All Aboard for Autism is our short Thomas & Friends themed sponsored walk. Perfect for families and Thomas enthusiasts alike, it takes place September in Staffordshire.
Autism-friendly performances are a fantastic way for autistic people to enjoy a live theatre show. These shows will have had adjustments made in the form of reduction to sound levels, some changes to lighting and loud sound effects and strobe lighting taken out. There will be a relaxed attitude to movement in and out of the auditorium and there will be some designated chill-out areas.
Alton Towers offers special discount rates for up to three helpers of guests with a disability. Guests with a disability pay the full rate, but may be eligible for a Ride Access Pass which gives specific times for each ride. Please note that proof of disability will be required. Please see the 'FAQs and accessibility' section of Alton Towers' website for more information.
Beamish Museum in Beamish near Durham - also called The Living Museum of the North of England - is a great day out for all of the family. There is an annual charge so you can go as often as you like once you have paid once. A tram line goes round the museum, and you can hop on and off as many times as you like. The museum has accessible buses (one which takes wheelchairs) and is open all year round.
Bekonscot Model Village in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, is recommended by the family of a person on the autism spectrum, who suggest getting there when the village first opens. The attraction features six miniature villages and, for train lovers, a light railway for visitors to ride on and a model railway. The model railway usually has seven to ten trains running on it. There are concessions for children and adults with a disability, and carers go free.
Bournstream is an adventure playground for children with special needs or disabilities. It is completely enclosed and is situated near Wotton-under-Edge in the Cotswolds.
Bowood House in Calne, Wiltshire, is recommended by the NAS's branch in Avon. There is an adventure playground featuring a full-size pirates' galleon and, for younger visitors, the Soft Play Palace. Registered disabled visitors and a carer receive half-price admission to the house and grounds. Bowood House is open between April and October.
Brimham Rocks, near Harrogate in North Yorkshire, are cared for by the National Trust. The area features dramatic rock formations and families are invited to go 'scrambling' on the rocks and enjoy the spectacular views. The property is open year-round but may get busy in July and August.
Chessington World of Adventures is recommended as a fun day out for families. If you are able to provide photographic evidence of your disability (such as a blue or orange badge or similar), you will pay the full rate for your park entry ticket, but one helper will be admitted free of charge and one at a concessionary rate - providing the second is required to assist you on specific rides and attractions. You can also apply for a transferable helper’s annual pass and a ride access pass. See their guide for guests with a disability.
Craggy Island indoor climbing centre in Guildford, Surrey is recommended by the parent of a child on the autism spectrum: 'We booked an instructor for one-and-a-half hours and had a really great time. They had no problem with one of the party having autism and appeared to be used to having climbers with additional needs.'
Drayton Manor Theme Park near Tamworth in Staffordshire features rides, a zoo and Thomas Land, where children can go on the Thomas the Tank Engine ride. A parent recommends Drayton Manor as, with proof of disability their son with Asperger syndrome and friends did not have to wait in long queues. They have information for guests with additional needs.
Drusillas Park in Alfriston, East Sussex, has a Thomas & Friends visitor attraction, which takes children on a magical ride through landscaped gardens featuring the familiar faces and places in Sodor, Thomas the Tank Engine's home. The park also has a zoo and pet area, and Playland, which is packed with slides, swings, ropes and play equipment.
The East Anglian Railway Museum hosts Thomas days offering unlimited rides on character trains, with the Fat Controller welcoming visitors to the station.
Eureka! is an interactive children’s museum and educational charity based in Halifax, West Yorkshire, where children play to learn and grown-ups learn to play. It has hundreds of interactive, hands-on exhibits designed to inspire children aged 0 to 11. All essential carers of disabled visitors get free admission - just bring along a form of ID. Eureka! also offers support for disabled children and their families: quite literally, an extra pair of hands, with a trained 'enabler' accompanying you during your visit. It also runs a range of events and clubs for children with disabilities, including one for children on the autism spectrum.
Hartlepool's Maritime Experience admits one carer without charge when accompanied by a child with special needs. Located on the north east coast, it is a superb re-creation of an 18th-century naval seaport. A fascinating day out with lots of indoor and outdoor activities. See the costumed guides who can tell you all about life during the time of Nelson.
If you live in, or are visiting, Kent, you can download a free book called Visiting the Kent Countryside which is a guide to places to visit in the county. The booklet was written with contributions from two National Autistic Society schools.
