From our nation’s capital to the sunny beaches of California, the United States of America is packed with scenic and historic destinations suited to every whim you can imagine. This month we make our way from coast to coast, exploring five unique, accessible, affordable places you’ll want to visit on your next vacation.

Washington, D.C. — Easy Rolling and Affordable

by Lilly Longshore

The Lincoln Memorial is so life-like that it’s spellbinding

The Lincoln Memorial is so life-like that it’s spellbinding. Photo courtesy of National Parks Conservation Association.

After a recent family reunion in Ohio, I piled in the van with my husband, son and my sisters and headed over to Washington, D.C. It had been years since my last visit. The biggest change for me since then was that I now use a wheelchair for mobility. During the 350-mile road trip, I wondered what would I be able to do in our nation’s capital? A lot, I soon learned — so much that I simply could not do it all!

The entire city is on a planned, geometrically pleasing grid, something George Washington oversaw in 1791. Not only is it a lovely layout, but navigation is logical and easy. I chose to stay at a hotel outside the city near the Shady Grove Metro station in Maryland, taking advantage of one of the best public transit systems in the nation. I rolled aboard the Metro Redline for a 30-minute commute into D.C. to visit the multitude of museums and attractions, many admission-free.

The National Mall and Memorial Park is a 1,000-acre national park bookended by the Lincoln Memorial on the west and the U.S. Capitol on the east. Twenty-six miles of accessible walkways and eight miles of bike trails crisscross the park. With easy pathways plus help from my distance-runner husband when my arms fatigued, I got around quite nicely.

Of the more than 70 monuments and memorials in the National Mall, I made sure to visit the most famous. The Lincoln Memorial was a thrill. The sculpture of Lincoln is so detailed — his face especially life-like — that it was spellbinding. I was not prepared for the enormity of the memorial itself. Pictures do not capture it. The Jefferson Memorial’s colonial style was stately and quite fitting, as it echoed the manner that Jefferson himself used in designing both Monticello and the capitol building in Richmond, Virginia. The Washington Monument reflected in the glassy water of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool was spectacular. But wheeling through the park, past the World War II Memorial fountain and sculptures, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall with nearly 60,000 names engraved on it, and the 19 bigger-than-life steel soldier statues of the Korean War Veterans Memorial, caused me to pause. I recognized the many sacrifices, large and small, made by so many people during those wars, including my father and my only brother.

Apollo 11 Command Module

Apollo 11 Command Module. Photo courtesy of Smithsonian Institutes.

Just west of the Mall lies scenic Theodore Roosevelt Island. In 1930 the island was transformed from neglected farmland into a natural monument to our 26th president. This 88-acre park, run by the National Park Service, includes part of the 18-mile wheelchair accessible Mount Vernon Trail, which follows the Potomac River to Mount Vernon. Although very near the city, it was refreshing to roll through the deciduous woods, over a bridge along the trail, listening to exuberant birdsong.

All of the Smithsonian museums are accessible and admission-free. Forced to narrow down my selection due to time constraints, I chose to explore the National Museums of American History; Natural History; and the Air and Space Museum. I am sure I did not thoroughly cover each museum I visited — they are stuffed with exhibits and information.

The American History Museum’s highlights for me were the star-spangled banner — the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write our national anthem — and Dorothy’s actual ruby-red slippers from The Wizard of Oz.

The Natural History Museum featured the Hope Diamond in its extensive National Gem Collection, a thrill to see. I also loved the stroll through the live butterfly pavilion, watching colorful winged creatures flitting about. This museum also has a very cool hands-on science discovery room for kids — great entertainment. There were so many exhibits on oceans, wetlands, dinosaurs, geology and more that it was hard to tear myself away from the place.

Among the many fascinating exhibits at the Air and Space Museum, the Apollo 11 display surprised me. I couldn’t imagine going to space in such a tiny container with meager comforts. I found new respect for the bravery and fortitude of astronauts after seeing this exhibit.

Popular museums that charge for entry include the National Geographic Museum ($15) which displays topnotch exhibits on worldwide travel, science, nature and exploration; and the Newseum ($25), a museum of journalism history with exhibits on subjects and events such as 9/11, the Berlin Wall, the Journalists Memorial, and “First Dogs: American Presidents and their Pets.”

Washington, D.C. was very easy to navigate in a wheelchair, fascinating to explore and offered a huge variety of activities for everyone in our group.

