Top Spots in Rome to Visit with Kids

Filled with amazing sights and smells, Rome is home to many tourist attractions that are worth seeing if you’re an avid traveler. For someone who is traveling for a short amount of time, your family might find it hard to fit everything in for one trip. While there are many ways for your family to enjoy Rome, a good starting list should include at least one architectural landmark fountain, one museum ,  a noteworthy church and the famous catacombs.

As much as sticking to a set list has its advantages, you should also leave enough leisure time for exploring. You can take this time to visit neighborhoods like Trastevere and Campo De Fiori. If you look around long enough, you might even come across places like Rome’s cat sanctuary or The Vatican, with time to find some of Italy’s best eateries.

The Colosseum

Top Spots in Rome to Visit with Kids

The Colosseum , our first stop is one of the most visited locations in Italy. It is an iconic symbol of Rome and its history. Commissioned around A.D 70-72 by Emperor Versapian as a gift to the Roman people, the Colosseum was home to 100 days of games, some of which included gladiator combat and wild animal fights. Built of sand and concrete, the Colosseum is the largest amphitheater in history. It’s open daily from 8:30 am to 3:30, seven days a week. At night, the Colosseum lights up, making a magnificent view.

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Be aware that there is an uneven terrain with many stairs to climb, so closed toe shoes are important to wear.
  • Bring a water bottle, especially on hot days, because you’ll need it, along with a mini fan if your child is temperature intolerant.

Torre Argentina

Kitty corner to the Colosseum (no pun intended), there is a cat sanctuary among the ancient ruins of Rome that kids and adults alike can enjoy. Torre Argentina is open most of the day, and you and your family can visit their nonprofit store and chat with the volunteers who come to feed the cats.

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Bear in mind there are over 100 cats living in this area, if you or anyone in your family is allergic then it’s not a recommended location.
  • Explain to your child that these are feral cats that should be approached cautiously and with respect.

Palatine Hill

Palatine Hill sits at the center of the famous seven hills of Rome and has a close link to Roman mythology. In Rome’s Republican era, Palatine Hill was the place for occupants to take up residency due to its beautiful views soaring 230 feet above the city. It was also believed that the air at that height was cleaner than “diseased” air of the working class below.

Top Spots in Rome to Visit with Kids

The Farnese Garden’s are beautiful and open to visitors at the northwest end. Tickets are on sale at the ticket queue outside of the ruins, and the wait is minimal at best, so you don’t have to allow for an extra time as you would for other sites. You can access Palatine Hill from the Hop On Hop Off Tour buses that run between the Colosseum and Palatine Hill.

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Palatine Hill is a steep hill, so wear closed-toe shoes and bring plenty of water.
  • There’s an interesting museum to visit recommended for children 8 and up.
  • Arrive early in the day to avoid the extreme heat and the hordes of tourists.

Roman Forum

The Roman Forum was the center of the Roman empire. Up until the 4th century AD, it was the site of critical decision-making for Europe’s future for over a thousand years. The Roman Forum sits between Palatine Hill and the Capitoline Hills. You can access the Roman Forum easily by foot or by bus as there are several stops near the location. Admission prices are just 12 euros, and the forum is open in the summer from 8:30 am to 7:15 pm and in winter from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. The Forum is closed December 25th and January 1st.

Autism Travel Tips:

  • If possible, the best way to visit both Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum is to get a guided, narrated tour, especially for kids who are interested in history.
  • If you come on your own, be sure to come early to avoid crowds.

The Pantheon

Top Spots in Rome to Visit with Kids

The Pantheon is known today as one of the most iconic buildings of ancient Rome. It is also the most well-preserved piece of architecture from that period. Dedicated to the gods of pagan Rome, the Pantheon is built by Emperor Hadrian in 27 B.C. to replace Marcus Agrippa’s Pantheon, which burned down in 80 A.D. When visiting the Pantheon admission is free to visitors and there are no lines to wait in or fees to pay when arriving. You can explore the marvel that is the Pantheon individually, or you can go on a guided tour that will help shed better light on the history of the Pantheon.

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Though the marble flooring is beautiful, it can become slippery after rain.
  • Make sure that you try the 1 euro pizza slices in the nearby pizzerias.

Santa Maria Maggiore

Santa Maria Maggiore is one of five great ancient basilicas of Rome. It stands on the site of a temple dedicated to the goddess Cybele and according to legend, the first church was built by Pope Liberius on the location of the apparition of the Virgin Mary. Over the passing decades, the church has had many other names. The interior, exterior and 5th-century indoor mosaics are some of the most noteworthy aspects of the Santa Maria Maggiore that draws in both pilgrims and tourists alike. It’s open to the public daily from 7 am to 7 pm.

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Prepare your kids for the fact they will need to be quiet since it is a place of worship.
  • Make sure your children dress appropriately, especially for preteen girls.

Top Spots in Rome to Visit with Kids

Piazza Navona and Fountain of Four Rivers

Piazza Navona was built in the 1st century, AD on the location of the Stadium of Domitian. The ancient Romans would gather to watch the games, and it has since become a popular tourist destination for travelers. Features of interest at the Piazza Navona include the Fountain of Four Rivers, and two other fountains, Fontana Del Moro on the southern end and the Fountain of Neptune at the northern end. The Piazza Navona is located just west of the Pantheon and is situated in the historic center of Rome, which is also one of the liveliest squares in the city known for its nightlife, outdoor cafes, and nightclubs.

Fountain of Four Rivers depicts gods of the great four rivers in the four continents recognized by Renaissance Geographers: The Nile in Africa, the Ganges in Asia, the Danube in Europe and Rio de la Plata in America. Back in Baroque Rome, fountains were seen as a sign of great generosity associated with the papal family. These fountains were not only a means of entertainment for passersby but also a vital source of water for the people, making it not only a beautiful fixture but also an important source of sustenance. It was Pope Innocent X Pamphilj who commissioned Gian Lorenzo Bernini to construct the Fountain of Four Rivers.

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Autism Travel Tips:

  • If your kid is intolerant of crowds, be sure to arrive extremely early in the morning since the place crawls with tourists throughout the day and even more so at night.
  • Beware of pickpockets, make sure that any valuables that you or your family members carry are in either a money belt or in zipping pockets.

St. Peters Basilica

St. Peters Basilica is an Italian Renaissance Church in the Vatican city. Designed by some of the best artists of that period, Michelangelo, Bramante, Maderno and Bernini, St.Peter’s is known as one of the largest churches in the entire world. Not to be missed is the famed Sistine Chaple that took Michelangelo and his apprentices over five years to paint and complete while standing on ladders with their necks tilted back. Considered the holiest of Catholic shrines, St. Peters is also home to the burial site of St. Peter himself, a former apostle of Christ as well as the first known Pope. St.Peters is open to visitors from April-September from 7:00 to 19:00 and October-March from 7:00 to 18:00.

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Autism Travel Tips

  • The lines surrounding St. Peters are quite long, so it’s idea to arrive early and expect a long wait.
  • There is no AC, so the temperature inside can quickly reach 100 degrees between the outside heat and the hordes of people inside.
  • Expect close physical proximity to other patrons.
  • After you’ve taken your pictures of the balcony where the Pope himself stands to greet people, you can visit the Vatican Museums, which also has lines as long as found at St. Peters.
  • You should have a mapped strategy when visiting or take a guided tour so you can get the most out of your visit.

