If you’re getting ready for a trip to New York City, get excited because there are tons of fun things to do! The city is full of adventures waiting to happen and even though I’m a native New Yorker, I still enjoy getting on a train and spending afternoons discovering new places. That being said, as a wheelchair user, it can be a little challenging to be spontaneous when roaming around NYC because of accessibility issues. Lots of places have steps and narrow doorways, but with a bit of planning ahead, there are plenty of options for an amazing city trip. To help you with your itinerary, I’ve compiled a list of 15 accessible things that you can do. While some of these activities might be considered “touristy,” I believe these are some of the best ways for first-time visitors who use wheelchairs to get a taste of some of what NYC is famous for.
Here’s to a fantastic wheelchair accessible New York City adventure!
1) Statue of Liberty Cruise (New York Water Taxi, Above All Cruises) – If you love being on the water and want beautiful way to spend an afternoon or a night, a cruise around the Statue of Liberty is perfect. You can take in the sites rain or shine since most of the boats have indoor areas. It’s likely that you’ll need assistance from people you’re with or crewmembers to push your wheelchair up the steep ramp into the boat. Also, keep in mind that while the boats are wheelchair accessible, the top-level outdoor top decks aren’t. Don’t worry though, because you can take in the view from the main deck! These cruises run about an hour or two.
Location: 655 Third Avenue, Suite 1404 New York, NY 10017
On the night cruise with the particular company I used, Above All Cruises, there is a second indoor floor of the boat that isn’t accessible. However, the night cruise included dinner, and dinner was served on the main accessible level of the boat. Also, the boat did have an accessible restroom on board, but this may not be the case for every boat, so try to use a restroom in advance if you can, because these cruises run just under four hours.
Location: Skyport Marina, 23rd St & FDR Drive
2) Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum – You can brush elbows with (wax) celebrities and historical figures all in one awesome museum. The place is fully wheelchair accessible and you’ll be able to see everything, but certain exhibits have small steps to get up close and personal. Even so, there are plenty of photo opportunities! The front doors are not automatic, but they are always open anyway in order to entice visitors to come inside. There are multiple floors of exhibits, all of which are smoothly tiled. You can access each floor with the elevator. Also, there are accessible restrooms on the 3rd, 5th, 7th, and 9th floors.
Location: 234 West 42nd Street, between 7th and 8th Avenues, Times Square New York NY 10036
3) Ellen’s Stardust Diner – If you’re up for a slightly cheesy but completely cool experience, this diner will definitely make you smile. All of the waiters and waitresses put on show-stopping musical performances while they’re working. The main level is completely wheelchair accessible, though cramped because the restaurant is usually busy. You’ll get the full experience no matter where you sit. To enter, you must go through two doors, neither of which is automatic. However, it is absolutely possible for wheelchairs to fit through. I did not use the restroom here, but called to confirm that there is indeed a wheelchair accessible restroom.
Location: 1650 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
4) Broadway shows – I firmly believe that no NYC adventure is complete without seeing a Broadway show. There are so many amazing shows to choose from. The theaters are relatively wheelchair accessible, but you should absolutely double-check that the theater you’re going to will meet your specific accessibility needs. I recommend seeing Jersey Boys at the August Wilson Theatre. There are steps to the theatre, but people who use wheelchairs can roll onto a lift that will bring them up to the theatre level. Also, there is a wheelchair accessible restroom located right near the upper landing of the Stair Lift. Plus, accessible seating made it possible for me to sit near the front of the theatre, house left.
Location: 245 W. 52nd St., New York NY
5) New York Public Library – While this is a central hub for people who are working, studying, and researching, it’s also a great tourist stop. The architecture is gorgeous and the history is incredible. The library has elevators and the wheelchair accessible entrance is on the side of the building. Just so you know, for some reason, they require wheelchair users to “sign-in” with security near the entrance, and the doors to get in are not automatic. If you’re in need of the restroom, you’ll find an accessible one on the ground floor, but you have to ask security for a key.
