Morgan's Wonderland is a 25-acre non-profit accessible theme park in San Antonio, Texas for guests of all ages and abilities. The park, which opened in 2010 on the site of the former Longhorn Quarry, was developed by Gordon Hartman, a former homebuilder from San Antonio; his daughter Morgan, who deals with cognitive and physical challenges, inspired creation of the park.
|Location||San Antonio, Texas, United States|
|Slogan||Where everyone can play!|
|Opened||March 3, 2010|
|Operating season||March - December|
|Area||25 acres (0.10 km2)|
Morgan's Wonderland is the first theme park of its kind in the world and has welcomed more than a million guests from all 50 states and 71 other countries. Completely wheelchair accessible, the $34 million park features more than 25 elements and attractions including rides, playgrounds, gardens, an eight-acre catch-and-release fishing lake, 18,000-square-foot special-event center, 575-seat amphitheater, picnic area and rest areas throughout the park.
The organization's mission statement is: “To provide a safe, clean and beautiful environment free of physical and economic barriers that all individuals – regardless of age, special need or disability – can come to and enjoy,” and is often accompanied by the motto, “Where Everyone Can Play!”
Admission for guests with special needs is free; and admission fees for accompanying family members, friends, caregivers and the general public are nominal.
In 2005, Hartman sold his successful homebuilding business to establish The Gordon Hartman Family Foundation so he and his wife, Maggie, could pursue their dream of helping children and adults with special needs. During a family vacation, Morgan wanted to play with kids tossing a ball in a hotel swimming pool, but when she approached them, they abruptly took their ball and vanished. “I’ll never forget the look of anguish and dismay on Morgan’s face, so I decided there had to be a way to bridge the gap of misunderstanding about people with special needs. That incident was the tipping point for Morgan’s Wonderland and ultimately Morgan’s Inspiration Island,” Hartman said.
Awards and Recognition
Because of the emphases on inclusion, and accessible design, the Morgan's Wonderland and Morgan's Inspiration Island have earned national and international acclaim.
|2017||World Waterpark Association- Leading Edge Award|
|2017||Paralyzed Veterans of America - Barrier-Free America|
|2017||Amusement Today - Park of the Year|
|2018||TIME - World's Greatest Places|
|2018||USA Today - Best New Attraction (Runner-up to Wonders of Wildlife)|
Rides are custom-designed to accommodate wheelchair riders. Adapted rides include the Wonderland Express train, with 0.5 miles (0.80 km)of track that wraps around the park's scenic lake; the Off-Road Adventure, where guests can drive all-terrain-type vehicles; the Whirling Wonder Ferris wheel, with a dozen brightly colored gondolas that rise up to 5+1⁄2 stories high for panoramic views of the park; and a carousel with horses and other animals. The latter sits flush with the ground, with “chariots” that move up and down as the carousel turns, giving those in wheelchairs the same sensation as guests riding horses.
The Wharf, which juts out into the lake, allows visitors to pilot remote-controlled pirate ships or do catch-and-release fishing for catfish or bass. The Sensory Village is a cluster of storefronts with activities to encourage imaginative play and stimulate all the senses.
There are also two expansive, shaded playgrounds and a variety of swings (including wheelchair swings).
The covered Picnic Place allows visitors the option of purchasing snacks and drinks at Morgan's Wonderland or bringing food with them to the park.
Morgan's Wonderland is designed for all visitors, and its live entertainment demonstrates and celebrates inclusion. On some operating days, there are meet-and-greets with park mascots and characters, live-action stage performances, interactive performances, and street performers.
In late 2015, Morgan's Wonderland added The Wonder Squad to their in-park entertainment lineup. Composed of four super-heroes – accompanied by “super-eye dog,” Uno – The Wonder Squad is known for “turning disabilities into SUPER abilities.”
- Inspired by the real-life Morgan Hartman, Morgan is the heart of the Wonder Squad. Her cognitive delay is matched by her powers of love and healing. And her emotional gifts let her soar with wings like a butterfly.
- Rocket has always believed that "just because you can't walk, doesn't mean you can't go wherever you want to go." A mechanical genius, Rocket built his own super-powered wheelchair to get around. He's the fastest on the scene, and his wit's is as quick as his wheels.
- X-Ray has been blind since birth, but that doesn't stop him from seeing the good in everyone. With the help of his super X-ray goggles and his "super-eye dog," Uno, he's ready to charge into action and save the day.