Trevi Fountain

Trevi Fountain is one of the most photographed fountains in all of Rome, frequently features in Hollywood movies. It is considered to be a “must see” attraction for first-time visitors. Situated in the center of the city, Trevi Fountain sits amongst a maze of streets and alleyways. Many tourists enjoy visiting in the evening before wandering off to enjoy a meal. Admission to Trevi Fountain is free of course and is easily accessible by foot or bus. Although the Trevi Fountain is beautiful to look at it, it also serves a higher purpose: providing water to fountains all over the city.

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Just like in other fountains in Rome, Trevi Fountain has many tourists, especially in the summer, who come to check out the filming locations of nostalgic movies like Holiday in Rome.
  • As we discovered, the best time to take a decent selfie with few crowds were the early Sunday mornings when the locals and most of the tourists were still sleeping.
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Catacombs of Callixtus

The Catacombs of Callixtus are known as the greatest and most important catacombs in all of Rome. There is a guided tour that is free of charge to visitors, and the guides are known to speak several different languages to suit the needs of their various guests. The entirety of the tour will last about 30/40 minutes on average, and there are some discounts available on ticket pricing as well as free options for children under 6, professors or teachers who are accompanying student groups.

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Though historically significant, this is not a recommended place for kids that are afraid of the dark or who are sensitive to smells, because this place has both, since it is mainly underground.
  • Be aware that the ground is uneven, and you’ll have to walk through narrow pathways, so unless your kid feels comfortable enough to do this, it would be best to skip this destination.

Campo de’ Fiori

Campo de’ Fiori is situated right in the middle of historic Rome and is an outdoor market for tourists and residents alike. Day and night, the Campo de’ Fiori market is a bustle of activity. The name Campo de’ Fiori translates to “field of flowers” and is thought to originate back when the site was an open meadow. Known for its outdoor market by day and nightlife by evening, Campo de’ Fiori is the only outdoor market in all of Rome.

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Perfect spot for antsy kids to run around and for families to buy some Italian delicacies and have an outdoor picnic.
  • For those looking for souvenirs, this is as close to heaven as it gets; however, don’t be afraid to haggle the price down – whatever the price asked, start with half and work yourself to 2/3rds.

Top Spots in Rome to Visit with Kids

Spanish Steps

The Spanish Steps were built between 1723-1725 by little-known architect Francesco de Sanctis. It is a must see tourist location if you’re visiting the holy city. The steps are constructed in a wide, irregular pattern and consist of 138 steps altogether. Whether you’re looking for a good place to rest or snap a picture, the Spanish Steps are a beautiful work of art that your entire family can enjoy.

Autism Travel Tips

  • Antsy kids can get a kick out of running up and down the stairs, providing they’re not too crowded.
  • Make sure to visit one of the many gelato places situated around the bottom of the steps.

General Autism Travel Tips

  • Beware the hectic pace of their transportation avenues.
  • When sightseeing or hunting for the best place to shop or eat, it might be best to avoid buses or the subway, as there are often long waits between stations with the possibility of getting lost between stops.
  • In Rome, your best method of transportation is your feet, although it’s important to bear in mind that Rome is a large city full of hills that can make walking unbearable in the hot summer months.

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Taking Your Kids to Paris Churches

Paris is beautiful. Whether you’re traveling on your own or traveling with family, there is something for everyone in your family to enjoy. From priceless art exhibits to delicious food to unique shopping boutiques and more, Paris is the city to visit if you have a thirst for adventure, a passion for history or an eye for fashion.

The lovely sights across Paris are just one reason why travelers are gearing up for a visit. Paris is known for its culture, art, cafes and tourist sights. If you’re traveling to Paris and are looking for some must-see places, then you should consider putting the city’s famous churches on your itinerary. Of course, you can’t visit every major church that Paris has to offer. Narrowing it down might be hard because there’s so many to choose from and so much history to soak up; however, I can list the top 4 on my list and hope that one or all of them end up on your bucket list when touring the City of Light.

Notre Dame

Taking Your Kids to Paris Churches
Notre Dame is one of the oldest churches in Paris. Its history dates back more than 800 years! Maurice de Sully desired a cathedral worthy of the grand capital. The project was encouraged by his then classmate, King Louise VII. Construction began in 1163, and at the time of construction, the entire city banded together to see the idea come to fruition. While some participated in actively building, others offered money and knowledge. Construction on Notre Dame continued for 100 years.

Notre Dame was dedicated to Mary, Mother of God, and housed within are over 37 different variations of the virgin mother. These representations include works of art like stained glass windows, paintings, sculptures, etc. Aside from its dedication to Mary, known as the Lady of Paris, Notre Dame was also home to multiple historical events such as the marriage of Henry IV and Marguerite de Valois.

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Notre Dame is open most days from 10:30 am to 6:30 pm
  • Admission is free for anyone under 18
  • Visitors with a Paris Museum Pass get in free with noticeably shorter wait times
  • Admission to Notre Dame is done in groups of 20 every 10 minutes with lengthy wait times by the entrance
  • The many fan-shaped stairs leading up to the towers are old and can be slippery after rain, so it is important to wear comfortable shoes with traction
  • There is no place to stop or catch a breath without delaying other patrons, so make sure to prepare your son or daughter for the experience
  • You can find Notre Dame on the Ile de la Cite, the oldest part of Paris
  • You can access Notre Dame via the Metro or Rer (travel train) as well as other buses running nearby

Sacre Coeur

Sacre Coeur, in the neighborhood of Montmartre, was constructed in 1919. If you go to the top of Butte Montmartre, you’re afforded a breathtaking view of the city below. Housed within the walls of the Sacre Coeur, you’ll find France’s largest mosaic as well as the crypt, which is well worth the visit if you’ve got some time to spare.

Autism Travel Tips:

  • The tour includes a visit to the crypt and may take at least an hour, so prepare your child for a long time period of relative quiet and observance of church mannerisms
  • Admission to the Dome’s breathtaking view of the city is 6 euros
  • If you want to visit just the crypt you can expect a lower admission price
  • Ask for a discount if your child is younger than 18 or disabled
  • A ramp and lift are readily available to accommodate those with physical disabilities
  • The Dome and crypt are both closed from the 1st to the 15th of January
  • For more details, remember to look on the website for recently updated hours

Taking Your Kids to Paris Churches
Saint Chapelle

Saint Chapelle was built in an astonishing 7 years. The construction of Saint Chapelle was intended to become the housing for ancient Christian relics such as Christ’s Crown of Thorns which was acquired by Saint Louis, the head of the Western Christianity at the time of Saint Chapelle’s construction.

One of the most beautiful aspects of Saint Chapelle is its stained glass windows. Spanning across 15 windows, each of which measures 15 meters high, is 1,113 scenes from both the Old and New Testaments. The scenes recount the history of the world until the arrival of the relics Saint Chapelle was built to house. The stained glass windows are famous around the world, not only for their beauty but also because they’re the largest collection of original stained glass windows and are a big draw for tourists and native Parisians.

