Inclusive Activities in Iowa

Ames, Des Moines, Iowa City

Current as of April 19, 2023

Looking for inclusive and adaptive activities in Iowa? Explore your community with activities you can do with your whole family. Check out these spots in Iowa where everyone has access to the fun. 

Kids of all abilities and their families like to get out and experience the community around them. For kids with special healthcare needs, this can often look a little different and take extra planning from their caregivers. With help from ChildServe’s Family Advisory Council and Social Work team, we have compiled a list of accessible and inclusive activities for kids to enjoy near each of our locations. View our list of adaptive and accessible activities in Iowa below!

5 Inclusive and Accessible Activities in the Des Moines Area

1. Enabling Garden – (1050 First Ave S, Altoona, IA 50009) 

The Enabling Garden offers sensory stimulating and accessible barrier-free gardening for individuals with special healthcare needs and their families. The design includes raised garden beds and vertical garden walls. Paths around the garden are wheelchair accessible and have benches throughout. A variety of activities are available throughout the walking path, including musical instruments and play cooking utensils. The garden has a meditative water feature and a rain garden that gives off a calm and healing atmosphere.

2. Science Center of Iowa – (401 W Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway, Des Moines, IA 50309)

The Science Center of Iowa features hands-on exhibits and programming for a variety of ages and abilities. The center is fully handicap accessible, and wheelchairs are available free of charge for use during your visit. Families in need of hearing assistance can ask the box office for live program scripts. 

The center has a variety of sensory resources available for families. For example, they have signs posted throughout the building indicating audio, visual and tactile stimuli. Families are encouraged to check out sensory backpacks filled with tools to help tailor their experience, including noise-reducing headphones, sunglasses, weighted stuffed animals and fidget materials. The center also offers families a sensory guide and a suggested social story to use.

3. Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden – (909 Robert D. Ray Drive, Des Moines, IA 50309-2897)  

The Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden is an inclusive and uplifting place for families to explore the world of plants. The facility, both indoor and outdoor, is ADA-compliant and has widened paths, sidewalks, accessible doors, additional bathrooms and an elevator up to the conservatory’s balcony. 

Their parking lot has several handicapped spaces and a passenger drop-off zone right in front of the building. The garden has non-motorized wheelchairs and strollers to borrow on a first-come, first-served basis. The garden is quiet, with waterfalls throughout, making for a calming and sensory-friendly experience. They offer guided tours or families can walk throughout the garden at their own pace.

4. Blank Park Zoo – (7401 SW 9th St, Des Moines IA, 50315)

The Blank Park Zoo is full of accessibility options for individuals of all abilities to enjoy their exhibits. All restrooms at the zoo are wheelchair and stroller accessible, including changing tables. View a list of their available family restrooms that house changing tables for individuals that weigh up to 50 lbs. Also, note that the GoGo Plaza restroom area features a Mother’s room and a family restroom with an adult-sized, adjustable changing table. 

All pathways throughout the zoo are ADA-compliant, making the zoo easy to maneuver with strollers or wheelchairs. Wheelchairs, strollers and electric scooters are available for rent. The zoo has various sensory-inclusive opportunities for families including a social story, weighted lap pads for checkout and a free sensory bag available with fidgets and handphones. Families can also ask the admissions desk to check out a braille map. Learn more about Blank Park’s Zoo accessibility options here.

5. Miracle Park All-Inclusive Playground – (300 NW School St, Ankeny, IA 50023) 

Families visiting the Miracle Park All-Inclusive Playground will find accessible swings, teeter-totters and slides. Double-wide ramps are available making for easy wheelchair access to and from the equipment. All play accessories are at wheelchair transfer height. A sensory wall is also available near the equipment. The playground features a rubberized, latex-free surface. Families can also enjoy shaded picnic areas and onsite restrooms. 

5 Inclusive and Accessible Activities in the Ames Area

1. Ames Miracle Field and Inclusive Playground – (2500 Duff Avenue, Ames IA, 50010) 

The Ames Miracle Park at Inis Grove has an all-Inclusive playground, which includes 100% accessible playground features on a rubberized surface. The playground caters to individuals with physical, cognitive and sensory needs. The Sensory Plaza is also located in the park and offers an adaptive mix of activities designed to stimulate the senses with engaging and fun tasks. 

The Ames Miracle League Park also has a custom field made of cushion and rubberized turf, making the field accessible by wheelchair and other assistive devices. The field has options for competitive and noncompetitive athletic events, specifically targeted toward children and adults with special healthcare needs. Find a photo gallery of the park here.

2. Reiman Gardens – (1407 University Blvd. Ames, IA 50011) 

Reiman Gardens is on a 17-acre site that offers 26 different indoor and outdoor exhibits with wheelchair-accessible paths throughout. Wheelchairs and motorized scooters are available to be checked out at the front desk for public use. No reservations are required. The Christina Reiman Butterfly Wing offers families a calm and sensory-friendly space to recharge during their visit.