Tips from a Local: Washington, D.C.
By United Spinal Member
Harsh Thakkar

If you need a break from the museums and history on the National Mall, you’re just a short roll or metro hop from Washington, D.C.’s lively Chinatown. Don’t let older roads and buildings deter you from checking out some of the city’s better bars and hangouts. One of my favorites is Bar Louie, on 7th St. NW. They’ve got good drinks, good food, a solid happy hour and more than enough space to accommodate a big group of wheelchair users, even when things are busy. It’s also a great place to pregame a show or concert at the Verizon Center, located just across the street. The Verizon Center is really accessible and the staff is well trained and helpful when it comes to helping people with disabilities.

For something a little more off the beaten path (but not too far), plan an afternoon in Rock Creek Park. Congress carved the 1,754 acre park out of north D.C. in 1890, making it the nation’s third national park. Today it offers a bounty of options for all types of visitors. It’s a great place for handcycling, or just a pleasant roll through 32 miles of trails. You can check out historic Civil War buildings, visit the National Zoo, catch a show at the Planetarium or just wander around and relax.

Hot Springs National Park: Naturally Unique

by Lilly Longshore

Photo by Brandon Rush/Wikipedia

Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas is one of my favorite destinations because every season offers something special. In spring and summer, it’s outdoor fun; autumn presents colorful foliage; and winter provides mesmerizing holiday light displays that twinkle and shine.

In addition to natural beauty, Hot Springs is full of historic significance. Nestled in the picturesque Ouachita Mountains, its scenery and unique geothermal springs inspired President Andrew Jackson to sign a law setting this 5,550-acre area aside for recreational use in 1832, making it the first national recreational reserve.

The waters of the natural hot springs surface at 143 degrees and have been hailed for their healing, medicinal value. From the late 1800s through the 1930s, bathhouses were erected and became the trend for relaxation and health. Over decades, these bathhouses were frequented by celebrities, athletes and famous historic figures, such as Wyatt Earp, Jack Dempsey and Harry Truman. Taking advantage of the spas to soothe sore muscles, major league baseball teams, including the Boston Red Sox and the New York Highlanders (now Yankees) held spring training here well into the 20th Century. Today, visitors can get a look back at the origins of spring training and the legends who played here by following the wheelchair-friendly Baseball Trail and using a free app that shares bits of history depending on your location.

Observing Bathhouse Row on Central Avenue, I appreciated that each historic bathhouse reflects its individual architectural style. The elaborate Fordyce Bathhouse, which now acts as the visitors center for Hot Springs National Park, is completely wheelchair-friendly. Its grand lobby with a Renaissance-style fountain under a stained-glass skylight conveyed me to another era. Several floors house the museum that displays medical and therapeutic spa equipment, Arkansas’s first gymnasium, cooling and dressing rooms, and the music room. I found the basement displays of the Fordyce Springs, which supply the bathhouse with thermal mineral waters, to be especially fascinating. Most bathhouses are still open in some capacity — one is an art gallery, another a gift shop. Both the Buckstaff and Quapaw Bathhouses still provide spa services and are accessible.

There are 212 islands on the man-made Lake Ouachita.

The iconic and wheelchair-friendly Arlington Hotel towers over downtown. It entertained notable guests such as Franklin Roosevelt, Babe Ruth and Tony Bennett. The Arlington is the largest hotel in Arkansas with over 600 rooms, a spa, swimming pools, shops and the Crystal Ballroom. The décor of its historic bar transported me to the 1920s with its velvet chaise lounges and ornately carved wooden lampstands. Historic rooms at the Arlington range widely in price. The good news is there are five king-bed rooms with roll-in showers available for $105-$115 per night.

Across from the Arlington is the Grand Promenade, a half-mile wheelchair-friendly brick walkway. It runs between Bathhouse Row and the foot of Hot Springs Mountain. I passed folks playing checkers at one of the game tables, an inviting place to spend an afternoon. A natural hot spring fountain is at the south end of the promenade for drinking and filling bottles. Through wisps of steam, I could see the Open Hot Springs flowing behind the Maurice Bathhouse along this lovely historic path.

The curving, forested road to the top of Hot Springs Mountain provides striking views of the National Park, the rolling Ouachita Mountains, and tufa rock formations. Hot Springs Mountain Tower — 216 feet tall — crests the mountain. It includes a gift shop and is completely accessible via elevators.

Flea markets are not often found in national parks, but they are in Hot Springs. I had great fun exploring outdoor vendors and boutiques in the area. Three major markets — Central Station, Higdon Ferry and Merchants Flea Market — are wheelchair-friendly, as are many shops throughout downtown. During the months of May through October, the Hot Springs Farmers and Artisans Market is held on Orange Street. Fresh fruit, produce, crafts, artisan treasures and upcycled finds can be purchased at great prices.

