Sensory Inclusion at St. Louis Attractions

We recently shared the news that The Saint Louis Zoo earned Sensory Inclusive™ certification through a partnership with KultureCity, a nationally recognized nonprofit that provides sensory inclusion training and tools to venues and large-scale events. That got us thinking… what kinds of sensory accommodations are available at other St. Louis tourist destinations?

Saint Louis Zoo

As you plan your visit, be sure to check out the Zoo’s Sensory-Inclusive Map labeled with specific zones that are much colder, louder, and smellier than other areas of the park. You’ll also find designated “Quiet Areas” where visitors can regroup as needed throughout the day. You’ll also want to check out the Zoo’s Social Story, a virtual guide to what you can expect to experience during your visit.

The Zoo can also accommodate visitors with disabilities who require alternative access to attractions that don’t require a continuous wait in line. If you’re planning to visit attractions like the Zooline Railroad, Stingrays at Caribbean Cove, or Penguin & Puffin Coast, you may consider stopping by the Visitor Relations booth at Lake Side Crossing or the Rentals Desk at either Zoo entrance for a free Equal Access Pass.

St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station

The brand new St. Louis Aquarium is another KultureCity Sensory Inclusive™ certified attraction with a Social Story and Pre-Visit Planning Guide to help families prepare for their visit. Families are encouraged to purchase tickets in advance to guarantee entry at a specific time. The wait time with a pre-purchased ticket is approximately 15-20 minutes, but if this is still a difficulty, you can inform a staff member who can make accommodations to help you avoid the wait in line. Since the Aquarium is still a new attraction, you might find that it’s too crowded and busy, particularly on the weekends. The least crowded times to visit are weekdays or weekend evenings.

The Aquarium has sensory bags with items like noise-canceling headphones and fidget toys available for checkout during your visit. No need to wait in line to pick one up! Just let an Aquarium team member know you’d like one.

The Aquarium’s Calming Corner room is located on the second floor, making it about halfway through the journey through the Aquarium. If you’d like to visit the room when you’re not on the second floor, simply ask a staff member and they can show you the way.

Missouri Botanical Garden

The Missouri Botanical Garden offers a guide to the Children’s Garden to help families prepare for the trip. It includes information about the materials the pathways are made of, areas that may be loud or dark, and more. There’s one designed just for kids, too. There’s a lot to see within the Children’s Garden, so you may want to make a game plan in advance using the Garden’s free printable visual schedule template.

For visitors who love to smell and touch, be sure to visit the Zimmerman Sensory Garden! The raised beds house multi-sensory plants labeled with Braille, raised letter, and large-print signage. This garden’s peak months are May through October. You can even schedule a group to participate in a Therapeutic Horticulture program at the Garden!

Low sensory areas in the park include the English Woodland Garden, Chinese Garden, Japanese Garden, Brookings Exploration Center (before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m.) and the Children’s Garden (before 10 a.m. or after 2 p.m. most days).  There is also a room dedicated to relief from sensory stimulation located in Edward Jones Hall near the Brookings Exploration Center and Doris I. Schnuck Children’s Garden. The room is available on a first-come, first-served basis and was designed with soft lighting and comfortable seating with tactile toys scattered about. Restrooms with manual flush toilets are located next to the Exploration Center and PlantLab.

Enterprise Center & Stifel Theatre

Are sports and events more your speed? St. Louis’ Enterprise Center and Stifel Theatre are both certified by KultureCity, too. In addition to sensory bags, both locations also have weighted lap pads available for checkout during events. You can also prepare for your visit by viewing Enterprise Center’s Social Story or Stifel Theatre’s Social Story ahead of time.

The Magic House

The Magic House offers a “Calming Corner” on the lower level with a glider, child-sized rocker and bean bag chairs for those looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the busy Museum. The space includes quiet activities like books, sensory games, toys, and a six-foot bubble tube.

Learn more about accessibility accommodations at these attractions:

Saint Louis Zoo   |   St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station   |   Missouri Botanical Garden

This list was compiled in May 2021 and is not a complete list of inclusive attractions.

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