Your guide to the sensory-friendly attractions in Toledo!
By Kendahl Plank
Posted On: July 11, 2023
There has been a growing awareness and appreciation for sensory-friendly experiences that cater to individuals with sensory sensitivities, including those with autism spectrum disorders, sensory processing disorders, and other special needs. Destination Toledo has embraced this movement, working with attractions to become Certified Autism Centers, which moves Toledo one step closer to our greater initiative to become a Certified Autism Destination. Making these remarkable strides in creating inclusive spaces and activities that celebrate diversity and ensure everyone can fully participate and enjoy what the city has to offer.
This blog aims to be a guide to the sensory-friendly offerings of Toledo. We will provide insights into the best sensory-friendly experiences. Whether you are a local seeking new adventures, or a visitor discovering the city for the first time, we are here to help you navigate Toledo's inclusive landscape.
Toledo Zoo & Aquarium
The Toledo Zoo has launched a Toledo Zoo for All program which includes a roll out of the following sensory offerings and more!
Available at the front desk of the visitor services building in entry plaza. There is no additional cost, only completion of a liability form required. Sensory bags include noise-canceling headphones (both adult and child sizes), whiteboard with marker, sensory and fidget tools, a social story, misting fan, and straws.
A sensory map is available here which displays which areas of the zoo are crowded, which are designated as sensory friendly, which areas are loud, interactive and which are dimly lit. They even go so far as to note when there might be scent changes along the path. If you are visiting the zoo with an individual with sensory needs of any kind, this map is the guide you need!
The zoo includes spaces in several exhibits where you can experience the exhibit in a designated seperate space. Built into the Kodiak Bear exhibit is a sensory log, which allows visitors to crawl inside and see the bears like they’ve never seen them before. It’s an exciting encounter that’s so close, they’ll be breathing the same air as the bears themselves!
Toledo Zoo welcomes service animals and complies with ADA Title III regulations. Service animals are defined as dogs or miniature horses, individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. The service animal must be under the control of its handler. Under the ADA, service animals must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered, unless the individual’s disability prevents using these devices or these devices interfere with the service animal’s safe, effective performance of tasks.
The Toledo Zoo & Aquarium also offers an accessibility app, TZoo4All to assist with your visit! Available for iOS and Android.
For all accessibility information call 419-385-5721 ext. 3039
The Valentine Theatre’s Weekend Family Series is now sensory-friendly. These "Relaxed" performances are for everyone and include minor accommodations for patrons with sensory sensitivities. The performances provide an opportunity for all families to enjoy a live theatre performance together in a relaxed, inclusive environment. The Valentine has a strong commitment to these offerings and they were the first attraction in Toledo to earn their designation as a Certified Autism Center!
Modifications typically available at Sensory-Friendly / Relaxed Performances:
- Mitigation of sudden, loud sounds
- Low-level lighting throughout the performance
- Patrons are welcome to talk, sing, and move throughout the performance
- Quiet retreat space in the Founder’s Room (located off the Grand (mural) Lobby) with soft seating and relaxing activities
- Families are encouraged to bring their own calming and motivational systems for their child(ren)
- A limited number of fidgets and headphones are available to borrow from the Box Office
Imagination Station Toledo
Toledo's Science Center is committed to creating an inviting place for anyone to come and explore science!
Sensory Friendly Showtimes
The KeyBank Discovery Theater has two, sensory-friendly showtimes for 3D educational films. Every Tuesday at 4:15pm and every Sunday at 12:30, will have the lights up and the volume down giving all visitors an opportunity to experience the wonder of the GIANT screen
Other Sensory Offerings
- Calming Room available
- Noise-reducing headphones and ear plugs available
- Kulture City sensory-friendly bags for both adults and children that include headphones, fidget spinners and social storyboards
- Sensory environment map
- Weighted lap pad
The MindZone learning world contains several exhibits with strobe lights, loud sounds, optical illusions and other potential sensory triggers. The Grow U exhibit Farm 101’s animatronic characters begin talking as soon as you enter the room. Many of the science center’s exhibits are extremely hands-on and may incorporate tactile elements such as differing temperatures, water and sand. Extreme Science Demonstrations take place in the Extreme Science Theater on the lower level throughout the day and may include loud noises and bright flashes of light.
