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Best Vacations for Disabled Adults in the Midwest

Cassandra Brooklyn Freelance Writer & Guidebook Author

by Staff

Vacation planning can be stressful for anyone, but adding in the variable of finding accessible travel destinations—be they bathrooms, bars, or botanic gardens—poses another challenge. While a growing number of children’s museums and attractions are improving accessibility options, there tends to be less information out there about vacation destinations for disabled adults, who have distinct needs and interests. To help you plan your next accessible getaway, here are the best Midwest vacations for disabled adults.


Pro Tip: Before you go, check websites and call to confirm specific availability and accessibility information.


Indy’s flat topography makes its bike trails especially accessible for users of all styles of bicycles and wheelchairs.
Courtesy of Visit Indy

 


Indianapolis

What better way to kick off your visit to the home of “The Greatest Race Course in the World” than a stop at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum? If you want to ride around the iconic Indy 500 racetrack, hop on one of the track tour buses, four of which are wheelchair-accessible. Visually impaired visitors can join museum hosts on a “touch tour” of selected display cars. (Note that advance reservations are not required, but they can be helpful.) American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters are also available upon request, with at least 48 hours advance notice. Printed transcriptions are available for the video shown in the theater and the audio narration in the track tour bus.


As Indy is one of the flattest cities in the country, it’s a great place for a leisurely ride. Several accessible nature stops are scattered along the city’s bike-friendly Cultural Trail, and Pacers Bikeshare offers an adaptive bike program, renting out four styles of bikes and offering personal bike fittings to ensure you find the best model.


Newfields is a multi-experience cultural campus that includes four miles of accessible outdoor trails and the fully accessible Indianapolis Museum of Art. Complimentary indoor and outdoor wheelchairs are available, electric scooters can be rented, and the museum also offers audio listening devices and ASL interpreters (with advance notice). Exhibition labels display in large fonts, gallery videos are captioned, and in the Design Galleries, guests can touch and test materials from the design collection. A Touch & Audio Descriptive Tour is also available for low-vision and blind guests who can engage with the exhibit through touch and descriptive narration.


Flying in and out of Indianapolis International Airport? Know that it is a certified sensory-inclusive venue and it supports the disabled community by putting on events like plane pulls for the Special Olympics and Soaring for Autism Nights.


More Great Places for Disabled Adults to Explore: Indiana Repertory TheatreEiteljorg Museum of American Museums and Western ArtLucas Oil Stadium (home to the Indianapolis Colts), Garfield Park Conservatory




Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse offers a huge range of accessible features, including wheelchair escorts and a Sensory Room.
Courtesy of Destination Cleveland

 


Cleveland

Some might be surprised to learn that the largest performing arts center outside of New York City is located in Cleveland. Playhouse Square has automatic doors at all front exterior entrances and in the garage, offers designated wheelchair-accessible seats, and provides wheelchairs and escorts at no additional cost. In addition, sensory-friendly performances feature lower sound and light levels, with designated calming areas staffed by volunteer specialists.


Art lovers may also want to check out the Cleveland Museum of Art, which hosts monthly Sensory-Friendly Saturdays. Guests on the autism spectrum, experiencing dementia, or who have intellectual or developmental disabilities can enjoy a more calm museum experience in some of the galleries before they open to the public. The event is designed to reduce crowds, noise, distractions and overall stimulation.


Basketball fans who want to catch a Cleveland Cavaliers game can head to Rocket Mortgage Field House, which displays braille signage in public areas, has complimentary wheelchair escorts, and provides amplification and hearing-aid compatible devices. Captioning information is displayed on scoreboards (guests can also view it on their mobile devices), and sign language interpreters are available at certain games and performances. At each event, a Sensory Room is also always designated to help guests regroup if they’ve become overstimulated.


