The best destinations you never knew were accessible
Visiting a monument or statue for the first time is about more than just the destination. It’s about the journey, exploring a new place and spending time with the people you care about.
We put together a list of some of our favorite spots to visit in the U.S. that you might not have known offer great accessibility for people who use mobility scooters and power chairs. Because it’s the International Day for Monuments, we added a few extras from around the world that also happen to accommodate mobility devices.
Maybe our list of favorite destinations will give you some ideas when you’re planning your next trip. This summer travel season still comes with some pandemic-related health and safety concerns. So our list includes only outdoor spots, where you can easily keep your distance from other people if you wish.
Denali National Park
No kidding. Six million acres of rugged Alaskan wilderness and the nation’s tallest mountain peak don’t exactly evoke images of accessibility. But don’t count it out. Admittedly, it’s is not a national monument. However, Denali, with a peak about four miles above sea level, seemed monumental enough to lead with it here. Denali National Park offers plenty of options for those who rely on a scooter or power wheelchair to get around. For starters, many of its tours happen in lift-equipped buses, so you can load your scooter on board and journey deep into the park. The National Parks Service touts the McKinley Station Trail as one of the most accessible trails in the park with 1.6 miles of hard packed gravel and dirt near the Riley Creek camping area.
Riley Creek includes several wheelchair accessible camping spots and accessible facilities. Riley Creek’s popular sled dog demonstrations won’t be happening in 2021, according to the NPS, but visitors still may visit the kennels and speak with the rangers who care for the sled dogs.
Photos of Mount Rushmore National Memorial can be misleading. The viewing area, amphitheater and even the trail up to the faces feel more like a theme park than a rocky mountainside hiking destination. There’s even a multi-tier parking garage right outside the memorial gates, equipped with an elevator and a drop-off spot at the top.
Rushmore’s Avenue of the Flags, the Presidential Trail (which gets you pretty close to the four presidents), the Lincoln Borglum Visitors Center and the amphitheater all are designed with scooters and power chairs in mind. They’re spacious with lots of room to move around freely.
It even has several full-service restaurants right in the park and close to the main attractions, though some pandemic-related restrictions may still be in effect this year, so check first.
You can experience the Civil War’s pivotal moments from aboard a mobility scooter or power chair almost entirely unhindered. Gettysburg National Military Park boasts a jaw-dropping number of historical artifacts and exhibits across about 6,000 acres.
The visitors center and expansive museum, with about 300,000 objects and artifacts and 700,000 archival materials, is fully accessible. Dozens of miles of paved roads take you to specific sites where park rangers and paved walkways accommodate anyone who relies on a mobility device.
About half of the Cemetery Ridge Trail is flat over paved ground. Focal points like David Wills House and President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s estate feature mostly accessible exhibits. To see the Eisenhower home’s second floor, you’ll have to climb stairs.
If the travel bug has a good bite on you, and you’re feeling particularly adventurous this year, you might find yourself boarding a flight for some faraway place. These breathtaking sites abroad offer access to those who use mobility devices
Please note: we wanted to give you some ideas about what might be possible. You and your travel buddies should do your own research and plan well enough ahead to make sure the sight-seeing conditions are not too rigorous.
Great Wall of China
It’s visible from space, and also from aboard your mobility scooter. Two sections of the wall accommodate mobility device users – the Badaling wall and the Mutianyu wall. It’s worth noting that travel sites say the Badaling wall, with an elevator, offers the easiest access. Some guides warn that the Mutianyu wall, though generally less crowded, is more difficult to navigate with some steep and bumpy parts.
Subject to weather conditions, accessibility gear like elevators help those who use power chairs and mobility scooters take in the ancient beauty of the Parthenon temple and other sights. Travel guides praise Athens for its accessibility, though one in particular advises those using wheelchairs to hit the Acropolis in the morning, before the crowds arrive and the weather heats up.
Like Mount Rushmore, Stonehenge photos often don’t reveal just how accessible the place is. In fact, per UK accessibility laws, the mysterious and ancient monument has a paved path leading up to it from fully accessible facilities. Visitors have a bit of a hike up from the parking lot and visitors center, but the path is paved and smooth – sounds like the perfect afternoon outing for you and your mobility scooter or power wheelchair.