Sensory Attractions and Activities in Chicagoland
When planning activities for children with special needs, parents look for sensory options that are fun for everyone.
The city and suburbs host many suitable events, but did you know that many popular attractions offer sensory options when visiting anytime? There are many zoos, museums, theaters and more that offer apps, sensory maps and serene rest areas for your child with sensory sensitivities.
The Art Institute of Chicago has a map which indicates in green which rooms are generally quiet and not crowded. Spaces highlighted in yellow benefit from natural sunlight.
BZ Service Kits are available at Guest Relations North and South. Each kit is designed for children with sensory disabilities and includes noise canceling headphones, visual schedules, self-identification badges, social stories and more. Discover their map for quiet places throughout the zoo.
At participating locations, Chuck E. Cheese will open two hours earlier on the first Sunday of the month to offer sensory play time for children with special needs. They will have dim lighting and a quieter dining and entertainment environment.
Cosley Zoo and all of its events and programs are sensory inclusive. All staff members have been trained on how to recognize and deal with sensory overload situations. Families can download the KultureCity app from the Apple Store Where google play before heading there where they can learn all about the sensory features Cosley Zoo has to offer. Weighted floor mats and sensory bags are available for guests who may feel overwhelmed in the zoo environment.
The museum offers monthly adaptive game times for families with disabilities, sensory processing disorders and/or on the autism spectrum. Children at these events will receive sensory kits including noise canceling headphones, social stores, weighted neckbands, beats, restless objects and more. There will be light and noise reduction, visual cues in exhibits, and a respite room for sensory breaks. Attendance at these events is limited, so be sure to pre-register online.
Field Museum guests can preview exhibits and follow a sensory map through its Apple Store and google play “Field Museum for All” app. You can also create a customizable schedule and play interactive games.
This museum offers various free activities (Everyone in play) for families with children with special needs to come and explore their exhibits while closed to the general public. A quiet room for stimulation breaks will be available to those who wish to use it. Pre-registration is required.
Visitors can experience the zoo through the inclusive app for google play and Apple Store customers by CultureCity. Sensory bags are available at the Searle Visitor Center at Lincoln Park Zoo, which include noise canceling headphones, a stress ball and yellow-tinted sunglasses. A quiet room is located in the Member Center near the Searle Visitor Center. Tactile opportunities and places with high and low stimulation are listed on the zoo website.
Take advantage of the Museum of Contemporary Art’s Sensory Mornings, which offer neurodiverse visitors of all ages the opportunity to explore the museum at their own pace. The hall lights are less intense these mornings and there is a quiet rest area if you need it.
The Museum of Science and Industry details which exhibits and attractions are noisy, where there are flashing lights and disorienting displays, and which areas are dimly lit in a sensory map.
Download the social narrative handout for children on the autism spectrum and those with sensory processing disorders. This resource will show children in advance what they can expect from the museum. In addition, listening devices are available for hearing-impaired customers.
Shedd Aquarium visitors can create a personalized schedule and communicate with museum staff through icons with the “SensoryFriendly Shedd Aquarium” app, which is available on the Apple Store and google play. There is also a quiet room, located off the main hall.
Check their website for their Sensory play session events, offering a two-hour sensory play session for families with children with special needs. The museum will dim its lights and sounds and provide a little extra personal space for visitors to explore.
Visual schedules are available for customers with special needs. These mapping tools are specially designed for people with autism or with learning or developmental disabilities. They understand Maps from the Kindergarten, Thornhill area, Meadow Lake Trail and Visitor Center area.
This suburban playground in Lisle is for all kids with a sound garden, tree swings, sculptures and more play areas to come.
With locations in Palatine (temporarily closed) and Franklin Park, this indoor playground offers sensory equipment for children.
Find more inclusive playgrounds for children in Chicagoland.
Theaters and halls
This children’s theater offers many sensory performance, specially designed for guests with autism or other sensory sensitivities. They have silent rooms, ASL interpretation, open captions for the audience to read, and touchscreen tours for blind or visually impaired guests.
This award-winning theater is located in the downtown theater district. It offers various sensory/relaxing performances throughout the year. These performances include lower lights and sounds, limited crowds, and a designated quiet zone. Sensory bags are available during all performances and include noise canceling headphones, picture communication keyring, notebook and pen, two fidgets and a story.
United Center has been certified as inclusive sensory place in Chicago by CultureCity. Staff members have been trained to recognize customers with special needs and how to properly handle customers with sensory overload. They offer sensory bags, which include verbal cue cards, fidget tools, noise canceling headphones, and a weighted pad. Check bags at the Customer Relations booths (Gate 2 Concourse, Gate 6 Concourse, Section 221 and Section 325).
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