Accessible Adventures: North Carolina Fun for Travelers of All Abilities

Explore North Carolina without limits at these attractions, inns, resorts and hiking trails that ensure everyone can relish in NC’s beauty and fun. 

Accessible locations you'll find in this article:
Museums, Entertainment & Attractions | Parks & Gardens
Lodging | Outdoor Adventures

Museums, Entertainment & Attractions

1 Sylvan Heights Bird Park

Green pond with birds floating in it with wood observation deck to the right, all surrounded by trees
photo credit: Halifax County CVB

1 Sylvan Heights Bird Park

Scotland NeckSee on mapSee on map

At this nonprofit dedicated to conserving waterfowl and wetlands, guests with wheelchairs and strollers can easily access all of the park’s aviaries and almost all of the nature trails. There’s also an ADA-accessible treehouse overlooking the wildlife-rich wetland.

2 Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture

2 Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture

CharlotteSee on mapSee on map

This community epicenter celebrating African American contributions to American culture is a lively space of music, dance, art, film, literature and more. Visitors with visual limitations can experience it all through iBeacons, which use smartphones and Bluetooth technology to audibly describe a person’s surroundings. Wheelchairs are also available for visitors to use.

3Unto These Hills

Audience in foreground watching performers during

3Unto These Hills

CherokeeSee on mapSee on map

In addition to wheelchair-accessible seating, the Mountainside Theatre offers a golf cart shuttle service from the parking lot to performances of Unto These Hills. The renowned outdoor drama, which made its debut in 1950, tells the story of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. To learn even more about the Cherokee people, head to the Museum of the Cherokee People; exhibits, restrooms, the museum store and the education wing are all ADA accessible.

4 PNC Arena

4 PNC Arena

RaleighSee on mapSee on map

Cheer on the Carolina Hurricanes or see a chart-topping artist in concert here stress-free: Guests prone to overstimulation can pick up free sensory bags (including noise-canceling headphones) plus weighted lap pads and photosensitivity glasses. You can also find quiet areas and a complimentary wheelchair service.

5 North Carolina Zoo

Wide angle of interior exhibit at zoo inside a glass dome

5 North Carolina Zoo

AsheboroSee on mapSee on map

From the moment you park in an accessible parking space, your day at the world’s largest natural habitat zoo will be a blast. Caregivers and personal attendants are given free admission to the zoo, wheelchairs are available for rent, and wheelchair-accessible areas include the Endangered Species Carousel, the Acacia Station Giraffe Deck and Kaleidoscope Butterfly Garden. The buses and trams that provide in-park and parking lot transportation are also wheelchair accessible.

6 NC Museum of Art

Woman standing in art gallery admiring art on walls

6 NC Museum of Art

RaleighSee on mapSee on map

The museum works consistently with area partners to gather info on accessibility needs, staff training, and additional accommodations for events and exhibitions. Accessible features include a Soundcloud playlist for more than 20 audio-described artworks for visitors who are blind or have low vision; elevators to all floors and free wheelchair rentals for those with limited mobility; American Sign Language interpretation and CART captioning during programs and tours for travelers who are deaf or hard of hearing; and a neurodiversity guide and noise-canceling headphones to visitors who are neurodiverse.

7 Carowinds

7 Carowinds

CharlotteSee on mapSee on map

The award-winning amusement park offers alternate access entrances at its thrill rides to those with disabilities and up to three companions, plus a rider access form that lists the rides the guest can safely enjoy. And at Carolina Harbor, a water wheelchair is available for guests at Tidal Wave Bay or Surf Club Harbor, with pool lifts handy at Camp Wilderness pool.

