Special Needs Travel

10 U.S. Vacation Cities for Families With Autism

Last updated 18th October 2017

From New York on the East Coast to L.A. on the west coast,  U.S. cities make interesting travel destinations. With a variety of museums, zoos, beaches and theme parks it has never been harder to decide what spot to visit next.

This applies in particular to families with kids on the autism spectrum who always look for venues that will accommodate their children. After a decade of extensive traveling and comparing notes with other autism parents here are our top 10 U.S. vacation cities.

New York City

With a population topping 8 million inhabitants, New York is not only the most densely populated city in the U.S. but a major hub for finances, media, and entertainment. Notorious for its skyscrapers, the city landmarks include the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, Times Square and Central Park. With an abundance of indoor and outdoor activities, visitors find it hard to plan an itinerary.

Autism Travel Tips

New York City is a bustling city.The noises and smells may prove challenging for kids with autism. When booking hotel rooms in New York, parents should request a room on a high floor to block out the city sounds.


When vacationing in Orlando, visitors can enjoy the best of all worlds. There’s Cape Canaveral for those fascinated by space exploration and plenty of shopping therapy spots in the local malls. And then there are all of the theme parks!  Orlando’s parks attract millions of guests annually.

Autism Travel Tips

Florida’s weather can be a bit unpredictable. During summer months Florida is prone to afternoon thunder and lightning storms that can produce heavy wind and rains. For kids that are temperature or noise sensitive returning to the hotel during the storms may be a good choice.


Boston is an excellent place to introduce kids to U.S. history. Dubbed as one of the oldest cities in the United States, it was founded by Puritan settlers back in 1630. The city became famous during the American Revolution as the scene of the Boston Tea Party and the Battle of Bunker Hill.

There are multiple ways to discover the city.Vistors can walk, bike, take a trolley and even an amphibian vehicle to explore the city landmarks like Paul Revere House. Fenway Park and the Boston Commons.

Autism Travel Tips

Boston is a city with micro climates, so bringing a jacket is a good idea.  Parents may wish to consider purchasing the City Pass that lets its holders into the venues faster.


Nashville is so much more than just the center of music country.  Of course, travelers can visit The Grand Ole’ Opry and Museum of Country Music to get a sense of the genre’s history. But there are so many other spots that travelers skip over that are worth seeing.The Botanical Gardens, the  Lane Motor Museum, the  Nashville Zoo and the Belle Meade Plantation are just a few of the places to take kids.

Autism Travel Tips

Between the music and BBQ ribs, Nashville is a sensory paradise. Since many kids like to eat with their hands the city’s famed BBQ and corn might become an instant, new favorite for some.

Los Angeles

The city of Angels is a “hodge podge” of thrills and sensory activities.  Apart from the temperate weather, theme parks, and celebrity sightings, there are the beaches. Compared to the bustling New York or theme parks centric Orlando, L.A. moves to a more laid back beat. Between the shopping malls, the museums,  eclectic restaurants and gawking at sports cars visitors leave the city with the feeling they have to come back since there so much more to see.

Autism Travel Tips

L.A .is a place people drive around. The city is not particularly walkable nor does it have much regarding public transportation. Families with autism should opt to rent a car if they wish to do extensive sightseeing.


For many years the windy city maintained a solid reputation. Unfortunately, the wrong kind!  From its inception,  Chicago was famous as somewhat of a lawless place ruled by gangsters. But today’s Chicago is different.
Slowly re inventing itself as a global architectural hot spot, the city has become a central financial and university research hub. Must see places to  Instagram while exploring the city include; Millennium Park, Navy Pier, the Magnificent Mile, and the Willis (Sears) Tower,

Autism Travel Tips

The city is all about skyscrapers. Families with autism who wish to go on an architectural river tour should choose a boat that isn’t open to the elements. Since the weather in Chicago tends to be rainy, parents should pack ponchos or umbrellas. Parents looking to entertain kids for free can try riding skyscraper elevators up and down.

Savannah, Georgia

Savannah, Georgia, is a well-preserved quiet historic town. Savannah’s downtown area, which includes the Savannah Historic District, and 22 parklike squares, is one of the largest National Historic Landmark Districts in the United States.

The city is incredibly welcoming during the spring, Fall and winter months. During the summer much akin to other  U.S .southern cities, it is hot and humid. The city’s famous landmarks include the Juliette Gordon Low House, Forsyth Park and the Ships of the Sea Museum.The city’s location offers visitors quick access to the coastal island of Tybee and the Riverfront, both popular tourist destinations.

Autism Travel Tips

Along with the city’s history museum and Georgia Railroad museum, the Savannah Children’s Museum is the perfect place for families to explore. What is truly unique about this museum is the fact that it is entirely outdoors!  It features twelve different exhibits like a sensory garden and a maze designed to expand the visitors’ imagination.

San Francisco

Many people who know Tony Bennet’s  song ‘I left my heart in San Francisco’ wonder what the huff is about. That is until they visit. If there’s a city that visitors fall in love with -it is this-scenic city by the Bay. The city has plenty of family friendly museums as well as praise worthy landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island. And then there are the ethnic neighborhoods that one can get lost in; like of  Chinatown and Little Italy.

But that’s not all.  The city has a unique vibe, blending European elegance with American spunk that visitors respond to and fall for. From the touristy Fisherman’s Wharf to the trendoid Ashbury and Haight it is all about the vibe.

Autism Travel Tips

Out of all the U.S. cities, walking around San Francisco is the most challenging. The hilly and windy city can give visitors a sensory workout! Those seeking shelter from the wind can hop on the old fashioned trams. Thrill seeking visitors will enjoy driving down the super curvy Lombard street or Filbert Street with a gradient of 31.5%.

New Orleans

New Orleans, Louisiana, is widely known for its southern cooking and jazz music. Started in 1718 by the French, the city became part of the U.S. after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Nowadays, the city is famous for its French style homes, Creole culture and colorful Mardi Gras Celebrations.

Autism Travel Tips

New Orleans can be loud. Between the frequent street parades and open jazz clubs, the sounds can seem overwhelming to some. Parents to kids with noise sensitivities should pack a set of noise canceling headphones. Furthermore, as Old Town tends to be crowded and somewhat rowdy during the evenings,  families should explore it in the morning hours.

Washington, D.C.

Between the iconic monuments, memorials, and well-appointed museums the city is a historical treasure trove. However, families should also allocate time to check out the city’s well-appointed museums.Exploring museums like the Smithsonian, the Air and Space Museum or Library of Congress will help kids understand topics better and faster than in a classroom environment.

Autism Travel Tips

The city is crowded with tourists throughout the summer months. So, for families with autism, the best months to visit are the Spring and Fall months.  In fact, U.S  parents should contact their Congressman’s office and ask for advance tickets to visit the White House and Library of Congress since daily tours fill up fast. Furthermore, parents should prepare their kids with autism for the security checkpoints that they may have to go through when visiting such places.