New York State is home to thousands of incredible attractions that satisfy any interest, many of which have accessibility features for visitors with disabilities, including programs specifically designed for travelers who are autistic or have developmental disabilities. A number of cultural institutions are also offering live and taped accessible virtual events led by trained educators.

Remember to social distance and wear a mask as required by state guidelines. Call ahead and check websites and social media to make sure attractions are open and available. 

Updated 04/01/22

Hudson Valley | Greater Niagara | New York CityCatskills | Finger Lakes | Capital-Saratoga | Central New York | Adirondacks

Hudson Valley
 

ThinkDIFFERENTLY in Dutchess County

Walkway Over The Hudson - Photo Courtesy of Beautiful Destinations

Thanks to a local initiative called ThinkDIFFERENTLY, Dutchess County was officially designated as the first Autism Supportive County in New York State by The Anderson Center for Autism. With dozens of sensory-friendly attractions, events, and businesses, such as the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum and Walkway Over the Hudson (pictured), which have provided employees with special training to help welcome autistic visitors, Dutchess County is one of the best destinations in the world for autistic travelers and their families. In fact, the adorable village of Rhinebeck alone boasts 60 places to stay, visit, shop, and eat that have been deemed Autism Supportive Environments by the Anderson Center! 

Greater Niagara
 

Autism Nature Trail at Letchworth State Park

Letchworth Autism Nature Trail_log stump steps@NYSParks
The #1 state park in the country is now more accessible than ever thanks to a brand new Autism Nature Trail that was designed with the sensory needs of the autistic community in mind. This mile-long hiking loop, created with input from famed advocate and designer Dr. Temple Grandin, includes eight marked sensory stations, each of which addresses a different sensory experience in a safe and supportive environment. Visitors to this part of the “Grand Canyon of the East” will be able to engage with a variety of nature-inspired musical instruments, hang out in cuddle swings, follow a gentle maze to a viewing platform, and much more!

Au-Some Aquarium at the Aquarium of Niagara

Aquarium of Niagara

Every day at the Aquarium of Niagara is pretty great, but on select days, the aquarium gets a little more “Au-Some” during special sensory-friendly themed evenings. Visitors with autism and their families can expect to be wowed by a sea lion show, engaged with sensory and art activities, get their hands wet at a touch tank, and enjoy gluten-free snacks. The first sensory evening is on April 15 from 6 - 8 pm.

Au-Some Evenings at Explore & More—The Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Children’s Museum

Exterior of Explore & More Buffalo Children's Museum

Explore & More at Canalside Buffalo offers creative play and learning that’s as one-of-a-kind as every child who walks through the doors. On select days, the museum hosts Au-Some Evenings, which provide kids with autism and developmental disabilities an opportunity to play and learn together with family and friends in a sensory-friendly environment. Featured activities, including a music center, therapy dogs, art projects, and gross motor activities, augment calming sensory-friendly spaces throughout the museum. Quiet kits are also available.

Artpark Percussion Garden

Colorful pyramid amid the artpark percussion garden in front of a green field surrounded by trees on a semi cloudy day
Credit: Brian Nacov

You’ll find several outdoor sculpture gardens around New York State, but only at Artpark Percussion Garden located on the grounds of the Artpark performance venue will you find installations that feature sculpture art that doubles as musical instruments that anyone can play. One installation titled “Artpark Bridges Garden” is a colorfully painted pyramid created in a collaborative effort with participants from Artpark Bridges, a program that empowers people from diverse backgrounds and developmental abilities through the arts.

New York City
 

Autism Theatre Initiative on Broadway

A photo of Broadway and Broadway billboards in NYC

Thanks to the Theatre Development Fund, several Broadway musicals and plays offer sensory-friendly performances. During these performances, theater lights are dimmed instead of being turned off and productions are altered to remove any jarring sounds and lights. Break areas offer a quiet space to theatergoers who need to leave their seats during the show. Each production also offers resources to help visitors prepare for their Broadway experience in advance.

