This 'Ultra-accessible' Theme Park in Texas Was Created so Guests of All Abilities Could Have Fun Together
Here’s what you should know about Morgan’s Wonderland in San Antonio, Texas.
When Gordon Hartman watched his daughter play alone, excluded by other children, at a hotel pool, he knew he had to take matters into his own hands and create a place where children of all abilities could come together to have fun. And so sparked the idea for Morgan’s Wonderland, touted as “the world's first ultra-accessible theme park.”
“I’ll never forget the anguished look of misunderstanding and disappointment on Morgan’s face,” Hartman tells Travel + Leisure. “This incident convinced me of the need for more places where people with and without special needs can come together and interact in safe, non-judgmental, barrier-free environments. Thus, the mission of Morgan’s Wonderland and every one of our subsequent endeavors is inclusion.”
After selling his successful homebuilding business, Hartman and his wife Maggie established the Gordon Hartman Family Foundation. Through their work, they’ve created Morgan’s Inclusion Initiative, which encompasses Morgan’s Wonderland theme park (which opened in 2010) along with other accessible, inclusive ventures, including Morgan’s Wonderland Sports and Morgan’s Wonderland Camp.
“Our devotion to this cause is inspired by our 29-year-old daughter, Morgan,” Hartman continues. “Her soaring spirit despite physical and cognitive special needs kindled within us a deep desire to create colorful and unique Morgan’s Wonderland theme park, now known globally as a haven not only for those with special needs but also for their families, caregivers, friends, and the general public.”
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Morgan’s Wonderland Theme Park
The $36 million park is completely wheelchair accessible and is home to over 25 attractions and experiences, including rides, playgrounds, gardens, picnic areas, an amphitheater, and an 8-acre catch-and-release fishing lake. At 25 acres, the non-profit park is completely free for guests with disabilities to visit (joining family members are required to pay a nominal fee). It’s the flagship attraction in the Wonderland complex, a destination that primarily exists to support people with disabilities and their loved ones.
Since opening in 2010, the park has welcomed more than two million guests from across the country and around the world. When guests enter the park, they first encounter a 6,000-pound, 25-foot-tall sculpture named “Taking Flight,” designed by artist Doug Roper and described as “a larger-than-life reminder of our dedication to the special needs community,” according to the Morgan’s Wonderland website.
Attractions at Morgan’s Wonderland
Every attraction at Morgan’s Wonderland is custom designed to accommodate riders in wheelchairs, ensuring not a single family member misses out on the fun.
Highlighted attractions include the Wonderland Express train that wraps around the park’s scenic lake; the Whirling Wonder Ferris wheel, which offers panoramic views of the park; and a colorful carousel that even has wheelchair-accessible seats that move up and down, just like the other traditional carousel seats. Other attractions include Picnic Place, shaded playgrounds, and Sensory Village, a collection of storefronts and activities that encourage imaginative play.
Guests can find daily entertainment at Starlight Amphitheater and Flutterby Theater, which host performances including musical acts, puppetry, and magic shows. Strolling “Ambassadors of Friendship,” including Friendship Fairies, The Wonderland Royal Court, and Joy the Butterfly, greet guests throughout the park.
Educational outreach is also an important pillar for the park — it hosts an inclusive performing arts program and community-based instruction for elementary school students.
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Morgan’s Inspiration Island
The world’s first “ultra-accessible” splash water park opened in 2017 as a way for all guests to beat the scorching Texas heat. Named Morgan’s Inspiration Island, the welcoming oasis includes a River Boat Adventure Ride and five tropical-themed splash pads, inviting all guests to leave their worries behind and splash the day away.
With extensive on-site support facilities, guests in wheelchairs can privately transfer to three types of waterproof chairs, ensuring they don’t damage their personal wheelchairs. One such chair is the PneuChair, a revolutionary waterproof motorized wheelchair developed by the park in collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh.
How To Visit Morgan’s Wonderland
Located in northeast San Antonio less than eight miles from the San Antonio International Airport, Morgan’s Wonderland is open year round on select dates. Supported by individual, corporate, and foundation donations, admission for guests with disabilities is 100 percent free. For all other guests, single-park and dual-park tickets and seasonal and annual passes are available for purchase online. One-day, single-park admission begins at just $13, and season passes begin at $45.
Food and drinks are available for purchase from the park’s restaurants, and Morgan’s Wonderland also allows guests to bring in their own food.
Morgan’s Wonderland partners with several nearby hotels that offer discounted rates and accessible accommodations. These partners include Holiday Inn Express & Suites San Antonio North – Windcrest and Drury Plaza Hotel San Antonio Airport.
The popularity of Morgan’s Wonderland has prompted the family to continue to grow their inclusive haven. Morgan’s Wonderland Camp is a 102-acre, year-round, summer camp-style experience designed for those with and without disabilities to enjoy outdoor activities that are fully inclusive, including a state-of-the-art zipline, wheelchair-accessible challenge course, and swimming. Morgan’s Wonderland Sports is a 3-acre, accessible fitness and sports complex located within walking distance of the theme park. Here, visitors can take part in activities including softball, tennis, baseball, and more.
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