How to Enjoy WinterFest With Kids Who Have Special Needs

I’ve written about how great WinterFest at Canada’s Wonderland is, but one thing you might be curious about is whether you could take kids with special needs to the event. You definitely can with a little advance planning!

First off, you need to know your kid and what sets them off. If your kid doesn’t do well when they’re hungry / thirsty / cold  – make sure they’re dressed warmly and eat before you go. You can bring empty water bottles into the park as well so do that and fill at a fountain. If it’s crowds that sets them off, you are best to go on a Sunday evening when it’s less busy – Fridays and Saturdays are busier in my experience. If they’re set off by things like bright lights, it might be better to skip it or to do it at the end of a day that has been really quiet because there are twinkling lights everywhere. If they don’t handle waiting in line well, then you can apply at guest services for a Boarding Pass. 

Canada’s Wonderland has had a Boarding Pass available for guests with mobility impairments or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) during the regular operating season for a few years now and it’s great. The program allows guests who have either a mobility restriction or ASD to access the rides at specified times via the Alternate Access Entrance – so that they can avoid crowds and waiting in the regular lines. You still have to wait for the same amount of time as anyone else, you just don’t need to do it *in* the line. For WinterFest the Boarding Pass program also includes attractions such as Mrs. Claus’ Kitchen and the North Pole Post Office. 

Here’s how the Boarding Pass Works:

When you get to the park, take the guest with mobility impairment to Guest Services and express their inability to wait in the regular line. In case of mobility impairment, they may ask some questions to make sure that the person in question has the required physical criteria to safely enjoy the rides. Then they issue a boarding pass for the guest in question and up to 3 companions. When the rider goes to one of the rides or attractions on the list provided with the pass, they simply go to the Alternate Access Entrance (usually the exit) and obtains a boarding time that is equivalent to the length of the ride line.  Then they can wait elsewhere. When it’s time to ride, simply go back to the Alternate Access Entrance and board the ride. 

If your kid with special needs wears headphones or ear blockers, please note that they can’t wear them on rides – however there are disposable ear protectors available at guest services. (And they can wear the headphones in the park). There is also a quiet room available at Guest Services inside the main gates where overstimulated kids can go – or you can head to your car for a few minutes if needed. 

With a little planning, kids with special needs can enjoy WinterFest too!

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