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Summer hours differ from fall hours, so be sure to check the website
  • Saint Chapelle has no organized tour, so you can spend as long or as short of a time as you wish wandering the church
  • The church sits within walking distance of other historical spots, making it easy to plan a mini day trip of history and architecture

La Madeleine

La Madeleine is dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene. The first design was drawn up by Pierre Constant d’Ivry and began construction in 1764. After his death, Guillaume-Martin Couture took on the project and decided he wanted to start the project over completely. The design was based on the Roman Pantheon.

Taking Your Kids to Paris Churches

By the time the revolution came to pass the La Madeleine had sawed a discontinuation of construction. Debate swirled about what its purpose would be in Revolutionary France. Ideas for a ballroom, library and marketplace were all suggested but discarded upon discussion. It wasn’t until 1806 that Napoleon decided what the site was to become: Temple of the Glory of the Great Army. It was that decision that caused the construction to be deconstructed and started anew. It was after the fall of Napoleon that it was decided by King Louise XVII that it would be used as a church. Construction was finally completed in 1842.

Autism Travel Tips:

  • La Madeleine is within the heart of Paris, a short distance from the main department store Galeries Lafayette that can itself become a day destination and other famous patisseries that serve world famous desserts
  • There are two different tours, independent and guided
  • Free admission to visitors using the independent tour feature
  • Doors are open from 9:30 am to 7 pm

Taking Your Kids to Paris Churches
Saint-Sulpice

Saint-Sulpice was built in the 17th century. Today the church is one of the biggest in Paris. If you’re touring local churches in Paris and want to make your itinerary memorable then adding Saint-Sulpice into the lineup of places to see is definitely a must. Inside Saint-Sulpice visitors can admire the nave of the church while taking in Chapelle de la Vierge with a statue of Jean-Baptiste Pigalle and much more. The best part is that cameras are allowed within the church so you can document your trip with pictures to share with your loved ones who couldn’t make the trip with you.

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Independent and guided tours are available for visitors
  • Admission is free
  • Doors are open from 7:30 am to 7:30 pm, so you’ll have all day to make the trip

Taking the kids to Paris Churches

Trekking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela with Autism

As some of you may know our readers are always invited to contact us to ask for advice, tips or any other help planning their trips. The service is free and is available through private email on our contact us section on tour navigation bar or via our FB page. 

In this case, Lisa’s question about taking her son with autism on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela was first posted on our FB page and as we thought other readers might benefit we decided to turn it into a post.

 

Dear Margalit

Do you have any thoughts on taking one’s adult autistic offspring on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela? I am considering doing just that, although would take it a lot slower than most people, and have more rest days.
I would spend about two years physically and mentally preparing my son to go.
As my son is also intellectually disabled, an epileptic, as well as a coeliac, am I crazy to even consider it?
Any feedback would be gratefully received.
Thanks, Lisa.

 

Dear Lisa,
Thanks so much for your question.
The Camino is quite different than some of my other destinations as it is really ‘off the beaten track’, so to speak, and unique in its place in the travel industry.
It is, of course, a magnificent part of the world; with some routes and their monuments in both Spain and France even earning UNESCO World Heritage status.
Known as a predominantly Catholic pilgrimage route for centuries and called Saint James Path or The Way of Saint James; it used to be referred to as a means for spiritual growth or soul-searching for a few dozen pilgrims each year.

Trekking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela with Autism view

Photo credit: Bev Kelly

Nowadays, it has become far more familiar with a few hundred thousand travelers making the journey annually and not only for spiritual reasons.
A lot of people like the idea of peace and quiet and the tranquillity of the path that the Camino offers for an alternative holiday or getaway. Some hikers use it as a personal conquest and for some, it is not unheard of to walk the Camino to find a spouse.

Trekking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela with Autism hikers

Photo credit: Bev Kelly

In years gone by pilgrims did the journey on their own, but now there are even organized tours that make arrangements for singles, couples, and groups.
In recent years, there have been some unique accounts of people making the trek in wheelchairs with the help of their family or friends. The ultimate aim of the journey is to be able to receive a certificate of accomplishment (Compostela) to say that the pilgrim has completed at least 100 kilometers by foot; the only thing that is required for this is to walk, eat and sleep.

Trekking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela with Autism boot

Photo credit: Bev Kelly

What you need to know.

  • Good hiking boots are vital and then one has to decide on food and lodging.
  • Some people complete the walk with the bare minimum; camping out in the open and really ‘roughing it’.
  • For those who don’t like sleeping under the stars, other options are little hostels called refugios that are economical and give one the opportunity to contribute to the community’s economy.
  • The route passes through small villages and towns, and there are cathedrals and chapels along the way that appeal to religious and non-religious alike.
  • The architecture and views are spectacular and along the whole route, care has been taken to show hospitality to pilgrims with trails marked out accurately and foot fountains to soothe aching feet.
  • As a bonus, these days, all the refugios offer free WiFi, really appealing to the modern pilgrim.
Trekking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela with Autism car

Photo credit: Bev Kelly

Regarding special needs and autism, it absolutely can be done and has been done.
A woman with autism from the United States completed the route in 2013 which was a fantastic achievement.
It is, of course, imperative to plan, like you said.
Every single need and possible concern should be discussed and taken into account.For most people with autism, a schedule is vital.In an unusual way, walking the Camino provides a routine in itself.Even though you wake up in a different place every morning, the pattern of the day is the same, and there is an end goal.Your son would not need to feel pressured; walking pace and resting times are flexible.

Trekking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela with Autism road snacks

Photo credit: Bev Kelly

Autism Travel Tips

  • How comfortable is your son with sleeping in a different bed than his own? Part of your preparation can be to expose him to sleeping in different motels.
  • If he is sensitive to light, make sure that he has a sleep mask as each refugio will have different arrangements regarding blinds or curtains.
  • If your son is noise-sensitive, then earplugs or headphones will be very beneficial.
  • If your son is sensitive to heat, then choose to travel in the cooler months.
    Most hikers start out early in the morning also to avoid the heat of the day. I suggest you break-in new shoes a few weeks before to avoid getting blisters.
  • You mentioned that he has celiac disease so you would need to make allowance for carrying extra weight in gluten-free substitute foods and snacks in your backpack.
    There are stores and stalls for purchasing food along the way, but there is no guarantee that it will be suitable for your son’s digestive system.The meals at the refugios are simple, and if you are in a town or village, there is the possibility of eating at a tavern or restaurant.

 

 

Trekking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela with Autism solo hiker

Photo credit Bev Kelly

  • If your son is on medication for epilepsy, for example, you will need to take an ample supply and also a means to keep it dry and at a suitable temperature no matter where you will be staying on the route.
  • If you choose to go with a specialized tour, they do provide you with water, food and first aid as well as the option of a ride to the closest medical center if necessary. It should go without saying that travel insurance is a priority.
  • If your son enjoys the outdoors, gets a sense of accomplishment from completing goals and embraces the challenge of doing something new, then walking the Camino might be just the thing for him.
Trekking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela with Autism mountains

Photo credit: Bev Kelly

Please let me know if you are going to do it. We, at Autistic Globetrotting, would love to hear about your experience.

