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Are you longing to visit a theme park in California but are afraid it will be more headache than fun? Trust me, you’re not alone. I too would love to get out and go on an adventure to Hogwarts (Universal Studios) or see the new Pixar Pier at Disneyland California Adventure. But what would my day be like?
I have saved you the headache of searching for information and scored the four main parks in Southern California – Disneyland, Knotts Berry Farm, Legoland and Universal Studios based on their website information and attempts at communication with the guest services team. No physical trips have been taken to review the parks at this time.
Knotts Berry Farm | Legoland | Disneyland | Universal Studios
The Most Accessible Friendly Parks:
#1. Knotts Berry Farm
Knott’s Berry Farm has taken steps to be well-prepared to welcome and provide accommodations for all types of disabilities, including autism and related disorders
Boarding Pass Program: At Knott’s Berry Farm, we are proud of our reputation for accommodating guests with disabilities through our Ride Admission Policy. We have developed a Boarding Pass Program which allows guests with mobility restrictions or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to access rides at specified times via the exit ramp in order to avoid crowds and waiting in the regular queue lines.
A Boarding Pass is issued for the guest in question and up to 3 riding companions from Guest Services.
Guests with Autism: The park’s Guest Assistance Guide is available for download. The Guide outlines the specifics about each attraction, including height requirements and health restrictions. Feel free to contact Guest Services in advance at (714) 220-5200 with any additional questions.
- Guest Services offers KidTrack, a wrist band program, which will assist you and park personnel in reuniting your group should you become separated.
- Knotts Berry Farm also offers Parent Swap. This allows one parent to ride while another parent waits with the child. When the ride is complete, the parents swap child responsibility at the exit.
Dining: All full service restaurants are wheelchair accessible. Guest Service Associates will be happy to assist with restaurant orders and bringing orders to the tables.
Parking: Knott’s Berry Farm’s drop-off area (in front of the main entrance) can be used to pick up or drop off guests with disabilities.
Service Animals: A relief area is located in the Boardwalk area next to the Wheeler Dealer Bumper Cars.
LEGOLAND® California is committed to providing a welcoming, inclusive, and accessible experience for all Guests.
Strollers as Wheelchair: Strollers used in lieu of a wheelchair are permitted in all venues. Guests with disabilities – including those with a cognitive disability – who need to remain in a stroller should visit Guest Services in order to obtain the appropriate identifying tag. The tag will be placed on the stroller to show it is being used as a wheelchair.
Ride Queues: Guests who are unable to access the ride through the standard queue can request an Assisted Access Pass. Our Assisted Access Pass is designed to provide an alternate option to access our rides for Guests with physical and cognitive disabilities. The Assisted Access Pass must be authorized by a Resort Model Citizen (employee) prior to use. Refer to The Assisted Access Pass or visit Guest Services for pass instructions and details.
Autism Friendly: LEGO® system based social skills has been proven to be an effective way for children with social difficulties associated with Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, Anxiety, Depression or Adjustment Disorders to improve their social interaction and communication skills.
Download the Legoland “Guests with Disabilities Guide” here.
If you have questions before going, you can email experience@LEGOLAND.com.
The Least Accessible Friendly Parks:
You probably recall my frustration with Disneyland’s apparent lack of respect for disabled guests. I have since spoken with a Disney cast member who will provide me with media passes to visit the park and review the park’s accessibility for myself in the fall.
Unfortunately, due to the parks’ lack of a “boarding pass program” similar to Knotts (see below for my correspondence w/ Cheryl Bloom at Disneyland) I will have to take my wheelchair because I am not able to stand still for long spells as can be expected in Disneyland queues.
Stroller as Wheelchairs: Guests with disabilities—including those with a cognitive disability—who need to remain in a stroller while in an attraction queue should visit the Guest Relations Lobby at the theme parks in order to obtain the appropriate identifying tag.
Rider Switch Pass: Parties with more than 2 Guests may be able to take advantage of the attraction Rider Switch program, which enables you to experience an attraction while another member of your party waits with the Guest who does not ride. You then “swap” to enable the other party member to enjoy the attraction without having to wait in line again.