- Even with cerebral palsy, Jette has no trouble moving in style (thanks to a fashionable set of jet-powered crutches designed by Rocket). She's the brains of The Wonder Squad, and always tells people to think before they act, because "Every power needs a plan."
GPS adventure band
Morgan's Wonderland uses radio-frequency identification technology within its GPS Adventure Bands and two Location Stations. Each arriving guest is offered the option to wear a GPS Adventure Band; each band has a unique identification number that is electronically assigned to the guest and his or her group. Scanning the band at either Location Stations displays the exact location of each group member.
The band also enables guests to take part in electronic activities. For example, scanning the band at the Auto Shop in the Sensory Village will enable a guest to use a finger to “paint” an onscreen vehicle and forward the finished graphic to an email address. Similarly, scanning the band at the Off-Road Adventure will result in the taking and sending of a photo of riders in a vehicle to the guest's email.
On August 28, 2012, Toyota was named presenting sponsor of Morgan's Wonderland. Various wheelchair accessible vehicles adapted by Toyota can be seen on display in the park.
During the school year, Morgan's Wonderland hosts Community-Based Instruction (field trips) for elementary aged students. During Community-Based Instruction, stations are set up throughout the park offers an activity that corresponds with mandated Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) requirements.
The park also works with Cub Scouts in helping them complete requirements and electives, and it serves as a Girl Scouts Community Partner. All scouts who visit the park with their groups receive complimentary Morgan's Wonderland patches.
In 2017, Morgan's Wonderland began The Wonderland Inclusion Tour, a road show that allows the park to spread its mission of inclusion and understanding into the community. Shows include dance parties, interactive puppetry, and anti-bullying presentations.
Morgan's Wonderland is the anchor of an area called Wonderland, Texas. Attractions include the South Texas Area Regional Soccer Complex, Toyota Field, which is home to San Antonio FC, the Children's Rehabilitation Institute of Teletón USA (CRIT USA), NEISD's Heroes Stadium, Morgan's Wonderland Sports and Morgan's Inspiration Island. The area also incorporated The Academy at Morgan's Wonderland, which closed in 2019.
The Children's Rehabilitation Institute of TeletónUSA, or CRIT USA, is the only Teleton effort located in the United States. It is a non-profit rehabilitation center for children with neurological, muscular or skeletal disorders and injuries. It opened in November 2014.
Morgan's Wonderland Sports
Morgan's Wonderland Sports opened in June 2021. The facility is 3-acres and provides wheelchair-accessible courts and fields including, tennis courts, softball fields, a football field, a volleyball court, and a basketball court. The development of Morgan's Wonderland Sports cost $3-million and was led by Gordon Hartman.
South Texas Regional Adaptive and Para Sports (STRAPS)
South Texas Regional Adaptive and Para Sports (STRAPS) is a program for athletes with physical disabilities that began in 2012. The program offers a thirteen sports such as wheelchair soccer; wheelchair basketball; pickleball; and goalball, a sport similar to soccer for visually impaired athletes. The group now operates out of Morgan's Wonderland Sports.
Morgan's Inspiration Island
On June 17, 2017, Morgan's Wonderland opened an accessible splash park called Morgan's Inspiration Island. The attraction covers over 3 acres (1.2 ha). It features five tropically themed splash pads. In addition to a collection of colorful sea creatures, Rainbow Reef provides heated water for individuals who do not enjoy or who cannot physically tolerate non-heated water. Calypso Cove offers a musical rain garden, while Will's Hang-Ten Harbor has a large, continuous water wave as part of its surfer motif. Shipwreck Island resembles a pirate's paradise, and Harvey's Hideaway Bay is the site of a giant jungle tree house. Morgan's Inspiration Island also features an accessible River Boat Adventure ride.
Wheelchair guests are allowed to privately transfer out of their chairs into waterproof chairs. This gives them the opportunity to enjoy the splash park and not risk damage to their personal wheelchairs.
Equipped with three types of waterproof wheelchairs, Wheelchair Valet is home to seven accessible changing rooms, Hoyer lifts, and adult-sized changing tables for guest use. Wheelchair users have the opportunity to transfer into complimentary waterproof wheelchairs, as well as free waterproof bags for ventilators and O2 water-collar covers for guests who need to cover tracheas.
Morgan's Inspiration Island offers tilt and space chairs, manual/rigid chairs, and PneuChair pneumatic wheelchairs in multiple sizes. The PneuChair, a waterproof motorized wheelchair that runs entirely on compressed air, was developed by the University of Pittsburgh's Human Engineering Research Laboratories (HERL).
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