The great thing about the United States is that there is so much to see and do across this vast nation. However, this variety of options can sometimes make deciding where to go even harder. If you decide to embark on a journey through the Eastern Coast of the US, there are a large number of accessible sights for you to take in. During a recent four-city tour of the East Coast, travel blogger Jay Abdullahi of jayonlife.com, experienced some highlights these cities had to offer.
Baltimore is not the first city people think of when planning a trip to America, but skipping this charming coastal city means missing out on a lot of fun and delicious food.
Getting around the city’s highlights is both easy and free. The Charm City Circulators provide a pocket friendly route to the city. The different color-coded wheelchair accessible circulators visit Federal Hill, Fort McHenry, as well as the historic Fell’s Point, former home to Frederick Douglass. Coincidentally, 2018 is the bicenntenial year of Douglass who was a Baltimore native and abolitionist. His contributions, as well as his former home, may be visited in the Fell’s Point neighbourhood.
Of course, no visit to Baltimore is complete without a trip to the Inner Harbour. It has something for all the family, including attractions such as the National Aquarium, the Maryland Science Center, and Port Discovery Children’s Museum, all of which are wheelchair accessible. Port Discovery also provides a wonderful experience for children with special needs, as well as those that have reduced sight.
For the art inclined, the Baltimore Museum of Art provides an opportunity to take in contemporary art for free. Until 28 October, the BMA will exhibit Black Art that was originally shown in 1939. The BMA was one of the first museums to exhibit works by African American artists, and their contributions to the art world. The museum and the Sculpture Garden are wheelchair accessible, and loan wheelchairs are available free of charge on a first come, first served basis.
Baltimore is ideally located for visitors to take advantage of the exceptional seafood variety, especially their famous crab cakes. From the high-end restaurant fare to more humble diners, there’s a seafood option for every budget. Mo’s Seafood restaurant is known for their crab cakes and have five handy locations within Baltimore. They even offer a shuttle service from two of their locations for those that are staying in downtown hotels.
Philadelphia, known as the city of ‘Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection’ is rich in attractions that tell the American story, including the little-known fact that Philadelphia was the former capital of the United States. In order to get a feel for the city for a great price, use the Philly PHLASH. The PHLASH has 20 convenient stops visiting a number of the city’s best attractions and landmarks.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art is the site of the famous ‘Rocky Steps’ from the film’s franchise. There is an accessible entrance to the museum from the back, but the views are nowhere near as stunning. Once inside the museum, they do provide loanable wheelchairs for those less able to walk for long periods of time. Even for those who are short on time, or interest in art, while there you could take a photo with the Rocky Statue.
The Please Touch Museum in West Philadelphia is fully wheelchair accessible, and as the name suggests, encourages children to touch the displays. From water-themed exhibits to a usable carousel, this is the ideal museum for children of different abilities to experience. They have a dedicated programme that allows children
with developmental disabilities and those on the autistic spectrum to enter earlier than the general public. This provides a calmer experience for them, and they also reduce the lighting.
No trip to Philadelphia is complete without tucking into a Philly cheesesteak. However, for those that may not be fan of this local dish, you need look no further than Reading Terminal Market. While it sells other things, most people come for the food. Dishes from all over the world housed under one accessible roof. The market also has free wifi available so you can plan the next part of your day.
Philadelphia provides a glimpse into the past and future of the United States. This is most evident in Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed. There’s so much to see and do in this city, that you will likely need another visit.
New York City
The mere mention of New York City can be incredibly daunting. Between skyscrapers and a 24-hour sleepless cycle, how can you expect to conquer this American metropolis? Especially for those that have specific accessibility needs. Depending on length of time, it may be worth using one of the city’s sightseeing buses, such as BigBus New York that has wheelchair accessibility. For those with more time, it is possible to use public transportation. A large number of subway stations have lifts and ramps, for those with limited mobility. And all New York buses are wheelchair accessible.
To truly appreciate all that New York has to offer, you have to go to the top. With a dizzying number of skyscrapers, it is difficult to choose which one. Both the Empire State Building and Top of the Rock provide stunning views of the Big Apple’s skyline, from morning to evening and are both fully accessible. It would be impossible to visit New York without seeing a few museums, especially as they have the ‘Museum Mile’ that is dedicated to all things arts and culture. The famous Met Museum is currently exhibiting pieces from the recent Met Gala. The lesser known Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum has an exhibition (until 3rd September 2018) called ‘Access+Ability’ that showcases the influence that disability has on the world of design. From the famous wheelchair logo, crutches through the ages, to futuristic appliances that can assist with different needs.
The Statue of Liberty is the landmark that is immediately brought to mind when New York City is mentioned. This gift from the French was seen as a symbol of liberty and freedom for all that ventured to its port. It is possible to visit Liberty Island and the inside of the statue with a wheelchair, however, there are only stairs to get up to the Crown of the structure. A visit should also be paid to nearby Ellis Island to get a feel for the journey migrants had to go through to enter the United States.
Even though New York is a concrete jungle, it does have a lot of green space. Central Park takes up a large section of Manhattan and houses the Belvedere Castle, Central Park Zoo and a pond. If you would prefer a less well-known park, you can check out the High Line. The High Line park was built on a former freight rail line that is elevated above city streets. And there are a number of accessible entrances to get up to the park.
The capital of the United States has an abundance of buildings and attractions that you have likely seen in different television shows and films. From the State Capitol building, the Supreme Court, to the White House itself.
The easiest way to get around the hotspots of DC is using the DC Circulator, costing only $1 per ride. All buses are wheelchair accessible, and they have free wifi and USB charging available onboard. The Red Circulator is most popular with visitors as it takes you through the many different stops along The Mall. From the Lincoln, Washington, MLK Jr Memorials, to the various museums along the way. DC has a large number of museums dedicated to the history and the different people of the nation.
The latest addition to the capital is the National Museum of African American History and Culture. This large complex is home to the struggles, triumphs, stories,music and accomplishments of black Americans. It dedicates itself to their story from before the slave trade, to the present day. The building is wheelchair accessible, and different parts of the ‘black journey’ are reachable via ramp leading to different floors and different time periods.
The State Capitol building is a stone’s throw away from the Supreme Court, and you would be forgiven for moving on after these two monuments. However, there is a green little gem tucked away nearby, the United States Botanical Gardens. The Botanical Gardens offer a gorgeous escape away from the politics, completely free of charge. The conservatory and outdoor gardens are wheelchair accessible, and you can access the overhead jungle canopy via a lift. For the garden enthusiasts, this is one you definitely won’t want to miss.