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Overview of Special Needs at the Southern California Theme Parks & Zoos

by Mommy Frog on May 14, 2022 2 San Diego

Disability Travel Tips

Mommy Frog's Note: With a little help from my niece, who has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, we frogs have been learning more and more about the logistics of traveling with someone who has a disability. We are very hoppy to announce we'll be doing more coverage of traveling with special needs in the coming weeks and months, so that we can pass along what we've learned. And hopefully learn from your experiences too!

There are so many fun theme parks and impressive zoos in Southern California. However, when someone in your family has special needs such as physical disabilities, mobility issues, health issues or disabilities that are not visible, you likely have special concerns about visiting theme parks and large zoos. This park-by-park guide can help you get started in exploring each park’s services and rentals (from Los Angeles to San Diego) so you can prepare for your journey. We frogs know that dealing with special needs can make visiting the theme parks just a little more challenging, so we want to simplify the research process. We’ve created this post to put the basics for all theme parks in one place. Let’s hop to it and explore the Southern California theme park guide to special needs and disabilities.

This information offers a general overview, so you know where to go to find more information to have a successful and enjoyable visit. You can follow the links provided to get a more in-depth look at the services and requirements to ride or find more detailed information. Keep in mind that any of this information is subject to change. Each park makes decisions on a case-by-case basis, so there is no guarantee that a person with any specific disability will receive specific accommodations described below.

Disneyland Resort | LEGOLAND California | Knott's Berry Farm | Six Flags Magic Mountain | San Diego Zoo | San Diego Zoo Safari Park | SeaWorld San Diego | Universal Studios Hollywood

Guide to Special Needs at the Southern California Theme Parks and Zoos

Disneyland/Disney California Adventure

Using a Wheelchair at Disneyland

Disney and Disney California Adventure have the same system for handling disabilities and special needs. With the park entrances being a quick walk or roll across the esplanade from each other, you can easily park hop and your services will follow you.

Physical Disabilities: People who have mobility issues and physical disabilities that may include use of a wheelchair, walker, cane or a stroller that has a wheelchair tag have accessible ride entrances. Sometimes you may enter though the ride exit. The attendant may offer a return time to come back and ride. Pick up a Guide for Guests with Disabilities to find out how and where to access each ride. Because Disney California was built much later than Disneyland park, Disney California Adventure has ADA compliant queues, so wheelchairs and Electronic Convenience Vehicles (ECVs) fit through lines. For most rides, you will need to transfer. Some rides have separate loading areas and for others the ride attendants can slow or even stop the ride to give you time to board. Hop over for more information about using a wheelchair at Disneyland.

Rent wheelchairs and ECVs in the esplanade between parks to the right of Disneyland on a first-come, first-served basis. You may obtain identifying tags for strollers as wheelchairs at Guest Relations Lobby in either park.

Non-mobility disabilities: Many disabilities are invisible. Disneyland Resort offers Disability Access Service (DAS) for people who cannot tolerate waiting in a standard queue. Guests using DAS receive a digital return time from a kiosk that is equivalent to the wait time. Up to a party of 6 (the guest plus 5 companions) can use DAS. Get set up for DAS at any Guest Relations kiosk or at City Hall or Chamber of Commerce. You can also get set up through an online chat in advance. Once in the park, you can use the Disneyland app to select return times. You can read all about DAS and how to use it in our Disneyland DAS post.

People with physical disabilities/mobility issues using wheelchairs and walkers do not require DAS. However, if there are other medical conditions that apply, some people with mobility issues may also qualify for DAS.

Other services Disneyland Resort Provides:

Link to full guide:

Call 407-560-2547 email: [email protected]

LEGOLAND California

Best California Theme Park by Age Group - Legoland

LEGOLAND California has the Assisted Access Pass for guests with all disabilities. You collect the pass from Guest Services. You’ll receive a card. Go to first ride with no wait then receive a return time from each ride to go back and ride. You can wait outside the queue until it is time to ride. The party size is for the guest and up to six companions (for a total of seven people).

