Visit Visalia, along with numerous other California-based attractions includingSesame Place® San Diego, Six Flags Magic Mountain, Santa Barbara Zoo, GRAMMY Museum® and Six Flags Hurricane Harbor Concord, have been leaders in the accessible travel space, creating an Autism-Friendly California Road Trip that features attractions across the state that are Certified Autism Centers. This road trip will appear in the annual 2022 Visit California Road Trips Guide launching July 15, 2022.
In September 2021, Visit Visalia became the first California destination marketing organization designated a “Certified Autism Center” by the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES). Their inclusive efforts also include the “Hidden Disabilities Sunflower,” a program designed to help travelers with various needs obtain additional support while traveling. Visit Visalia offers “Hidden Disabilities Sunflower” lanyards and bracelets complimentary to travelers, upon request. When worn, the sunflower serves as a visual cue to trained hospitality staff throughout Visalia that a traveler may need additional support during their visit. The city of Visalia currently has eight Certified Autism Centers including Visit Visalia, Valley Oaks Golf Course, Comfort Suites Visalia-Convention Center, Hampton Inn, Downtown Visalians, Visalia Marriott at the Convention Center, Tulare County Museum, and Lamp Liter Inn, with additional businesses in the pipeline.
“Visalia is a destination for everyone and all families should be able to explore the area with ease. It’s a top priority for us to ensure Visalia and its offerings are accessible for all, including those in the autism community,” said John Oneto, Visalia CVB Board Chair. “We’re so excited to have partnered with incredible attractions across the state to ensure that California is a place for everyone to feel supported during the ultimate Golden State summer road trip.”
The Autism-Friendly California Road Trip featured in the guide showcases a sensory-sensitive itinerary of six stops across the state where families can travel with confidence. Each of the included destinations are Certified Autism Centers and featured stops include:
● Six Flags Hurricane Harbor Concord: Open seasonally, Six Flags Hurricane Harbor in Concord is Northern California’s biggest and most thrilling waterpark. This 30-acre family destination features more than 22 world-class water attractions, with everything from the 100-foot tall vertical drop slide, Break Point Plunge, to the longest lazy river in Northern California, The Kaanapali Kooler. Guests presenting an IBCCES Individual Accessibility Card (IAC) to Guest Relations at the park will receive any necessary accommodations to accommodate their family’s needs. More information on accessibility at Six Flags Hurricane Harbor can be found here.
● Visit Visalia: Visit Visalia is California’s first destination marketing organization to become a Certified Autism Center and is working to provide more Certified Autism hotels, family-friendly attractions and businesses across the destination. To help families prepare for a visit, Visalia has compiled national park accessibility videos and “Social Stories“ with helpful accessibility tips for the destination. Families can also rent sensory backpacks from the Visit Visalia office with various sensory toys for children. More information on accessibility in Visalia can be found here.
● Six Flags Magic Mountain: Six Flags Magic Mountain is known as the undisputed “Thrill Capital of the World,” featuring more world-class roller coasters than any other theme park on the planet. With over 100 rides, games, and adventures, plus one of the largest children’s areas in Southern California, Six Flags Magic Mountain offers something for thrill-seekers of all ages. Six Flags offers sensory backpacks available at Guest Relations, which include items that might be helpful for those who are sensory sensitive, including noise canceling earmuffs, stress balls, and various fidget toys. More information on accessibility at Six Flags Magic Mountain can be found here.
● Santa Barbara Zoo: The Santa Barbara Zoo has been a Certified Autism Center since 2018 and all programs are inclusive and moderated by fully trained staff. Sensory backpacks are available to rent while the zoo’s map outlines designated quiet zones. A sensory sensitive pathway is also available when entering the Zoo, which offers a more calm alternative to the main courtyard. More information on accessibility at the Santa Barbara Zoo can be found here.
● GRAMMY Museum: For young music lovers, the GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles offers interactive exhibits and displays that highlight the world of music. The GRAMMY Museum is the first destination to become a Certified Autism Center in Los Angeles County, as well as the first certified museum in California. On the second Saturday of every month, the GRAMMY Museum hosts Sensory Friendly Saturday, where families can enjoy the space with less crowding, quieter sound levels, lower lighting, and free admission. More information on accessibility at the GRAMMY Museum can be found here.
● Sesame Place San Diego: The recently opened Sesame Place San Diego is a 17-acre theme park based entirely on the award-winning show, Sesame Street and features 18 Sesame Street-themed rides and exciting water attractions, including a family-friendly rollercoaster and a 500,000-gallon wave pool – one of the largest in Southern California. Offerings at the park include designated quiet rooms and low sensory areas, a ride sensory guide that provides insights on how a child with sensory sensitivities might be impacted by the rides. More information on accessibility at Sesame Place San Diego can be found here.
Download a copy of the Visit California Road Trips Magazine at www.visitcalifornia.com/travel-guides/.