Discoveries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Temple of Dendur and reflecting pool, and the big glass windows, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

One of the world's top cultural institutions, The Met regularly offers themed multisensory workshops, including tactile activities and art projects, to visitors with autism, as well as a range of developmental and learning disabilities. Workshops are free but require advanced registration. Additionally, the Met’s Nolen Library has sensory-friendly kits that museum visitors can borrow any time that the museum is open. The kits include a sensory-friendly museum map, a visual checklist, fidget toys, and a weighted blanket. Connect to the Met from home through live virtual tours designed for people with developmental disabilities and those on the autism spectrum. More information can be found on the Met’s Access website or on the Met Access Facebook page.

The Museum of Modern Art

MoMA_Courtesy of_618x348
Courtesy of Museum of Modern Art 

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is one of the top museums in the world dedicated to modern art, hosting some of the most important artwork created since the late 19th century. It’s also one of the most innovative when it comes to accessibility programs. With its newly launched series of online events called “Create Ability,” MoMA offers themed hands-on workshops that help art lovers with autism, cognitive and developmental disabilities, and their families explore the art in the Museum’s collection and even create their own artwork from home. For more information email accessprograms@moma.org or call Access Programs at (212) 408-6447.

Catskills
 

Sensory-Friendly Museum Days at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts

Exterior view of Bethel Woods Center for the Arts

Visitors with autism, developmental disabilities, or sensory sensitivities can expect to have a groovy good time at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, a museum dedicated to the history of the 1969 Woodstock Festival. You can pick up sensory bags with goodies such as a sensory map that conveniently points out areas of high stimulation, noise-canceling headphones, and fidget toys based on the museum collection from the Welcome Desk any day the museum is open. Plus, monthly Sensory-Friendly Museum Days, currently scheduled for the second Saturday of each month from 9 - 10:30 am, pull out all the stops to create a sensory-friendly environment. During these events, the museum is transformed with augmented lights and sound features, as well as trained staff to guide visitors through the museum experience. Bethel Woods also provides a downloadable Sensory Map to indicate noisy, dark, crowded, or bright spaces in the museum. In recognition and protection of high-risk and vulnerable populations, Sensory-Friendly Museum Days will begin in 2021.  

Finger Lakes
 

Sensory-Friendly Time at the MOST (Finger Lakes)

The human heart exhibit at MOST- Milton J. Rubenstein Museum of Science & Technology in Syracuse, New York

If a science and tech museum with low noise levels, no flashing lights, and no air compressors sounds like a dream come true, start planning your visit to the MOST (Museum of Science and Technology) in Syracuse for one of their “Sensory Friendly Time” events scheduled for the third Saturday of every month from 4:30 - 8:00 pm.  Attractions include a sensory Spacewalk with a space travel theme. Additionally, Sensory Friendly kits containing headphones, a mirror, and more are available at the Science Shop any time that the museum is open! The MOST also offers “Sensory Friendly Time” at-home learning activities on their website to promote inclusive STEM education. 

Sensory-Friendly Entertainment at Destiny USA

Destiny USA WonderWorks Rope Course - Photo Courtesy of Destiny USA
Credit: Photo Courtesy of Destiny USA

An expansive shopping and entertainment center home to over 270 retail and outlet brands ranging from Apple to Nordstrom Rack, Destiny USA also offers unparalleled entertainment and indoor recreation opportunities, including WonderWorks and Apex Entertainment. WonderWorks, which bills itself as “an indoor interactive amusement park for the mind,” hosts sensory days where neurodiverse visitors can find an inviting environment with lowered music and other accommodations. Apex Entertainment, a multi-faceted entertainment space with arcades, bowling, ropes courses, and more, offers a sensory-friendly hour on the first Sunday of every month. Accessible amenities include quiet rooms, reduced lighting, and sounds, sunglasses, and sensory toys.

Sensory-Friendly Performances at Syracuse Stage

The Syracuse Stage theater’s bold productions are boldly inclusive through a series of Relaxed/Sensory-Friendly performances. Visitors can see shows like “Doodle Pop” (May 4-5, 2022) in a shush-free zone. These performances also feature lower sound levels (no startling noises!), reduced stage lighted, quiet rooms, and social stories that help theatergoers know what to expect from the box office experience to what costumes might be seen on stage. Ushers and other staff working at these events have all been specially trained to understand the needs of audience members with a range of disabilities.

