Morgan’s Wonderland

On a recent visit to San Antonio, I was introduced to a truly wonderful place. Morgan’s Wonderland, an amusement park just north of the city, is the first designed specifically for families with physically and mentally challenged children. The park, which opened just this year, was built by the father of a special needs child. During a family vacation, he noticed his daughter wanting to play with some other children in a swimming pool but she was unsure of how to communicate her wishes to them. Likewise, the children seemed to want Morgan to play with them as well, but they were unsure of how to approach her. Today, Morgan’s Wonderland is a father’s realization of a promise to himself to create an atmosphere where children and adults of all abilities and their families can come together and play.

During a short guided tour, myself and several other Tour Operators from the Travel Alliance Partnership were shown several accessible attractions, including a merry-go-round that was lowered so the platform with the animals is level with the ground. In this way, a wheelchair can simply roll onto the ride. Additionally, the merry-go-round features an apparatus that can accommodate a wheelchair, which itself will go “up and down,” just like the animals. No more simply going around in circles in a non-moving spot. Other rides included a fully accessible train and “off-road” vehicle. There were also play gyms, sand boxes and play tables, along with full-size swing sets, that could accommodate wheelchairs and other special needs as well.

What’s really amazing about Morgan’s Wonderland is how its staff takes care of families that visit. Reservations are highly encouraged as the park maintains a strict maximum attendance each day. This helps keep the crowds more manageable and provides a level of comfort to children with special needs who may be anxious in large numbers of people. Families are also provided unique radio wrist bands. If a parent feels comfortable allowing a child to explore the park on his/her own, the parent can locate the child at any time by using special kiosks throughout the park. Here’s the best part – admission for those with special needs is free to Morgan’s Wonderland. Attendants of special needs visitors are only charged $5 and others are admitted for only $15.

As the first of its kind, Morgan’s Wonderland is fighting to get the word out about the unique experience it offers. More parks are hoped for in the future with the possibility of franchising the idea so that like-minded individuals and non-profits can bring similar parks to their regions sooner. In the meantime, Morgan’s Wonderland continues to serve families from not only the greater region around San Antonio, but from all over the United States. For more information about the park and its mission, please visit www.morganswonderland.com.

Merry Christmas from Sports Leisure Vacations

Merry Christmas to all our online travelers.  It’s been an amazing year, and we just wanted to take a moment to thank you for everything!  Here are just a few videos we found interesting and worth a share.  Enjoy your weekend and be safe!

First we have the story of Christmas…slightly updated.  We all got a kick out of this around the office.  Enjoy!

The Story of Christmas….updated

Next, you all will probably remember David Walburn from our 2010 Tour Preview Day.  He joined us all the way from Montana to entertain and amaze us.  David recently sent us his new holiday song to share with everyone, so that’s what we’re doing.  It’s definitely an awesome way to spend a few minutes today!

David Walburn singing Christmas Time Again!

Merry Christmas!

Honoring our Veterans and Enjoying Great Music Along the Way!

I escorted my first tour to Branson Missouri in 2003. I really did not think I would enjoy watching shows for several days as I am more at home being in the great outdoors, traveling to our National Parks. Since 2003 I have escorted eleven tours to Branson and look forward to many more! First of all Branson is in a beautiful setting, in the middle of the Ozark Mountains. Our beautiful hotel, the Hilton Promenade sits in the middle of a shopping area called the Branson Landing on the banks of Lake Taneycomo. Also steps away, the historic Old Town with a five and dime store, and neat little shops. It is also very convenient getting to Branson these days since they opened a brand new airport just south of town.

But what keeps people coming back to Branson are the shows that line the road known as Country Blvd 76, soon to be renamed Entertainment Blvd because it is not just country music you will hear. On our visit we watched the performances of Johnny Mathis, Andy Williams, Debbie Boone and the Gatlin Brothers, Tony Orlando and the Lennon Sisters, Russian comedian Yakov Smirnoff, Japanese violinist Shoji Tabuchi, The Hughes Brothers, and Jim Stafford.

I had a really lovely, fun group. We enjoyed 70 degree days all but one, and a nice sightseeing tour around the area. Breakfast and dinner where included each day and the meals and restaurants were excellent. We were in town during the Veterans Day week with their annual parade passing right by our hotel. Branson is the most patriotic place in the country; they acknowledge our veterans each day of the year, not just on Veterans Day. I think the thing I like the most about Branson are the people, they are so friendly. We pull right up to the front door of the theatres and restaurants. No place else do I know of where the restaurant manager will come on to the coach and welcome you to his establishment. If you’ve never been to Branson, find a spot for it on your travel calendar, I don’t think you will be disappointed. Next year’s tour will depart sometime in the fall. Look for the itinerary in our newsletter the beginning of 2011.

In Memoriam…

I am not a current events junkie. I have to force myself to watch the news on television or read a paper. I learn of current events in sound bites while doing cardio at the gym or by scanning the front page of a paper. I never allow myself to go past the headlines. If it isn’t important enough to make it to the front page, it’s not that important, right?

KVIE often airs specials by Doctors Andrew Weil and Wayne Dyer. If one is a guru for the body, the other is likewise for the spirit. Their approaches to total health are quite different, but one thing they agree on is the public media in America. With all due respect to the First Amendment, much of the news we get in this country is distorted, sensationalized and extremely negative. The doctors ask why we would want to pollute our bodies with bad news, and advise against a daily intake. I couldn’t agree more!

It is in this spirit that I picked up the paper when arriving at the office at 5:50 a.m. this morning. My daily scan didn’t make it past the fold. In fact, I didn’t even take the rubber band off. The news that screamed out at me from the upper left corner of the front page was the passing of Elizabeth Edwards in her 61st year of life.

I did not know Ms. Edwards, but I think I would have liked her. Like many, I learned about her during her former husband’s presidential runs . . . his rise and demise. My interest was heightened because they were from North Carolina, so we were likely cousins.

It’s easy to like a person when everything is going well, when they are enjoying a flattering national spotlight. We think we really know them through titles and images presented by the mass media. College Sweetheart-Turned-Wife. Devoted Mother. Active Volunteer. Respected Lawyer. Christian. All that is so sweet. It’s fun being a Fair Weather Friend. But the true test of a man or woman is how they react to adversity. What do they and we do when the titles change to Cheated Wife? Cancer Patient? Divorcee? I was intrigued enough by this question to go beyond the headlines. My mother says you never really know a person until they are tested. This is where the rubber hits the road. For some reason, I wanted to really know Elizabeth Edwards.

It turns out I did really know her after all. Whenever I saw her in print media or on television, she exhibited the same positive qualities following the fall of the Edwards Empire as she did before. Even in long interviews, like the one where Larry King pelted her with tough questions for an hour, she always kept her composure. She never said anything bad about John. She only spoke of herself, her kids and especially her dreams for the future, most notably a body that was cancer-free. In the South, they call this Class, and she had a lion’s share of it.

Mary Elizabeth Anania Edwards was a true lady. The world was a better place because of her, and we are all better for having known her. I’m glad we got to walk this path together, if only for awhile. Godspeed . . .