October brings changing leaves, sweaters, and Halloween! And nothing says Halloween like haunted houses. SpecialGlobe has compiled a state-by-state list to make it easier for you to find the best Haunted House close to your home, so start planning now for your Halloween fun!
Note: Each Haunted House venue has an age requirement and may not be accessible to wheelchair users. Please check with the venue before arrival for information about the accessibility of a venue and how to request accommodations.
Alabama: Arx Mortis
Alaska: Gateway to Darkness
Arizona: Fear Farm
Arkansas: Night Terrors 13 Haunted House
California: McKamey Manor
Colorado: The 13th Floor
Connecticut: Amity Road Horror
Delaware: Terror Behind the Walls
Florida: Hellview Cemetery
Georgia: Netherworld Haunted House
Although a cruise to the Caribbean or around the world would undoubtedly be a fun and exciting experience, cruises in the U.S. can also help create memorable vacations for your family. Here are five cruises based in the U.S. that will no doubt educate and enchant you and your children.
This summer, SpecialGlobe had the privilege of attending an AudioBody performance. AudioBody is Jason and Matt Tardy, brothers who bring together technical know-how, song and humor to entertain young and old. SpecialGlobe sat down with AudioBody to learn how they got their start, how travel has shaped their lives, the importance of mentors in children’s lives, and how parents can help their children fulfill their dreams by encouraging them to follow their curiosity.
SpecialGlobe: AudioBody is described as a “synthesis of music, comedy, and technology.” Can you describe for SpecialGlobe users what that entails?
AudioBody: We perform a show that mixes unique musical inventions that we create along with juggling, physical comedy, contortion and balancing. For example we built a 15ft wide electronic drum set that utilizes bungee cords for drums, and play Imperial March (Darth Vader's theme) while using mini light sabers as drum sticks. Also Matt fits his body through a tennis racket during another piece and I (Jason) balance an 8ft ladder on my chin.
SpecialGlobe: What made you decide to follow this path?
AudioBody: We met a professional juggler in middle school who saw a spark in us and decided to see if we wanted to learn to juggle. From there he mentored us and we started doing small juggling and magic shows shortly after.
SpecialGlobe: Did you have an interest in technology and music as children?
AudioBody: We have both been into science and things like that forever. But Matt got into creating electronic music for our juggling show pretty early on. It was not until 2008 that we decided to try to create a show that is based on technology and playing the music live.
SpecialGlobe: In AudioBody, there is a focus on physical balance, strength, flexibility and contortion. How do you prepare physically for your performances so that you avoid injury?
AudioBody: We try to stay healthy by eating relatively healthy. I also enjoy long distance running and really we both are always physically active. A lot of what you see in the show has been conditioned into us over the 22 years of performing so we do not actually have to do a lot to keep up those skills.
SpecialGlobe: Can you address the importance of the Mind-Body connection in your show?
AudioBody: In any live theater you should be keeping that mind and body connection. In our show especially we are really doing some physically demanding things but mostly what we are trying to do is to connect with the audience. So in some ways we are concentrating on the physicality of doing something while trying to figure out how to get an extra laugh or reaction from the audience.
SpecialGlobe: AudioBody has traveled the world performing for diverse audiences. Where have you performed?
AudioBody: Well, some highlights are the White House (3 times), Disney Cruise Ships, Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas, and then countless schools, colleges, and theaters around the US. We have not traveled a lot outside the US for work because we try to stay close to home to be with our families.
SpecialGlobe: How has travel impacted you as people and as performers?
AudioBody: I think it has given me a better understanding of people in general. Instead of seeing the same people at work every day, we see and have to interact with all types of people each day. So I really enjoy connecting with people different from myself. It really shows you in some ways how different people of all walks of life can enjoy the same show.
SpecialGlobe: AudioBody is described as a “high energy performance.” Many children today struggle with harnessing their high energy levels and learning how to focus for success. Can you share how you’ve learned to focus your attention and energy levels to create your successful show?