The London Eye offers a special discounted rate to disabled guests booking through the disabled booking line. An accompanying carer will receive a free ticket for the same 'flight'. Discounted rates vary for adults, children and the under-fives, so be sure to state the age of the person applying for the special rate. To book tickets, use the disabled booking on +44 (0)871 222 0188 or email email@example.com.
We visited the London Eye - it was amazing. As parents of an autistic child, we are full of praise for the way staff go out of their way to help disabled visitors. Our son is non-verbal and cannot tolerate long queues. However, when we explained the situation to staff, they quickly and efficiently led us to the head of the queue. This meant that we were all able to relax and thoroughly enjoy ourselves.
Mother of a child on the autism spectrum
LEGOLAND Windsor (updated April 2017) admits full-time carers without charge when accompanying a disabled person. Visitors should bring evidence of disability with them.
You may also be eligible for a Ride Access Pass. This makes reasonable adjustments for people who struggle with queuing, due to the nature of their disability.
Please note that LEGOLAND have recently made changes to its Ride Access Pass. This now involves booking specific ride times using smartphone technology and they ask visitors to bring a smartphone with them.
We recommend visiting the LEGOLAND website before you visit, where you can find more information about the new system and lots of helpful tips to help plan a great day out, including this guide and FAQs.
London Transport Museum in Covent Garden, London, is a great destination for a family day out. There are old buses and trains, some of which you can get behind the wheel and ‘drive’, plus special exhibitions and space for children to explore. The museum can get very busy during holidays - especially if the weather is poor - so for a quieter time try visiting 10am-11am and then from 4pm-6pm. Family learning workshops take place during holidays, including storytime and craft. There is no specific provision for special needs although the venue is mobility accessible. Children are free up to the age of 16, and paying adults can use their ticket multiple times over a year.
Middleton Railway, near Leeds, is the oldest working railway in the world. Visitors can ride on steam- and diesel-hauled trains and take part in various special events throughout the year. The railway welcomes visitors with disabilities, who are charged the normal ticket price but an accompanying carer goes free.
Museum of London and Museum of London Docklands offer Morning explorers every few months. Morning explorers is at 8.30am (normal opening hours are 10am-6pm), is free and provides an informal atmosphere in which to explore the museum, sensitive to the needs of children on the autism spectrum under the age of 13.
National Railway Museum is the largest railway museum in the world. With locations in York and Shildon, it offers a range of workshops for all ages, and has a railway-themed outdoor play area for younger visitors. They also have a miniature railway. Entry to both museums is free.
The Rare Breeds Centre near Ashford in Kent is set in 100 acres of countryside and is home to rare breed animals. The petting barn allows children and adults to get up close with the animals, and the Centre also has newly installed accessible play equipment. The Centre is run by the charity Canterbury Oast Trust; adults with learning disabilities volunteer on the farm and learn important life skills.
Tate Britain offers a range of free talks and workshops for adults with learning disabilities via its community programme. Admission to Tate Britain is free but there is a charge for special exhibitions – visitors with a disability pay a concessionary rate and carers go free.
Thames Valley Adventure Playground gives children with special needs the chance to see friends, run around and explore. Outside accessible activities include a bike/go kart area, sensory garden, treetop trail and sensory garden. Indoors there is a soft play area, a sensory room and a sound room. There is no charge but a donation of £8 per accompanied child is welcome.
Thorpe Park has a guide for visitors with disabilities. Discounted tickets are available for people with documentary proof of disability and one helper. Visitors who are unable to use normal queue lines may be able to receive preferential ride access, as may a helper who is boarding the ride with them.
The Tower of London welcomes all visitors and has produced a short guide for children on the autism spectrum, their parents and families. The guide will tell you about the Tower's most popular sites, what you can expect to see, and how you can best plan your visit. Visitors with a disability are eligible for admission at the concessionary rate and a carer is given entry free of charge.
Thinktank is Birmingham’s science museum. It offers concessionary prices for people in receipt of benefits - evidence is required. The museum can provide workshops for groups of people with learning disabilities, and has also produced a downloadable social story for visitors. Please see the 'Accessibility' section of their website for more information.
Wingham Wildlife Park near Sandwich in Kent, is enjoyed by the NAS Dover and Deal Branch. There are animals and birds to see and the park organises hands-on days where children can hold some of the animals. There is also an indoor soft play area and an outdoor adventure park.