Sensory-Friendly Programs at Connecticut Museums and Attractions
In order to be more inclusive, many of Connecticut's top attractions for families have begun to offer special sensory-friendly programs or opening times for children on the Autism spectrum or who have sensory sensitivities. These sensory-friendly programs offer smaller crowds, dimmed lights, less loud noises, and other accommodations. In most cases, the whole family can participate and some programs even offer free or reduced admission.
Read on to discover great sensory-friendly programs for kids everywhere in Connecticut. For more Connecticut museums with free admission and other special programs, check out our Guide to Connecticut Museums for Kids and Families.
Sensory-Friendly Programs Around Hartford, CT
1. Connecticut Science Center — Hartford
The Connecticut Science Center in Hartford is one of the best museums for kids, so it's great that the museum offers special sensory days once or twice a month. During the sensory-friendly days, the volume of demonstrations is turned down and lights are dimmed. Kids can enjoy activities, arts and crafts, and live science performances with a quieter, calmer touch.
2. Connecticut Historical Society — Hartford
The Connecticut Historical Society in Hartford has created Sensory Bags to help make a museum visit more successful for children with special needs. Parents can utilize helpful "tools" such as sunglasses, headphones, timers, and other useful items. The bags are free and can be obtained at the admissions desk upon arrival.
3. Chuck E. Cheese — Manchester
Arcade-loving kids can enjoy a quieter, less-crowded dining and entertainment environment, dimmed lighting, and a sensory-friendly arcade experience during Sensory Sensitive Sundays at the Manchester location on the first Sunday of every month from 9am to 11am.
Sensory-Friendly Programs in Fairfield County, CT
4. Beardsley Zoo — Bridgeport
The Beardsley is Connecticut's ultimate destination for zoo life. You can see over 300 animals including a Siberian tiger, the Andean Condor, anteater, Tamarin, and other reptiles, mammals, and more at the Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport. The Zoo offers an Autism-Friendly Family Day every April, when specially trained staff guide families to sensory-friendly exhibits and quiet corners throughout the afternoon.
The lights and sound are turned down low on sensory-friendly mornings. Photo courtesy of the Maritime Aquarium
5. Maritime Aquarium — Norwalk
The Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk is a place to see sea animals and amazing creatures from the deep and experience a live animal encounter. The aquarium offers periodic sensory-friendly mornings and evenings when it adjusts the lights and turns the sounds down (including for IMAX films) for a more peaceful, less stimulating experience.
6. SeaQuest — Trumbull
See over a thousand land and sea animals at SeaQuest in Trumbull, Connecticut. The first Sunday of every month from 9am to 11am is reserved for sensitive visitors. SeaQuest turns down the bright lights, overhead announcements, music, and screens to create a calmer atmosphere. SeaQuest reserves this time for special needs visitors, and a reduced number of people can browse the exhibits at their own pace.
7. Stepping Stones Museum — Norwalk
With its Access-ability program, museum professionals help facilitate sensory-friendly discoveries for kids every third Monday afternoon (the program is free with museum admission). Stepping Stones makes light and sound adjustments for sensitive patrons. This program is on pause till mid-2022.
Enjoy free sensory-friendly evenings at the Niantic Children's Museum. Photo courtesy of the museum
Sensory-Friendly Programs in Southeast CT
8. Niantic Children's Museum — Niantic
During sensory-friendly evenings guests enjoy quiet corners and sensory bins set up throughout the facility. Children can choose what activities they would like to participate in and do them at whatever time they feel most comfortable. This is a free event. After you visit the Museum, grab some lunch and get to know Niantic better!
9. Mystic Aquarium — Mystic
Connecticut's premier aquarium, Mystic Aquarium is world renowned for its Beluga whales. Every August, Mystic hosts a very popular (and free) sensory-friendly evening for children on the autism spectrum. Kids can explore all the usual aquatic exhibits, with sound and motion effects turned down or off. There are also quiet corners and supportive staff on hand.
10. Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center — Mystic
Mystic's Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center offers a full calendar of events on a monthly basis and many of them are deemed inclusive or all-abilities. Nature Station Creation is a great, creative way to introduce your special needs child to the offerings at this beautiful conservation and community minded nature center.
11. CT River Museum — Essex
The CT River Museum, located in Essex, is dedicated to preserving the history of Connecticut in relation to the Connecticut River. See one of the first submarines utilized during the Civil War! The museum offers a series of Monday mornings dedicated to serving the needs of special needs patrons. Bright lights and noises are modified, there is a designated quiet room, and the space maintains a calm environment for visitors.
Kids of all abilities can interact and engage. Photo courtesy of the Yale Center for British Art
Sensory Friendly Programs Around New Haven, CT
12. Yale Center for British Art — New Haven
The Yale Center for British Art offers several ways for special needs children to engage with the exhibits. They offer complimentary wheelchairs and stools, programming for autistic children, sign language interpretation, and large print labels. Service animals are welcome.
13. Chuck E. Cheese — Orange
Chuck E. Cheese offers Sensory Sensitive Sundays at the Orange location. On the first Sunday of every month the space opens 2 hours early for special needs customers with reduced lighting and noise.
Take part in inclusive playtime at KidsPlay Museum. Photo courtesy of the museum
Sensory-Friendly Programs in Litchfield County
14. KidsPlay Museum — Torrington
KidsPlay Museum in Torrington offers regular evening and morning inclusive play times. During these hours, the museum becomes more sensory-friendly and encourages a "no judgment," interactive playtime. The tickets are set at an affordable $2 per child and adult.
15. AMC Danbury 16 — Danbury
Every kid loves the movies, but kids with special needs can find the loud noises and lack of visibility at a normal movie showing somewhat overwhelming. AMC Danbury 16 offers a bi-weekly movie showing that is sensory-friendly with the volume lowered and the house lights on.