Posted by J.L. BOSTICK at 3:29 PM
Sunday, September 19, 2010
This weekend we had the pleasure of taking our family, including our blind 6 year old to a wonderful theme park which opened this year called Morgan's Wonderland.
The park was inspired by a young women by the name of Morgan Hartman who has a severe cognitive delay, at 16 years old Morgan was already an incredible 6 foot 4 inches tall! Her father and local real estate developer Gordan Hartman wanted to build a park dedicated to the world of Special needs. A park where all children can come together and enjoy all the amenities of theme parks and local parks, where a disability does not call for a challenge, where we can all be as one in the world. Fund-raising for the park began in 2007 when Morgan was only 16 years old with total completion in 2010 the park opened it's doors to the world of Special needs.
The park is situated on 8 acres which includes a lake, train, off road vehicle ride, Beautiful wheel chair accessible Carousel, wheel chair accessible playscapes , swings for all special needs including wheelchair swings, fishing (you can't keep the fish) and various other Sensory related activities.
Come with us on as we review every inch of this park through the eyes of a blind child!
The park is conveniently located off of Interstate 35 a main highway going through most of Texas. The only downfall is that the street is new and is not yet available on GPS and online maps. In order to get accurate directions you must call or visit the websites map. You also must be prepared for park TRAFFIC, not because the park is packed but because the park shares it's location with "Star Field" a local soccer complex.
There is tons of parking for Morgan's wonderland and even though the park shares the lot with Star Field they do have their own designated parking. If you call ahead you can reserve up front handicap parking. However there is plenty of handicap parking available within close walking range without making a reservation.
Upon entry my family was greeted by nice, warm, welcoming people. A nice lady even opened the door for us! The person at the counter asked my mommy about our reservations then put special band on each of our wrists. I did have to ask them to take mine off my arm, you see blind people are sometimes pretty sensitive when it comes to their hands and since I also have sensory integration disorder the band made me very uncomfortable. But they were very nice about it and put it on my ankle which was perfect! The lady then explained that we all must wear the bands because they are VERY special. If any of us were lost we could swipe the bands in front of one of several "location stations" throughout the park. Upon swiping we would be greeted by name and shown actual pictures of where our lost loved ones were located making it super easy to find them!
The Butterfly playground is an AMAZING covered playground which is named such because it is built in the shape of a butterfly. It is designed with double wheelchair ramps, textured & regular slides, musical play, tactile play, a wobble boat, spin seats, climbing equipment, various teeter totters and a really cool spinning swing.
Pros: The park is really amazing with all the tactile and sensory equipment. I especially loved playing on all the different size teeter totters, the spinning swing, the wobble boat and the rolling slide. And because the park was covered it was cool and didn't get hot like the playgrounds at home which means I didn't have to worry so much about getting burned by burning hot playground equipment.!
Cons: I would have liked to have played tic tac toe with my sister when she asked me to play. You see they have a tick tac toe game built into the park equipment which for most kids would be loads of fun. But for me because the game is not textured and has no braille I couldn't see it to play. I also wish they had more than ONE spin swing. Other than that, this was the perfect park!
A few feet away from butterfly park sits one of the most amazing carousels ever made. It is 100% custom with seating for all special needs. There are seats for wheelchairs, regular animals and animals with high backs. Each animal is complete with seat belts!
Pros: I loved everything about this carousel! I loved the animals, the up and down movement, the music playing overhead, the seat belts which made me feel safe and above all I love that they didn't make me get off. I got to ride again and again!
Cons: The only con is that it started raining before I had a chance to ride again. For safety they had to stop the ride.
Off Road Adventure:
A really neat off road vehicle ride which is wheelchair accessible.
Pros: I really love being able to drive a car for the first time in my life. It was so much fun turning the wheel!
Cons: About half way through the ride it got a little boring for me. The ride is very slow and long. A sighted child might enjoy it more because there are neat pictures and things to look at along the way. Because I am blind there is nothing to see. The ride might benefit from moving a little faster and/or having some ups and downs along the way to make it more fun for visually impaired people.
There are 2 swing area at Morgan's wonderland. There are specialty swings for wheelchairs and other special needs as well as regular and baby swings. I love everything about the swing areas, especially being able to swing with my sisters on the tire swings which are my favorite swings at the park.
Event Center and / Gymnasium
A full indoor sports gym which seconds as a banquet hall with a full size kitchen.
I didn't get to enjoy the gym this visit because they were setting up for a benefit event. I was a little disappointed that I didn't get to go play with my family because I was very much looking forward to it!
A beautifully constructed interactive water play station.
Pros: This was my second favorite attraction at Morgan's wonderland. Playing in water is one of my favorite activities and this was the most fun I have ever had doing that. There were all sorts of buttons and levers to push to make water shoot out in so many different ways. I could even hear the water flowing which was really neat!
