16 Sensory Friendly Things to Do in Charlotte
Looking for something to do in Charlotte that meets the sensory needs for you or a loved one?
by Maegan Ellison
When it comes to having sensory-friendly fun, Charlotte is the place to be for children and adult activities. From increased intermission times for performances to spaces designed for lowered lighting and less noise, these Charlotte locations are a must-visit when exploring what the city has to offer.
The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art is dedicated to the exhibition of mid-20th-century modern art. The museum offers individuals with disabilities and their companions free admission. Through the Creative Access program, The Bechtler offers creative programming and classes for adults with intellectual, developmental and other disabilities, as well as programming for adult guests with dementia and their caregivers.
Specially designed tours and American Sign Language interpretation are available upon request with advance notice.
Discovery Place has multiple locations throughout the city that are great for both children and adults to explore, learn and play using their senses. Uptown’s Discovery Place Science has many touch-friendly games and activities, along with many other experiential learning exhibits. Picture schedules and other visual supports are available at the front desk. Discovery Place Nature offers live educational animal shows, nature stories and more.
The Mint Museum, North Carolina’s first art museum, has many accommodating features, such as single user/all gender restrooms; Social Narratives resources to utilize before your trip for those with developmental disabilities; wellness rooms; and special services, including Explorer Packs containing sensory items that can be checked out and used throughout the museum.
For group tours for individuals with disabilities, please contact the Tour Program Coordinator at 704-337-2043.
The NASCAR Hall of Fame is an interactive and inclusive museum open to all from avid race fans to novices. This Hall of Fame aims to provide a full experience for all guests from adapted hearing devices and modalities to accessible parking and courtesy wheelchairs. The Hall of Fame offers adapted experiences in part by partnering with KultureCity to provide sensory bags for guests who may need accommodations. These may be checked out from staff and contain items such as noise canceling headphones, fidget toys and other items to meet sensory needs. The NASCAR Hall of Fame promotes physical accessibility including accessible racing simulators, where participants can drive their wheelchair into the adapted race car with hand controls.
Find information on the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s accessibility here.
AMC Carolina Pavilion 22
Neighborhood: South Charlotte
Partnering with the Autism Society, AMC Carolina Pavilion 22 offers sensory-friendly movie showings on the second and fourth Saturday (for family-friendly films) and Wednesday evenings (mature audiences) monthly. Check the theater website for showtimes and listings.
The Charlotte Ballet is home to a variety of programming from classical to contemporary. With sensory-friendly performances throughout the year, Charlotte Ballet makes performances accessible and inviting. These performances include adapted features such as shorter performance times and longer intermission; regulated light and sound; designated quiet areas; unrestricted entry and exit; and a team of staff, ushers, volunteers and performers trained to provide a sensory-safe experience. Charlotte Ballet has provided a visual guide for each performance to showcase what can be expected to get everyone excited for the show.
The Children’s Theater of Charlotte offers sensory-friendly shows for most of their productions with adaptations including modified lighting and sound, headphones, fidget toys or other sensory items, and a quiet space. The theater has other accommodations including American Sign Language interpretation at select shows, assistive listening headsets, script of the show that can be requested with advance notice, and preferred seating for individuals with service dogs.
For accommodations, email the Children’s Theater box office at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the office at 704-973-2828.
Neighborhood: East Charlotte
Attend a family friendly performance at Charlotte’s largest performing arts theater, Ovens Auditorium. Individuals can pick up a sensory bag from KultureCity filled with tools such as headphones and fidget toys, to assist in sensory overload that can occur at theaters.
Neighborhood: South Charlotte
As one of the area’s largest attractions with roller coasters, a water park and plenty of outdoor fun, Carowinds strives to provide comfort and access for all guests. Individuals with cognitive impairments or mobility restrictions may use the Boarding Pass Program (providing alternate boarding to applicable rides) and sensory-friendly spaces including quiet, air-conditioned family rooms. Plan your trip with insight for individuals or family members looking for an accessible and inclusive experience here.
The Spectrum Center has teamed up with KultureCity to provide a sensory room for guests with sensory needs. This means that individuals with sensory sensitivities can attend the Charlotte Hornets basketball games knowing a safe space is provided. The sensory room consists of calming colors, adjustable lighting and textured wall art. Sensory bags may also be checked out from specified Guest Experience booths and contain items such as noise canceling headphones, verbal cue cards, weighted lap pads and fidget toys.
Charlotte Mecklenburg Library offers sensory story time designed for children with sensory needs or developmental disabilities. Many locations throughout the library’s network offer sensory friendly storytimes and activities for adults and children alike both online and in person. Find more here.
Area: Indian Trail
On top of having adaptive equipment available for free skating, Extreme Ice Center also holds an adaptive ice skating program designed for individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities who may also have a physical disability or impairment.
This 79-acre park is home to many accessible recreation opportunities. From accessible walking trails, inclusive playgrounds, and the Tiny House, a sensory-friendly children’s playhouse. The Tiny House is filled with sensory-play including swings, sensory toys of all sizes, and other activities both inside and outside of the Tiny House, hosts playtimes monthly and is open to all children 10 and under on select Saturdays.
Whether exploring the fields and courts or enjoying a shaded picnic under the trees or sheltered spaces, Marion Diehl Park is a must-visit for inclusive leisure.
Visit SEA LIFE Charlotte-Concord Aquarium, home to ten interactive exhibits and North Carolina’s only ocean tunnel, for Sensory-Friendly Sundays the second Sunday of each month from 10 to 11a.m. Exhibits are adjusted to reduce sensory triggers and there is a dedicated quiet space for visitors who may need privacy.
Eat and Drink
Backdrop Coffee is a community staple in Charlotte’s Seversville neighborhood prioritizing hiring individuals with disabilities and practices inclusivity on many levels. From providing sensory coffee tasting experiences to viewing art created by the employees, Backdrop Coffee is a well-loved shop for fantastic treats, a disability-friendly experience, and delicious coffee.
Individuals with autism and special needs can enjoy special access to the Pineville-Matthews Road Chuck E. Cheese on the first Sunday of each month during Sensory Sensitive Sundays. Enjoy Chuck E. Cheese for the two hours prior to opening with adapted experiences including less crowds and noise, dimmed lighting, off or lowered music and sounds, and limited appearances by Chuck E. Cheese while enjoying food and games.