Disability Access Service Pass: The Disability Access Service is designed for Guests who are unable to tolerate extended waits at attractions due to a disability. This service allows Guests to schedule a return time that is comparable to the current queue wait for the given attraction.
According to Cheryl Bloom at Disneyland (29 June 2019):
For Guests who are requesting services based solely off of mobility concerns, or those who have difficulties walking and standing during their visit to the Disneyland Resort, we suggest using a mobility device. These include and are not limited to canes, crutches, electronic scooters, walkers, or wheelchairs. The park itself and the attractions are able to accommodate you with their lines’ alternate waiting options. If utilizing a mobility device, select attractions in Disneyland Park will offer you a time to return and enjoy the attraction. Please visit the individual attractions to inquire about their procedures.
For attractions that have lines accessible for mobility devices such as wheelchairs, canes, crutches, etc. and also have a tendency to have long waits, we recommend Guests utilize a mobility device such as an electric convenience vehicle or a wheelchair that will allow them to sit or stand depending on their needs while they wait in the queue area. Guests may bring their own mobility device or rent one from us. Guests are also invited to use the Fastpass Service for these attractions as well if the attraction offers Fastpass.
For attractions that have lines not accessible for mobility devices [only at Disneyland Resort. California Adventure is fully ADA compliant], there will be an alternate boarding area or Guests will be offered a return time that is similar to the wait time for the attraction.
Service Animals: Service animals are able to use any planter with a gate. Relief areas include:
• Main Entrance: Esplanade near Disneyland ® Kennel Club
• Fantasyland: Planter across from “it’s a small world”
• Fantasyland/Hub: Planter on right leading from Central Hub towards Matterhorn Bobsleds
• New Orleans Square: Fountain area planter on right near Train Station and Haunted Mansion
• Grizzly Peak: Grizzly River Run area (near “Grizzly Peak Pass” sign)
• Paradise Gardens Park: Access gate between Seaside Souvenirs & The Little Mermaid–Ariel’s Undersea Adventure extended queue
#4. Universal Studios
Universal Studios Hollywood probably has the worst Accessibility page.
There is NO information about children with autism NOR any mention of an equivalent to Knotts Berry Farm’s “Boarding Pass Program”. I reached out by email on 26 June 2019 and never received any response.
Shuttles: A shuttle equipped with a wheelchair lift is available to transport guests from the bottom of Universal Hollywood Drive (next to Lankershim Blvd.) to the hotels, CityWalk and the Theme Park.
A shuttle is available to transport guests that cannot navigate the escalators between the Theme Park’s Lower Lot and Upper Lot. Please refer to your Studio Map to find Lower Lot/Upper Lot transportation locations.
Service Animals: Service animal stations are located at the following locations:
• In the Upper Lot by the entrance to Universal’s Animal Actors
• In the Lower Lot next to the Starway across from the Jurassic World lagoon
• Outside the Park by the accessible parking adjacent to the security checkpoint
For more information about specific ride requirements, download the Rider Guide (2019) here.
Tip for Parents (thanks to Knotts Berry Farm): It is recommended that as an added safety measure you take a photo of members of your party (especially if you have a child who tends to dart away or wander off) on your mobile device. This photo can be of great assistance to quickly reunite your party if you are separated.
Thank you a lot for sharing this with all folks you actually realize what you’re talking approximately!
Bookmarked. Please also seek advice from my website =).
We can have a hyperlink alternate agreement among
I used to work with children with special needs and disabled adults. this list is very helpful thanks
Disneyland as #3?!
Wow no wonder. Based on my experience in the recent Disneyland tour, OMG I want to scream to go home! Too crowded.
interesting sorry you had a bad experience. hoping if we all share our frustrations they’ll come to realize things need to change.