You can collect a wheelchair identifying tag (if necessary) for a stroller from Guest Services. LEGOLAND rents wheelchairs and ECVs with canopy at Minifigure Marketplace. Consult the Access Guide for a chart to learn how people using wheelchairs may access the ride and whether they must transfer.

Other services LEGOLAND provides:

  • For Visual and hearing accommodations, contact LEGOLAND 2 weeks before your visit at [email protected].
  • Contact LEGOLAND for complimentary tickets for personal attendant

Knott’s Berry Farm

Wave Swinger - Knott's Berry Farm with Kids

Knott’s Berry Farm has a Ride Admission Policy with a Boarding Pass Program to assist guests with mobility restriction or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to access return times. Hop by Guest Services (across from Ghost Rider) with your entire party to talk to a team member about your needs. Obtain a wrist band for each party member and a paper “Rider Access Form” for guest and up to three companions (total of four) from Guest Services near exit of Ghost Rider near Security/First Aid. The accommodations may vary based on your specific needs. Guests who have physical disabilities/mobility issues may use Alternative Access Entrance.

Overview of Special Needs at the Southern California Theme Parks & Zoos-Knott's Boarding Pass for Non-physical disabilitiesThe Knott's Boarding Pass works a little different from the program at other parks. Instead of obtaining a return time before riding, you will head straight to your first ride and receive the wait time for the following ride. You will hand the form to the ride attendant when asked. They will write a time on your piece of paper that indicates the time or anytime after that you can use the form to access another ride. So instead of waiting before the ride, you wait after. You can use it for any ride once it's time. The wait time may be equivalent to the current wait time for the ride you are riding. Or, based on your needs and type of form you have, the wait time could be less. We found this to be the most user-friendly program that allowed the most flexibility for the user. Plus, as we all know how hard it can be to get around when dealing with disabilities, it reduces extra steps and stops to acquire a wait time.

Rent Manual and Electric (ECV) Wheelchairs inside Ghost Town next to Geode Shop. You may reserve online als or at park, if available.

Other services Knott’s provides:

  • Hearing Assistance Devices available at Information Center near park entrance
  • Link to accessability Guide
  • Call 714-220-5200 for more information.

Six Flags Magic Mountain

Six Flags as a whole has a different Attraction Accessibility Program system that differs from the other theme parks. You may need to plan ahead for this and complete steps in advance.

Six Flags parks have earned the Certified Autism Center™ (CAC) designation from the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES). Guests with cognitive disorders, disabilities or mobility impairments who request helpful accommodations must obtain the IBCCES Individual Accessibility Card (IAC) by registering at The registration process requires information to be uploaded into a secure online portal. Once a guest has filled out the online application and uploaded necessary documentation, they will be able to access their digital Accessibility Card. Guests will present the IBCCES Accessibility Card and Information Sheet to the Ride Information Center (Guest Services) inside each park to receive any necessary accommodations. Note: Only IBCCES can issue the IBCCES Accessibility Card, and not Six Flags.

The AAP is for the guest and up to three companions (for a total of four). If the guest’s party is larger than four guests, the other members of the party will be required to enter the ride or attraction through the standard queue. You can board the ride of your choice no earlier than the time written on the pass by the Ride Information Center (Guest Services) Rep (first ride) or before the wait time interval has passed since your last ride. You will not have to get a reservation or return time to ride the ride. You will simply arrive at the ride and be placed in a queue in order of arrival at the exit.

Once you have ridden, the ride operator will write the ride name and time of ride on the Attraction Access Pass. This time becomes the basis for the next ride being available to you. You may rest in a comfortable location or enjoy other attractions in the area until your wait time interval is over or when the others from your party reach the boarding platform. A guest with an Attraction Access Pass must ride in order for the guest’s companions to utilize the Attraction Access Pass to enter the attraction through the alternate entrance. If the guest with an Attraction Access Pass chooses not to ride, the guest’s companions must wait in the standard queue.