Sensory-Friendly Sundays at The Strong National Museum of Play

Pinball room at the Strong Museum of Play

The Strong National Museum of Play, an interactive museum dedicated to the history and exploration of toys, games and all things play, has a number of industry-leading access features for kids of all ages and all abilities. During Sensory-Friendly Sundays offered four times throughout the year (next date April 10; check the website for future dates), autistic visitors and their families can enjoy access to the museum before it opens to the general public, and such amenities as reduced lights and sound, designated quiet areas with sensory friendly toys, and quiet activities such as craft tables, book nooks, and aquariums. Visit the museum’s website, or download the official mobile app for iPhone or Android, for exclusive “Social Stories” that can help guests acclimate to the museum in preparation for a visit. In addition to Sensory-Friendly Sunday programs, the Strong offers such features as noise-canceling headphones, a family restroom with an adult-sized changing table, guest restrooms for when you need some quiet space, and free museum admission for licensed care providers and therapists accompanying visitors with disabilities. 

Sensory-Friendly Sundays at RMSC Museum & Science Center 

Rochester Museum & Science Center Strasenburgh Planetarium
Credit: Rochester Museum & Science Center

With exhibits that explore everything from dinosaurs to nanoscience to Rochester’s role in the Underground Railroad, the RMSC is a wonderland for the curious at heart. Sensory Sundays at RMSC give visitors with autism and other developmental disabilities a chance to visit the museum with dimmed lights, limited extra sounds, designated quiet areas, and sensory-friendly activities like 3D printing demonstrations and blue blocks. Adaptive equipment like earmuffs and fidget toys are provided, and social stories are emailed out ahead of time to help neurodiverse visitors prepare for the experience.

Capital-Saratoga
 

SensAble Science at miSci Museum of Innovation & Science

A photo of two children running under the miSci (the Museum of Innovation and Science) sign

The Museum of Science and Innovation (miSci) in Schenectady is home to more than 15,000 objects showcasing the history of science and technology. On select days, it’s also home to the SensAble Science experience that includes visual support and trained staff to help autistic guests and their families experience miSci’s interactive exhibits, quiet space, and a special planetarium show. Check the misSci Museum's website for the 2022 schedule.

Visit the Sensory Gym at Bring on the Spectrum (BOTS)

Children playing in a multicolored sensory gym at Bring on the Spectrum
Credit: Courtesy of Bring on the Spectrum (BOTS)

For a unique experience that’s custom-built for neurodiverse children, young adults, and grown-ups, visit Bring on the Spectrum. Young kids can get their fill of fun sensory swings, a Climb & Slide, a jumparoo, and tactile interactives.  Older visitors can play air hockey, giant Jenga, and more. There’s also a sensory room designed to help visitors on the spectrum feel calm, supported, and focused. BOTS is also home to a community space that hosts art, yoga, music therapy, board games, Zumba, STEAM workshops, movie nights, and “hang-out” events.

Central New York
 

Low Sensory Nights at Animal Adventure Park

Animal Adventure Park
Credit: Courtesy of Animal Adventure Park

Famed for its viral sensation giraffes, Animal Adventure Park is home to cuddly creatures from a variety of species. While you can book animal encounters with adorable penguins, majestic African lions, and exotic capybaras any time, the park will be hosting low sensory night events on June 10 and September 16, 2022. During these evenings, visitors with sensory sensitivities and other needs can visit the park without all the crowds. Animal feedings, concessions, attractions, and other activities will all be on offer!

Adirondacks
 

Adaptive Ski and Snowboard Lessons at Gore Mountain 

Gore Mountain

One of the most popular ski destinations in the East, Gore Mountain offers adaptive one-on-one ski and snowboard lessons with staff trained to coach visitors with developmental disabilities at all ability levels, from snow bunnies to serious athletes! Reservations are required so you can be matched with the best instructor and lesson for your needs.


Been to a place that should be on this list? Let us know at info@iloveny.com!

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