My children and I have visited the Liberty Science Center on class trips, but we have never gone to see it as a family. So, when we were hired by the Liberty Science Center to visit and share details about the Ocean Xperience exhibit (showing now through September 4, 2023), we decided to spend a day there for a day of fun and science. We also wanted to share details about the accessibility of this NJ science museum for families with special needs.
It is important to point out that for our family to truly enjoy any venue, it needs to be special needs accessible and provide accommodations for a variety of physical, sensory, and developmental requirements.
About the Liberty Science Center
Located at Liberty State Park in Jersey City, New Jersey, the Liberty Science Center is an inspiring wonderland of science for families of all ages. Multiple corporations and organizations have collaborated to deliver a hands-on, multi-sensory experience to ignite kids’ curiosity and get them excited about science and how it impacts the world in which we live. The whole property seems to be designed to stimulate families’ minds as they explore and enjoy the hands-on exhibits and activities.
Our Liberty Science Center Review as a family with special needs
I visited the Liberty Science Center website and also read some online reviews before our visit. However, it wasn’t until our visit that we could determine how accessible the Liberty Science Center actually is. Our Liberty Science Center review is based on our family’s visit on July 30, 2023.
Our busy family loves to spend time in New Jersey and the surrounding areas. We have learned to find places that will support families like ours that need to work around diagnoses such as cerebral palsy, epilepsy, autism add, visual impairment, and developmental delays.
My extensive experience with my own family and in the special needs community has taught me that there is no reason that my family cannot enjoy going on adventures. Many times, it takes a little research and even a few visits for us to comfortably navigate a venue. It is my hope that this article will take some of the guesswork and trial and error out of your visit to the Liberty Science Center.
How Accessible is the Liberty Science Center?
Below I share details about our Liberty Science Center visit and the museum’s accessibility accommodations.
Is the Liberty Science Center ADA compliant?
Yes! The entire building is ADA-compliant. There are elevators on every floor. All facilities are ADA-compliant. Some of the doors were heavy to open, but they all had a feature where they would remain open without closing on a person as they walked or wheeled through. We found this helpful.
Are there Family Bathrooms available?
Yes! You will find family restrooms located outside the elevator on every floor of the Liberty Science Center. Floor 3 has 3 family restrooms in a row, which we found great so that everyone could use the facility while I changed my daughter.
As any special needs family knows, less waiting equals a more successful trip! We found the bathrooms to be immaculate when we visited. There were toddler changing tables in each one.
There were no universal or adult changing tables in the entire facility. So, this leaves the floor as the only alternative to change a person who exceeds the height and weight limit of the toddler changing tables.
Will families with extra needs be able to find things to eat at the Liberty Science Center? What is the food situation like at Liberty Science Center?
First of all, YOU CAN BRING YOUR OWN FOOD to the Liberty Science Center! And eat it inside the Liberty Science Center! (Cue the Hallelujah Chorus!) Awesome! My friend whose kid only eats Kings Hawaiian Rolls and Dannon Banana Yogurt will be able to stay past lunch! Seriously, bringing your own food will save tons of time and money, and frustration as any special needs mama knows!
There is also The Galaxy Grab and Go Cafe which has sandwiches and snacks and the Cosmic Cafe which features quite an extensive menu. You can get salads, chicken fingers, burgers, fries, and more served cafeteria-style.
This set up would be fine for typical families, but if you have a runner or a kid with sensory issues, this venue might be an issue. It is loud and has lots of smells. People in wheelchairs may not be able to reach everything.
A better option is to use for eating at the Liberty Science Center is the very convenient order ahead option. On the Liberty Science Center app, you will find a link to order ahead. This menu is a little more limited but has most of the things that kids would want.
We used this feature because time is king with our family. I ordered burgers, a pizza, fries, and drinks and paid right on on the app. Then, I received a text when my food was ready, and I picked it up at the Cosmic Cafe to-go window. It took a little longer for them to prepare the food, versus buying at the counter, but we avoided the noise and chaos of the cafeteria area, and we skipped the cashier line.
There are 2 dining rooms. One has lunch table benches and one has round tables with backed chairs. We chose to go to the lunchroom-style area because it was less crowded. I would say about ¼ of the people there brought in their own food.
Weather permitting, guests can also get outdoors to eat. The Liberty Science Center offers outdoor tables right outside the cafeteria. There is additional outdoor seating down a flight of stairs.
On a nice day, a great option would be to go out to Liberty State Park. If you have a sensory kid or one with extra energy who needs a break, lunch on a bench along the river, or a picnic (bring a blanket) at the playground might be a fun break. Check out Liberty State Park Playground in Jersey City, NJ for more details. It’s a very accessible playground in Jersey City.
Is the staff at the Liberty Science Center trained to address individuals with Special Needs?
No, the staff is not specifically trained to address individuals with special needs. I did find the staff to be friendly and respectful. However, they did not seem to be prepared to anticipate needs or even recognize challenges.