You can rent wheelchairs and ECVs on a first-come, first-served basis next to lockers after entry plaza. Battery recharging is available in Rental Center.

Other services:

  • Assisted listening devices
  • American Sign Language Interpreting (request at least 7 days in advance by calling 661-255-4711.
  • Free ticket for Personal Care Attendant for guests with Visual Impairments

Link to Guide

San Diego Zoo

Not-to-Miss San Diego Zoo Exhibits and Attractions-gorilla

The San Diego Zoo does not have many lines compared to theme parks, however, the terrain is hilly and challenging for some people with special needs without researching the accommodations before your visit. The zoo rents manual and electric wheelchairs (ECVs) on a first-come, first-served basis.

The map has a dotted blue line to show the accessible path. There are elevators, a guided tour bus and a shuttle service to access some areas of the park. For guests who cannot wait in a standard queue, the Easy Access Pass can be obtained at Guest Services near the park entrance for the Guided Bus Tour and Skyfari Aerial Tram.

Things to know about visiting the San Diego Zoo with special needs:

  • Stroller tags are available at Guest Services and allow you to treat your stroller as a wheelchair. Ideal for those who don’t usually need a wheelchair, but find the diverse terrain overly challenging. Also ideal for preventing elopement.
  • While service dogs are permitted at the zoo, there are some restrictions at different attractions, because of the nature of the exhibits and animals on display. This is different from visiting a typical theme park and a kennel is available if needed (it is just for service animals who can’t explore the entire park).
  • A complimentary pass may be provided at ticket window for attendants of people who have disabilities.
  • Follow blue dotted lines on map for easiest paths for wheelchairs.
  • Guided bus tour accommodates one wheelchair per tour.
  • Shuttle service accesses some areas of the park. Contact an employee to request a shuttle.
  • Kangaroo Bus does not have wheelchair lift. It can accommodate folded walkers.
  • A wheelchair that folds can go on the Skyfari Aerial Tram.
  • Health Services/First Aid can store medication that needs refrigeration. Larger changing tables are available at this location.
  • Family restrooms available at a few locations.
  • To arrange sign language interpretation, arrange at least one week in advance by calling 619-231-1515, ext. 4526.
  • Scripted information for shows or tours are at Guest Services or Bus Loading.
  • To arrange an Access Coordinator for guest who have low vision or are blind, call 619-231-1515, ext 4526 at least 72 hours in advance
  • Tactile elements to exhibits.
  • Assistant Listening Devices available in Wedgeforth Bowl and 4D Theaters.

Link to Guide 

Call San Diego Zoo at (619) 231-1515, ext. 4526 for more information

San Diego Zoo Safari Park

The San Diego Zoo Safari park has its own heading since it is in a separate location and has different terrain and services specific to its attractions. This is a huge, spread-out zoo, so it takes some planning when visiting with special needs.

First of all, the zoo rents manual and electric wheelchairs (ECVs) on a first-come, first-served basis near entrance at Safari Outfitters. Visit the Guest Services Office to request a “wheelchair tag” for your stroller.

Guests who have difficulty standing in line may request an Easy Access Pass at Safari Tickets/Guest Services booth, Ranger Base or at Africa Tram window. The pass is for a total of four people, the guest and three party members.

Things to know about visiting the San Diego Zoo Safari Park with special needs:

  • Complimentary pass may be provided at ticket window for an attendant of people who have disabilities.
  • Follow blue dotted lines on map for accessible paths for wheelchairs.
  • ADA Shuttles run about every 15-20 minutes.
  • Family restrooms available near Ranger Base.
  • For people who are heard of hearing or deaf, download packet for Africa Tram Species guide and show scripts.
  • Scripted information for shows or tours are also found at Guest Services or Ranger Base.
  • To arrange sign language interpretation, arrange at least one week in advance by calling 760-796-5621.
  • Segways are allowed in “turtle” mode.
  • To arrange an Access Coordinator for guest who have low vision or are blind, call 760-796-5621 at least 72 hours in advance.
  • Caravan Safaris can accommodate up to two wheelchairs.

