For many people with autism, the world can at times be an overwhelming and challenging place to navigate. Crowded environments, unfamiliar surroundings, and lack of structure can make it challenging for people with autism to enjoy typical days out.
Despite these challenges, it’s essential for their happiness and well-being that people with autism get out and experience and explore the world around them. That’s why it’s important to consider places that are less crowded and overwhelming to ensure an enjoyable experience for all involved.
At Liaise, we are dedicated to helping people with autism and other varied needs lead happy and purposeful lives. Here we share 10 ideas for autism-friendly days out in the UK that cater to those who need a more structured and calming environment. We’ve also provided some general tips to help you plan a day out the whole family will love.
10 Autism-friendly Day Out Ideas
1. Camp Mohawk, Berkshire
Camp Mohawk in Berkshire is a place like no other. Tucked away in a tranquil woodland setting, this unique camp provides a safe and supportive environment for children and young people with varied support needs. With a range of exciting activities on offer, from arts and crafts to archery, canoeing, and zip-lining, there’s something for people of all skills and capabilities to enjoy.
But what really sets Camp Mohawk apart is its dedicated and experienced staff, who are passionate about providing an inclusive and fun-filled experience for all. Whether your loved one has physical disabilities, learning difficulties, or autism, they’ll find a warm welcome and a chance to shine at Camp Mohawk
2. Birdworld, Surrey
Birdworld is a family-friendly wildlife park and gardens located in Farnham, Surrey. With a focus on providing a safe and calming environment, Birdworld offers a unique opportunity to get up close and personal with over 2,000 birds from over 180 species. They also have an aquarium and a farm where you can pet and feed the animals. For those who need a quieter space, there are designated sensory rooms where visitors can take a break and relax.
If you love the great outdoors, the park has plenty of open spaces and nature trails to explore. Birdworld’s trained staff are always on hand to assist those with additional needs, and the park also offers autism-friendly events throughout the year.
3. Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm
Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm in Bristol is the perfect destination for an autism-friendly day out with the whole family. The zoo offers a unique opportunity to get up close and personal with over 100 different species of animals.
From majestic lions and tigers to playful farm animals, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. The park has plenty of quiet spaces and sensory areas for those who need to take a break or rest.
Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm has collaborated closely with the National Autistic Society and local schools in Bristol to develop autism-friendly signage throughout the zoo. These signs are designed to be accessible to all visitors, regardless of their age or ability, and aim to provide a comfortable and inclusive experience for everyone.
4. Hornby Hobbies Visitor Centre
The Hornby Hobbies Visitor Centre in Kent allows families to relive the wonder of Britain’s best-loved toys. This unique centre offers a fascinating insight into the history and craftsmanship of the model railway building.
There are plenty of interactive exhibits and displays to delight visitors of all ages. Visitors can see a variety of train sets in action, from vintage steam locomotives to modern high-speed trains. The centre also includes a large-scale outdoor garden railway, where guests can see trains running through a beautifully landscaped garden.
In addition to the exhibits, there are plenty of hands-on activities to keep visitors of all ages engaged. Kids and the young at heart can try their hand at driving a train on a miniature railway, while adults can test their skills at a model train simulator.
5. The MAD Museum
Located in Stratford-upon-Avon, The MAD Museum is a unique and interactive museum that celebrates the art of mechanical movement. With over 150 machines and contraptions to marvel at, this unique museum offers a fascinating insight into the world of kinetic art.
For people with autism, The MAD Museum provides a welcoming and sensory-friendly environment. With a range of interactive exhibits and hands-on activities, visitors of all ages can explore the world of mechanical art at their own pace.
What makes The MAD Museum particularly appealing to those with autism is its focus on sensory stimulation. The museum incorporates a range of sounds, textures, and visual effects, which can be enjoyed without being overwhelming.
6. Eden Project
With its stunning collection of plants and fascinating ecosystems, the Eden Project offers a truly unique and sensory experience for all visitors. Thanks to a longstanding partnership with the Sensory Trust, the Eden Project is committed to making itself as accessible and engaging as possible for all visitors.
From the vibrant rainforest canopy to the Mediterranean olive groves, there’s something for everyone to explore and enjoy. With plenty of open spaces and sensory areas, the Eden Project is the perfect destination for families with loved ones with support or sensory needs.
Visitors with autism can look forward to a range of sensory-friendly activities and features. The staff and performers at the Eden Project are trained in Makaton, a language programme that uses signs and symbols to aid communication. This makes it easier for some people with autism to interact and engage with staff and performers.
