Visalia is more inclusive place to stay and play in the new year

Two Visalia hotels add to city’s growing list of Certified Autism Centers including tourism agency, downtown merchants and new playground

VISALIA – The city of Visalia is rapidly becoming one of the most inclusive places to stay and play for families with autism.

Last month, Visit Visalia, the organization promoting tourism to the Visalia area, announced two more local businesses have been designated as Certified Autism Centers (CAC). The Comfort Suites Hotel and Hampton Inn Visalia are the first hotels in the city to earn the CAC designation, which is awarded by the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES) to organizations that complete position-specific training and certification to help staff better communicate and serve visitors with autism and sensory sensitivities.

The hotels add to the growing list of local tourism-based businesses that have completed the specialized training to better understand, welcome and communicate with guests who have autism or sensory needs. The community-wide effort initiated by Visit Visalia is growing quickly, expanding to businesses throughout the city, including Valley Oaks Golf Course, the first golf course in California to become autism certified.

“Our teams at the Comfort Suites and Hampton Inn are better equipped to provide excellent service and outstanding experiences to all our guests as a result of the training,” said Anil Chagan, general manager of Infinite Hospitality. “We are excited to be the first hotels in Visalia to become Certified Autism Centers.” Special accommodations the hotel may provide to guests include an expedited check-in process, a separate breakfast space if needed, and low sensory areas.

Also completing the training and certification process is the Downtown Visalians Merchant Association, who provides events and programs that support the business owners in the dining and entertainment district. The vibrant Main Street core is known for its pedestrian-friendly layout as well as for its locally owned shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues that are a draw for locals and visitors alike. The popular Brewery District continues to expand the number of taprooms and restaurants offering a wide selection of craft brews.

Visalia swings new inclusive playground

A new city park designed for children of all abilities will soon be built. The city of Visalia will use $7.8 million in grant funds received from the State of California’s Office of Grants and Local Services, to build an inclusive play space, the first in the southern Central Valley. The Bridge Horizons Play Park will be built on a 1-acre plot along the Mill Creek Trail, adjacent to the Imagine U Children’s Museum in Downtown Visalia. The sensory rich exploration areas of the Sequoia Grove Inclusive Playground will be home to a root ball cozy space, a Sequoia tree hut, a sensory wall, and a sensory dome cone. The Music and Story Meadow will be a community centered, and child directed experience, with dance chimes, a singing stone, and an outdoor stage. The River Bottom Water Play Zone will be powered by kids, not electricity, and feature interactive climbing features, spouts, spray zones and more.

A new city park designed for children of all abilities will soon be built. The city of Visalia will use $7.8 million in grant funds received from the State of California’s Office of Grants and Local Services, to build an inclusive play space, the first in the southern Central Valley.Photo courtesy of Unlimited Play, Inc.
Hidden Sunflower continues to bloom

Visit Visalia implemented the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Program to help travelers with special needs obtain additional support they may require while traveling here. Developed and launched in the United Kingdom, the program is now a recognized icon that travelers with accessibility needs can utilize to discreetly be identified as having a disability. Visit Visalia offers the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower lanyards and bracelets complimentary to those that request them when traveling to our city. Local businesses, like restaurants and attractions, that display a sunflower in their front window have completed specialized training offered by Visit Visalia and can better serve people with hidden disabilities like autism. The newest local businesses to adopt the program and complete the training:

  • Imagine U Children’s Museum
  • Brown’s Shoe Fit
  • Velasco’s Mexican Food

“Visit Visalia is thrilled to see the support of local businesses who have invested time and resources to become certified by IBCCES and who are helping to move the needle in our quest to become a Certified Autism Destination, the first in California,” executive director Nellie Freeborn said. Travelers who have a sensory disability like autism are encouraged to use the tools on our web site to plan a trip to our city. A complete list of CACs, Visit Visalia Hidden Disabilities Sunflower program participants, links to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks accessibility video series and visitors guide, and much more are available at:

Visalia is known for having the famous Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks in its backyard, but natural charm, welcoming locals and abundance of experiences are why this Central California city is much more than a gateway to the great outdoors. Along with great outdoor experiences, Visalia’s local food scene, from thriving food truck culture to fine dining, offers foodie lovers even more to explore.

For more information or to book your stay, go to

Start typing and press Enter to search