Your Accessible Travel Guide to Florida’s Gulf Coast

The Tampa Bay area is a playground for everyone. With its gorgeous beaches, delicious food, and various attractions, this area of the Sunshine State is well-equipped to keep one and all very busy. Tampa Bay is also all-inclusive, meaning the playground extends to visitors who are differently abled to ensure everyone can have a good time. From airport travel to theme parks to museums and more, Tampa Bay is the perfect destination for everyone, no matter their needs.

Tampa International Airport, Dedicated to Serving One and All

The entrance to Tampa International Airport in Tampa, Florida. Photo Courtesy of the University of College.

For travelers with special accommodation needs, with a bit of planning, flying into and out of Tampa International Airport is a breeze. You may have heard of the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Program, and Tampa Airport is a proud participant. Not all people who are differently abled are recognizable. All guests who require additional assistance are encouraged to obtain their Sunflower Lanyard at the info desk in the center of Level 3, Main Terminal. All personnel at the airport can recognize and assist those with the sunflower lanyard.

Parking is easy and available 24/7 in all airport parking areas. Tampa International also offers free parking for those with disabled veterans tags on their vehicles. If you’re not driving, the Tampa area’s Yellow Cab and United Cab are just a call away and offer wheelchair lifts. Tampa has an excellent public transportation system with HART (Hillsborough Area Regional Transit) via the HARTPlus ParaTransit Bus. This bus system is fully accessible by wheelchair and motorized scooter. All these alternative transportation options will quickly get you to and from the airport.

All-Inclusive Adventures for Those Who Crave Fun

The Cheetah Hunt rollercoaster in Tampa Bay, Florida. Photo Courtesy of Viaval Tours.

The theme parks here in Tampa have got it down-pat for accessibility for all, and Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is no exception. For starters, service animals are most welcome at entertainment and SeaWorld facilities. Their guidelines can be found here. In addition, the Guest Services office is located just on the left as you enter the park.

Wheelchair rental is available at the same place as Stroller Rental, just inside the main entrance on the right, and is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations for rentals can be made online or by calling 813-884-4FUN. For those with sensory stimulation concerns, visitors can find ride sensory stimulation levels on a convenient 1-10 scale in the guidelines provided above. Please keep in mind that most rides are not wheelchair accessible. If you are concerned about a particular ride, please refer to the park’s accessibility guide or confirm before your trip.

When you get hungry, most restaurants in Busch Gardens offer cafeteria-style service for easier wheelchair accessibility, and various menus have been crafted with dietary restrictions in mind. Stop by Guest Services or any of the restaurants to receive details on their Allergy-Friendly program.

Similarly, Adventure Island has allowed differently-abled guests, young and old, to have a fantastic day. With their excellent Ride Accessibility Program (RAP), Special Access is available without waiting in line while also keeping in mind the safety requirements of all rides and attractions. Service animal allowances, wheelchair rental, and accessible parking are just a few of the many services that Adventure Island provides.

A treasure trove of art, history, and theatre awaits that is accessible to all

The Tampa Museum of Art. Photo Courtesy of Steven Martin.

Art and history lovers will be delighted to find out they have various options in Tampa. Since 1920, the Tampa Museum of Art (TMA) has had a long tradition of bringing visitors into a world of the arts with engaging exhibitions and informative programs that enlighten, entertain, and educate.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are the core values of TMA because art tells the story of everyone, not just some. In this vein, they are committed to making the museum accessible to visitors that need other accommodations. For example, the adjoining William F. Poe Parking garage offers 18 ADA-accessible parking spaces, with the appropriate height for van accessibility, and elevators for easy museum access.

Tampa Bay History Center in Tampa, Florida. Photo Courtesy of Chad Robertson Media.

Another fantastic city treasure is the Tampa Bay History Center, where three floors of exhibits detailing Florida’s vibrant past are ripe for exploration. In addition, several wheelchairs are available to borrow for those who need them free of charge. And for those with sensory-processing needs, the museum has partnered with the Center for Autism at the University of South Florida to produce helpful guides for visitors with ASD and their caregivers and families.

The Henry B. Plant Museum is located on the campus of the University of Tampa and reflects the opulent period of the early 20th century. However, the modern twist comes from this museum’s accessibility that is fully wheelchair accessible and sensory-friendly, such as interactive exhibits like photo books and vintage telephones. For the visually challenged, closed-captioning, large-print brochures and white glove tours are available.

The Straz Center for the Performing Arts. Photo Courtesy of Matthew Paulson.

The art of a live theater performance has the power to entertain and transform. The Straz Center for the Performing Arts is dedicated to enriching the lives of everyone who attends a show, and dedicated efforts have been made by the wonderful staff there concerning convenient parking spaces for the differently-abled in their arrival plaza off Tyler Street. Additionally, wheelchairs and curb-side drop-off are available, accessible seating is located throughout the theater, and assistive-listening devices are available. And the first Thursday of every Broadway show offers an ASL-interpreted performance.

The outdoors offers a beautiful respite in unique Florida fashion

Tampa’s beaches are simply stunning, with accessibility options that make visiting easy. The Ben T. David Beach has added ADA beach mats so those that need them can enjoy the picturesque views at this narrow beach. Similarly, Davis Islands Beach is a great way to spend a sunny afternoon. Accessible parking is available at both beaches.

The Tampa Riverwalk is a nature-lovers mecca with wide open spaces and a smoothly paved riverwalk that is a breeze for everyone to use. Its 2.6 miles feature lovely water views, with great restaurants, shops, and other attractions. The Pirate Water Taxi offers glorious views of Tampa from a different perspective and is wheelchair accessible. They allow guide dogs, as well.

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