Lonely Planet Writer

Florida is home to the first autism-certified water park

Florida is famous for its endless family-friendly attractions and now the state is also home to the first autism-certified theme park.

The Omaka Rocka water slide features half-pipe funnels at Aquatica in Orlando, Florida. Image by Marjie Lambert/Miami Herald/MCT via Getty Images

Aquatica Orlando is a park filled with waterslides, pools and splash zones. Now, it has become a Certified Autism Center (CAC) after a partnership with with the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES). This means that some staff have been given training focused on sensory awareness, program development and more, in order to make the park more accommodating to guests with autism.

There is also a new resource for guests, which helps inform families about the various sensory experiences of different rides and slides in the park based on factors like sound, smell, sight and touch. The park also offers a low sensory area and a quiet room, with adjustable lighting and cozy seating, which will give guests some relief from sensory stimulation.

Aquatica Orlando. Image by Godong/UIG via Getty Images

Potential guests should note, Aquatica is owned by SeaWorld, which has come under intense scrutiny for keeping captive marine mammals. While Aquatica Orlando does not have the dolphin or whale shows that SeaWorld does, there is a tank of black-and-white Commerson’s dolphins, which are frequently on show for their feedings.

More attractions are becoming CACs, helping make inclusive spaces for families. One recent addition was Sesame Place, the Philadelphia theme park centered on the beloved children’s park Sesame Street, which became the world’s first autism-certified theme park.