We live about an hour away from San Antonio, Texas, and I’ve long been aware of Morgan’s Wonderland, an attraction that is equal parts playground, carnival, and amusement park. What makes Morgan’s Wonderland unique is that it was developed so “those with and without disabilities can come together.” Philanthropist Gordon Hartman developed the park in honor of his disabled daughter Morgan, and the primary corporate sponsor is Toyota.
I was initially skeptical of this park, feeling wary of the philanthropic origin, the emphasis on disabled children and creation by nondisabled parents, and the “special needs” language. However, I was willing to give it a chance, especially because there are so few places that I can take my family to visit that are truly accessible. I was very curious to check it out.
We visited Morgan’s Wonderland in the morning. Families could enter at 9 AM, while school groups were admitted at 10 AM. That first hour was a great time to do the most popular activities while it was still relatively cool. They charge admission for everyone except disabled people (chronic health conditions are not included – see website for details). Fees were reasonable – $11 for kids and $17 for adults. We were welcomed warmly when we got there and I noticed right away that at least half the employees had obvious or apparent — physical, sensory, or intellectual – disabilities. This lent considerable credibility to Morgan’s Wonderland in my book.
I really liked how open and clean the park was. Every door had an automatic opener. There was a clear focus on accessibility and disability was expected. That was a really cool feeling. All the rides had accessible options, and the staff were trained and prepared to use them – it was all very routine. My children and husband happen to be nondisabled, so we experienced the park both as disabled and non-disabled. There were great options for kids with disabilities, from wheelchair swings to a whole sensory village.
We first rode the merry-go-round, at the urging of our 4-year-old who was too afraid to actually get on it. There a dragon platform specifically for wheelchairs that I got on, and it even went up and down like the traditional animals. Our 7-year-old rode it over and over with me. That was the first time I’ve ever actually ridden a merry-go-round with one of my children. We then rode the train, the 7-year-old’s top choice. I rode an accessible car right behind my family.
The kids got to try catch-and-release fishing — no actual catches, but my son now has his own “the one that got away” story.
My favorite ride was the Off-Road Adventure Ride, where a platform easily allowed by wheelchair to ride in the back. My kids are terrible drivers, but they had a blast!
The playgrounds were all very open and I could drive my wheelchair right up there with the kids. Although it was corny, I loved the disabled superheroes that were a theme throughout the park. Although I find the name of the attached waterpark – Morgan’s Inspiration Island – to be quite unfortunate, I think we are going to go check it out once it’s open for the season (it opens today, actually). I am really stoked to see how they have managed to make a waterpark accessible.
Overall, I would give Morgan’s Wonderland an A-. It was a great place to take young kids as a disabled parent. The description “ultra-accessible” was true. It was such a treat to be able to take accessibility for granted for once. I didn’t have to stress about whether I would be able to take my kids on the rides or worry if the bathroom door would be automatic. Everyone was primed to expect disability, so I experienced far less staring and pointing and comments than I usually do on a regular trip in the community with my kids to a museum, splash pad, or park. I just wish they’d scrap the “special” language. If you’re in the San Antonio area for some reason, I recommend you check it out. I’ll follow up with a review of the water park later this summer. Let me know your thoughts if you do make it out there!