20 Fun Outings for Kids with Special Needs

These parks, theaters and attractions are great for children of all abilities.

Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly



The Smithsonian Institution offers extensive accommodations for visitors with disabilities, including pre-visit social stories and maps, as well as Mornings at the Museum (MATM), an innovative option that allows families to visit before the museum opens. Families taking advantage of MATM can work with staff who are specially trained to support children on the spectrum. MATM events are free, but require tickets, and are offered once a month.

Pro tip: To make the most of Mornings at the Museum, get on the mailing list and register early. Tickets go fast! For all visits, download maps beforehand and go through the pre-visit stories with your children so they know what to expect. Avoid weekends when possible, and try to plan for a 10:00 a.m. arrival to avoid crowds. The Air and Space Museum and Natural History Museum, in particular, can be packed. The National Museum of the American Indian and National Gallery of Art are often calmer and less crowded. Check out Multiverse, an amazing light tunnel that connects the East and West buildings in the National Gallery of Art. It’s a sensory delight!

The National Mall, Washington, D.C.

Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center

Located out near Dulles Airport, this quieter cousin of the Smithsonian’s downtown Air and Space Museum includes a huge hangar of airplanes and rockets. It’s rarely crowded and easily navigated on foot or by wheel. Where else can you see an actual space shuttle up close?

Pro tip: Call two weeks in advance if you have a specific request for an individualized tour. Note: Strollers are allowed throughout the museum, but are not permitted in the observation tower.

14390 Air and Space Museum Parkway, Chantilly

Goddard Space Flight Center

This off-the-beaten-path visitor’s center is small, quiet and rarely crowded. It has several fascinating exhibits, including an outdoor space with a display of historical aircraft, and a fun, low-key scavenger hunt that families can do together. It’s wheelchair accessible and easily explored in an hour. Well worth the drive.

8800 Greenbelt Road, Greenbelt, Maryland

National Aquarium

Baltimore’s internationally acclaimed aquarium has taken inclusivity to the next level. It provides a quiet guest relations room for visitors who need a break, early entry the first weekend of each month, and clear online descriptions of the galleries, making it easy for families to plan and map out their visits ahead of time. There is a separate accessible entrance to avoid long lines.  Pro tip: Use the website to plan your trip in advance. Some exhibits are loud and have flashing lights.

501 East Pratt Street, Baltimore, Maryland

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Categories: Parents & Kids