More Great Places for Disabled Adults to Explore: Cleveland Metroparks, with a variety of inclusive outdoor experiencesNear West TheatreRock & Roll Hall of FameCleveland Museum of Natural History




There are two styles of beach wheelchairs available at Bradford Beach.
Courtesy of Visit Milwaukee

 


Milwaukee

For many travelers, a fun (and perhaps even the best) way to explore a city is by bicycle. In 2019, Milwaukee introduced adaptive bikes to its Bublr Bikes bikeshare program and expanded the program in 2022. You’ll need to call to find out exactly where the adaptive bikes are and have one reserved for you, but once you have it, it’s a great way to see the city.


Milwaukee’s Wehr Nature Center has long stocked a “mobility corner,” where guests can borrow free wheelchairs, stools, walkers and canes to use while bird-watching, exploring the grounds, or attending an educational program. Several years ago, the center also introduced a motorized all-terrain wheelchair, known as a “hiking wheelchair,” that visitors can use to access the center’s wooded trails or even borrow to use off-site.


In summer, sun- and fun-lovers can head to Bradford Beach, which offers two types of beach wheelchairs and an accessible pathway that leads right to the water’s edge. And any time of year, service animals and Segways are welcome at the Milwaukee Art Museum (which also provides wheelchairs), and you can join a wheelchair-friendly tour of Lakefront Brewery—a truly Milwaukee experience.


Disabled adults who need assistance changing their brief or clothing when traveling have long encountered the challenge of finding a safe space that isn’t the floor of a public bathroom. Milwaukee’s General Mitchell Airport has two adult-size, height-adjustable changing stations for adults with disabilities, which is a very rare find in the U.S. They are located near the Miller Brewhouse in the Main Terminal and in the family restroom on Concourse D.


More Great Places for Disabled Adults to Explore: Milwaukee Public MuseumAmerican Family Field (home to the Milwaukee Brewers), Fiserv Forum (home to the Milwaukee Bucks), Marcus Center for the Performing Arts




The Guthrie Theater offers inclusive backstage experiences for disabled visitors.
Courtesy of The Guthrie Theater

 


Minneapolis

The Minneapolis area is famous for its massive Mall of America, but few travelers know just how accessible the mall is, with wheelchair, electric cart and shopping cart rentals, as well as two service animal relief centers. Plus, the entire mall is a Certified Autism Center.


Consistently rated as the most bike-friendly city in the country, Minneapolis has worked to ensure much of its 250-mile network of on- and off-street bikeways is accessible. The city’s most famous bike path is the Midtown Greenway, a 5.5-mile-long former railroad corridor in south Minneapolis. The route is completely flat and car-free, and many on-ramps allow access by wheelchair or scooter. Outdoor enthusiasts can also head to nearby Fort Snelling State Park (in sister city, St. Paul), where motorized track chairs can be reserved for free to explore a network of trails—one of more than a dozen Minnesota state parks that now offer track chairs.


The Minneapolis Institute of Art provides wheelchairs and walkers to guests at no additional charge, and blind and low-vision visitors can request verbal descriptions. Museum videos include closed-captioning, and hearing-impaired visitors can ask for ASL interpreters (note that not all requests can be met and advance notice is suggested).


For live theater performances, the iconic Guthrie Theater is a great pick and it’s also conveniently located downtown overlooking the winding Mississippi River (which has an accessible pedestrian path and benches for resting). Courtesy wheelchairs are available at the Guthrie, as well as open captioning and Wi-Fi assistive listening devices. Select performances include ASL interpretation (check the schedule in advance), and ASL-interpreted backstage tours can also be arranged. Audio descriptions, braille, large-print materials and high-magnification sport glasses help blind and low-vision patrons enjoy the show, while “relaxed” performances are designed for neurodivergent guests or anyone who might struggle sitting through a traditional performance for several hours.


More Great Places for Disabled Adults to Explore: The Bell MuseumMinneapolis Institute of Art,  American Swedish InstituteMinnesota Orchestra



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