3. Ada Hayden Heritage Park – (5205 Grand Ames, IA 50010) 

The Ada Hayden Heritage Park offers paved pathways, covered shelters, restrooms, a floating dock with handrails and an adaptive wheelchair-accessible boat ramp. The ramp makes it easier for individuals with mobility needs to get in and out of a canoe or kayak.

4. Furman Aquatic Center – (1635 13th St. Ames, IA 50010) 

The Furman Aquatics Center is a family summer destination that has several adaptive and inclusive options. The center has a family changing room and handicap-accessible ramps into the water. A Bubbler Field includes computerized sprinklers for individuals that chose to not fully submerge in the water. The 5,000-square-foot recreational pool includes a zero-depth entry on the west end making it easier to access for those individuals with mobility needs. The recreational pool also includes spray features, a large play structure and slides.

5. Ames Public Library – (515 Douglas Ave. Ames, IA 50010) 

The Ames Public Library offers a welcoming place for families of all abilities to visit. The aisles have paths wide enough to easily navigate a wheelchair or stroller through. They also have an elevator available for use. The library has a variety of options when it comes to audiobooks including ones with multiple languages. Books with braille are available for checkout as well. Throughout the library, kids can find sensory engaging toys. The library hosts a variety of events for kids of all ages and abilities. View their event calendar here.

5 Inclusive and Accessible Activities in the Iowa City Area

1. The Iowa Children’s Museum – (1415 Coral Ridge Ave, Coralville, IA 52241) 

The Iowa Children’s Museum makes it a priority for their exhibits and events to be accessible and adaptive to families of all abilities. Guests are welcome to use the elevator to reach the second floor of the museum. It is located near the front desk, across the hall from the rainbow stairs. If you are in need of a wheelchair, free rentals are provided at the Coral Ridge Mall Guest Welcome Center. 

All restrooms have changing tables and are wheelchair-friendly. Accessible stalls are available in restrooms on the first floor. Located in the ImaginAcres exhibit, the Family Sanctuary provides a private, quiet space for guests. This space can be used by nursing parents, those with sensory needs, or anyone in need of a break from the lively museum environment.

Guests can check out a sensory bag from the front desk with items that can help lessen sensory overload including noise-reducing headphones and fidget toys. Certain areas within exhibits are also marked with “Headphone Zone” and “Quiet Zone” signage.  A social stories binder is available for checkout at the front desk. This virtual tour can also offer a look at the space for families planning ahead.

On the last Sunday of every month, The Iowa Children’s Museum hosts Sensory Friendly Night. This event is specifically for children with special healthcare needs and their families. The museum hosts a variety of events for kids of all ages and abilities, view their event calendar here.

2. Miracles in Motion Therapeutic Equestrian Center – (2049 120th Street NW Swisher, IA 52338)

Miracles in Motion offers a variety of opportunities for adaptive equestrian activities with therapeutic, educational and recreational benefits. At Miracles in Motion, they use horses to work effectively with children and their families who, due to disabilities or complex medical conditions, need assistance in developing the kinds of everyday skills that allow them to function more independently at home, school, or work.

They offer several options for individuals with physical, motor, social, or cognitive disabilities, including therapeutic riding classes, hippotherapy sessions, un-mounted programs, or a combination of these experiences to aid in rehabilitation, therapy routines, and strengthening.

3. City of Iowa City Inclusion Recreation – (220 S. Gilbert Street, Iowa City, IA 52240)

The City of Iowa City Parks and Recreation Department provides inclusive programming for all abilities. Adaptive programs are offered for individuals with disabilities and are designed to promote social interactions, leisure awareness, and skill building. These programs are created with an individual’s abilities in mind and are modified to meet the needs of those who participate. Program content covers a variety of areas including sports and fitness, cultural arts, social activities, and special events. View their event calendar and register here

4. Willow Creek Park Inclusive Playground – (1117 Teg Dr, Iowa City, IA 52246) 

The Willow Creek Park Inclusive Playground has adaptable features available for kids with special healthcare needs and their families. In 2020, the playground was newly renovated with updates to the playground, shelter house and restrooms to make them more adaptable. 

The play equipment has an accessible, poured-in-place rubber surface and a variety of play features for a wide range of users. Including a ramp accessing the main play structure, accessible and belted wings and a multi-user tandem swing with a toddler seat. The playground also has a sensory cove with different engaging activities. There is paved sidewalk access to the play equipment, shelter and restrooms. An adult changing table is located in the restrooms.

5. Community Inclusion Club – (Iowa City, IA) 

Community Inclusion Club is a program that creates socially inclusive opportunities for people with disabilities and their peers. They hold events once a month where individuals of all abilities are able to participate together at various locations around the Iowa City community. Watch their event calendar to stay up to date on inclusive opportunities for your family.


ChildServe improves the health and well-being of nearly 5,800 children each year through specialized clinical, home, and community-based programs and services. We serve children with developmental delays, disabilities, injuries, and other special healthcare needs.

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