If you have any specific questions or accommodation requests, call 419-244-2674.
Toledo Museum of Art
The Museum aims to be known for its commitment to quality and a culture of belonging, where anyone can come through the doors and feel not only are they welcome, but also expected. The Museum has also received their designation as a Certified Autism Center.
TMA offers designated low-sensory areas at major events such as the annual Block Party and Great Art Escape to provide respite from the crowds and noise. Sensory kits for visitors include earplugs, whiteboards for communication and various fidgets. Noise-canceling headphones are available during some special events, and TMA is working to have these headphones available at all times at the visitor experience desks. Weighted lap pads are available in the Museum’s Family Center.
Metroparks is dedicated to inclusivity and making Toledo parks places everyone can enjoy. Most parks have multi-purpose trails for all ability types and their staff has the ability to adapt several programs.
Metroparks Toledo staff can adapt many programs to be accessible to anyone who would like to participate. Reasonable accommodations can also be made. Please communicate your needs to them at the time of registration, but no later than 72 business hours prior to the program.
Secor Barrier Free Playground
The Phase 1 playground features include: A Rock-N-Raft offers a great way to play with friends while remaining seated; Wide ramps and low hand rails provide easy accessibility up the play structure; sensory wave climber, rings and a hand cycler give kids a chance to use upper body strength to play; slide transfers offer an easy access point to ride down slides, and soft surfacing offers accessibility throughout the play area.
The Doneghy Inclusive Garden
Offers wheelchair accessible garden beds, ADA compliant seating within a pergola, a sensory water wall, and plantings with olfactory and touch sensory components.
For additional information or questions, please contact Ashley Smith at 419-265-2920 or Ashley.Smith@MetroparksToledo.com.
National Museum of the Great Lakes
The National Museum of the Great Lakes has recently received their designation as a Certified Autism Center and has been involved in community initiatives to provide sensory friendly activities within their purview.
In addition to their CAC designation, NMGL has an ongoing partnership with Spectrum Sailing, which provides maritime education, programming, and outreach for individuals with autism. The museum helps promote their program and offers their members a chance to join.
Wingate by Wyndham Sylvania
In addition to the hotel’s training and CAC designation, the hotel offers several low sensory areas for guests who may need retreat from any overstimulation. One area includes a view of a 10-mile creek to add to the tranquility of the room and includes tv access, as well.
Toledo speedway BMX track is the very first BMX track every to become a Certified Autism Destination!
Toledo Speedway offers noise cancelling and ear protecting headphones, a low sensory area to escape the loud hustle and bustle of the racing, and healthier food items in the concession stand.
Below is a list of local organizations who have completed their Certified Autism Training and are now Certified Autism Centers:
- Destination Toledo
- Avenues for Autism
- Boyds Retro Candy
- National Museum of the Great Lakes
- Toledo Museum of Art
- Valentine Theatre
- Wingate by Wyndham Sylvania
- Toledo Speedway BMX
- Toledo Santa LLC
- Visit Perrysburg
- Sylvania Chamber of Commerce
Organizations who are currently working toward their designation:
- Huntington Center
- Glass City Center
- Toledo Express Airport
- Franklin Park Mall
Destination Toledo's efforts within travel and tourism work in tandem with a community-wide goal for Toledo to become the most disability-friendly city in the country.
There are many initiatives led by The Ability Center of Greater Toledo with support from participating organizations throughout the area to achieve this goal. They have an equipment lending program, which includes sensory equipment plus they host disability friendly events. Learn more about The Ability Center and how Toledo is thinking differently at abilitycenter.org.
Check out this upcoming event: The Ability Center Takes Over Main Branch
Toledo is for Everyone!
This blog will continue to grow as Toledo attractions expand their sensory friendly offerings, so please check back periodically for updates!