Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Wonderland Indeed

Today we finally went to Morgan’s Wonderland here in San Antonio. It exceeded expectations.

We arrived at 10:00 when the park opened and there was no line. They recommend you make reservations because they don’t allow the park to be overcrowded. Plus it is faster to fill out your essential medical needs online (they have a first aid station that can help with much more than a scraped knee). Before entering the park everyone in our group was given a wrist bracelet with a tracking device. There was one scary moment when I couldn’t find your brother and the volunteer asked if we wanted her to look for him. I thought she meant with her eyes, but she meant on one of the kiosks stationed throughout the park. We found him a second later (in the sensory car, his favorite thing) but it is so great that all you have to do is swipe your bracelet and it will locate everyone in your group on the park map. We didn’t need it then, but we tried it later just for fun. After checking in, we headed out to play. Straight ahead are two huge playscapes, 100% accessible for wheelchairs. The whole area is covered in UV protecting canvas tarps for shade. There are multiple sensory activities like rain sticks, sand hour glasses, marbles that make sounds you loved. We pushed you around the playscape with brother while he explored. There was a fun platform where we could sit and rock while you sat in your wheelchair between us. We did the playscapes for quite awhile until Liam discovered the carousel.

The carousel, like the rest of the park, was also completely accessible. We wheeled you up onto a platform where your chair was secured by straps. I sat on the bench with you and as the carousel went around, we rocked back and forth. You loved it! After we went once, we picked up a couple more riders and went for round two. By then you and I needed to find some AC for a break. On to Sensory Village.

Sensory Village is a building full of lights and sounds and textures. Inside are a stable, grocery store, auto shop, weather station and…well, I don’t know what to call the other room. The biggest hits for us were this mystery room and auto shop. The auto shop had half a built out car with buttons to start the ignition, radio, air. Projected on the windshield was a driving scene that shifted when you turned the steering wheel. Liam could have hung out there all day. There were tools that made the appropriate sound the second you touched them. And there was a computer screen to decorate your own car. We swiped your bracelet so it would know your name, and here is yours! When I checked my email later, I found all of our cars had been emailed to me.

The last room was very dim and each wall had a large screen with a projector. The first screen had blue tadpoles swimming around on it. But as somebody walked (or wheeled) up toward the screen, the tadpoles would swarm around that person. The second screen had colorful butterflies that would settle on your shadow if you stood fairly still. And the third was your favorite. It had falling rocks that made the sound you would expect gravel to make. We were able to “catch” the rocks and then drop them at once. Pretty cool technology. (These pictures don't begin to do it justice.)

After a snack (they encourage you brining in your own food/drinks but have a concession stand) we headed out to the train station. We could have loaded up your chair there, but decided to take you out and hold you for a break. We went around once and the conductor gave us an overview of the park—it was a good chance to see where we wanted to go next. Again, we just stayed on the train and went once more after arriving at the station.

Next we went to the Pirate’s Cove (another huge playscape) and then the Wharf. The Wharf is a dock out over the water where you can drive remote controlled pirate ships, shoot water cannons, and fish (we passed on that but apparently people catch HUGE catfish). The whole area is shaded and has mister fans hanging from the ceiling. At this point we were pretty exhausted and the park was about to close. We had one last stop we needed to make before heading to the car…

The swings! We should have done this first and just stayed there, because Audrey, you LOVED it. It took only a moment to secure your wheelchair and once we got started, you smiled and talked and chuckled the whole time. It was so much fun to watch you thoroughly enjoy yourself.

By this time it was 2:00 and the park was closing. I had no intention of staying that long—we didn’t stay 4 hours at Sea World yesterday! And there was a lot left undone. We didn’t drive the cars (naturally, wheelchair accessible), go to water works, check out the sand pits (with sidewalks throughout for chairs to access digging tools) or walk around the lake and check out the themed rest stops. But it is smart for them to close during the heat of the day…they wouldn’t get much business then, and the park relies heavily on a volunteer staff. I loved this experience. So clean and spacious, safe and friendly, affordable and fun. I think this will be the best part of our vacation, by far. And we would have never discovered it without you Audrey Boo!

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