• Ashley Musial

The Best Sensory-Friendly Attractions in Chicagoland

Kids with autism and other challenges sometimes experience “sensory overload” at public events, performances, museums and other large gatherings. But thankfully, venues in our area are starting to create experiences that accommodate the whole family, making some of the most popular attractions in Chicagoland more sensory-friendly. Here are a few of our favorites.

1. Shedd Aquarium "Calm Waters" Event


Overlooking the lakefront on Chicago’s museum campus, the Shedd Aquarium is home to over 32,000 sea creatures and is one of the city’s most visited attractions. Their annual “Calm Waters” event caters specifically to people with disabilities, offering a more streamlined entry process and limiting the number of guests to create what the aquarium calls “a comfortable and accepting environment.” This year’s event is rapidly approaching on September 25, so try to register before spaces run out.

2. Blue Man Group: Sensory-Friendly Show


This annual sensory-friendly performance in early October features the best of the traditional show but with reduced sound and light levels and a more calming lobby experience. Blue Man Group also donates a portion of ticket sales to autism-related organizations.

3. We Rock the Spectrum Kids’ Gym


Located just 10 minutes from our ChildFirst office, this gym was designed as a place where “all kids can be themselves,” and offers open play as well as private events and parties. The gym is equipped with a range of sensory equipment including a zip line, crash pit, trampoline, hammock swing and more.

4. AMC Theatres: Sensory-Friendly Movies


At these sensory-friendly movies, AMC turns up the lights and turns down the sound to make guests feel more comfortable. Kids are also encouraged to dance, walk around, shout or sing during the movie. Most showings feature children’s movies, but AMC also plays PG-13 and R-rated movies several times per month for older guests who prefer the sensory-friendly experience.

5. Kohl Children’s Museum: Everyone at Play


This award-winning museum—known for its indoor water table and its miniature Whole Foods Market—opens early on select Sunday mornings to host kids with special needs. During these events, which are closed to the general public, kids are invited to explore the entire museum and its exhibits and enjoy “calm, creative and collaborative play.”

Is there another sensory-friendly attraction in Chicagoland that you’d recommend?

Contact us and we’ll try to feature it in a future post.

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