Morgan’s Wonderland: Who is it for? It’s for EVERYONE.
The first time we went to Morgan’s Wonderland, I felt awkward about claiming free admission for F.T., my son, who is on the autism spectrum. (The park offers free admission for people of all ages who have special needs.) Autism is an invisible difference, and it can be hard to explain. But I needn’t have worried: the staff welcomed us and offered a special RFID wristband, called a GPS Adventure Band, to help him access games and, if necessary, track his location within the park.
What’s different about Morgan’s Wonderland? Whereas other parks make accommodations for people with disabilities or special needs, Morgan’s Wonderland was intended from the start to be inclusive. The attractions are designed to help people overcome the obstacles that prevented them from enjoying fun experiences that many of us take for granted. The result is a park where everyone can play together.
Perhaps you have heard about Gordon Hartman’s daughter, Morgan, who has a cognitive delay. While she was growing up, he observed her being treated differently and getting left out of games with other children. She inspired her dad to create Morgan’s Wonderland, and now it has just opened for its seventh season, with exciting expansions on the way.
When it first opened in 2010, F.T. was a preschooler. He’s always been tall for his age; when we would go to neighborhood playgrounds, he always wanted to go on the big-kid playscapes, even if his balance and coordination were not ready. At Morgan’s Wonderland, he found playgrounds that were interesting and challenging, but still safe for his ability level.
It amazes me how adaptable the playscapes are. Wheelchair riders can roll up long ramps onto the playscapes, or ride on specially-designed swings. Lots of activities are within arm’s reach for those who have limited mobility. If you need soothing motion, there is equipment that sways or rocks. It’s no wonder Morgan’s Wonderland attracts visitors from across the United States and around the world.
Here are some of my kids’ favorite things to do at Morgan’s Wonderland. As I mentioned, they love the playgrounds, especially the pirate-themed one.
They want to do the Off-Road Adventure Ride again and again.
The carousel is a favorite for my daughter, G.N.
In the Sensory Village, there are electronic games, including interactive screens with fluttering butterflies, falling beads, and a blooming pond.
Morgan’s Wonderland continues to add more attractions. In 2016, visitors will enjoy the Whirling Wonder, an accessible Ferris wheel. The park recently broke ground on Morgan’s Inspiration Island, a first-of-its-kind accessible water park that will open for the 2017 season. (Look for Morgan, wearing a gray shirt, standing next to her dad.)
The way to get the most out of your visit is to check the calendar for park hours and special events. On the first and third Fridays of the month, Morgan’s Wonderland hosts Moms’ Coffee and Conversation from 9:00–10:00 A.M. The park also presents special events on holidays like Spring Break, the 4th of July, Halloween, and Christmas. During last year’s Spring Break, we enjoyed a show by Andrea Guajardo’s flying canines.
G.N. got to meet the Wonder Squad, a group of superheroes with different abilities.
Admission is $17 for adults and $11 for children ages 3–11, seniors, and military. People with special needs and children under age 3 are always free. If you’re looking for ways to save, you can buy a 10-visit ticket for $95 or a season pass for $85; or, you can plan a group visit. Morgan’s Wonderland is located on the near northeast side of San Antonio, in a former quarry. There are several other notable places nearby.
The Academy at Morgan’s Wonderland is a school for young people from 6th grade to age 24 who have special needs. The Academy also offers camps: Last year, F.T. participated in a week-long arts summer camp and honed his public speaking skills by telling stories and jokes to a friendly audience.
CRIT USA is a state-of-the-art facility for children with physical disabilities. They graciously hosted 2015’s Mummies’ Night Out: Leave Your Little Monsters at Home.
Across the street, Toyota Stadium is now the home field for San Antonio FC, the city’s new USL soccer team. (Formerly, the San Antonio Scorpions played at Toyota Field.) San Antonio FC’s first home game will be Saturday, April 9, 2016.
I feel immense gratitude to Gordon Hartman and his daughter, Morgan, for creating a place where everyone can play together. Morgan’s Wonderland is a celebration of human potential, and exemplifies the values of kindness and inclusiveness in our community. And it’s a heck of a lot of fun.