 

Taking your Kids with Autism to Florence

 

Alright parents, let’s be honest for a moment; traveling with kids is not always the most fun thing to do in the world.
Now don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to show them the world, in fact, I encourage it!

But the truth is it can be very stressful at times, and you are not always able to see the sights that you may want to see due to encroaching nap times, temper tantrums and whining.
So as a parent you have to find a balance between what you and child will enjoy together. Luckily, Florence, filled with architectural gems, culture, and welcoming restaurants is a great destination for families, even those traveling with autism.

Taking your Kids with Autism to Florence river

City Views

Parents that want to introduce their younger kids to history and art should take their children to the Piazzale Michelangelo. The Piazzale Michelangelo is a beautiful terrace that offers an incredible panoramic view of both Florence and Arno Valley.
Designed in 1869 by Giuseppe Poggi, it was created as part of a major restructuring of the city walls. Poggi designed the base of the terrace as a dedication to Michelangelo, incorporating copies of his work as well as the famous sculpture of David and the Medici chapel statues from San Lorenzo.
The hillside was intended to be a museum as noted in Poggi’s design, but for some reason, the plan was never followed through and instead became a restaurant.

Taking your Kids with Autism to Florence royal

The Architecture

Next you can head on to the Duomo, capped by a red-tiled cupola, and admire its beautiful marble facade. If the lines are long, you can skip the inside as it is not that impressive but stop to look at the Sagrestia delle Messe (Mass Sacristy),  panels with their inlaid carved wood and beautiful bronze doors depicting scenes of heaven and hell.
If you do decide to brave the crowds and climb all the way to the top, you will be rewarded  (after you catch your breath, that is) with magnificent views of the Florentine city.

Taking your Kids with Autism to Florence duomo

Old Fashioned Carousel

Another special place that children will enjoy is the Piazza Della Repubblica where you will find an antique carousel that is still in use. This Piazza is Florence’s first public square and is considered to be one of the hubs of Florentine life.
The carousel dates back to the beginning of the 20th century and is owned by the Picci family. The carousel is small, with only 20 horses available but it is just large enough for a child and an accompanying parent as they go round and round the square.Currently, Carlo Picci, a fourth generation Picci, runs the carousel, waving to the small children as they circle by, playing special music dedicated to them.

 

Taking your Kids with Autism to Florence square

After a lovely time at the Picci carousel, you should take the kids for the most sought-after Italian treat, gelato.
There are plenty of gelato places you can stop at, but some of the considered exceptional ones are Vivoli, Crum, Badiani and Perche no! Locals also like to stop by Gelateria La Carraia and cross Ponte Alla Carraia while enjoying their sweet treat.

Taking your Kids with Autism to Florence gelato

If you are planning on touring Florence with, kids then you should schedule a visit of some of its magnificent art museums.
Although museums are not commonly thought of as  ‘fun’ places for kids, there are a few landmarks children should still be introduced to as a way to broaden their overall understanding of the arts.

Taking your Kids with Autism to Florence museum

Museums

If your child with cannot stand in long lines or face large crowds, a short customized guided tour of the Galleria dell’ Accademia (Gallery of the Academy of Florence), early in the day, is highly recommended.
This gallery is home to Michelangelo’s famous statue of “David” as well as other sculptures of his and paintings from the Renaissance era. The museum was founded in 1784 by Pietro Leopoldo, the Grand Duke of Tuscany and also houses works from Paolo Uccello, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Sandro Botticelli and Andrea del Sarto.
By the way, don’t feel too bad if you can’t take a shot of the original statue that may be mobbed by visitors, there’s a replica outside that is usually more accessible.
For the older and more patient youth, The Uffizi Galleries next door is an excellent place to spend a few hours walking around the different exhibits and learning about the different Italian masters.

Taking your Kids with Autism to Florence outdoor david

Budding teen fashionistas should not miss the Gucci Museo.
Here you can learn about the fashion designer, Gucci’s,90 years of history by following his life. milestones
In the beginning, in the tradition of 14th-century forbears, Gucci made his name as a purveyor of the finest quality of leather accessories. The museum features a CreaKids section where children will be able to participate in hands-on workshops inspired by the museum and help children understand the evolution and importance of fashion through the decades.

Taking your Kids with Autism to Florence old town

For kids that are fans of fairy tales and palaces, the Palazzo Vecchio Family Museum is an outstanding choice.
The property features tours specially designed for children that are not only educational but interactive as well.
You can walk around with your family and explore many of the Palazzo Vecchio’s most beautiful rooms as well as find the secret passage that leads to Cosimo de Medici and his wife Eleonora’s private chambers. You will also have the opportunity to pretend to be the Medici family by dressing up in copies of the family’s Renaissance gowns and hear about their infatuation with heels!
Children will also be able to hear about the lives of the 11 Medici children and how different it may have been to live back then.
Nearby you should take a break for pizza and souvenir on the city’s old medieval bridge the’ Ponte Vecchio.’

Taking your Kids with Autism to Florence town square

Florence is filled with outstanding restaurants, but the one we’d like to recommend is unique in that it employs people with disability.
The venue called I Ragazzi di Sipario is in the historical artisan district of Florence, off the beaten path, but well worth the walk across the river.
It was started by a father who wanted to create a sustainable work environment for his son and others with disabilities who sought employment The place started off with less than ten employees several years back and now has doubled in size after getting glowing reviews of its Tuscan cuisine food on TripAdvisor.

Taking your Kids with Autism to Florence mom

Autism Travel Tips

  • Talk about Michelangelo and the Medici family with your kid and show them photos and videos of the city’s famous sites.We printed pictures of the landmarks and had our children color them in.
  • Reiterate to your kids the fact that there are hundreds of steps to climb at the different sites like Piazzale Michelangelo and the Duomo – some kids (like ours) enjoyed the challenge.
  • Wearing comfortable shoes  ( anything but flip flops) is a must and make sure you bring bottled water with you, especially during the summer months when it is sweltering.
  • Taking your Kids with Autism to Florence castle
  • Look into the hop on- hop off bus that can take you to the different sites to lessen the walking.
  • Planning on visiting during the summer months (not recommended due to the hoards of tourists), bring a mini fan along since most places don’t have air conditioning.
  • Make sure you stock up on one euro coins for emergencies but have the kids use the museum and hotel restrooms since most others require payment.
  • Book your museum tickets online ahead to bypass the crowds.
  • If your child is on a specific diet like GFCF  or suffers from a particular food allergy, have a list of ingredients translated into Italian  (printed or on your cell phone)  that you can ask about when you order any food items including gelato, to make sure your selection doesn’t include those specific ingredients.

Taking your Kids with Autism to Florence pinterest image

Top Family Friendly Attractions in Ireland

Top Family Friendly Attractions in Ireland river

Most people associate Ireland with romance, and beer drinking or both. Of course, that assumption might be hard to disperse based on the high number of castles and pubs the country has.
However, as we discovered on our recent trip to the country, the country has much more to offer, especially for families.
Ireland ‘s natural beauty, its welcoming people, and folkloric culture make it a family friendly destination to explore even if you can only stop there for a few days like we did on the way to your next European destination.
So, if you are planning a visit to the Emerald Isle here are our top family-friendly attractions to visit.

