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.