5 Accessible Activities the Whole Family Can Enjoy this Summer

Summer is the perfect time to take the family outdoors! Here are a few places that are perfect for the whole family.

accessible activities ann arbor

Summer is the perfect time to explore where you live, but not every destination is ready for the whole family. Some playgrounds are covered in wood chips — which can be difficult to traverse with strollers, walkers, or wheelchairs — while certain indoor spaces lack tools or designated rest areas for people with sensory sensitivities.

But every family deserves a fun outing and the chance to make lasting memories this season. Here are 5 accessible, summertime activities around Ann Arbor that you can enjoy right now and important details to help you plan your visit. 

gallup park
Two children enjoy the Sway Fun in the River Region at Centennial Park. Image courtesy of Ann Arbor Parks and Recreation.

Universal Access Playground at Gallup Park

If the whole family could use some fresh air and sunshine, then head to The Rotary Club of Ann Arbor Centennial Playground at Gallup Park. This universal access playground is perfect for people of all ages and abilities. The park features inclusive design elements such as wide sidewalks, smooth unitary surfacing, fencing, and innovative play structures. There’s even a sand area with access for anyone using a mobility device. Together, parents and kids can safely explore three different nature areas, cool off under the trees, and use their senses to fully engage with their surroundings. Each area of the playground is connected via a combination of sidewalks and ramps, so your crew will have an easy time navigating.

Cost: Free!

3000 Fuller Rd, Ann Arbor. 734-794-600. A2gov.org

ann arbor hands on museum
Sensory Friendly Kits are available for checkout at the museum. Image courtesy of Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum.

Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum

Stretch your kiddos’ minds and make exciting scientific discoveries as a family with a trip to the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum. Inside, visitors will find more than 200 hands-on exhibits all about the human body, alternative energy sources, light and optics, magnets, and even Michigan’s natural landscapes. The main entrance to the museum is wheelchair accessible and all floors can be reached via elevator. AAHOM also offers Sensory Friendly Kits, which include fidgets, headphones, and sunglasses for visitors affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder or with sensory sensitivities. These kits can be checked out at the front desk.

Cost: $16 per person. Free for children 23 months and under.

220 E Ann St, Ann Arbor. 734-995-5439. aahom.org/visit/accessibility

Note: Tickets must be purchased online in advance.

mattaei nocholas childrens garden
The entrance to Gaffield Children’s Garden at MBG&NA. Image courtesy of Scott Soderberg.

Matthaei Botanical Gardens & Nichols Arboretum

Slow down and soak up some natural beauty with a leisurely afternoon at Matthaei Botanical Gardens & Nichols Arboretum. Visitors can stroll through ecologically diverse gardens and observe everything from bonsai to old-fashioned flowers like cosmos and zinnias. For accessible pathways, boardwalks, and overlooks, start at The Great Lakes Garden. Then mosey to the Gaffield Children’s Garden for a sensory-rich play environment, complete with a sandbox and a simulated stream. All public buildings are wheelchair accessible, and handicap parking is available near all Matthaei Botanical Gardens entrances. You can also check out wheelchairs at the front desk.

Cost: $2 per hour for parking.

1800 N Dixboro Rd, Ann Arbor. 734-995-5439. mbgna.umich.edu/visit/accessibility-matthaei-nichols

Note: Schedule visits online in advance. Each person in your party must have their own reservation. 

accessible activity
A child and parent measure bones in the Nature Lab at UMMNH. Image courtesy of University of Michigan Museum of Natural History.

University of Michigan Museum of Natural History

If your kiddos have a passion for dinosaurs, fossils, or space, then plan a trip to the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History (UMMNH). Here, visitors can journey through four billion years of life on Earth, touch cast replicas of mastodon tusks, engage with rocks and minerals, and even peer into research labs. All floors are accessible by elevator, and “Please Touch” displays are clearly marked throughout the UMMNH. The museum also offers a Personal Room on the lower level for families who need a break from overly stimulating environments. Sensory kits are available for checkout at the front desk as well.

Cost: Free!

2288 Biological Sciences Building, 1105 N University Ave, Ann Arbor. 734-764-0478. lsa.umich.edu/ummnh/about/museum-accessibility 

Note: Visits must be scheduled online in advance through August 8. 

accessible activity
Children enjoy the padded jungle gym at the barrier-free playground in River Bends Park. Image courtesy of Shelby Township.

Barrier-Free Playground at River Bends Park

Tired of your usual playground? Switch things up with an excursion to the brand-new, barrier-free playground at River Bends Park. In addition to rubber surfacing for walkers and wheelchairs, the playground boasts a padded jungle gym, an adaptive swing set, an updated merry-go-round, and a roller slide for a variety of fun sensory experiences. Families can also interact with eleven oversized outdoor musical instruments, like drums and chimes, so there really is something for everyone here. Benches are stationed throughout the playground as well, in the event that anyone needs a break.

Cost: Free!

5700 22 Mile Rd, Shelby Township. 586-731-5100. shelbytwp.org.