Kissing the Blarney Stone

For centuries, those wished to be blessed with superior storytelling abilities or extraordinary eloquence came to Blarney Castle outside of Cork. It is said that the powers of the stone were a gift to the man who built the castle from the goddess Clíodhna after he asked for her assistance in winning a lawsuit.
She told him to kiss the first stone he saw on his way out the next morning. The builder won his case and then incorporated the stone into the castle’s wall presumably so that it would be accessible if he ever needed its’ persuasive powers again.
Based on this story, the castle draws visitors from all over the world, with the hope of obtaining similar gifts for themselves.
However, it’s no easy feat to get close to the stone!
Castle guests have to lean over backward to reach the source of this legendary power, after climbing over a hundred steps to the very top level of the castle.
If they have any energy left, travelers can check out the lovely gardens that surround the building, including the Poison Garden or discover the real story behind the fire embers in the witches’ kitchen.
Blarney Castle is easily reached by bus from Cork.
Admission is currently €13 (11.52 USD) for adults and €5 ($4.43 USD) for children.

Top Family Friendly Attractions in Ireland blarney top

Autism Travel Tips

  • Prepare your kid to the fact there are over 100 narrow steps to climb with no place to rest in between and not much wiggle way to turn back if they decide not to go up
  • Moreover, to kiss the stone each person needed to be held in a very awkward position by the feet and pushed into a narrow nook that might be frightening for a child with autism.

Top Family Friendly Attractions in Ireland hills

Touring Dublin

Travelers on a budget can save money by wandering around Dublin on their own or take the complimentary tours that are given daily by several companies including the Hostel Culture.
These guided trips around the city; between the hours of 11 am and 2:30 pm and last for about 2 ½ hours.provide visitors with a wealth of information, but they only cost as much as you would like to tip your guide.
Since it rained on the day we visited, we chose to take the inexpensive Hop on- Hop off bus to shuttle us around town and show us its highlights.
For older kids the Kilmainham Goal with its small museum and political exhibit, in particular along with the personal letters of prisoners to their families is a good way to introduce your teens to the Easter Revolution and its roots.
For families with younger kids, Dublinia’s life-size displays are a good way to introduce children to Irish medieval and Viking history.


Top Family Friendly Attractions in Ireland castle

Autism Travel Tips

  • To get around faster and avoid waiting in long queues buy a city pass ahead of time.
  • Some places give discounts for disability and kids with autism in without waiting in the traditional lines.

Top Family Friendly Attractions in Ireland dublin

Climbing the Giant’s Causeway

Like many other spots in Ireland, this breathtaking one, has its personal legend.
According to the myth, these basalt formations were once a bridge created by a giant named Finn MacCool so that he could reach to his Scottish neighbor and rival, Benandonner.
However, his adversary crossed the bridge first and turned out to be bigger than him. Finn’s wife, fearing her husband’s safety covered her sleeping spouse with a blanket and told the intruder this was her son. The Scottish giant assumed he was out-matched, panicked and ran back to his lair leaving the-the dis-shoveled bridge aka the causeway behind.
In reality, it was an underground volcanic eruption that created this intriguing formation north of Belfast along with a similar site on the Scottish Isle of Staffa over 60 million years ago.
Although the true story maybe less prosaic, the Giant’s Causeway remains one of the iconic sights of Ireland, and well worth a stop if you are visiting the country.
There is no admission charge for visiting the UNESCO World Heritage Site, but it costs around $13 per person to see the visitor center.

Top Family Friendly Attractions in Ireland: Pile of rocks

Autism Travel Tips

  • All kids will love climbing on the multi-leveled Causeway, but parents need to supervise their children at all times since the stones are uneven and slippery.
  • Closed toe shoes with anti-skid soles and long pants are a must for this type of terrain.

    Top Family Friendly Attractions in Ireland:tide pools

Crossing the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

Despite its’ fragile appearance, the structure is safe and makes an excellent side trip on the way back to Dublin after visiting the Giant’s Causeway.
Raised over 100 feet above sea- level, the rope bridge originally constructed by local fishermen to help them fish seasonal salmon is now a major (segments of the TV series Game of Thrones were filmed here) tourist attraction connecting the mainland to a small island with superb views of neighboring Scotland.

Visitors should be aware that there is a nominal fee to cross the famous bridge and that the site closes on particularly windy days so they should check the weather forecast before planning a stop there.

Top Family Friendly Attractions in Ireland:Mountain view

Autism Travel Tips

  • Though the crossing the bridge is fun, it isn’t recommended for those afraid of heights or those with poor motor coordination.
  • Like some of the prior attractions mentioned here too closed toe shoes with nonskid soles are an advantage.

Top Family Friendly Attractions in Ireland seashore

Guernsey German Occupation Museum with Kids

 

Although this UK Channel Island had been demilitarized and secretly classified as an area with no strategic value by the British government, the Germans still chose to bomb the small island of Guernsey on June 30, 1940.
Over 30 people lost their lives that day as many others would in the days to come. Even the local tomato harvest did not escape the destruction as the group of trucks conveying the produce to the harbor was bombed after being mistaken for a military convoy.

Exploring the Guernsey German Occupation Museum with Kids map
Somewhere between 17,000 and 25,000 people left Guernsey in the days that followed the initial attack.
At first, the local government planned to evacuate all of the island’s schoolchildren as well as any of their parents who wanted to join them.
But it soon became apparent that more people planned on leaving the island than first thought and could be carried out safely.

Those in charge soon realized that this could become a problem so they changed their tune and encouraged people to stay if they could. The result was that most of the islanders ended up remaining on Guernsey for the duration of the war.
The island was occupied by German troops for nearly five years before finally freed by the Allies on May 9, 1945.

The Guernsey German Occupation Museum

What started off as one family’s project to chronical the experiences of those who stayed on Guernsey during the occupation became the Museum of German Occupation.
This modest establishment, which received a 2013 Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence, documents the local populace’s struggle for survival and shows how they overcame the everyday challenges that were presented by the German occupation.

The well-lit museum contains some dioramas and historical videos that show how difficult life was in those days. The building is home to artifacts like a 4.7CM anti-tank gun, a four-wheel Enigma machine, a gas mask for horses, and even a mini cooking stove made out of scrap metal.
Reprinted copies of newspapers from the period even line the walls so that travelers can easily get an idea of what was going on at the time.

Exploring the Guernsey German Occupation Museum with Kids horses

We visited the island on a short shore excursion while cruising the British Isles.We explored the small but highly informative museum -six rooms in total.
Our kids were surprised to discover that there was a German internment camp on the island that housed over a thousand prisoners and that the island even printed its own currency during the occupation.

After ending the museum visit, we strolled around the St Peter’s  Port area and admired the quaint private homes that sported names instead of numbers.