AudioBody: I think one of the best things that helped me focus was having a mentor who already was successful at doing this for a job and having my brother do this with me. Having someone else learn at the same time as you can be a great motivator to get better faster and to learn from each other’s mistakes.
SpecialGlobe: AudioBody also has a Character Education Program where you go into schools and address important topics such as bullying, making healthy choices, goal setting, and not being afraid to fail. How do you address these issues in an entertaining and empowering way?
AudioBody: We tell our story. We grew up in a small town with a lot of people saying we would NEVER do this for a job. So in our school program, we tell the kids what we did to overcome that. We talk about how we stayed positive and worked really hard.
SpecialGlobe: Many children have an interest in technology and videos, which can be seen as negatives. Can you speak to how these interests might be perceived in a positive way?
AudioBody: The world is moving toward a more and more technology based society. If you have a problem with kids that have an interest in technology you are fighting a losing battle. With that said, you can't play video games all day and expect to be successful. I think that learning new skills and learning from online videos is a HUGE resource that kids should be encouraged to explore. But we also have to encourage them to be active and get outside. It’s all about balance but denying the value of technology is silly.
SpecialGlobe: Many of SpecialGlobe’s users are families with special needs children who approach life in unique ways. The gifts they possess are sometimes misinterpreted or overlooked. What would you say to parents about encouraging their children to explore their curiosity?
AudioBody: I have two kids of my own and anytime they have a question about something, I look it up. I am always trying to feed their curiosity with the information that is so easily accessible now. If we can get kids interested in all kinds of things and not just what we think is good for them then I think they will be way better off. You never know what question we answer for them will inspire them to keep going down that path and achieve something amazing.
SpecialGlobe: What would you say to children about following their curiosity?
AudioBody: If something inspires you then go for it. Do not be afraid to make mistakes or get your hands dirty. I am always trying to learn something new and the more I do that, the more I understand that one of the biggest problems with kids is that they are afraid to look dumb or make a mistake. The people who learn the fastest are the ones who make the most mistakes.
SpecialGlobe: How can SpecialGlobe users learn more about AudioBody and the upcoming events you have scheduled?
AudioBody: Like us on Facebook and Twitter because that is where we post information on upcoming shows. You can also learn more about us at our website www.audiobody.com.
Watch AudioBody in action:
With the fall foliage season quickly approaching, we wanted to share some of our favorite must see DownEast Maine scenic drives with you:
Park Loop Road – Acadia National Park (Mount Desert Island, ME)
Rugged, bold and absolutely spectacular! This is a drive that never disappoints. The Park Loop Road is one of the most beautiful scenic drives in the country. Beginning at the Hulls Cove Visitor Center, the loop is 27 miles. During this drive, you find yourself peacefully driving under a canopy of trees and then, without warning, the trees clear and you are struck by the magnificence of the sweeping open ocean before you. Popular stops like Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, Otter Cliffs, Wildwood Stables, Jordan Pond House and Cadillac Mountain are a must. I highly recommend stopping at The Jordan Pond House for afternoon tea and popovers.
Route 175 – Blue Hill
There is such diversity to this drive. Beautiful quiet inlets, quaint coastal towns and even the peak of Caterpillar Hill, where you have an amazing panoramic view over Walker’s Pond, the islands of Penobscot Bay and the Camden Hills. This drive begins in the small coastal village of Blue Hill and ends in Orland. You will pass through Brooklin, the boatbuilding capital of the world, where the famous Wooden Boat School and magazine are located. Be sure to take a left at the Brooklin General Store and follow the road 3 ½ miles out to the end of the peninsula. This is where the Revolutionary War Battle of Naskeag occurred in 1778. You will have beautiful views out to Blue Hill Bay and a nice spot for a picnic. You will also pass through the towns of Sedgwick, Eggemoggen, Sargentville, Brooksville, Penobscot, ending in Orland. Plan a few hours for the drive so you have plenty of time to explore.
