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Entrance of Morgan's Wonderland
|Slogan||Where Everyone Can Play|
|Location||San Antonio, Texas, USA|
|Opened||March 3, 2010|
|Visitors per annum||500,000|
|Area||25 acres (0.10 km2)|
Morgan's Wonderland is a purpose-built 25-acre theme park in San Antonio, Texas for individuals with special needs. The park, which opened in spring 2010 on the site of the former Longhorn Quarry, was developed by Gordon Hartman, a former homebuilder from San Antonio. He said his daughter, Morgan, who deals with cognitive and physical challenges, inspired creation of the park.
Non-profit Morgan's Wonderland is the first theme park of its kind in the world. It has welcomed approximately a million guests from all 50 states and 67 other countries. Admission for those with special needs is free; admission fees for accompanying family members, friends, caregivers and the general public are nominal.
Morgan's Wonderland has garnered local, state and national honors including being named "best family attraction" in Texas by VacationHomeRentals.com, a TripAdvisor affiliate.
In 2005, Hartman sold his successful home-building 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. Their devotion is inspired by their 22-year-old daughter, Morgan. Her soaring spirit despite physical and cognitive challenges sparked within the Hartmans a deep desire to create Morgan's Wonderland, a haven without barriers for those with special needs but also for their families, caregivers, friends and the general public.
Morgan's Wonderland opened March 3, 2010, and celebrated its grand opening April 10, 2010, with NBA legend David Robinson and actress Eva Longoria as special guests. 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 guiding principle for Morgan's Wonderland is inclusion. "Morgan's Wonderland is a special place where anyone can have fun," says Gordon Hartman, CEO of The Gordon Hartman Family Foundation, "but it was created with special-needs individuals in mind. Morgan's Wonderland is just like any other theme park except for the added benefit of a culture and environment that assures 100 percent enjoyment by everyone who enters through our Welcome Center. Unfortunately, countless children and adults with special needs do not have access to facilities that can help them fully enjoy outdoor recreation. We truly believe Morgan's Wonderland is beginning to change that."
Rides custom-designed to accommodate wheelchair riders means that every family member can enjoy the fun. Adapted rides include the Wonderland Express train, with a half-mile of track that wraps around the park's scenic lake; the Off-Road Adventure, where guests can test their driving skills in sporty vehicles; the Whirling Wonder(TM) Ferris wheel, with a dozen brightly colored gondolas that rise up to 5 ½ stories high for panoramic views of the park; and a carousel, offering all kinds of horses and other animals ready to be ridden. The latter sits flush with the ground and has "chariots" that move up and down as the carousel turns, giving those in wheelchairs the same sensation as guests riding horses.
At The Wharf that juts out into the lake, guests can captain their own remote-controlled pirate ships or enjoy catch-and-release fishing for catfish or bass. There's also the Sensory Village(TM), a cluster of storefronts with activities to encourage imaginative play and stimulate all the senses.
After playing in either of two expansive, shaded playgrounds or on a large variety of swings (including wheelchair swings), guests can enjoy a family picnic at the covered Picnic Place. Families have the option of purchasing snacks and drinks at Morgan's Wonderland or bringing food with them to the park.
Early in the design of Morgan's Wonderland, the public was asked to identify the most important thing the park should focus on. The number one response was safety. Safety not only was taken into consideration in designing the custom rides and playgrounds but also in ensuring everyone (including special-needs guests and caregivers) stays within the park boundaries.
Thus, Morgan's Wonderland uses RFID (radio frequency identification) technology within each of its GPS Adventure Bands and its Location Stations. Each arriving guest is offered the option to wear a GPS Adventure Band; each band has a unique identification number that's electronically assigned to the guest and his or her group. Scanning the band at either of the two Location Stations in the park displays the exact real-time 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 a home 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 Aug. 28, 2012, Toyota was named presenting sponsor of Morgan's Wonderland. Toyota shares a keen interest with Morgan's Wonderland in helping people with special needs. Various vehicles adapted by Toyota to help physically challenged individuals can be seen on display in the park.
Each spring and fall, Morgan's Wonderland hosts more than 8,000 elementary school children from over 130 schools for structured educational field trips that are tailored specifically to state-mandated TEKS requirements. The park also works closely 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.
Morgan's Wonderland is the anchor of a destination called Wonderland, Texas, which exists primarily for fun as well as helping the special-needs community. Other elements include The Academy at Morgan's Wonderland, a school for students with special needs; the Children's Rehabilitation Institute of Teletón USA (CRIT USA), a therapeutic center for youngsters with physical challenges; and Morgan's Inspiration Island, a unique splash park currently under construction and due for completion in spring 2017. Wonderland, Texas is also the home of STRAPS (South Texas Regional Adaptive and Paralympic Sports), which provides sports competition for athletes with disabilities and special needs.
In spring 2011, a group of families and friends met with the Hartmans to share dreams for their children with special needs. The group's goal was to create a school in which every student from age 12 to 24 could reach his or her maximum potential. The Academy at Morgan's Wonderland, which opened in August 2011, is the realization of that goal. In addition to academic instruction, The Academy through its Bridge Program focuses on equipping students with life skills that will help them become productive adults. Students directly benefit from their close proximity to Morgan's Wonderland; they get to take part in physical education sessions at the theme park.
New to Wonderland, Texas is the Children's Rehabilitation Institute of TeletónUSA, or CRIT USA, a non-profit rehabilitation center for children who are born with or who have suffered neurological, muscular or skeletal disorders and injuries. Located next to Morgan's Wonderland, CRIT USA is the first of its kind in the United States. It opened in November 2014 and now serves hundreds of outpatients from coast to coast.
Morgan's Wonderland has partnered with CRIT USA to offer additional rehabilitation opportunities for patients and a recreational outlet for families whose children are undergoing treatment. Typical physical therapy sessions make use of outdoor playground equipment and other attractions at Morgan's Wonderland.
Thanks to generous donors, STRAPS offers athletes of all ages with physical disabilities the opportunity for sports competition in eight programs such as wheelchair soccer, wheelchair basketball and goalball (a sport similar to soccer for visually impaired athletes). Veterans wounded in the line of duty who are undergoing treatment at the San Antonio Military Medical Center and the Center for the Intrepid at nearby Fort Sam Houston represent some of the many STRAPS athletes who compete at Morgan's Wonderland on a regular basis.
On June 17, 2017, Morgan's Wonderland opened the world's first ultra-accessible splash park - Morgan's Inspiration Island. The more than 3-acre attraction enables family members, regardless of age or ability, to cool off and beat the summer heat by splashing and playing together.
Morgan's Inspiration Island features five tropically themed splash pads. In addition to a fun-filled 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 magical, musical rain garden, while Hang-Ten Harbor has a large, continuous water wave as part of its surfer motif. Shipwreck Island resembles a pirate's paradise, and Castaway Bay is the site of a giant jungle tree house. Morgan's Inspiration Island also features an accessible River Boat Adventure ride.
In keeping with the Morgan's Wonderland mission of inclusion and the desire to enable everyone to play, wheelchair guests that may have previously been unable to enjoy a splash park have the opportunity to privately transfer out of their chairs into unique, waterproof chairs. This gives them the opportunity to enjoy the splash park with their family and friends and not risk damage to their personal wheelchairs.