 

Autism Travel Tips

  • Those visiting the museum should allow themselves several hours to see everything that the site has to offer. Of course, the friendly staff members are glad to answer any questions that their visitors might have.
  • The Museum can be reached by local bus from the nearby village or by cab from the port area for those who visit on a cruise ship shore excursion.
  • Visitors that come by car will be happy to learn that there is free parking nearby as well.
    There are restrooms in the building and an on-site café so guests here need not leave until they have gotten their fill of the exhibits.
  • Between the months of April and October, the museum is open every day from 10 am to 5 pm. From months of November to March, the hours are reduced significantly as the building only stays open until 1 pm. The site is also closed on Mondays during this period.
  • The admission costs remain the same year round at £5 ($7.69 USD) per adult and £2.50 ($3.84 USD) per child.

Eight Must -Do Brussels Activities for Kids

 

Eight Must -Do Brussels Activities for Kids flower carpet

Most people know Belgium is home to the European Union’s headquarters, but international politics are certainly not all this country has to offer travelers.
Superb culinary treats and cities packed with beautiful historical architecture await visitors. The state also takes its comic books quite seriously. Belgium’s capital city, Brussels, is additionally well known for its’ whimsical peeing statues and  TinTin murals.
However, there are plenty more spots that families shouldn’t miss seeing while they are in town.

 

Eight Must -Do Activities in Brussels for Families center

Visit the Atomium

This unique silver building was created to resemble a greatly enlarged iron crystal. The main reason people come here is for the excellent views over the surrounding areas. However, the building is also home to an exhibit at the World’s Fair in 1958, and it occasionally plays host to a variety of temporary, science related displays.

Eight Must -Do Activities in Brussels for Families atomium

Two of the pods typically have food venues with items for purchase.
Light shows take place here at night, which are always fun for kids. The Brussels icon is open from 10 am to 6 pm on a daily basis, with tickets sales stopping approximately 30 minutes before closing time, but the onsite restaurant stays open much later.

Eight Must -Do Activities in Brussels for Families atomium bottom

You can see the entire city of Brussels from the top after a short elevator ride.The cost of visiting during the day is around 11 euros for adults and 2 euros for kids between the ages of 6 and 11 years old. Children under 6 and the disabled get in free. There are additional discounts available for teachers, seniors, and visitors under the age of 18.

Eight Must -Do Activities in Brussels for Families fountains

 

Autism Travel Tips

Plan to arrive early since this attraction tends to be crowded during summer months and holidays.
If your child needs accommodations such as the inability to stand in long lines, call ahead, and customer service will help.

Eight Must -Do Activities in Brussels little europe

 

 

See all the nations represented at Mini Europe

This educational spot is a great place to bring the kids, on a sunny day, especially if an extensive European vacation isn’t in your travel plans. The entire park is filled with painstakingly crafted, scale models of numerous architectural treasures from around the continent.
There’s a placard detailing each country’s capital , population and when it joined the EU.What we liked most is that one can listen to the national anthem of each country as you are ‘visiting’ it.

Eight Must -Do Activities in Brussels little europe paris

Other highlights include cable cars to get visitors from place to place and a model of Mount Vesuvius that erupts on a regular basis. Food and beverage vendors can be found within the park grounds, and their prices are quite reasonable.
Eight Must -Do Activities in Brussels for Families india

Admission for the site is currently around 13 euros for adults and 10 euros for children under the age of 12. However, travelers that also plan on visiting the Atomium may want to purchase a combined ticket for both venues instead of paying for each site separately.

Eight Must -Do Activities in Brussels for Families holland

 

Autism Travel Tips
Look out for a few stations that are spread throughout the park and are interactive if your kid loves to touch buttons.
Arrive early in the morning or late in the afternoon if your kid is temperature sensitive since this is an outdoor attraction with few shaded areas.

Eight Must -Do Activities in Brussels for Families kid

 

Try a street waffle

Who knew? During the Middle Ages, communion wafers mutated slightly, and the basis for the modern waffle was formed. It had taken some time before spices, sweeteners, and leavening agents were added to the old recipe. Once this occurred, the treats subsequently became popular with both kings and the common folk alike, though the ingredients used naturally varied by class.

Eight Must -Do Brussels Activities for Kids waffle

Modern Brussels style waffles are typically light in texture and regular in shape. They are traditionally dusted with powdered sugar, but other variations are available. These treats are often sold by street vendors throughout the city and, like most fried foods, they are best eaten hot.

Eight Must -Do Brussels Activities for Kids having deseerts

Autism Travel Tips
Plan to split the waffle between at least two people since it is usually on the larger side.
Most have the waffle while walking around, but it does tend to drip and get messy fast so bring wet wipes along.

Eight Must -Do Brussels Activities for Kids displays

Follow Belgium’s most famous cartoon character TinTin

No visit to Belgium can be complete without acknowledging the country’s beloved iconic, TinTin.The cartoon character that is the subjects of books and movies is practically everywhere.You can trace his steps by snooping around the city’s flea market where the saga all began.

Eight Must -Do Brussels Activities for Kids flea market

Then follow the comic strip trail in Old Town where over thirty wall murals depicting different adventures are featured and stop by the souvenir boutique carrying pricey memorabilia.

Eight Must -Do Brussels Activities for Kids restaurants

Hungry? Stop for lunch at the TinTin Cafe in the posh neighborhood of Sablon and top it with an afternoon exploring the Hergé Museum just outside the city.

Eight Must -Do Brussels Activities for Kids murals

Autism Travel Tips

Introduce your kids to TinTin before visiting Brussels to build some excitement.You can rent the TinTin movie or read some of the books.

Eight Must -Do Brussels Activities for Kids herge

Be advised the museum is about a half hour outside the city by train and is geared for kids ten and up since most displays aren’t  interactive.

Eight Must -Do Brussels Activities for Kids museum

Sample the Frites

Deep fried potatoes are a tasty regional staple in these parts. In fact, it is thought by some that a geographical misunderstanding on the part of the American GIs leads them to dub the treat ‘French fries’ in honor of the wrong county. In any case, fries are available everywhere in Belgium.
They are often served by street vendors, and they may appear as a side dish alongside entrees such as mussels in various restaurants. Traditional condiments for the fries include globs of both mayonnaise and ketchup.

Eight Must -Do Brussels Activities for Kids fries

Autism Travel Tips

No tips or introduction needed despite the fact your kid might be surprised to discover the ‘pommes frites’ don’t taste anything like the French fries served in US fast food restaurants.

Eight Must -Do Brussels Activities for Kids mannekenpis

Drop by the  City of Brussels to check out Manneken Pis wardrobe

The famous peeing statue has worn many different costumes throughout the years, and this museum inside the city’s Grand Palace houses them all.The museum currently keeps over 300 costumes, most gifted to the symbol of the town by different countries.

The tradition of dressing up the Mannekin began when some French soldiers stole the famous artifact, much to the chagrin of the locals. A presumably abashed King Louis XV made amends by returning the town’s statue with a set of new clothes and an honorary medal. Others have followed in their footsteps on both counts.

Eight Must -Do Brussels Activities for Kids pilot

MannekenPis has been stolen multiple times over the course of his history, and he is outfitted with new clothes on a regular basis. Of course, parents that are comfortable with mild nudity may also want to take their kids to see the Manneken Pis itself as well as his more modern sister statue, the Jeanneke Pis, and their contemporary dog buddy, the Zinneke Pis. who was sadly struck by a car last August and is undergoing renovations.