Parks & Gardens

8 Greenville’s Parks

Aerial of people kayaking in water with canoe launches and park in background during daytime

8 Greenville’s Parks

See on mapSee on map

What kind of activities are you looking for today? In Greenville, options abound. At the Town Common, play on the city’s largest playground designed to welcome people of all abilities, or plan a morning of paddling from the ADA-accessible canoe and kayak launch. Even more launches can be found a few miles away at Wildwood Park, and Riverside Recreation Rentals offers services at both places. For more outdoor activities such as fishing from a 900-foot ADA-accessible pier and camping at an ADA-accessible campsite, River Park North is the spot for you. And to embrace America’s pastime, head to the Sarah Vaughn Field of Dreams, a totally accessible baseball field that’s a home run in the community.

9 Union Point Park

Large gazebo in middle of empty park surrounded by green grass and trees with sun shining

9 Union Point Park

New BernSee on mapSee on map

A wheelchair-accessible riverwalk frames six-acre Union Point Park at the confluence of the Trent and Neuse rivers. It’s a peaceful break from downtown and a lively one during free concerts at the gazebo. Nature enthusiasts love bird-watching while fish jump out of the water.

10 Havens Gardens Park

Person in wheelchair entering park with jungle gyms and other playground equipment

10 Havens Gardens Park

WashingtonSee on mapSee on map

The playground at Havens Gardens Park was designed with all-access fun in mind. Kids of all ages and abilities can enjoy the park’s wheelchair-friendly structures and play areas, including a wheelchair-accessible swing.

11 Airlie Gardens

Fountain in the Spring Garden with trees and spanish moss on cloudy day at Airlie Gardens in Wilmington

11 Airlie Gardens

WilmingtonSee on mapSee on map

Wheelchair rentals are available at Airlie Gardens, as are free trams that take visitors around the property. (Call ahead for the tram schedule.) Afterward, stroll the Wilmington Riverwalk – the wide, wooden boardwalk makes wheelchair navigation easy, and it connects visitors to some of the city’s best shopping and dining.

12 Cradle of Forestry in America

Paved walking trail with display on left, surrounded by green trees and foliage during daytime

12 Cradle of Forestry in America

Pisgah ForestSee on mapSee on map

A trio of paved trails take in the scenic setting of America’s first forestry school. Preserved buildings mark the milelong Biltmore Campus Trail, and an old logging train and engine appear on the 1.3-mile Forest Festival Trail. The Discovery Center’s hands-on Adventure Zone is designed to engage people on the autism spectrum with the outdoors.

13 LeBauer Park

Park in between tall buildings in city with small trees and art in foreground

13 LeBauer Park

GreensboroSee on mapSee on map

All access points to this downtown park are wheelchair and stroller accessible, and most of the park’s features can be accessed by anyone using a mobility device: two cafes, the 17,000-square foot lawn, a playground, interactive fountains, ornamental gardens, a dog park, restrooms and more – and be sure to wander under Janet Echelman’s aerial sculpture Where We Met, one of the focal points of the park. You can also visit the Peacehaven Sensory Space, a sculptural wall designed for people with sensory processing disorders.

Lodging

14 The Inn at Bald Head Island

14 The Inn at Bald Head Island

Bald Head IslandSee on mapSee on map

Book the Morning Glory suite – an accessible king room with a roll-in shower – on the first floor of the Inn at Bald Head Island’s charming main house. You can even admire Old Baldy from your window with a steaming mug of coffee in the morning. The village also recently completed a new wheelchair-accessible beach access at #24A.

15 High Point-Area Lodging

15 High Point-Area Lodging

High PointSee on mapSee on map

Not only does the first Certified Autism Destination on the East Coast offer a variety of hotel options, but the city is also filled with attractions and restaurants that are Certified Autism Centers – meaning employees have been trained and are equipped to serve guests on the autism spectrum, their families and caregivers. Make JH Adams Inn (an iconic High Point landmark), Wingate by Wyndham or Courtyard by Marriott High Point your homebase for your inclusive stay.

