High Point North Carolina: The First Designated Autism Destination on The East Coast

A family standing in the sunset holding puzzle pieces.

The North Carolina city of High Point, long known as the “furniture capital of the world,” is making a new name for itself in 2023. You can now add Certified Autism Destination to this growing community. High Point, North Carolina holds the title of the first Certified Autism Destination on the East Coast.

Visit High Point and various local partners worked over two years and received extensive staff training to earn this special designation. After my recent tour of many of these High Point businesses, it's clear each one is committed to making inclusive and comfortable spaces for each guest.

What Is a Certified Autism Destination?

Autism Awareness sign in High Point North Carolina.
Image Credit: Andrea Updyke.

If you're wondering what it means to be certified as an Autism destination, you aren't alone. As awareness grows, so do opportunities for sensitivity training and resources.

According to Autism Travel, a “Certified Autism Destination (CAD) makes visitors with autism or sensory needs feel welcomed, safe, and above all, have fun! Becoming a CAD means most tourism-related organizations have completed autism and sensory disorder sensitivity and awareness training and completed an onsite review with the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards.

Whether at the gym, grabbing a bite to eat, or experiencing one of the city's award-winning museums, there are thoughtfully curated accommodations for those with sensory needs all over town.

Nancy Bowman of Visit High Point states, “We believe that everyone should have the opportunity to travel and explore new places, and this certification will help us achieve that goal.”

How a Small Gym Inspired a Movement

The gym that inspired High Point to become a certified autism destination.
Image Credit: Andrea Updyke.

It all started with a gym dedicated to children and parents with all ability levels. Q's Corner is a self-proclaimed “judgment-free zone,” and it's evident that they walk the walk regarding inclusivity.

The facility itself is unassuming on the outside. The magic happens upon entering, as you are greeted with an ample space full of fun and inviting play areas.

Swings of all textures and sizes hang from steel beams in the middle of the room. To the left is a ball pit with slides and climbing structures. On the right are a trampoline and an ADA Accessible swing fitted with a wheelchair. Walk through the experience room with fiber optic lighting, vibration, and sound, or head into the soft play room to roll and climb. Make your way to the second floor, accessible via stairs or elevator, with various spaces for playing with toys, video games, and even birthday parties.

To Q's Corner and Beyond

Inside view of Q's Corner Indoor Play Gym.
Image Credit: Andrea Updyke.

As the popular gym leads to more visitors in town, offering this training to local museums, restaurants, and hotels made sense. Visit High Point saw an opportunity to ensure people of all ages, whether on the Autism spectrum or with other special needs, could feel welcome and safe in High Point.

Look for sensory guides in businesses like The Qubein Children's Museum, High Point Library, JH Adams Inn, and more. This information is posted in entryways and indoors around the attractions.

You can also find them on the Visit High Point website before you pack your bags and hit the road.

Things To Do in High Point

Outside view of the Children's Museum in High Point North Carolina.
Image Credit: Andrea Updyke.

Make time for the Qubein Children's Museum, an interactive museum for kids of all ages currently holding the title of North Carolina's Visitor Attraction of the Year. With two floors of indoor activity, water play, and an outdoor space to enjoy and ride the carousel, this museum has it all.

You can reserve a spot in one of their sensory-friendly play sessions featuring fewer guests, adjusted exhibits, and light and sound reduction. You'll even find accommodations at the local baseball game while cheering for the High Point Rockers in their outdoor stadium. While there are fireworks after Friday games, you can find other nights to attend without the fanfare.

Grab a delicious bite at Sweet Old Bill's when you get hungry. There is outdoor seating with traffic sounds that could be distracting. So, for that reason, you can sit indoors in the quieter room, outfitted with sound-absorbing artwork printed on fabric canvases. It makes a surprising difference.

Many locations also offer sensory backpacks on request with items like fidget toys, noise-canceling headphones, and a weighted lap pad.

More To Come for High Point

Sensory guide for families and children.
Image Credit: Andrea Updyke.

Visit High Point, and their dedicated community is just getting started. Plans include greenway expansion and a delightful sensory garden at the High Point Library in partnership with the local Rotary Club.

The garden will offer something for all the senses, including a walking path and benches to enjoy the atmosphere, a “wall of motion,” and a centrally located fountain.

This new outdoor space will build on existing programs at the library, like sensory storytime, a teaching garden, and programs for individuals of all ages, whether on the spectrum or those dealing with Dementia or Alzheimer's. The community has rallied around making High Point safe and welcoming for all who visit, from business owners to trained staff and local families with special needs.

Traveling to North Carolina? Consider Adding a Stop at High Point

Skyline view of High Point North Carolina.
Image Credit: Shutterstock.

If you travel to North Carolina, add a stop to High Point. You can use their sample itinerary or create your own based on your needs. While High Point may be known for its furniture market, you'll fall in love with its heart.

Author: Andrea Updyke

Bio:

Andrea Updyke is a married mom of two boys living in Raleigh, NC who loves traveling the globe whether it's in an RV, via plane, or cruise ship. Whether she's preparing an easy meal, planning family travel, or sitting on her front porch, Andrea loves finding joy in everyday moments. Find her recipes and travel tips on Just is a Four Letter Word.