Route 186 – Gouldsboro
Follow Route 1 North on the Schoodic National Scenic Byway. In Gouldsboro you will see the signs for Route 186. Take a right and you will find yourself on a 16 mile loop that’ll take you through some beautiful working harbors. Be sure to visit Acadia National Parks Schoodic Peninsula along this drive, a one-way loop that offers incredible views towards Mount Desert Island, and bring a picnic as there are lots of places to lay out your blanket. Some of the towns that you will pass through on this drive are West and East Gouldsboro, Winter Harbor and Prospect Harbor.
Route 182 – Franklin to Cherryfield (The Blackwoods Scenic Byway)
Taking a step away from the ocean, this drive brings you through the blueberry barrens, rivers and mountains of DownEast Maine. Referred to as the Blackwoods Scenic Byway, you are likely to see moose, wild turkey and maybe even a black bear along this route—so be on the lookout! The route travels for about 24 miles and passes Tunk Mountain and Lake. There are some great places to stop for a nice fall foliage picture. Be sure to research the Legend of Catherine’s Hill before you take your journey. Who knows, she may ask you for a ride and, as legend would have it, you better say yes! I highly recommend a stop at the Franklin Trading Post at the start of your drive. It's a real Maine experience!
(This article was previously published in USA Today on October 14, 2014)
More SpecialGlobe Destinations:
Special needs children tend to do best with structured schedules and knowing what to expect from day-to-day. Taking a family vacation might feel like you're tempting fate and you might fear possibly undoing all your child has worked so hard to accomplish. Yet, the mental and emotional strain caused by the demands of life can also affect children. Taking a vacation and traveling is more than just a break from routine, it offers your child new environments, unexpected experiences and exciting interactions with people they would never have met if you’d never ventured away from home. Here are a few things travel can bring into your child’s world:
Fun. It sounds a bit too simple to be true but everyone needs to have some fun, both
children and parents. For a special needs child, there can be many sources of frustration in day-to-day life, from the inability to concentrate on schoolwork for a child with ADHD to the lack of facilities available for those with physical disabilities. If your children are like mine, wonderful and courageous, they take most things life throws at them in stride. But this doesn’t mean that they don’t feel overwhelmed and isolated at times. Taking a break from the daily grind can help them recharge and put a smile on their face.
New Experiences. Experimentation can lead to breakthroughs. Throughout history, great innovations were the result of experimentation. Travel might not help you or your child make any scientific breakthroughs, but experimentation might help you understand what’s needed to encourage your child’s growth. For example, you might find that a child who has a cognitive impairment loves going to museums because they have a creative, artistic mind. On the other hand, taking a child with a reading disability to a science museum might reveal their affinity for science.
A Non-Competitive Environment. This one is invaluable for children. School tends to be a competitive environment where kids have a tendency to want to outperform each other, academically and socially. Traveling with your child gives them a non-competitive environment where they can just be themselves and not have to outperform anyone else.
Family Bonding. If you have more than one child, travel offers your children the opportunity to reconnect. According to an article in Psychology Today written by Susan Krauss Whitbourne, PhD., "Vacations promote what is called the crescive bond (in sociological parlance, a shared experience) by fostering growing and enduring connections. Shared family memories and time spent together isolated from ordinary everyday activities (school, work, and so on) help to promote these positive ties."
As you prepare for your next family vacation, remember that traveling with your family is more than just time away from home, it’s an opportunity to play and for families to reconnect. And travel can make going home all the brighter!
For travel ideas, check out SpecialGlobes Family Friendly Destinations.
Seeing New York City as a family is an experience no one will forget. The museums, buildings, parks, restaurants...so much to see and do. Here are some of SpecialGlobe's favorite things to do and see when we're in the city.
American Natural History Museum – The Dinosaur exhibit is a dream come true, not to mention the two dinosaur and fossil gift shops for them to explore.
Toys R Us Times Square – Ferris Wheel, Super Heros, Life sized T-Rex...what's not to love! Everything and anything a kid could imagine.