16 Sanderling Resort

Long row of orange lounge chairs sitting by pool at dusk

16 Sanderling Resort

DuckSee on mapSee on map

Sanderling Resort wants everyone to be able to enjoy its ocean and sound views, spa, pools and restaurants. So every wing – North Inn, South Inn and Beach House – of this Outer Banks resort offers accessible guest rooms with exterior ramps, interior elevators and roll-in showers. Resort-wide you can find accessible routes, desks and doors, plus Braille signage and an outdoor pool with a chairlift.

17 The Park on Main

Dog sitting on couch below framed photo of dog on wall

17 The Park on Main

HighlandsSee on mapSee on map

In addition to having accessible entry points, parking spots, elevators, Braille room numbers, tubs with grab bars, strobe alarms and more – the Park on Main also looks forward to dogs joining in on everyone’s vacation fun. With no pet fees, no pet weight limits, treats at the front desk 24/7, an onsite dog park and doggy beds in rooms, it’s hard to say who will enjoy the stay more. The 650-square-foot ADA King Suite opens onto an intimate courtyard and can connect to the King Suite next door.

18 Chapel Hill-area Lodging

18 Chapel Hill-area Lodging

Chapel HillSee on mapSee on map

The Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau published a 48-page Accessibility Guide in 2023 that gives travelers in-depth details on 15 hotels and 150-plus restaurants, coffee shops and breweries. Book confidently knowing accessibility information on parking, lobbies, common areas, bedrooms, bathrooms and more at each location. Listings were created by visiting each spot and making note of important factors for visitors with physical limitations.

Outdoor Adventures

19 Whitewater Falls

Large waterfall surrounded by bright green trees

19 Whitewater Falls

CashiersSee on mapSee on map

A quarter-mile, paved walkway leads to the upper observation platform of Whitewater Falls – the highest waterfall in the East – inviting wheelchair users to admire this magnificent cascade.

20 Odysea Surf School

20 Odysea Surf School

Carolina BeachSee on mapSee on map

In addition to teaching private surf and stand-up paddleboard lessons, Odysea Surf School and its instructors volunteer for Ocean Cure, a nonprofit dedicated to giving free surf lessons to medically fragile and at-risk youth and adults. Check Ocean Cure’s schedule for surf camps for Wounded Warriors, seniors, visually limited individuals, for people in wheelchairs and more. Wilmington’s three beaches in general are also incredibly accessible with multiple ADA-compliant beach access points, beach wheelchair rentals and beach mats.

21 Grandfather Mountain

Swinging bridge at top of mountain view down walkway to other peak

21 Grandfather Mountain

LinvilleSee on mapSee on map

Travelers in wheelchairs have been taking in the breathtaking vista views from the Mile High Swinging Bridge since an elevator was built in the Top Shop in 2010. And in 2023, Grandfather Mountain made more huge additions to its accessibility offerings: two ADA-accessible vehicles that open up opportunities for those in wheelchairs to take part in special events such as Grandfather by Night and Grandfather Glows, plus the nature park’s Meet the Bears and Paint with an Otter experiences.

22 Beech Mountain Resort

22 Beech Mountain Resort

Beech MountainSee on mapSee on map

Beech Mountain’s adaptive ski program was the first of its kind in the country, and the resort has invited individuals with a disability to hit the slopes at its annual Adaptive Ski Week in January for more than 40 years. Instructors during this week have received Adaptive Certification from the Professional Ski Instructors of America, and they're experienced in monoski; biski; two-, three-, and four-tracking; slider; and visually impaired instruction.

23 North Carolina State Parks

Park ranger shows plants to onlookers with trees and shrubs surrounding them

23 North Carolina State Parks

Statewide

Special activities at NC’s state parks – including the observation deck at Mount Mitchell State Park, the Sky Lounge at Chimney Rock State Park and the Venus Flytrap Trail at Carolina Beach State Park – make it easy to enjoy views, scenery and unique carnivorous plants no matter one’s abilities. You can also find accessible camping, fishing on accessible piers and accessible swimming areas at state parks all across NC, while the Wildlife Resources Commission establishes access and opportunities to wildlife-associated recreation.

 

Updated June 27, 2023
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