Thirty-six miles northwest of Hot Springs in the community of Mount Ida is the western edge of Lake Ouachita, the largest man-made lake in the state. This 40,000-acre lake is known for its crystal water, abundance of islands (212 of them!) and beautiful hilly surroundings.  Mountain Harbor Resort and Spa resides here, within the Ouachita National Forest. The main lodge accommodations have limited accessibility, but 16 of 17 newer Harbor North cottages all have ramps, widened doorways, roll-in showers and full ADA accessibility. A 1.25-mile ADA trail, the Lovit trail, skirts the edge of the lake and crosses a wetland. The marina rents canoes, kayaks and boats. The docks, although not exactly ADA compliant, are reasonably accessible, and watercraft are held tightly against the dock for easier entry. New accessible docks are planned for 2018. Demonstrating true Southern hospitality, Harbor Master Todd Gadberry told me, “Until then, I’m happy to help however I can.”

The lobby of the Arlington Hotel dates back to 1924.

Tips from a Local:
William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum
by United Spinal Member,
Erin Gildner

The William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum, located in downtown Little Rock, Arkansas, is a scenic hour-long drive from Hot Springs and allows you to get up close and personal with an important time in American history.

The Library and Museum, which is part of the Clinton Presidential Center, is found within a mirrored, bridge-like structure on the banks of the Arkansas River. The Center and the nearby Clinton Presidential Park Bridge sit in the 33-acre Riverfront Park; the wheelchair-friendly Clinton Presidential Park Bridge crosses the Arkansas River and closes the 15-mile scenic loop of the Arkansas River Trail, a pedestrian and bicycle path that winds through Little Rock, over the River to North Little Rock, and back again.

One can spend hours interacting with permanent exhibits that include an exact replica of Clinton’s Oval Office, one of the specially-built limousines he used, and a time-line of exhibits from each year of his presidency. The Museum hosts three to four temporary exhibits that bring American art, culture and history to life. Be sure to explore the beautifully manicured grounds surrounding the center, which nurture one of only 11 saplings from Anne Frank’s family tree that were planted in America.

The campus has convenient accessible parking, and the paths and walkways in and around the building are easy to navigate in a wheelchair or with a mobility device. For details:

The William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum is located in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

The Marvel of Mount Rushmore

by Tim Gilmer

Tim Gilmer and his grandson Cooper were awed by Mount Rushmore.

Tim Gilmer and his grandson Cooper were awed by Mount Rushmore.

Driving from Denver to Mount Rushmore for an early summer vacation, I asked my then-6-year-old grandson Cooper, who had just learned about a handful of American presidents, which one had the largest nose. He answered with the only name he remembered, “George Washington.”

“Right. How long was his nose?”

He measured his nose with a little finger and held it up for inspection.

“Wrong,” I said. “Washington’s nose was 20 feet long, and you’ll see for yourself in a few hours.”

While the Grand Canyon is among the natural wonders of the world, Mount Rushmore stands out as one of our greatest man-made creations. To say it was carved out of stone only hints at the enormity of the process that culminated in four enormous presidential busts — of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt.

The “carving” took place over 14 years and involved the labor of over 400 men who managed the dynamiting and removal of more than 450,000 tons of rock. When the money ran out and the dust settled in 1941, each face stood as tall as a six-story building atop a mountain of stone in a remote corner of South Dakota. Mount Rushmore is not only well worth going out of your way to see, it is even more fascinating to learn the details of the story of how it was created. More than 3 million people visit annually, many of them international travelers.

The viewing area is large and spacious, totally wheelchair accessible, and the King Kong-sized presidential faces dominate not only the memorial itself, but a good portion of the roads and byways that lead to and from the memorial.

The story of the massive artistic engineering process is told in huge mural-sized historic black-and-white photos inside the Lincoln Borglum Visitors Center, a must-see attraction adjoining the viewing area and amphitheater. Also on the grounds is a bookstore, the Sculptors Studio, and the Lakota, Nakota, and Dakota Heritage Village.

The area surrounding the memorial is worth at least another day of exploration. Scenic drives and byways immerse you in the beauty of unusual rock formations and the pristine Black Hills. US 16A, also known as Iron Mountain Road, is a fabulous slow-motion rollercoaster ride (in your car) through one-lane stretches of divided highway that surprise you with unexpected views of Mount Rushmore from different angles, including one through a solid rock tunnel. Round a corner and suddenly, to the west, you’ll see the distant Wyoming plains.

