10 autism-friendly outdoor activities
There are many factors to take into consideration when you are deciding where to go during the summer holidays - such as prices, opening times and distance. For parents of autistic children and autistic young people there is one extra big factor to consider along with the rest: accessibility.
Here were have chosen ten accessible places to visit outdoors this summer which we consider autism-friendly.
To select these attractions we asked for recommendations from our supporters and also looked at specific autism-friendly adjustments that had been put in place - such as early opening times or visual guides.
We know that great British weather is unpredictable – so our next blog will be focused on indoor activities for the summer holidays!
Camp Mohawk, Berkshire
Camp Mohawk is a summer camp and day centre built and run especially for autistic and disabled children and young people. Set in lush countryside, Camp Mohawk has a swimming pool, sensory garden, games field, soft play area, sensory room and activities tailored to children’s need. It has summer holiday programmes and adventure day trips throughout the year. Registration is £4 per month and £50 per year.
Visit Camp Mohawk's website to find out more.
A favourite with pupils from TreeHouse School, Birdworld is a haven for animal lovers from all over! The zoo and adjoining farm have all sorts of birds; from parrots, owls, budgies, flamingos, toucans and the star attractions of the zoo - their penguins! They also have an aquarium and a farm where you can pet and feed the animals. You can even take some breeds of birds home with you from their pet shop! An adult ticket to the park costs £16.95 for the summer and a child ticket from £13.95.
Visit Birdworld's website to find out more.
Golders Hill Park, Golders Green, London
This blogger’s childhood park is a charming corner of North London and will delight visitors of all ages. It features a stunning, big plain to run and play undisturbed, a big child’s play area with lots of sensory play involved. There is also a little zoo and butterfly garden which is not overwhelming and noisy. Entrance is free with prices at the ice cream parlour and restaurant varying.
Go to the City of London website to find out more.
Theme parks in general are noisy and overwhelming but Legoland, situated in the middle of leafy Windsor, is different. Based on the super popular and well-loved toy, Legoland has many child friendly rides that are a bit calmer than the usual thrill rides you find at other theme parks. It is also the only theme park in the UK to have a sensory room for autistic visitors - created just for Legoland by Total Sensory. Prices start from £29, and other packages available.
Visit Legoland's website for more details.
Vauxhall City Farm, Vauxhall, London
When you live in London, real farms and most greenery can seem really far away. Vauxhall City Farm is a quaint farm right in the heart of London which could offer an enjoyable sensory experience for some autistic visitors, as you can look at and touch some of the farm animals. The farm also has activity programmes available for children of all ages including Own a Pony Day in which you can ride and groom the horses. Entrance to the farm is free and activity prices may vary.
Go to Vauxhall City Farm website to find out more.
Tower of London, North Bank, London
Once a prison and execution ground where famous figures such as Ann Boleyn and Thomas Cromwell met their gruesome end, the Tower of London is now a major London tourist attraction. You can tour the residence and learn about its history from the many tour guides, see many British artefacts and even see the famous ravens walking about. The Tower has a visual guide available for visitors and videos detailing each section to help prepare autistic people for what to expect. Bear in mind however, that the Tower is a very popular attraction and is likely to be very busy over the summer holidays. Prices start from £24.70 and members go free.
Find out more at the Tower of London's website.
The Lake District National Park, Cumbria
The Lake District might seem enormous, but don’t let that put you off. With its many, many miles of unpopulated natural beauty and wildlife– it can be a very quiet and peaceful place to visit. This makes it ideal for autistic visitors who may find busier tourist spots in towns or cities very overwhelming. Of course, some areas of the Lakes do get very busy in the summer months – such as the famous Lake Windemere. But there are also a vast number of quieter spots for a relaxing break away.
Plan your visit by going to the Go Lakes website.
Eden Project, Bodelva Cornwall
These famous domes are a very popular tourist destination hosting a variety of plants and wildlife both rare and common. The Eden Project is also committed to making itself as accessible and engaging as possible for all visitors and has a longstanding partnership with the Sensory Trust. Staff and performers are trained in the language programme Makaton – which using signs and symbols to help people to communicate. There will also be relaxed sessions of the Eden Project’s Earth Story taking place over the summer holidays. These sessions have lighting and sound adjustments to make them as sensory friendly as possible.
Find out more about their relaxed sessions by visiting the Eden Project's website.
Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, London
By its very nature this outdoor venue can be a more relaxed environment that a normal theatre. Guests can bring their own cushions, blankets or sensory toys which means they can make the environment more suited to their needs. This summer there are performances of a Midsummer Night’s Dream and Evita and the Luna Cinema is also showing a selection of recent hit films. Prices may vary.
Book your tickets by going to the Open Air Theatre's website.
Tower Bridge, London
One of London’s most iconic landmarks - Tower Bridge will be opening its doors early for children with autism and other needs, as well as their siblings, families and carers this summer. Families will be able to explore the Towers, Walkways and Engine Rooms in a calm, relaxed atmosphere and also take part in a family craft activity if they wish.
The attraction also offers a visual story which visitors can download to prepare for what to expect in advance.
Go to Tower Bridge's website to find out more.
For more summer autism-friendly activities, read our Autism Summer: six autism-friendly indoor activities for children and young people blog.
About the author
Solmaz is Ambitious about Autism's Marketing and Communications Intern. She loves writing, and also has interests in music, technology and beauty products.