Location: Entrance is on 42nd Street between 5th and 6th Avenues
6) The M&M’s Store – This is such a fun place for all chocolate lovers, which means that the store is always quite crowded. The door is not automatic and you have to take a ramp off to the side of the main steps to get in. It can be a bit tough to navigate with a wheelchair, but it can most definitely be done.
Location: 1600 Broadway New York, NY 10019
7) Radio City Music Hall – For cool concerts or winter Rockettes shows, this historical theater is the place to go. I’ll admit, I saw Glee Live there about four years ago and had a blast. One thing to note is that if the performer gets the crowd on their feet, stage visibility might be a bit limited for attendees who use wheelchairs due to people standing up. There are also accessible restroom stalls available on different levels of the theater, and an elevator to take you to each level.
Location: 1260 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
8) Ripley’s Believe it Or Not – The NYC Odditorium is full of interesting stuff to see. It’s a good place for picture-taking and conversation starters. It’s relatively easy to navigate and there is an elevator to get to the second level. There is only one accessible bathroom, and it’s kind of cramped. Be sure to swing the stall door outwards and not inwards to ensure you have enough room to move around.
Location: 234 W 42nd St, New York, NY 10036
9) Macy’s Herald Square – There’s so much shopping to be done in the city and since I love shopping, it was hard for me to pick one place to go. While 5th Avenue is known for being NYC’s central shopping thoroughfare, I think you shouldn’t miss the original Macy’s in Herald Square. With seemingly endless displays and floors, there will be something for everyone. It’s important to note that there is only one central elevator bank and the wait can be long. You’ll need to get in the elevator to get to the restrooms, but there are definitely accessible stalls available for use. Also, some of the ramps to get to different areas are a bit out of the way. But, if you enjoy shopping as much as I do, it’s more than worth it!
Location: 151 West 34th Street, NYC, NY 10001
10) American Museum of Natural History – NYC is known for fantastic museums, and especially if you’ve seen the movie “Night at the Museum,” this is a fun place to visit. All of the floors of the museum are accessible via elevator, and the webpage linked here has a detailed list of accessible entrances and accessible restroom locations.
Location: Central Park W and 79th St, New York, NY 10024
11) Museum of Modern Art – There are plenty of art museums to check out in the city, but since I’m a fan of modern art, I thought I’d add this to the list. All of the entrances are wheelchair accessible, and the linked webpage here includes a detailed explanation of where accessible restrooms are located. To access all of the floors of the museum, there are elevators available throughout.
Location: 11 W 53rd St, New York, NY 10019
12) Lincoln Center – I’ve had the pleasure of taking a guided tour of Lincoln Center, a performing arts venue, as well as seeing a performance of Swan Lake there. It’s a perfect place to add a little culture to your NYC trip! There are definitely accessible restrooms available for use to patrons inside the building.
Location: 10 Lincoln Center Plaza, New York, NY 10023
13) Madison Square Garden – From sports, to concerts, to plays the Garden is huge and totally worth a visit. Check out what’s going on here during your trip – there’s bound to be something exciting. There are specific seating sections for people who use wheelchairs, and depending on the amount you’re willing to spend, you can get good seats. If you drive in, you can find accessible parking in nearby parking garages.
Location: 4 Pennsylvania Plaza, New York, NY 10001
14) One World Trade Center Memorial and Museum – I wish with all my heart that I didn’t have a reason to list this, but it’s absolutely worth a visit to honor the memories of all the people who died in the 9/11 attacks. It’s a serene and beautiful place to reflect and take in the history. You won’t be able to go in the actual building, but you can take a tour through the museum and see the memorial reflecting pool. If you need to use the restroom, all of the facilities have accessible stalls.
Location: Liberty St, New York City, NY 10006
15) Central Park – Whether you want to roam or check out the zoo, you can easily while away a lovely afternoon in the park. The terrain varies throughout, especially in the zoo. Check out the linked webpage for a guide to the types of terrain in the zoo to determine what areas will be most easily accessible to you. Also, be sure to note that there are wheelchair accessible restroom facilities, but not all of the facilities throughout the park are accessible. Here, you can find a detailed list of accessible restrooms in Central Park.
Location: Central Park is huge and spans much of the city, which you can see on this map.