20 Fun Outings for Kids with Special Needs
These parks, theaters and attractions are great for children of all abilities.
PARKS & PLAYGROUNDS
This multi-use area, which includes stretches of Four Mile Run and the W&OD Trail, features paths for biking and walking, bathrooms and water fountains in multiple locations, plus several small playground options and a rose garden that keeps my kids mesmerized. There are large fields for running and playing, as well as tennis courts and picnic spots. Note: It is near a stream.
850 N. Lexington St., Arlington
This large park in Fairfax County has tons of parking and beautiful trails. It is partially wheelchair accessible, with family-friendly activities such as a train and carousel (both require tickets), an ice cream shop and a large playground. The staff is friendly and accommodating; they allowed my son to “wait” for the train on the playground when he could not handle the line.
Pro tip: Buy tickets for the train and carousel when you first arrive, then go play or walk. Ask for accommodation with the train line if you need it; the line it can be very long.
7315 Ox Road, Fairfax Station
Just off Georgetown Pike in McLean,this enormous park has endless equipment options, including high backed-swings, ramps between structures and a large carousel with wheelchair-accessible horses and chariots. There are water fountains and bathrooms, a shady pavilion with tables and benches, a train, and plenty of sensory equipment for kids to explore. My son especially loves the variety of bouncing apparatuses, although we have personally struggled with the sheer size of the park and large crowds. While the play areas are enclosed, it can be challenging to keep up with multiple children who run and/or siblings of different ages.
Pro tip: Bring headphones for children with sensory issues. This has helped us tremendously as we transition back to the car when our autistic child is tired and overwhelmed.
6317 Georgetown Pike, McLean
This small, sunny park with a low-key sprayground is partially enclosed, with a hill that leads to the fields by Drew Model School. There are no bathrooms in the park, though there is a nearby rec center about 1/8 mile away. (A bit of a trek for some kids.) It’s a wheelchair accessible space with lots of sensory-friendly equipment.
2310 S. Kenmore St., Arlington
My kids love to watch planes taking off and landing at Reagan National Airport from this small park along the George Washington National Parkway. It’s an open field with benches and tables and plenty of parking. There are portable toilets, but no water fountains. Note: It can be very windy and there is immediate access to the water’s edge, but the spectator opportunities are fun even if you stay in the car.
Pro tip: Park at the far end of the parking lot to avoid the bicyclists on the Mount Vernon Trail.