More opportunities are popping up around the Triangle for children with special needs to experience popular attractions in a calmer, quieter environment. Several museums and recreation centers hold regularly scheduled before-hours or after-hours sensory-friendly or adaptive play times during which children with special needs and their families can enjoy time together, away from the crowds.
Some attractions offer support for people with sensory sensitivities every day.
In addition, some movie theaters are offering “lights up, sound down” screenings that are more comfortable for children with sensory sensitivities.
Some of the events are meant for adults with special needs.
This isn’t an exhaustive list, and we’d like to add more. Do you know of other opportunities that should be added to this list? Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with a link to the event, and we will work toward getting it on the list.
And, please scroll down to a see a day-by-day of free and inexpensive sensory-friendly events on our calendar.
Marbles Kids Museum
Marbles Kids Museum holds a Family Fun Night periodically throughout the year. This is a FREE after-hours event exclusively for kids with disabilities and their families. It’s a chance to experience the museum in a calmer, quieter environment and to watch a “lights up,. sound down” movie.
Dates in 2022:
- Monday, July 4th, 2022, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.: Sensory playtime, followed by Lights Up, Sound Down Movie: America’s Musical Journey 2D
- Tuesday, August 2, 5:30 – 7:30pm
- Wednesday, August 17, 5:30 – 7:30pm
- Wednesday, September 14, 5:30 – 7:30pm
Marbles Kids Museum, 201 Hargett Street, Raleigh
Kidzu Children’s Museum
Kidzu Children’s Museum offers a FREE event: Adapted Play Sensory S.T.E.A.M. the 3rd Wednesday of the month, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. These are sensory friendly play dates designed for families and children with sensory sensitivities or special needs to enjoy private time in Kidzu’s hands-on exhibit spaces to explore and acclimate without the extra stimulation of the museum’s busy open hours.
Pre-register, by searching Chapel Hill Parks & Recreation events for “Adapted Recreation” for this event and others that might be appropriate for your family.
This program is designed for participants ages 0-10. Siblings are invited, but registration is required. Limited number of spaces available.
Kidzu provides a social narrative, a short story written from a child’s perspective, to help prepare you and your child for your visit to the museum.
- Wednesday, July 20th, 2022, 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.
- Wednesday, August 17th, 2022, 5:30 to 7 p.m.
Kidzu Children’s Museum, 201 S Estes Drive, Chapel Hill
Museum of Life + Science
The Museum of Life + Science strives to be accessible to everyone. Please read about the Museum’s accessibility resources.
Museum of Life + Science, 433 W Murray Avenue, Durham
Sertoma Arts Center
Sensory-Friendly Creative Saturdays take place the second Saturday of each month, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. This FREE drop-in format series allows participants to create artwork in the setting of their choosing with the help of Sertoma Arts Center staff.
Please note that this event is on hold right now, due to Covid-19. We will update when we hear that it has started back up.
Sensory Friendly Saturdays will offer accessible accommodations for individuals with Sensory Processing Disorders and Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). The Arts Center will provide an accepting and inclusive environment, modifications to sound and lighting, noise-canceling headsets, and a quiet room.
All ages and abilities welcome. No registration is required.
Sertoma Arts Center, 1400 Millbrook Road, Raleigh
The Durham Bulls Athletic Park has taken steps to become more inclusive to people with sensory issues. The Durham Bulls partnered with KultureCity to achieve certification as sensory inclusive. Part of the certification process was training of the DBAP staff by medical professionals on how to recognize fans with sensory needs and how to handle a sensory overload situation.
The ballpark has a number of Sensory Bags available. The bags include noise reducing headphones, fidget tools, verbal cue cards and a weighted lap pad. The bags can be checked out at the Lowes Foods Guest Services.
The ballpark has a number of “Quiet Areas,” which are posted, and a new exit/re-entry policy to the stadium for fans who need quiet.
In addition, the Durham Bulls have some Sensory Friendly Nights, at which they will lower the volume on their speakers for music and public announcements. We will update this post as we confirm those dates for 2022.
Durham Bulls Athletic Park, 409 Blackwell Street, Durham
Raleigh Little Theatre
Raleigh Little Theatre started offering sensory-friendly performances in 2018.
The sensory-friendly performances include:
- Reduction of loud or jarring sounds
- Reductions in flashing or strobe lights
- Modification of the house lights
- House rules that allow audience members to move around and talk during the show
- Extra staff and volunteer support
- Designated “Take a Break Space”
Raleigh Little Theatre, 301 Pogue Street, Raleigh
AMC Sensory Friendly Films
AMC is partnering with the Autism Society to offer movie showings where the lights are up and the sound is down. At the Sensory Friendly Film events, it’s ok to get up, walk around, talk, shout, sing or dance. The program offers family-friendly films the second and fourth Saturday of the month, and films for mature audiences Wednesday evenings. Visit the AMC Sensory Friendly Films website to find the upcoming schedule and to buy tickets.
Stone Theatres’ Sensory Friendly Screenings
Stone Theatres offers sensory friendly screenings once a month. Lights are brought up, sound is turned down, and audience members are welcome to move around, talk and sing. Admission is $5 per person, and $1 drink and $1 popcorn specials are available. Follow the above link for the schedule.
Stone Theatres Park West 14, 3400 Village Market Place, Morrisville
Upcoming Sensory-Friendly and Adaptive Events
Do you know of other sensory-friendly or adaptive events that should be on this list? Let us know! Please email us at email@example.com with a link to the event, and we will work toward getting it on the list.