Eight Must -Do Brussels Activities for Kids city view

Autism Travel Tips
The museum is a good opportunity for an impromptu geography lesson about different countries and their national costumes. Look out for the Elvis costume sent by the USA among others.

Eight Must -Do Brussels Activities for Kids macaroons

Go chocolate hunting on the Rue de Buerre

Quality chocolate products are one of Belgium’s greatest exports but while you’re here, why not enjoy such treats for yourself?
Walking up and down the mentioned stretch of the Old Town street will put travelers into contact with some of the tastiest morsels in the city. It goes without saying that this is an incredibly fun activity for both adults and kids that have a sweet tooth.

Eight Must -Do Brussels Activities for Kids chocolates

Autism Travel Tips
Don’t rush to buy any chocolates before enjoying the free samples in the various stores.

Eight Must -Do Brussels Activities for Kids boxes

Enjoy the  Outdoors

Brussels is a very vibrant and active city, especially during the warm summer months.In  June 2015, Anspach Boulevard , one of the city’s long street was converted to a pedestrian area complete with places to sit and games like table tennis and Bocce to enjoy.

Eight Must -Do Brussels Activities for Kids street
Moreover, on Friday afternoons thousands of local skaters, roller blade enthusiasts and bikers take to the streets in a quasi-organized parade escorted by the police.

Eight Must -Do Brussels Activities for Kids bikers

Have you visited Brussels with your kids?
What were your favorite attractions?

 

 

Top Autism Friendly Travel Spots in Amsterdam

 

Top Ten Autism Friendly Travel Spots in Amsterdam canal

Filled with culture and beauty, Amsterdam is a city that engages the senses.
It is easily navigated and is, therefore, a favorite spot for tourists. There are many family friendly and autism friendly activities to be found while strolling through its streets. Below is a list of attractions that are sure to please all family members!

[Read more…]

Ten Autism Friendly Spots in Vienna, Austria

 


Vienna is a very family friendly city, experientially diverse with great places to explore.
Unlike Paris, London and Rome that tend to be the more popular European cities to visit, the Austrian capital has fewer crowds of tourists typically during the busy summer months; providing touring families with autism a unique opportunity to introduce their kids to music history and fine art, in a less stressful environment.
Whether you are planning to visit the city with your special needs child for the first time or contemplating a return trip, here are our top ten autism-friendly spots to visit.

Top Ten Autism Friendly Travel Spots in Vienna ,Austria gloriette

Schoenbrunn Palace

This lavishly decorated summer palace and its grounds are among the most stunning in Europe and certainly worth a visit.
Depending on your child, you can choose to take a short or long tour of the imperial home but allocate time for the magnificent grounds that include a well-designed labyrinth and a zoo – one of the oldest in Europe.

If walking outdoors for prolonged periods of time bothers your child as it does ours’, take a carriage ride or the budget-friendly hop on hop off mini- train.
For that perfect ‘selfie’ background, climb to the top of the Gloriette and photograph yourself in front of it with the Neptune fountain below.
Special tip: pack a mini fan, sunscreen, and some insect repellent.

Imperial Palace (Hofburg).

The royal winter palace in the center of the city is filled with priceless collections and exhibits; mostly those of the last two occupants; Emperor Franz Joseph and his still revered wife Elisabeth who lived during the 19th century.
If you happen to like horses and think your child can sit for an hour or to two, the palace also houses the famed Spanish Riding school where you can witness rigorous morning practice sessions with horses and trainers.
Special tip: Watch the movie ‘Sissi’ starring Romy Schneider to understand the historical background better.

Top Ten Autism Friendly Travel Spots in Vienna ,Austria hofburg

Haus der Musik

The House of Music is one of these places that should have been around when we all were young.
I know it would have changed my museum experiences completely. The interactive and hands-on tools in the exhibits teach scientific concepts of sound creation and propagation.
It sure makes learning fun!
Our son made his personal CD and couldn’t get enough of ‘conducting’ the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.
Special tip: Since the museum is extensive, visit their website and plan what sections you wish to visit as it is unlikely you will get to see everything.

Technisches Museum

What’s great about the Technisches Museum apart from the fact there are so many interactive exhibits, is the fact that most descriptions are in German and English, meaning that foreigners can enjoy the experience, too.
The displays include technology and science related machines and gadgets, along with some traveling exhibits that are changed throughout the year.
We loved the music /piano room that explained the development and evolution of the instrument, as well as the section on the European space station.
Special tip: If your child is temperature intolerant, plan to visit during the early summer months as most of the museums don’t have air condition and the rooms can get warm and stuffy.

Top Ten Autism Friendly Travel Spots in Vienna ,Austria prater

Natural History Museum

The museum located in Josefstadt is part of a complex of museums that were established in 1750 by Emperor Franz I Stephan of Lorraine, the husband of Maria Theresa and completed in 1889.
The building is beautifully decorated with paintings on the ceilings and the walls of each room.The large and spacious museum houses over thirty rooms with artifacts like rocks, crystals, and dinosaur skeletons. A must see is the animatronic T-Rex that is quite impressive and startles unsuspecting visitors as it moves.

Special tip: Get the audio guide so you can understand what you are seeing. All the written explanations are in German.


St. Stephen’s Cathedral (Stephansdom).

You haven’t seen Vienna until you’ve visited a Gothic church, and Stephan’s Cathedral is the best one.

You need to arrive  early as it gets crowded by 9.30am.
The dark interior covered in relics and religious statues are remarkable and should you want breathtaking views of the city, you can either climb the 345 steps to the top of the tower or take an elevator for a couple of Euros.

Special Tip: Check listings for free Church concerts on Sundays. The sound is fantastic.
Worth mentioning is The Church of the Minorites (Minoritenkirche) located at Minoritenplatz 2A with its life-sized mosaic copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper on the church’s northern wall.

Top Ten Autism Friendly Travel Spots in Vienna ,Austria st stephen

 Praterstern

Featured in the famous spy movie The Third Man, Vienna’s landmark amusement park boasts two Ferris wheels (the Riesenrad towers over the park’s 200 booths), ghost train, go-karts, merry-go-rounds and historical Prater Museum.
Patrons visiting should not miss the older rides section with antique rides. Like other old fashioned theme parks, here too, visitors can pay for a single ride or buy a thirteen-ride ticket.
Special tip: bring headphones or earplugs if your kid is noise sensitive.

Hoher Markt Clock (Ankeruhr)

Designed in 1913 by Franz von Matsch, the Hoher Markt Clock is truly a unique clock. On each hour, a different historical figure comes out of the clock accompanied by music and is a real crowd pleaser.
The best time to see it is at noon when all 12 golden figurines line up together to the delight of onlookers.
Special Tip: Visiting the clock is Ia perfect way to end a visit to the old part of the city. It takes 20 minutes to see the entire show so try to arrive a few minutes earlier to catch a good viewing point.

 

Top Ten Autism Friendly Travel Spots in Vienna ,Austria rooftops

Cafe Central

Make this lovely cafe a priority when you are in Vienna to savor some much needed old time charm.
The Baroque architecture within the cafe is noteworthy, and the artistically arranged scrumptious pastries will make any visitor’s mouth water and crave for more.

