out a free pack to use during visits to Brandywine. Created in conjunction with occupational therapists and local families, these packs are designed to create a welcoming experience and contain social stories, fidgets, noise-canceling headphones, and activity suggestions. To request a pack, inquire at Visitor Services when purchasing admission.
- Crayola Experience– Hosts sensory friendly days. Try using the code “IEP” to get a discount on your tickets.
- Center for Autism Research (CAR) at CHOP– Since becoming a Center of Emphasis in 2008, CAR has made breakthrough discoveries in genetics and brain imaging and is developing and testing new autism interventions, including computer games designed to improve social skills.
- Children’s Hospitals, 3 of them– How lucky are we to live near 3 great children’s hospitals: CHOP, Nemours AI duPont and St. Christopher’s. My son sees specialists at all 3, and all 3 offer amazing care.
Disability Pride Philadelphia-One of the oldest disability pride movements in the country.
- Drexel University- Ranked as one of the Top 25 colleges for students with autism.
- Dorney Park– In conjunction with ASA, offers discounted tickets and special features for park guests with autism.
- Eastern University– Ranked as one of the Top 25 colleges for students with autism.
- Education Law Center– Fighting for FAPE for decades.
- Elmwood Park Zoo-First zoo to earn autism certification.
- Franklin Institute– On Sensory-Friendly Sunday, our exhibits will be modified to provide an opportunity to experience all The Franklin Institute has to offer for people on the autism spectrum and with a range of differing abilities.
- Garden State Discovery Museum– The GSDM has Open Arms evenings for children with disabilities. Held quarterly and free, these evenings give our kids a chance to explore GSDM with less crowds and more accommodations than usual. This is another venue that I have not yet visited, but from emailing back and forth with their staff, I get the feeling that they really want to do the best for all kids and make sure that everyone is included.
- Governor Tom Wolf– Our current governor has committed to reducing the number of adults with disabilities on the waiting list. He also has said that he wants to make PA a model state when it comes to hiring people with disabilities. Vote for him in November 2018.
- Hershey Park– Hersheypark has identified several quiet locations throughout the Park. These locations provide relief from sensory stimulation. The quiet locations are located at Pioneer Frontier Guest Services inside the Family Health & Services Center and Kissing Tower Hill Guest Services. They have other measures in place to increase accessibility, but I could not find a designated autism day.
- IDEA started here– Four years before IDEA became law, we had PARC. Sure, there is lots more work to be done. But based on what I hear from parents in other states, be glad you live here.
- Jeffrey Lurie, owner of Philadelphia Eagles– Need I say more? Video below.
- Kimmel Center– Offers sensory-friendly performances of various traveling Broadway shows.
- Knoebels-Hosts an autism day and a Deaf Day. But please don’t go there. (that will make more sense if you read the post I linked)
- Mayor Jim Kenney– In September 2017, Mayor Jim Kenney signed Executive Order 7-17, officially instating the Mayor’s Office on People with Disabilities (MOPD). The office, housed under the Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI), is meant to establish “a permanent office operating to advance strategic policies and programs,” according to a March press release.
- Me!– I’m going to toot my own horn a bit. I live here. Not in the city, out in the ‘burbs. But I do public speaking at low or no cost, for parent groups.
- Movies– Many theaters in our region host sensory-friendly screenings of movies.
- Mummers- Several of the brigades include Mummers with disabilities.
- National Constitution Center– Sensory-Friendly Sunday dates for 2019 include March 24, June 23, August 25, and December 8. The National Constitution Center is committed to making its facilities, exhibits, programs, and resources accessible for all audiences. In addition to Sensory-Friendly Sundays, the Center offers assistive listening systems, sign language interpretation, large print scripts and braille, wheelchair accessibility, and other adaptions and modifications. Additional information about the Center’s accessibility policy can be found here.
- The PEAL Center– Amazing resources for parents.
- The Pennsylvania Ballet-The Pennsylvania Ballet hosts sensory-friendly performances at low cost to attendees. Tickets required.
- Philadelphia Eagles– Huddle Up for Autism and Eagles Autism Challenge, both held in April/May. Tickets required.
- Philadelphia Flyers-Hosts an Autism Awareness event every April.
- Please Touch Museum-Play Without Boundaries, a program and early opening for children with learning and developmental disabilities and those on the autism spectrum. Enjoy the museum before it is open to the public with activities and experiences designed especially for this program, including sensory toys, performances, and guest presenters.
- Philadelphia Museum of Art-Sensory-Friendly Mornings. These mornings are specially designed for children on the autism spectrum or who have other sensory sensitivities. The lights, volume, and crowds are turned down but not the fun or creativity. Space is limited. To reserve your spot, email AccessProg@philamuseum.org
- Philadelphia Orchestra– “Our aim is to create a safe and accepting environment where children, including those on the autism spectrum and with other developmental disabilities, and their families can experience live music together.” Tickets required.
- Philadelphia Phillies– Awareness/Discount night held in April. Tickets required.
- Philadelphia 76ers– Hosts both an Autism Awareness night game in April and a special basketball clinic for kids on the spectrum. Tickets required.
- Philadelphia Soul– Supports ‘Audible for Autism’ including several events throughout the Soul’s season. Tickets required.
- Philadelphia Zoo– Autism day, held in April. Tickets required. Also has designated sensory friendly and accessible areas for kids.
- Public Interest Law Center-Fighting for our kids’ education rights from the beginning.
- Sahara Sam’s– Special Needs Events at Sahara Sam’s Oasis provide fun, judgment-free evenings for individuals with special needs to enjoy with their family and friends. SEAS events are offered to the community at a significantly reduced rate and are designed with the unique challenges of special needs individuals in mind.
- Sesame Place-First theme park to be designated as a Certifed Autism Center.
- Sky Zone– Has ongoing designated sensory friendly hours.
- Smith Playground– Smith Playground is awesome and FREE all the time. They often have special events.
- St. Joseph’s University-Ranked as one of the Top 25 colleges for students with autism.
- Temple University– While they don’t make any official lists, the services they offer for both students and parents are amazing. They have a strong commitment to people with disabilities.
- Urban Air-Sensory Friendly Jumps: An event specifically designed for children with Autism and special needs to enjoy time at the park without loud music, flashing lights and to have a lot of fun! See calendar for timing and details.
- Vaccine Education Center-The Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia provides complete, up-to-date and reliable information about vaccines to parents and healthcare professionals.
- Vision for Equality v. Franklin Institute– Not throwing shade on the ole FI, but this lawsuit is great for PA citizens with disabilities. Basically what the ruling says is that if you require an aide or nurse on your outings to access a venue, then you should not have to pay for them to enter that venue.
- Wells Fargo Center-Wells Fargo is the first arena in Pennsylvania to receive sensory inclusive certification.
- “We’re HEAR week”– The first one was held in September of 2017. A week-long series of events that will kick off a season of service in support of the Orchestra’s HEAR initiative, a portfolio of programs that promotes Health, champions music Education, enables broad Access to Orchestra performances, and maximizes impact through Research.
- Wilmington Blue Rocks– Holds several Autism Nights in conjunction with Autism Delaware. Tickets required.