Florida is one of the best places to visit if your family is looking for a little sunshine and a lot of fun. As parents, we want our vacation to be an enjoyable experience for the whole family. So when it comes to planning a vacation as a special needs family, we go the extra mile to make sure there’s a little something for everyone, especially our little people with special needs.
Here are 27 amazing places to visit in Florida that are perfect for special needs families.
1. Walt Disney World
We love Disney for many reasons, but especially because they offer a Disability Access Service card that can be picked up at guest services. This card helps visitors with disabilities by offering shorter wait times and shaded lineup areas. Disney also offers break areas, companion restrooms, and awesome accommodations for guests with food allergies.
Aquatica is a special needs-friendly water park. In fact, it’s the first water park in the world to be designated a Certified Autism Center. Aquatica even offers a Park Sensory Guide to assist special needs families with planning the perfect trip.
3. LEGOLAND Florida
Kids love LEGO, and LEGOLAND loves kids. Using the LEGOLAND Hero Pass, guests with disabilities can board their first ride immediately, with the opportunity to reserve ride times at other attractions later in the day
4. Bright Horizons Diving
Bright Horizons specializes in adaptive scuba diving lessons for people on the autism spectrum or with other disabilities. They offer one-on-one swimming lessons in a calm, supportive environment, and encourage families to get involved too.
5. Alaqua Animal Refuge
Alaqua Animal Refuge is a non-profit animal sanctuary located on a 10-acre farm. They offer guided tours of the farm, which include horses, donkeys, goats, cows, and other animals.
6. Emerald Coast Science Center
The hands-on interactive and educational exhibits make Emerald Coast Science Center a must-visit destination. They offer everything from animal exhibits to robots with the latest technology.
7. Young at Art
Young at Art is a children’s museum that offers Sensory Sunday every second Sunday of the month. These special hours are just for families with autism or other sensory sensitivities and allow them to explore exhibits in a calm environment. Art activities even offer adaptive art tools.
8. Flamingo Gardens
Flamingo Gardens is so much more than just flamingos (although we think flamingos are seriously cool!). This botanical garden and wildlife sanctuary offers butterfly and hummingbird gardens, a black bear habitat, and other exciting wildlife encounters.
9. We Rock the Spectrum
This gym is for kids of all abilities, promoting social interaction and communication in a safe, nurturing, and inclusive environment. They offer open gym times, arts and crafts as well as Mommy and Me creative dance and movement classes.
10. H2Om Float
If you’re looking for a different kind of calming experience for your loved one on the spectrum, try float therapy. The float pools are warmed to body temperature and the added salt allows visitors to float effortlessly. (The pools have only 10 inches of water in them.) The addition of lights and music makes it a relaxing, tranquil experience.
At first glance, Bravoz may seem like your typical trampoline park, with a Ninja warrior course, mini-bowling, laser tag, climbing walls, and an arcade, but it’s the sensory-friendly sessions that set Bravoz apart. With music turned off and distractions dialed down, the facility transforms into an amazingly sensory-friendly environment.
12. Sensory Towne
If you’re looking for open play times, swings, and slides for kids and caregivers alike, check out Sensory Towne in Jacksonville. They also offer art classes, dance classes, and kids’ yoga.
Therapeutic sailing, swimming, and kayaking are just some of the amazing activities offered by Shake-A-Leg. This not-for-profit works with children and adults with physical and developmental challenges.
14. Island Dolphin Care
Island Dolphin Care offers dolphin therapy programs for children with special needs and their families. Whether you’re looking for a session in the water or from land, they have a session to meet your family’s needs.
15. Autism on the Seas
Autism on the Seas offers staff-assisted cruises for special needs families. They accommodate numerous special needs including autism, Asperger syndrome, Tourette syndrome, cerebral palsy, and many other developmental disabilities.
16. National Naval Aviation Museum
National Naval Aviation Museum offers more than 250 restored aircraft from World War I to present day. You can take pictures in the cockpits and check out all the historic memorabilia or enjoy the Kitty Hawk playground and onsite cafe.
17. Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park
This amazing marine adventure park has plenty of marine life, offers lots of shade for those with special needs, and encourages guests with special diets or food allergies to bring their own food.
18. Sam’s Surf City
Sometimes you just need a lazy day at the pool, or perhaps on the lazy river. Sam’s Surf City boasts a 750-foot endless river, seven pools, and 12 large water slides, for those days you’re looking to make a splash.
19. Dinosaur World
Experience hundreds of life-sized dinosaurs at this laid-back family park. Food allergies and special diets aren’t an issue at Dinosaur World because you can bring your own cooler. Massive oak trees offer plenty of shade between exhibits. There’s also a dinosaur-themed playground.
20. Great Explorations Children’s Museum
Staff members at Great Explorations receive special training to increase awareness of the needs of visitors on the autism spectrum. They offer a program once a month for children with special needs and their families.
This zoo goes above and beyond to make sure visitors on the spectrum have an enjoyable experience. They offer visual aids at the front gate that can be borrowed during your visit, and an autism-friendly version of their zoo map, which includes sensory-friendly tips for planning your visit.
22. Tradewinds Island Resort
If you’re looking for a special-needs resort, Tradewinds Island Resort is the place for your family. All the fun of the beach but with resort staff who are specially trained to meet the needs of your family. From in-room safety kits to gluten-free menu options, they’re sensitive to the needs of each guest.
23. Fort De Soto Park
Fort De Soto Park offers beautiful beaches, amazing cuisine, and a rich history. Enjoy a day on the nature trails or rent a couple of canoes and take in all the islands have to offer.
24. LOCALE Market
If your family enjoys food, LOCALE Market is a great option. With an amazing array of dining choices and even better conversation, you won’t be disappointed.
25. Lighthouse Point Park
Lighthouse Point Park , on 52 acres in Central Florida, features fishing, nature trails, an observation deck and tower, swimming, and pavilions. There’s plenty of wildlife to be seen along the trails, including tortoises, armadillos, and in the water nearby, even dolphins!
26. Marine Science Center
If you’re in the market for a hands-on experience, Marine Science Center is a child-friendly aquatic museum with a stingray touch pool and living reef aquarium. And who doesn’t want to touch a stingray?
27. Daytona International Speedway
If your family has a need for speed, Daytona International Speedway will get you going. The track offers 30-minute tours that are perfect for families.
Now that you have a few options, where are you heading? Maybe you should just give this list to the kids and let them decide. No matter where your family decides to go, everyone is sure to have an amazing time on your next getaway to Florida!
VISIT FLORIDA is Florida’s official tourism corporation, serving as the official source for travel planning to visitors across the globe. Check out the VISIT FLORIDA website to learn more and start planning the vacation your family will be talking about for years to come.