SpecialGlobe Tip- If your special needs child has difficulty waiting in the long lines for the ferris wheel, just speak to the operator and explain the situation, typically they will give you front of the line access.
The Bronx Zoo - Lions, bears...butterflies? Something for everyone in the family!
SpecialGlobe Tip – When you go to the Bronx Zoo, if your child needs assistance be sure to go to the Guest Relations building to get an assistance card.
The Pizza and Spaghetti and Meatballs at Patsy's Pizzeria - 79th West side – This is a great local hangout out with a family vibe! The food is not to be missed! Amazing!
The Lion King - the Minskoff Theatre – An amazing performance by Disney.
SpecialGlobe Tip – Not a bad seat in the Minskoff Theatre but, if possible, try to grab a seat on the aisle as the animals come into the audience on many occasion. Great fun for the kids!
Horse Carriage ride in Central Park – What a great way to see the park. They offer 20 minute, 45 minute and 60 minute tours. Their most popular is the 20 minute tour. The carriages line up along Central Park Avenue or you can book your ride in advance.
SpecialGlobe Tip – We highly recommend the 45 minute tour. It is a little more expensive but you get to see more of the park and it gives the adults an opportunity to relax!
Eloise at The Plaza – Be sure to visit Eloise, Weenie and Skipperdee at The Plaza. Stuffies, costumes, beautiful clothes, books and videos. Everything Eloise! They also have a room where you can have a tea party. Lots of fun!
Hecksher Playground in Central Park – Central Parks oldest and largest playground –
water fountain and lots of different areas for the kids to play. There is even a water playground for kids to enjoy on a hot day! The playground also has soft surfaces to play on in some areas.
To see what else New York City has to offer, go to SpecialGlobe Destinations
Planning a vacation that the whole family can enjoy can be stressful. Finding activities that are accessible and interactive for family members with special needs can be downright disheartening. Morgan's Wonderland in San Antonio, Texas saw the struggle so many families have and created an inclusive theme park full of rides, interactive games, and, in 2017, Morgan's Inspiration Island, the world’s first ultra-accessible splash park.
As it turns out, Walt Disney World -- although fraught with opportunities for sensory overload and behavior meltdown -- is often remarkably engaging and enjoyable for children with autism, many of whom develop a particular affinity for Disney characters, music and movies. (For five year-old Billy it was Winnie-the-Pooh and Tigger.)
As a result, our special needs family has been vacationing at Walt Disney World for the past twelve years. In 2012, I realized that there was no online resource dedicated to the interests and concerns of Disney guests with special needs and health issues. Special Mouse was created to fill that void. I am thrilled to join with the SpecialGlobe team and community in empowering special needs families to access the wonderfully therapeutic and enriching experience of family travel!
And so, I will celebrate the start of our relationship by sharing with you the top five reasons why I believe a Walt Disney World vacation is perfect for Autism Spectrum families:
#5 - The sheer number of planning resources available
Our families are accustomed to thoroughly preparing our children with ASD for new experiences and a Disney vacation is no exception. It is vital that fears, sensitivities and special needs be anticipated and managed – otherwise no one will have fun!
Because of its immense popularity, there are more planning resources available to the Disney traveler than for any other vacation destination on the planet! These include official and unofficial websites, blogs, discussion forums and mobile apps which can help the planner avoid situations which would be upsetting or frightening to the person with ASD. Preparation is everything!
People with ASD are often intensely attracted to visual media, so the official planning DVD can be put to good use, allowing the person get an idea of what ride vehicles, shows and resort rooms will look like. (Just be prepared for him or her to watch that DVD over and over!) Now that my son is getting older, he
enjoys watching Disney fireworks and parade videos posted on YouTube .
As the four Walt Disney World theme parks have changed and expanded over the years, I find that exposing my son – who has a strong affinity for “sameness”, to video footage of new areas and attractions helps to significantly reduce his stress and anxiety.