The Eden Project also offers relaxed sessions of their popular Earth Story experience during the summer holidays. These sessions are specially designed to be sensory-friendly, with lighting and sound adjustments to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable experience for people with autism.
7. Sandcastle Waterpark in Blackpool
With its thrilling slides and pools, Sandcastle Waterpark in Blackpool offers an unforgettable aquatic experience. But what sets Sandcastle Waterpark apart is its commitment to being welcoming and engaging for people with varied support needs. The park offers a unique sensory story that you can share with your loved one before the event, which can help them feel more comfortable and confident on the day.
Sandcastle Waterpark also offers quiet hours and special sessions that are designed to be more sensory-friendly. During these sessions, the park turns down the lights and music to create a more relaxed atmosphere. They also offer wristbands that can be worn by people with autism to help staff identify and provide extra assistance if needed.
8. The Science Museum
The Science Museum offers an engaging and educational experience for visitors of all ages. This famous London museum is world-renowned and dedicated to showcasing the latest advances in science and technology.
For people with sensory and support needs, the museum hosts Night Owls events, specially designed to provide a quieter and more relaxed atmosphere. With reduced noise levels and smaller crowds, Night Owls events are the perfect opportunity for your loved one to explore the museum in a safe and comfortable environment.
The Science Museum also offers a range of resources and facilities to help visitors with autism feel more comfortable and supported. These include sensory backpacks filled with noise-cancelling headphones, fidget toys and other sensory tools. The museum also has visual guides and social stories available to download from their website, which can help visitors prepare for their visit and understand what to expect.
9. Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle is a royal residence located in the English county of Berkshire, known for its stunning architecture and rich history. The castle features a range of attractions, including the State Apartments, Queen Mary’s Doll’s House, and the incredible St. George’s Chapel.
One of the unique features of Windsor Castle is that it offers visitors with autism special guides with headphones that provide a quieter, less overwhelming experience. These headphones can help reduce noise levels and provide a more calming and immersive experience for your loved one.
10. Cinemas and Theatres
Many cinemas and theatres offer special screening nights that are adapted for people with autism. These screenings typically feature brighter lights and reduced sound levels, creating a more comfortable and relaxed atmosphere for your loved one.
For theatre performances, adaptations may include reduced sensory stimuli and more relaxed rules around movement and noise. With trained staff on hand to provide additional support, you can be sure that your loved one will have a great time.
Tips for Planning an Autism-friendly Day Out
Planning a day out for a loved one with autism can be a rewarding experience, but it can also come with its challenges. With a little bit of extra planning, you can create an autism-friendly day out that the whole family will enjoy.
Here are some tips to help you plan a stress-free and enjoyable day for all:
- Get as much information about the place beforehand, such as maps or leaflets. Let them have a look and decide on the itinerary – get your loved one involved as much as possible in planning your day out so nothing is a surprise.
- Try and choose a quiet and less crowded destination. If your loved one is overwhelmed by large crowds of people, consider going during off-peak times and avoid weekends.
- Pack comfort items and their favourite sensory tools or activities.
- Check if the destination offers autism-friendly services or accommodations
- Consider the distance and familiarity of the location. For some people with autism, travelling too far from home or going to an unfamiliar place can be overwhelming and lead to sensory overload.
- Inform staff and make them aware of any specific needs or concerns.
- Take breaks and allow for downtime throughout the day.
- Be flexible and open to changing plans if needed.
- Celebrate small successes and enjoy the day as it comes.
Most of all, discuss a plan of action with them in case they get overwhelmed. Let them know when it stops feeling fun to them, you can go home. It’s important they don’t feel pressured or unsafe.
Specialist Support for Autism
At Liaise we don’t just provide specialist care and support, we empower people to live richer lives. Our mission is to enrich the lives of people with autism and other varied needs and support them in living happy, purposeful lives.
Through our residential care and supported living services, people with autism can learn, work and create lifelong friendships in a positive, structured environment. We believe every person we support should have opportunities to develop meaningful relationships, learn new skills and spend time doing what they love.
By recognising that people are not all the same and celebrating these differences, we create individual support plans tailored to the unique personality of each person. We are always guided by our fundamental values: Positive, Progressive, and Personal support for all.
Every day, at every step of the way, we are here to support your family. If you would like to learn more about our autism care and support services, do not hesitate to contact us. We look forward to hearing from you.