Special tip: If you want to enjoy your visit, be sure to go between the traditional meal times at 2-5pm and enjoy the delectable desserts in a relaxed atmosphere, with the undivided attention of the staff.

Figlmuller Restaurant

No visit to the city is complete without dinner at this famed venue. First-time guests should order the Wienerschnitzel that hangs off the gigantic plate and comes piping hot.
After the meal, walk around Stephansplatz for some souvenir shopping or stop for an apfelstrudel at Konditorei L. Heiner.
Special tip: The restaurant is a Viennese institution so be sure to go off hours otherwise bring electronic devices to occupy your child while you wait.

Taking your Kids with Autism to Scotland

In the last couple of years, Scotland has become a favorite country to visit following Disney’s Brave and now Outlander, the new Starz series based on Diana Gabaldon’s books, set in that country’s Highlands.
Scotland has fantastic scenery, outdoor activities, old castles, historic battlefields so a successful, initial family visit should boast an itinerary that includes a taste of everything.

Taking your Kids with Autism to Scotland views

Loch Ness

A visit to Scotland’s popular tourist attraction should include a boat cruise on a vessel equipped with sonar system to search for Nessie, the legendary lake monster. It is somewhat kitschy, but kids get such a kick out of listening to the stories and believing that the monster is about to show up any minute.

To make it a tad more educational, you can always stop by the exhibit center and peruse the scientific research disproving the legend.
We bribed our kids into tasting some of the local ‘Clootie’ dumpling ( boiled pudding with dried currants and raisins) after promising to buy them a Nessie souvenir.

Loch Lomond and Luss

Immortalized in the song that ends in “and I’ll be in Scotland afore ye”, Loch Lomond is the largest inland stretch of water in the UK and incorporates multiple tiny islands.
It is a popular outdoor destination for many families during the summer as you can steamboat across the lake, feed ducks or paddle a canoe.
One of the places our kids still talk about is the quaint village of Luss with the colorful flowers in the front yards.

Edinburgh Castle

The most visited site in Scotland, this historic fortress, towers over the city’s skyline from its position on Castle Rock.
In the castle, you can tour  St Margaret’s Chapel from the early 12th century, the Great Hall, and the Royal Palace. The Honours of Scotland  (aka crown jewels) and the National War Memorial are also housed here.
The dark dungeons and tunnels had our sons mesmerized and listening for the lone ghostly piper, who, the story says vanished without a trace while playing here. They learned about the Stone of Scone (traditional coronation gem of the Scottish monarchy that was fought over for centuries) and according to legend, currently still hidden in the castle. They even waited patiently in the rain (it always rains in Scotland)  until precisely 1 o’clock for Mons Meg, the enormous medieval cannon to fire!

Taking your Kids with Autism to Scotland edinburgh

Stirling Castle

Stirling was probably our favorite castle since it boasted larger rooms, was well ventilated and turned out to be very kid- friendly with its multiple hands-on activities.
Prominent during Middle-Ages battles, it was redecorated by James V and Mary of Guise, the parents of Mary Queen of Scots and served as the Stuart kings’ residence.
Kids can look for unicorn pictures and statues, walk along the moat (if it doesn’t rain) and climb the stairs to the tower ramparts.
We enjoyed reading the feast recipes, (peacock and swan anyone?) in the kitchen and the kids’ zone where they can dress up in renaissance costumes and play different instruments.

Urquhart Castle

On the peninsula, surrounded by the breathtaking Loch Ness about 15 miles south of Inverness,  this is a real treasure.
Deeply entrenched in Scottish history and having played a significant role in many battles, the ruins of the once spectacular Urquhart castle that was destroyed in 1692  but still worth the visit.
Start at the visitor center and check out the diorama depicting the castle’s glory days.Our kids like the kiln and dungeon that was used to hold war prisoners next to the main ruin.

Cawdor Castle

Approximately 10 miles east of Inverness, formerly built around a tower house and expanded over the span of several centuries, this castle went down in infamy as the one belonging to Shakespeare’s  Macbeth, the Thane of Cawdor.
In reality,  the castle was built long after he died.
At the entrance, there is a panel of the family motto that spells ‘be mindful’ with the initials of Sir Hugh Campbell and his wife Lady Henrietta Stewart who renovated the castle in the late 1600s.
Our kids were somewhat surprised to hear that a real person still resides in the Castle-the Dowager Countess Cawdor, stepmother to the Earl of Cawdor.
Allergy suffers might want to take an abridged tour of the Castle and visit the beautiful gardens instead since like many other older castles there is quite a bit of dust in the air.

Taking your Kids with Autism to Scotland loch

The Royal Yacht Britannia

For four decades, this majestic ship served as the yacht to their Majesties Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. Britannia even helped in the humanitarian evacuation of refugees in Yemen in 1986
It saw many foreign celebrities and dignitaries like Presidents Eisenhower and Reagan on board as well as members of the British royal family. Apart from the royal bedrooms that are surprisingly modest, the formal dining hall and the sailors’ quarters provide a unique and fascinating insight into what it was like to live aboard the yacht.
Be sure to check out the fudge sold in the small store that is rumored to have been the late Princess Diana’s favorite.

Cairns of Clava

Not as impressive as Stonehenge, the stone monolith Cairns, made famous by the Outlander series are still worth the visit, especially for those who have read the books.
There are three different circular areas that according to legend hold the souls of the dead. Experts speculate that they were once used as calendars or sundials for the tribes living there over a thousand years ago.
Walk among the Cairns or imagine going back into the past like the successful book series describes but don’t forget to snap a “split stone” selfie as soon as you arrive so that you can beat the crowds.

Scottish Wool Centre at Aberfoyle

Here, children can pet farm animals, feed the lambs and learn old-fashioned techniques of spinning and weaving.

The day we visited they had “try your hand spinning and weaving the wool” and “shepherding” demonstrations with audience participation which was hilarious.
Volunteers were competing against trained sheep dogs in different tasks and guess who won?!
Our son was delighted to be selected to act as referee, by the organizer, and it became a highlight of our trip.

Taking your Kids with Autism to Scotland ham

Hamish

On vacation, we always try to include at least one unique animal experience and meeting Hamish fit the bill.

For those who don’t know, Hamish is one of Scotland’s oldest Highland bullocks who narrowly escaped slaughter during the BSE mad cow scare of 1996.

Since then he has become somewhat of a celebrity in the Highlands and for the first time in his life  finally got a ‘girlfriend.’ Heather and Hamish, the happy couple, reside in a field next to the Trossachs Woollen Mill at Kilmahog, Perthshire.The day we visited Hamish was not in a particularly friendly mood, but Heather greeted us and was only too happy to be fed some treats.

Autism Travel Tips

Scotland, like other parts of the UK, is quite autism friends be sure to ask for discounts to attractions as well as the front of the line accommodations since you will get them in some spots.

It rains quite a bit during the summer, and many outdoor venues get muddy so bring a poncho with a hood, a  pair of crocs and several extra pairs of socks as well as an extra outfit to change into if you slip and land in the mud.

Have you visited Scotland?
What were your favorite sights?

 

 

 

 

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