Link to Guide:

Call Safari Park with accessibility questions at (760) 796-5621,

ADA Access Map:

SeaWorld San Diego

SeaWorld San Diego offers guests with physical disabilities and other disabilities the Ride Accessibility Boarding Times service. You’ll enroll in the program at Guest Services just inside main entrance on the right. The user and up to five companions (for a total of six) can ride together.

Guests using this service will head to the ride’s entrance/exit (marked with disabled access sign) or Quick Queue entrance and inform the ambassador that you wish to ride. If the wait is short enough, you may be admitted and asked to wait one to two ride cycles prior to boarding smaller rides. Some larger rides utilize a virtual queue system on busier days. These attractions include Bayside Skyride, Electric Eel™, Journey to Atlantis®, Manta®, Shipwreck Rapids® or Skytower. Get a return time on the RAP sheet and enjoy other areas of the park while you wait.

SeaWorld San Diego rents wheelchairs and ECVs at stroller rental. The rental office offers some 4-wheeled stand-up ECVs. Guests may reserve online or by calling 619-222-4SEA (4732).

Guests can find assisted restrooms outside the park. Wheelchair accessible restrooms are found throughout the park.

Other services offered at SeaWorld San Diego:

  • Sign language interpretation (minimum two week’s notice)
  • Show scripts
  • Visual impairment assistance (minimum two week’s notice)

Link to Accessibility Gide and Questionnaire

Call 619-222-4SEA(4732) or email [email protected]

Universal Studios Hollywood

Fun Guide to Universal Studios Hollywood Character Spotting-despicable

Universal Studios Hollywood has an Attraction Assistance Pass (AAP) help guests with disabilities. Guests who cannot wait in a standard queue can use it (including guests whose disabilities are not mobility based as well as guests with physical disabilities). Visit Guest Relations to the right inside the park entrance to receive and AAP card. The user and up to 3 companions (4 total) may use the pass. If the ride wait time is less than 45 minutes (or the attraction can accommodate you) you will be directed to the proper queue. If the wait time is 46 minutes of more, the team member will write a return time on the card. You will return any time after that. You may have one return time at a time.

Universal Studios rents Wheelchairs and ECV on a first-come, first-served basis. The rides have accessible ride entrances, however guests must transfer to ride seat or in some cases a standard wheelchair. Consult the map for information about ride requirements.

Other services offered by Universal Studios:

  • Assistive listening devices free of charge
  • Sign Language Interpreting with one week notice. Call 800-864-8377, option 9
  • Video remote interpreting at Guest Relations and First Aid
  • Show Scripts in large font and embossed braille at Guest Services

No rides permit oxygen tanks

Link to Guide:

Definitely do some research before your trip so you know you have the most up-to-date information and you know what to expect. Each park offers more details on their websites. Links are provided. Be sure to hop around the many helpful post on our Frog Blog to help ease your way when navigating the theme parks in Los Angeles and San Diego. Be sure to get a jump on saving with discount theme park tickets, hotels and car rentals.

While service dogs are permitted at the zoo, there are some restrictions at different attractions, because of the nature of the exhibits and animals on display. This is different from visiting a typical theme park and a kennel is available if needed (it is just for service animals who can’t explore the entire park).

Have a question about visiting theme parks with a child or adult who has special needs? Have tips that have worked for you or your family? We'd love to hear them! Want more resources? Check out more posts about disability travel, including disability travel in the theme parks. 

Hoppy planning!

Keep hopping, Mommy Frog!
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Sep 3, 2023 at 7:26 p.m. Maria.trinidad mercado Says...

For my mom who's disabled who has Parkinson's disease

Sep 3, 2023 at 7:24 p.m. Maria trinidad mercado Says...

For my mom who has Parkinson's disease

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