Today I am going to share my top autism friendly days out in Bristol. I am lucky to live on the outskirts of Bristol and we have some fantastic places to take the kids. I have visited all of the following places many times and found them great for both my boys.
Carers Go Free
The majority of these places do charge entry but in most cases carers go free and yes this includes parent carers! If your child is disabled then parents are entitled to get carer tickets. In most cases this means you pay for the child entry as normal and then get one free carer ticket. This is so useful as it means you can afford to bring a helper. Often I find I need help just keeping the boys safe so knowing I can get a carer ticket with theirs makes it easier to bring along a friend / grandparent to help. Plus if you are local you can get annual memberships for your child that include a free carer membership.
Sometimes you need to book carer tickets over the phone so if its not on the website give them a call to check when booking tickets.
You do need proof of entitlement to get carers tickets. In my experience most places are very happy to accept your local disability card so this is all I tend to take out. However some places do expect you to bring a copy of a letter proving either the diagnosis or that you get Disability Living Allowance (DLA). I keep copies on my phone as a back up. When visiting theme parks in the UK often you may also need a letter from your GP it is always worth double checking requirements before getting your tickets.
What is a local disability card I hear you shout! Local authorities should have details on their ‘local offer’ pages but in general most have a children’s disability register that you can sign up to and you get a card showing the child is on the register. I have used ours all over the country and not had any issues. If you are local to me the cards are –
Many attractions are getting better at supporting autistic visitors. In the past accessibility information has always been about physical accessibility but you now find information to support autistic visitors too. This can be information on what sensory triggers there may be and visual guides. Before we visit somewhere I always check the accessibility pages under visitor information on their website to see what is available. When I find a visual guide it makes me so happy, I can just print and we are good to go with no stress the night before searching google images trying to make my own.
1 Wild Place Project
The Wild Place Project is my favourite place to take the boys it is a large spacious conservation zoo. It has some fantastic animals to see including bears, giraffes and lemurs. There are lots of great picnic spots and places to play, a must for a sunny day. For us the main benefit is that it is a large place so it doesn’t get too crowded even on busy days. and it is all outdoors.
Visual Guide / social story for visiting Wild Place Project –https://bristolzoo.org.uk/cmsassets/documents/Wild-Place-Project-My-Trip-Social-Story-2020.pdf
Wild Place Project accessibility information – https://wildplace.org.uk/plan-your-visit/Accessibility-and-Facilities
2 Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm
Noah’s Ark is a large zoo farm on the outskirts of Bristol with elephants, camels and lions. It has some brilliant play areas and lots to keep the kids entertained including a huge maze. Another one that is mostly outside with lots of space.
Noah’s Ark accessibility information – https://www.noahsarkzoofarm.co.uk/accessibility
3 We The Curious
The Bristol Science Museum We The Curious is a great day out. There is lots to see and learn whilst having fun with hands on exhibits. There are some fun giant bubble makers, a brick building play area and an excellent animation section with Aardman favourites Wallace & Gromit.
We the Curious accessibility information – https://www.wethecurious.org/accessibility
4 Bristol Zoo
A lovely zoo and a perfect day out with the kids. Bristol Zoo will be moving from its site in Clifton in late 2022 when it will be relocated to the Wild Place Project site so make sure you visit soon. Bristol Zoo has a good mix of indoor and outdoor sections and a lovely playground. I really like the Gorilla house, aquarium and reptile house.
Visual guide/ social story to Bristol Zoo – https://bristolzoo.org.uk/cmsassets/heroes/Social-Story_Guest-Covid.pdf
Bristol Zoo accessibility information – https://bristolzoo.org.uk/visitor-information/facilities-and-accessibility
5 Avon Valley Country Park
Avon Valley is local to us so we have been many many times, tons of play areas alongside farm animals. They also have a lovely riverside walk in the summer along the River Avon which is one of my favourite spots. The kids love the soft play which is currently closed (Covid) so can’t wait to get back in there. Avon Valley have lots of events so keep an eye on what they have going on.
Visual guide to Avon Valley – https://www.avonvalley.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Visiting-Avon-Valley.pdf
Avon Valley accessibility information – https://www.avonvalley.co.uk/plan-your-visit/facilitiesaccessibility/
6 Bristol Aquarium
Ideal for a rainy afternoon Bristol Aquarium is full of fantastic aquatic displays. Really great sensory experience with all the water too.
Aquarium Accessibility information – https://www.bristolaquarium.co.uk/access-statement/
7 M Shed Museum
I am a big fan of the M Shed it is great for children with lots of interactive displays especially the double decker bus on the ground floor. Lots to see and it is free / donation to enter. The museum focuses on the history of Bristol and is located right on the Harbourside, well worth a visit when you are in Bristol.
M Shed accessibility information – https://www.bristolmuseums.org.uk/m-shed/plan-your-visit/families/
8 SS Great Britain
Also on the Harbouside is SS Great Britain where you can explore the historic ship. My kids love going on board.
SS Great Britain accessibility information – https://www.ssgreatbritain.org/your-visit/access-all
9 Aerospace Bristol
Fantastic museum for fans of flight you can even walk through the Concorde based at the museum. We visited when preparing my boys for their first aeroplane flight. Mostly indoor except for a lovely playground there is lots to see here from planes to satellites. The first hanger does have a machinery hum that bothers some with sensory processing issues and when it has been an problem with my eldest we have been able to go out to the play area easily.
Aerospace Bristol accessibility information – https://aerospacebristol.org/accessibility
10 Bristol Museum & Art Gallery
The museum is free / donation to enter. At the top of Park Street a lovely building with natural history exhibits and a great Egyptian section. The museum often has temporary exhibits too. It is all indoors and with a café and small play area for younger kids on site.
Bristol Museum and Art Gallery accessibility information – https://www.bristolmuseums.org.uk/bristol-museum-and-art-gallery/plan-your-visit/access/
11 Windmill Hill City Farm
Windmill Hill is my favourite free place to visit in the city. Much smaller in comparison to the other venues listed but you can easily spend a couple of hours here (perfect for toddlers). There is a shop, café, play areas and animals like sheep and pigs on site. Plus a Stick Man trail which is why we love it. The food in the café is delicious.
Windmill Hill visitors information – https://www.windmillhillcityfarm.org.uk/visit-us/
SEN / Autism Friendly events
Some of the above attractions hold early opening, SEN events and autism friendly days. Whilst Covid has stopped this recently keep an eye on websites and socials for these events in the future.
If you are looking for more places to go that are free in Bristol I highly recommend Leigh Woods and Ashton Court Estate.
Have you been to any of these attractions, what is your favourite in Bristol attraction?