When I asked at the box office about accommodations for special needs, I was only told that there was an elevator. There are other accommodations available, such as Induction Loops for hearing-impaired guests, but I was not made aware of them.
When we were denied admittance to Wobbly World, the toddler exhibit because my daughter is too tall, the person offered the Infinity Climber as an alternative. This was heartbreaking because my daughter is in a wheelchair and clearly not able to walk or stand on her own. I know the person was trying to be helpful, but it made me as a mom feel defeated.
My daughter was very frustrated because she could see all the kids having fun with things that were developmentally appropriate for her, but she was not allowed in because of her size. The person did at my request, call a supervisor, who reiterated that they were unable to flex the height rule in Wobbly World. (Which I can understand.) I just wish there was a better alternative.
Is there a Disability (Line Pass) available at the Liberty Science Center?
Liberty Science Center does not offer priority to those who experience developmental or physical disabilities at this time. While most of the attractions are open and do not require a line, there are a few with lines that could be frustrating for a family with special needs kids.
Cues were cramped but none were longer than 10 minutes on the day we visited. The exhibitions where a family may encounter lines are the entrance and security, the box office, “The Building”, “The Infinity Climber”, and “Wonder Why” exhibits.
Are Service Animals allowed at the Liberty Science Center?
Yes. Registered service dogs are permitted at the Liberty Science Center.
Is there a drop off for visitors with special needs at Liberty Science Center?
According to the website, “a small drop-off area is available near the entrance, only for guests with special needs. Enter from Phillip Street, drop off guests, and proceed to the parking lot entrance.” We arrived before opening, so we were able to get close, covered parking. The lot is smooth, so our daughter’s transport chair rolled right through.
Are there accommodations for guests with hearing impairment?
According to its website, the Liberty Science Center provides the following for those with hearing impairments:
“Induction loop systems that transmit sound directly to guests with T-coil compatible hearing aids and cochlear implants. FM systems are provided. Guests with T-coil on their hearing aids or implants can request a neck loop. Those without hearing aids, implants, or T-coils may request headphones. Device quantities are limited, so please check availability in advance…” Closed Captioning devices are available for films in the 3D Science Theater (top row, center; up to three guests).
Exhibit captioning is available on screen for all exhibition media installations featuring audio and video. Exhibits with audio but no video are accompanied by printed interpretive information.
How can families with disabilities navigate the Liberty Science Center?
It is highly encouraged that you download the Liberty Science Center app for your visit. There are maps, a link to order food and menus, show times, and lots of information.
Note that there are NO printed maps available at the venue. I did ask and was told that there were none. If I had to do it again, I would have blown up and printed the map out for our visually impaired daughter, so that she could see and understand the layout better. View the Liberty Science Center floor map from their website.
Are there Sensory Friendly Zones (or Chill Spaces) available at the Liberty Science Center?
There are no designated areas for families to take a sensory break at the Liberty Science Center. However, some exhibits have less noise, lighting, and sensory input than others.
Our Hudson Home
The “Our Hudson Home” exhibit is one such exhibit to have less sound input, a neutral color pallet, and was generally less crowded than other exhibits.
The “Our Hudson Home” exhibit has a door leading to a balcony outside with a view of the skyline. This was a great place for our crew to regroup and recenter.
The Dino Dig features an outdoor sand pit where kids can dig in the sand and use paintbrushes to uncover dinosaur fossils, “poop” and eggs under a shaded canopy outside. This area is closed on rainy or very cold days.
The Liberty Science Center provides a sensory map to help you plan your trip and determine which areas might best suit your family’s individual needs. It doesn’t include all the exhibits, but it is a good general guide. Follow this link to access the page where you can download the Sensory Map of the Liberty Science Center.
Are there sensory-friendly hours with low light and limited crowds?
We are not aware of special Autism Friendly or Sensory Friendly hours or events at the Liberty Science Center. I am told by a mom friend that Sunday is a great day to visit to avoid large crowds and school groups which can be problematic for families like mine.
Is there a Social Narrative/Social Story available for Liberty Science Center?
Yes! You can download a Social Narrative (Social Story) for Liberty Science Center that I found on the Liberty Science Center website. The narrative contains photographs (vs. icons).
Will my family with special needs enjoy the Liberty Science Center?
I think that if your child has physical disabilities, you will definitely be able to enjoy the Liberty Science Center and get your money (and time’s worth). The bathroom, food, and layout will likely meet your child’s needs.
On the other hand, if your child is impacted by intellectual or developmental disabilities, or you are traveling with a group of mixed abilities, you will need extra planning. For example, my daughter had a meltdown because she was not physically able to go on the Infinity Climber, but my other kids wanted to enjoy it.
My daughter could not understand many of the exhibits so she got bored. She did love the Thomas the Train area and some of the more hands-on activities. This meant our family had to split up a lot, which can make caregivers feel isolated and typical children frustrated.
The people at the Liberty Science Center seem to be making a great deal of effort to make it accessible for all. My hope is that it will continue to be even more inclusive so that all families can enjoy The Liberty Science Center together.