Updated: Nov 2, 2022
I have seen so many autistic families start to embrace travel, which makes me so happy! Especially since I believe travel is for everyone. And yet, at the same time, I see these families continue to vacation in the same destination every year. Maybe it is because they found a vacation that worked well for them, and they don’t want to ‘rock the boat’. However, there are so many autism-friendly destinations in North America. Each one offers unique experiences autistic families will love. I would love to help you find an autism-friendly destination for your next family vacation. Contact me today to schedule a time to chat.
Best Autism Friendly Destinations in North America
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Myrtle Beach is one of my favorite autism-friendly destinations in North America. The city has worked hard to become all-inclusive for all families with special needs. When you are taking a vacation in Myrtle Beach, you must make sure you request a CAN (Champion Autism Network) card. I can help you with this, as I am planning your vacation. This card will be helpful when you are visiting attractions and restaurants where overstimulation is possible. Simply showing this card will allow you to skip the line, receive expedited service or private seating, and even curbside check-in at your hotel. A couple of the most autism-friendly attractions in this area include WonderWorks, Savannah’s Playground, and Ripley’s Aquarium of Myrtle Beach.
Valley Forge, Pennsylvania
If your family loves history and spending time outdoors, then a vacation in Valley Forge should be at the top of your list. This autism-friendly destination offers plenty of opportunities for autistic families like yours. I recommend spending time at the Elmwood Zoo Park. This was the very first zoo in the world to be given certified autism status. During your zoo visit, you can choose to feed either the giraffes or the bison. Or you can choose to interact with reptiles, donkeys, chinchillas, sloths, otters, giraffes, or Penny the alligator. Of course, no visit to the zoo is complete without joining in on the fun of the Junior Inspector Program. There is also a playground and percussion garden to enjoy.
Out in California, there are quite a few busy cities. Those aren’t always the best autism-friendly destinations, especially if you are just starting to take vacations. In Visalia, you will find numerous tranquil locations. Two favorites include Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. You can also explore the Sequoia Riverlands Trust properties during your visit. While there are plenty of autism-friendly attractions in Visalia, the Imagine U Children’s Museum is the most popular. There is plenty of space inside and it is filled with hands-on creative activities.
Mesa is another city like Myrtle Beach. The locals have worked hard to make many businesses autism-friendly. Over at OdySea Aquarium, your family can watch a Pal Place video when you arrive. This video will share what your family should expect during your visit. The aquarium also has a quiet room, which is perfect if your autistic child becomes overstimulated. Jake’s Unlimited was one of the first attractions in Mesa to be certified as autism-friendly. Your autistic family will love playing games in the arcade, bowling, going on the rides, and maybe even trying a game of laser tag. The food menu is filled with multiple options, so even the pickiest eater can find something they like.
In Houston, there are a few hotels that offer sensory rooms and suites. I can help book accommodations at one of them, as I am planning your vacation. Your time in this city can be busy and staying in the right place can be helpful when your family needs time to unwind. A couple of must-see attractions in Houston include Children’s Museum Houston and Space Center Houston. They both hold sensory-friendly days and events throughout the year.
Billings is one of the newer cities that offers autism-friendly things to do, as well as accommodations. The businesses in this city are working hard to ensure every visitor feels welcome, even those who need a little extra assistance on occasion. There are so many family-friendly things to do in Billings. I recommend starting with a visit to the Wise Wonders Children’s Museum or Zoo Montana. Depending on your autistic child, you may even be able to add the Yellowstone Art Museum, Reef Indoor Water Park, or a hike along the Phipps Park Trail to your itinerary. And if you are not sure about whether visiting a specific attraction is possible, I can always call to inquire as I am planning your vacation in Billings.
Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland, Canada
Gros Morne National Park is one of the most gorgeous areas in Canada. Exploring this beautiful natural area has long been on many travelers’ bucket lists. However, now autistic families can spend time in this park and get the support they need. Autism-friendly accommodations are now available at this national park. So, now you can enjoy a sensory-friendly experience after a few hours of exploring nature each day. There are plenty of hiking opportunities inside this national park. But your family may also want to take a boat tour of Western Brook Pond and tour the Lobster Cove Lighthouse. Oh, and don’t forget to keep an eye out for moose and the shipwreck at Martin’s Point.
Port-aux-Basques in Newfoundland, Canada
Port-aux-Basques might be considered a small town, but it has grown in leaps and bounds when it comes to being autism-friendly. When you are not relaxing and recharging in your hotel room, your family might be out exploring the Grand Bay West Beach Trailway. Other things to do in Port-aux-Basques include cultural boat tours, visiting the Railway Heritage Centre, and taking the Rose Blanche Lighthouse Scenic Drive.
There are a few family-friendly resorts in Cancun, Mexico that is also autism-friendly. So, you should never think you can’t take a family vacation in paradise when you have a child with autism. There is also plenty of water for swimming in Cancun, whether your family chooses to go to a swimming pool or the Caribbean. You will even find water at the All Ritmo Water Park. Many kids love pirates, so you may want to consider taking a pirate dinner cruise. Other incredible activities to consider include swimming with dolphins, and visiting the Interactive Aquarium, and the Croco Cun Zoo.
Riviera Maya, Mexico
The Riviera Maya is another area of Mexico that is perfect for autistic families who are looking for amazing vacations. Some of the resorts are smaller, but that could be exactly what your autistic child needs for this time away from home. During your time in the Riviera Maya, you may want to spend some of your days at the beach. But there is so much more you can see and do while in this area of Mexico. You can begin with an adventure over at Xplor Park or watch the Cirque du Soleil Joya performance. If your kids love animals, the Akumal Monkey Sanctuarymust be at the top of your list. During your visit, you can meet the rescued animals and even swim in a cenote.
These are some of the best autism-friendly destinations in North America. There are a few others. So, if none of these are checking off all the boxes for your next family vacation, I can share others that might fit your vacation dreams better. Contact me today to set up a planning session and get your next autistic family vacation scheduled.