#4 - Guests have the ability to create a daily “schedule"
A week of family time spent relaxing under a beach umbrella and swimming in the ocean sounded like a great idea at the time, but my son hated it! Schedule and routine are very important to the person with ASD, often to the point of rigidity.
Without it he could not cope and began to act out, which pretty much drove the rest of the family crazy!
Thanks to the planning resources above, a Disney vacation can provide needed structure to each day: “First we’ll go to Adventureland, then Frontierland, and thenwe’ll have lunch.”
There are enough things to see and do in the theme park environment to keep the person with ASD fully engaged and interactive. The My Disney Experience mobile app has several features that appeal to those on the Spectrum, namely, the ability to explore the resort with an interactive, GPS-enabled map and to visually access all reservations and activities organized in My Plans.
That said, it can be tempting for families to squeeze too much activity into one day. Walt Disney World can be overwhelming for anyone. Staying at a resort on Disney property makes it convenient to build in time for sensory decompression with a nap or a swim during the day.
#3 - Dietary accommodations are not only available, they are easy to procure
Many travelers worry about food allergies and that special diets will not be accommodated while on vacation. Many children, especially, who have ASD follow gluten-free and/or casein-free diets. These and all dietary requests are welcomed by the chefs at Walt Disney World and there are numerous dining and snacking options available.
Guests can contact Guest Services prior to and during their trip for dietary information and to make special dietary requests.
There are also unofficial websites that are wholly dedicated to assisting the Disney guest with special dietary requirements. Here, Google is your friend!
#2 -The Disability Access Service Card can be a helpful tool
Individualized accommodations can be granted to eligible Disney guests based upon their specific needs so that the entire family can enjoy their vacation together.
The Disability Access Service Card (DAS) can be obtained from Guest Services, located in each of the four theme parks. The DAS card is used in conjunction with Disney’s FastPass+ reservation system and provide an “alternate waiting experience” for guests with invisible disabilities like ASD who aren’t able to wait in a conventional queue environment due to cognitive or sensory challenges. The DAS card is used in conjunction with Disney’s FastPass+ reservation system.
One of the more commonly requested accommodations for children with ASD is that they be allowed to use a stroller as a wheelchair when waiting in crowded, noisy lines for shows and attractions. Many children find it easier to avoid sensory overload (read: MELTDOWN!) when allowed to remain in the snug, secure environment of the stroller.
And now… the #1 reason why Walt Disney World and Autism are a perfect match:
Cast Member Magic!
Disney employees, known as Cast Members, are trained to treat every visitor as a guest and to make every guest feel special. The vast majority of Cast Members are kind, helpful individuals who genuinely care about guests and strive to make their Disney experience the best that it can be.
If your family member’s special needs are invisible, don’t be afraid to ask Cast Members for assistance. Once they realize that you require accommodation they are usually ready and willing to help. In my own experience, many of them have gone “above and beyond” my expectations in order to help my child fully experience the Disney magic!
Living with the daily challenges of my son’s autism can sometimes be quite difficult. I’ve often remarked to my husband that Walt Disney World is the only place where we can enjoy a vacation “like a normal family.” That, in itself, is a truly magical feeling!
The Special Mouse podcast and blog are devoted to the concerns of Disney travelers with special needs and health challenges of all kinds.
Cruises: A Vacation for Families with Special Needs
Family vacations provide an opportunity to create lifelong memories with those you love. For families with children with special needs it can be more challenging to plan a family vacation that will be enjoyable for the entire family. All children thrive on experiential learning and a vacation is a perfect opportunity to explore the world, grow and learn. All families should be able to explore the world with the entire family. Cruises offer a wonderful vacation for families of all types.
Royal Caribbean First Cruise Line to be Named Autism Friendly
When it comes to planning a vacation life can become chaotic and nerve-wracking. Imagine trying to plan a vacation with an autistic or special needs child? The chaos and nerves most likely become worse. Like many families with special needs children there are so many other avenues that must be researched prior to making those final reservations.