Celebrate independent living this 4th of July weekend! Across the country, people will observe this patriotic holiday by gathering with friends, eating, enjoying the outdoors, and traveling. It is no different for people with disabilities, so we’re highlighting 5 fantastic American landmark cities that are known for being wheelchair-friendly.
What better way to commemorate Independence Day than to visit Baltimore, Maryland, birthplace of our national anthem! Baltimore is rich in history and offers several handicap-accessible activities suitable for all ages. The Ft McHenry National Monument has a comprehensive visitor’s center, outdoor activities, and information about the War of 1812. The National Aquarium (known to be one of the most wheelchair accessible, handicap-friendly attractions according to Disabled Travelers) has an expansive collection of marine life from around the globe with over 660 species and 16,000 creatures on exhibit. And since Baltimore is a coastal city, your trip would not be complete without the Inner Harbor where you can shop, dine, and stay along the breathtaking waterfront.
From Coast to Coast, Seattle has consistently ranked as one of the most accessible cities. Home of the first Starbucks, this progressive city offers fantastic wheelchair-friendly public transportation to an array of activities suitable for a wide range of interests. The Space Needle is an icon in Seattle, boasting 360 degree views of the city and surrounding mountains from its 520 foot tower. Equipped with ramps and elevators, the Space Needle also offers a unique dining experience in its revolving restaurant. One can also explore the neighboring islands via accessible ferries. Aeronautics enthusiasts will want to make the short trip over to Mukileto, a city 25 miles north of Seattle, to take the Future of Flight Aviation Center and Boeing Tour by, Boeing. Book ADA tours in advance for an up-close look at the only commercial jet assembly plant in the US.
If you’re looking for an amusing trip, head over to Orlando where amusement parks offer days of entertainment. Universal Studios and Disney World offer accessible activities, paths, and events for all ages. Want to get in on some action? Check out You Can Ski 2, a US Water Ski affiliated site that teaches people with disabilities (including wheelchair users) how to use adaptive equipment to water ski. Private lessons are available as well. And for anyone who loves animals, be sure to check out Discovery Cove where “specially designed beach wheelchairs” can be rented to access Serenity Bay beach. The All-Day, All-Inclusive package also includes a 30-minute dolphin interaction and hand feeding exotic birds from the free-flight aviary as well as unlimited access to SeaWorld Orlando!
The Mile High City, though surrounded by pristine mountains, is actually a relatively flat city that offers accessible mass transit for people with disabilities. Denver ranks first in the nation for per-capita beer production and offers several brewery tours, including the wheelchair-friendly Denver Microbrew Tour. Learn about beer and its history with Denver as you taste beer samples from four different microbreweries located in the historic LODO District. Afterwards, hit up the 16th Street Mall, sixteen blocks of shopping, street vendors, entertainment, and delicious food in downtown Denver. Stroll with ease along the pedestrian-only strip or take advantage of the free shuttle service that is handicap-accessible. Attractions such as Coors Field and The Pepsi Center are only a few blocks away. If you’re looking for a quiet retreat, the Denver Botanical Gardens offers a tranquil getaway from the hustle and bustle of downtown, ranked in the Top 10 Public Gardens by Country Living Gardener magazine. Accessible pathways and raised beds allow persons with disabilities to fully experience the beautiful landscape.
On a hot summer day, you can enjoy the constant breeze from Lake Michigan throughout the downtown streets of Chicago. The Art Institute of Chicago offers an esteemed collection of over 3,000 world class art pieces. The museum offers a rich assortment American art from artists such as Georgia O’Keefe, Winslow Homer, James McNeill Whistler, and more. Enjoy picturesque views of the city from two of Chicago’s most famous architectural buildings, the John Hancock observatory or the skydeck of the Sears Tower. If you prefer to get up close and personal with the city, visit Navy Pier, a popular tourist attraction with dining, shopping, concerts, and performances on the many stages. Some cruise boats that leave from Navy Pier are wheelchair accessible such as the Chicago River Architecture Cruise; most suggest you call in advance to ensure your spot is reserved on the accessible deck of the boat.
If you don’t already have a wheelchair, check with your local homecare equipment company (like Lambert’s). Many offer rentals for wheelchairs, power scooters, and transport chairs. This is just one more way we help increase quality of life by providing ways to get out and explore this great country of ours. What wheelchair-friendly cities have you been to?