Travel & Holidays

Best wheelchair accessible winter getaways around the world

Planning a winter getaway is always extremely fun. That is, it’s extremely fun right up until the point when you realize that your destination is not quite as accessible as you thought it was when you booked it. Allow me to offer a bit of help.

Following are a few of the best winter vacation spots in the world. These places are committed to making their destinations as accessible as possible. As a result, you should have no problem getting around. Here they are, in no particular order.

Vancouver, BC

This city is committed to doing away with any barriers that might keep wheelchair users from enjoying everything it has to offer. Some of the best features include curb cuts along the sidewalks, crosswalk signals that are audible, and various public transportation improvements. In addition, they have expanded the accessibility of their parks, as well as other types of recreation programs. This is an ongoing movement that is actually benefiting everyone in the city.

Here are a few things you will enjoy besides the incredible coastline, fantastic hotels, and fine restaurant choices. For starters, their public transportation is accessible with ramps for wheelchair users to board the city buses easily. They also have numerous accessible taxis available if you’d prefer this instead of the buses. When you’re not wandering around the city, you can hit the slopes and try snowboarding or snow skiing. Vancouver has an incredible adaptive snow sports program that is available for people of all abilities. If this sounds fun to you, check out Vancouver Adaptive Snow Sports.

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Vienna, Austria

This is one of those places you dream about going on winter vacation. The sights, sounds, and smells of the area are quite intoxicating. I know what you’re thinking though, the cobblestone streets will be hard to navigate. Not so much. Most of the streets are much smoother than any sort of cobblestone road you would have to navigate in Italy or France for example. Also, if you have an electric wheelchair then getting around will be a breeze. The best part about Vienna is the fact that the core of the city is designated as a zone for pedestrians. This means that there are no pesky sidewalks to contend with, or any curbs for that matter either. You can take your time and snap as many photos as you need of the famous cathedrals and beautiful architecture that is iconic to Austria.

The trams can be a bit hit or miss; you just need to be patient. If the first tram comes up to you and has a high floor, the second one is probably a modern tram with platform level loading. Taxis, buses, and hotels are quite accessible too. The only issue you might run into are a few restaurants. You might have a tough time if you happen to stumble into a classic one that has kept the original layout of its centuries old building. However, with a bit of creativity you will find that the people of Vienna are accommodating. The people, the sights, and the ease of navigation make this a winter hotspot for sure.

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Utah, United States

If you are into skiing, go to Utah. It is your best bet for that winter ski getaway you have been longing for. Utah ranks as one of the top places in the world when it comes to accessible ski resort destinations. This is partially due to the Americans with Disabilities Act, but mostly due to the fact that people there really value you as an individual. Everything from the airport to the slopes themselves, caters to wheelchair users in one way or another.

If you’re looking for a bit of a winter adventure, contact the National Ability Center. It is based in Park City, Utah and specializes in adaptive sports, recreation, and even educational programs. They’ll be sure to help you discover your ideal winter activity, whether it is snowboarding or any number of other possibilities.

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Harbin, China

This is the largest city in its province, but it is most notable for holding its annual Ice Festival. Hundreds of ice sculptures light up the area at night, giving the place a festive glow. Thousands of people attend and it is spectacular to say the least.

A couple of things before you go though. It is best to book your trip in early February since the ice will start to melt in later weeks. That would make wheelchair access a bit uneasy. Also, be prepared to bring your own wheelchair, as rentals are not available on site. Beyond that, the Ice Festival is like nothing else you have ever seen. In addition, you can enjoy your time in the city too, as there are plenty of great dining options and hotel accommodations to be had. Navigating the streets should be no trouble and most of the larger hotels offer accessible rooms. The Ice Festival is a bucket list item for sure.

These locations span the globe and are all superb locations in their own right. Each one is unique with its appeal and yet specific to its destination as a winter getaway. Wheelchair friendly, great activities, and lots of fun to be had… Who could ask for more in these upcoming cold winter months?

By Cory Lee

(featured image credits: Lucian Savluc via Flickr)

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One Comment

  1. How can you talk about winter vacations in Utah and not mention Wasatch Adaptive Sports? Based at Snowbird Ski resort, they offer a full range of year round adaptive recreation programs ( ). Combined with the University of Utah TRAILS program they make one of the best adaptive rec programs in the US. ( ) Visiting Northen Utah? check out Ogden Valley Adaptive Sports ( ). Here’s a good resource for anyone looking for accessible activities in Utah ( )

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