I have heard a lot of talk recently about the struggles associated with Disneyland. Hopefully all this press will encourage the company to finally take the steps necessary to make a change. After all, our society as a whole has been moving towards a more accessible world… It’s time they get on board!
interesting that you too have heard of the difficulties at Disneyland. You would think it would be one of the top choices but alas it seems not. 🙁
Oh this is such a useful guide! Accessibility is one of those things you never really pay attention to until you need it, and then you have to reinvent the wheel everywhere you go.
You’re absolutely right, Liz! There are so many things I didn’t think about until I got sick myself.
It seems like knots berry farm is trending. I am not surprised to see it listed here and it makes me even more eager to visit!
based on what i’ve read about knotts berry farm, i’m so happy to hear it is trending. i hope to get there soon so i can review the park in person.
This is such a nice guide!! I’m glad to see a lot of theme parks are becoming more and more accessible towards all audiences and visitors. I would love to visit some of these some day!
thanks Eli. Have you been to any theme parks before?
I’ve heard lots of wonderful things about Knott’s Berry Farms. I hope to one day be able to take my grandchildren to visit them. The suggestion they make of taking a picture and having it on your phone is a great idea. By taking it when you arrive at the park you could also refer to it to describe what someone is wearing if they get separated from you.
right? I love that tip about the photos. and you make a good point about taking one w/ what they are wearing.
I’ve never been but have heard this is a must see tourist spot… nice details on how easy to access. xoxo Robin
which park are you referring to, Robin? Thanks for your support.
Thank you for bringing us with this list of parks in California. I love going to the park with the kids, makes them enjoy the nature and quality time with the family.
what is your favorite theme park as a family, Agnes?
This is great.. I think i prefer Knott’s Berry Farm because of the provision made for Autistic kids. My brothers boy is Autistic and he doesn’t fit in in most parks. the last time he was taken to Uk on a holiday they weren’t able to have any fun because they didnt see anywhere he fits in. Its really nice of you to have outlines all these if we had come across something like this before the trip it could have been different.
oh man i’m so sorry about your brother’s son and the troublesome trip to the UK. i’m glad to have been of help!
Great efforts are made to create the illusion of another world or culture using landscaping, architecture, music, food, employees, and attractions
yes at many parks that is true. which one are you talking about, Atrium?
I don’t know much about theme parks because I really haven’t been to any but having you give more insight is very helpful.
thanks viano. do you have any theme parks near you? they are expensive but make for a very fun outting with friends/family.
I have heard a lot about this theme park in California. It looks and sounds like a lovely place to visit. I am in NH but plan to go to the West Coast some day, I’ll have to check out Knotts Farm then.
i used to love knotts berry farm as a child so i hope to get back soon.
Thank you for writing this post. It is very helpful for people planning to visit these theme parks. I wish there were more PWD friendly theme parks or at least activities/areas for PWDs in existing theme parks.
well said, Kristine!
I think all parks should have a regulation that makes them provide certain things across the board. I also think that parks should have to have the same perks for every ride in their park, not just some. Disabled people should be able to share in the fun equally as anyone else. Glad you put this list together!
Well said, Emily.
Great insight on using the parks. Some of this content is impossible to research unless you actually visit. Thanks for sharing.
you’re absolutely right which is why i’m trying to get in to check out the parks in person.
I think this is so kind of you to write in detail about ways people can get around any awkward situations while trying to have fun! I don’t have kids yet, but I’m sure knowing about stroller areas would be super helpful!
stroller areas would be a fabulous topic – thanks for the tips, Ive!
I am a special education teacher and these things are so important to me! Thanks for doing the research and opening my eyes to the best theme parks in the state I’m from.
awesome! i’m so glad this has been helpful for you!!! if there’s any other aspect you’d like to see a follow up post focus on, let me know!
Thanks for researching the different parks. I will be sure to keep an eye out if I ever visit California.
glad i could be of help, Sarah. do let me know if you have any experiences w/ the accessibility options listed in the post!
Very interesting! It’s interesting that not all rides have the same policy at Disneyland. It’s nice to know that Knott’s is doing so well with this!
yes i was surprised disney was not willing to do something like the boarding pass at knotts. and disappointed disney told me i would need my wheelchair. 🙁