These U.S. museums prioritize accessibility — here's what you can expect on a visit to each one.
Visiting a museum should be a vacation activity option available to all. That's why it's essential for these cultural institutions to prioritize accessibility.
"Museums have made great strides in recent years to become accessible and meet the needs of visitors with disabilities," Miriam Eljas, the co-founder and CEO of accessibleGO.com, told Travel + Leisure, noting many offer programming for guests who use wheelchairs, and who need audio or visual assistance. "In general, most museums — especially those built more recently — are all accessible to some degree, but there are some that go above and beyond with specific features, offerings, and events, including sensory days."
Ready to explore? Here are some of the most accessible museums in the U.S. and what to expect during your visit.
The Children's Museum: Cincinnati
Address: 1301 Western Ave., Cincinnati, Ohio
Kids of all ages will love the bird's-eye view from the second story of the wheelchair-accessible tree house at The Children's Museum. The museum also features quiet zones and offers noise-canceling earmuffs sensory-sensitive visitors can borrow whenever they need. The museum also hosts "Deaf Days" at least once during every featured exhibit, with interpreters to greet guests and help facilitate communication.
U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Museum: Colorado Springs, Colorado
Address: 200 S. Sierra Madre St., Colorado Springs, Colorado
The 60,000-square-foot U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Museum museum is all about honoring the pinnacle of sport and ensuring everyone can enjoy it with various accessibility features. Guests who register to visit the museum can select the accessibility services they require (like audio-described video, text-to-speech screen readers, or larger font sizes), which are automatically triggered by a tactile floor strip. Interactive touchscreens also feature tactile keypads, while open captions and American Sign Language are available on all video content and interactive media. Additionally, weighted lap pads, sensory bags, fidget tools, and noise-canceling headphones are available.
Children's Museum of Indianapolis: Indianapolis
Address: 3000 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis, Indiana
Kids at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis will have a ball on the wheelchair-accessible carousel and while playing in the outdoor sports area, where they'll find sports wheelchairs and other adaptive equipment like basketballs, soccer balls, and tennis balls for use. The museum's food court also has an allergy and dietary-friendly menu options, all clearly marked.
National Museum of African American History and Culture: Washington, D.C.
Address: 1400 Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, D.C.
This free Smithsonian museum, which opened in 2016, is "devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, history, and culture," per the website. The museum makes it easy for visitors of all abilities to immerse themselves with braille and raised image maps, large print maps, ASL interpretation for public programs, scheduled docent tours, and sensory maps, which highlight areas where sounds may be loud, lights may be bright, or where visitors are allowed to touch pieces of the exhibits.
Miami Children's Museum: Miami
Address: 980 MacArthur Causeway, Miami, Florida
The Miami Children's Museum offers sighted guide tours with staff trained by the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind. The museum also provides a sound map divided into loud, moderate, and quiet zones and offers guests sensory bags, which include sensory-comforting items like headphones, fidgets, and other tactile items. The museum allows caregivers or therapists to enter for free and has developed a therapeutic play guide.
Metropolitan Museum of Art: New York City
Address: 1000 5th Ave., New York, New York
This iconic Metropolitan Museum of Art sits in the heart of New York City and welcomes everyone. The museum offers verbal imaging and touch tours upon request to accommodate visitors who are blind or partially sighted, programming in American Sign Language for visitors who are hard of hearing, and art discussions for visitors with dementia and their caregivers. The museum also has virtual accessible programs for art lovers who can't make it in person.
Denver Art Museum; Denver
Address: 100 W. 14th Ave. Parkway, Denver, CO
The Denver Art Museum welcomes all service animals, including dogs and miniature horses. The museum also features group tours led by a specially trained docent and sensory-friendly mornings for neurodiverse children and their families. Visitors can also pick up a Sensory Processing and Autism Resource Kit (S.P.A.R.K.) Explorer Pack, complete with a wiggle seat, noise-reducing headphones, fidget keychains, a bright fan, a visor, and an art-themed weighted lap pad.
Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration: Jersey City, New Jersey
Address: Ellis Island Bridge, Jersey City, New Jersey
The Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration features tactile models visitors can touch to get a true sense of the scale. All video programming with sound are induction looped and compatible with t-coil-enabled hearing aids and cochlear implants. Every exhibit is accessible throughout the building.
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art: Bentonville, Arkansas
Address: 600 Museum Way, Bentonville, Arkansas
The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is entirely wheelchair accessible and offers programming for visitors with other disabilities, from sign language interpretation tours each month to free audio tours, and also offers "Creative Connections" programs for those with early-stage Alzheimer's or dementia. The museum features a family access night (which includes free gallery tours, studio art activities, and performances) and offers a free summer day camp for neurodiverse and neurotypical children. The museum also has EnChroma glasses on hand for colorblind visitors.
The Museum of Flight: Seattle
Address: 9404 E. Marginal Way S., Seattle, Washington
Visitors to The Museum of Flight will find a seemingly endless array of vintage aircraft, from twin-engine planes to jumbo jets and the two-story William E. Boeing Red Barn, which served as the historic birthplace of the Boeing Airplane Company. To accommodate visitors of all abilities, the museum offers free admission for caregivers, has noise-reduction earmuffs on hand, and hosts sensory days, allowing people to visit without the general public.
Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum: New York
Address: Pier 86, W. 46th St., New York, New York
The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum sits aboard an aircraft carrier. It offers several features to make all guests feel welcome, including giving free admission to personal care assistants. The museum also has an illustrated, step-by-step social narrative guide and a sensory guide with an illustrated overview of the different areas of the museum so guests can understand what to expect when they visit. Additionally, the museum has sensory bags with noise-reduction headphones available.
Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she's not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.
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