Cons: I really wish there was a special place where I could have put my feet in the water. I so desperately wanted to climb into the pools of water. Maybe building a wading area with mini waterfalls and water shoots might be a nice addition in the future? Blind people really love feeling things like water with their feet!
Again, another attraction I did not get to experience as there was nothing scheduled for our day. I would have really liked hearing a play or some music. Perhaps when the amphitheater is not being used Morgan's wonderland can open it up to the visitors to put on their own plays or maybe have some fun kids music playing so that we can enjoy the stage and sing along?
A beautiful garden complete with 9 different fun instruments to play!
Pros: Music is my favorite thing in the entire world so this was the perfect place for me to create my very own music. So many different instruments from xylophone's to drums!
Cons: There was one instrument that was way too high for me to reach. I don't know what it was called but I sure would have liked to have played it!
A sand circle with several different sand stations designed to fit wheelchairs.
Pros: It was messy and I love messy!
Cons: I would have loved to have found neat textures in the sand, it would have made it even more fun.
Wonderland Express Train:
A 1930's locomotive train complete with wheelchair access which travels around the lake.
Pros: How can I not love being on a train. I especially loved it when the conductor blew the whistle!
Cons: The trip was a little boring at times with the conductor pointing out various areas of the park for everyone to look at. I sure wish he would have taken the blind into consideration and described them a little bit more or maybe incorporated some music into the ride so that blind people could get something more out of it than just a train ride.
The Sensory village is a group of various buildings that provide various Sensory activities.
I really didn't enjoy much of the Sensory village because it is VERY sight oriented. There is a room full of light play, a place to create your own car on a computer, a pretend grocery store, a stable with a few horses made out of textured materials and a place to watch and be on TV. The only thing that I could get anything out of was the horses. I cannot see the lights, the TV's or the computers and shopping for play groceries isn't very interesting to me. I felt pretty left out as my sisters played.
There are a few things that would have made Sensory village more enjoyable like perhaps a music room with music playing, a wind tunnel or a place to bounce like an in ground trampoline, a tactile wall with different things to feel or even a bounce house.
A wheelchair accessible pirate themed island with a playground.
Pros: I loved playing on the play equipment!
Cons: The playground equipment was the same as the butterfly park, it would have been nice to have had a different experience. There were some neat statues that my sisters enjoyed , other than feeling them I didn't get much out of it. I would have LOVED to have had a few buttons to press for each statue , perhaps the pirate & parrot could have spoke to me or the pirate chest could have "creaked" open when a button was pressed.
A lake-view pier where you can go fishing , play with remote control boats and shoot water cannons.
Pros: I really loved feeling the wind blow through the covered pier!
Cons: This was another attraction I could not enjoy. Fishing is simply not an enjoyable pass time for me as a blind child, I cannot see to shoot the water cannons at the target and I have no idea what is going on as I maneuver the boats.
Maybe Morgans wonderland could add different sounds to each boat (so there was no confusion which one belonged to who) and bells to the targets so I could tell if I was hitting something?
A beautifully decorated garden with beautiful statues.
The only thing I could have done in this garden I could not do which was touch the statues. There was a garden rule to stay off the landscaping and since the statues are part of the landscape I didn't get to see them. I would have liked to have heard some soft music while I felt the statues my mother was describing to me.
While there is no place for hot food @ Morgans wonderland they do have various vending machines around the park as well as a small store at the entrance. At the store you can purchase drinks, snacks and various sandwiches. We were pretty impressed at the quality of the sandwiches besides the fact that the peanut butter and jelly was very dry. My daddy's burrito, my moms foccacia with Turkey and my ham and cheese were restaurant quality and very tasty.
Where to eat: There are many different picnic areas throughout the park to enjoy your lunch. All picnic tables have room for wheelchairs. The chairs at the tables are a bit far from the tables and a bit high for small children to reach.
You can also reserve various pavilions around the park for large parties. But we enjoyed having our lunch at Picnic place because it has a swing area for us to play at while mommy and daddy finished their lunch.
Overall I really loved my visit to Morgan's Wonderland. I only hope that the park can work a little harder to accommodate the interests of the blind as I do think they left us out when it came to the brainstorming for many of the attractions. There isn't enough braille throughout the park and I couldn't participate in half of the park attractions because there was simply nothing for me to do. But what I did enjoy is enough to bring me back again and again. Hopefully my mommy and daddy will take me for another visit again real soon. Maybe by then Morgan's Wonderland will be an even better place for blind children everywhere!
Thank you!!! Love Miriam :)
Note: Small pics from the Morgans wonderland website www.morganswonderland.com.