Iron Mountain Road is part of the Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway, renowned as one of the best scenic drives in the nation. It connects with Custer State Park via state highways 87 and 89, where deer and buffalo can often be seen at the side of the road. The town nearest Mount Rushmore is Keystone, a small village with numerous gift shops and touristy stores and cafes that bustle in the summer and lie quiet in winter.

For accommodations, TripAdvisor has a good list of possible places to stay, but wheelchair users will find their best bet is the K Bar S Lodge, where many rooms afford a view of distant Mount Rushmore from a private balcony. Wheelchair accessible rooms with roll-in showers range from $150-$200 during the busy season, and it is best to book early, months in advance. An octagonal breakfast building with walls of windows provides a view of the nearby forest, and the food is very good.

It’s possible to fly in to Rapid City, about 30-45 minutes from Mount Rushmore National Park, for a spendy $450-$500 per person (from the West Coast), but many visitors prefer to fly instead to Denver for half as much, then rent a car and make the seven-hour drive to Mount Rushmore, and continue west to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park. It’s a ton of driving, but fully appreciating the grandeur of these wonders is not to be missed.

As we drove out of the Black Hills and settled into the vast Wyoming plain with its long-distance views and not a soul in sight, a faraway freight train silently plodded along, seemingly forever, beneath cumulous clouds. Cooper, remembering a line from a book I had read to him a week earlier, remarked, “The train and the clouds are having a race to see which can go slower.”

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks: Ancient Giants, Raw Beauty

by Ashley Lyn Olson

Cautiously taking her time, Ashley Lyn Olson was able to scale the flat rock at the top of Beetle Rock Trail in Sequoia National Park, California.

Cautiously taking her time, Ashley Lyn Olson was able to scale the flat rock at the top of Beetle Rock Trail in Sequoia National Park, California.

As you enter Sequoia National Park on U.S. Highway 198, you are greeted by four giant sequoia redwoods, the “Four Guardsmen.” The ancient trees are usually the first stop for visitors, but I cruise right by, knowing this is only the beginning, and there is so much to see.  Together, the two neighboring parks cover almost 1,400 acres in California, with some of the world’s oldest, biggest and most beautiful trees — not to mention lush fields, deep caves and unparalleled scenery.

The Tunnel Rock historical marker lets me know I have officially arrived. When the park was established in 1890, a section of this road was blocked by an enormous rock, so it was chiseled out to allow people to pass. The road has been diverted around the historic rock, but visitors are welcome to get out of their vehicles for a closer look.

Ashley Lyn Olson and Steven Sanchez

Ashley Lyn Olson and Steven Sanchez

Continuing the scenic drive brings me to the Giant Forest, home to the famous General Sherman Tree, the largest in the world at 275 feet tall. From the accessible parking space and shuttle stop, the paved trail to the base of the tree is less than 0.2 miles with very little grade change. A side trail goes up to a viewing platform and ends at stairs which lead to the general parking lot.

Another trail that goes off from the General Sherman Tree is the Congress Trail, one of my favorites. It is fully paved but with a number of inclines, so wheelchairs with power assistance do better. The time is worth it as the trail loops around dozens of Giant Sequoias, including the Lincoln Tree, Washington Tree, General Lee Tree, and clusters of trees known as the Senate and the House; of course the President Tree is also nearby.

Across from the Giant Forest Museum and Sentinel Tree, many wheelchair-using visitors will enjoy hiking the Big Trees Trail around Round Meadow. This trail was modified to be level and firm, and during the spring and early fall, the foliage is particularly scenic. The Beetle Rock Trail, just south of the museum, leads out to a huge, mostly flat rock that resembles a beetle’s back. I found I was able to climb this rock to some degree, with caution, in both a manual and power wheelchair. The thrill of the climb was exhilarating enough, and the epic view at sunset made it all that more worth it. The trail itself is a paved half-circle with a couple of inclines.

King’s Canyon plummets 8,200 feet, so sitting that close to the edge is brave.

King’s Canyon plummets 8,200 feet, so sitting that close to the edge is brave.

Moro Rock/Crescent Meadow Road splits off just behind Giant Museum. You enter into a waterfall of ferns, as if the Giant Sequoias were not breathtaking enough, and drive alongside Moro Rock by the Roosevelt Tree. Keep driving right through a tree at Tunnel Log on the way to Crescent Meadow and Tharp’s Log Cabin, but be mindful of other vehicles.

As you continue northward on Highway 198 into Kings Canyon National Park, it becomes apparent why the famous road is known as Generals Highway. About an hour north of General Sherman Tree, you can’t miss Grant Grove, home to the 268-foot tall General Grant Tree, the second largest in the world behind the General Sherman. This giant tree was also named after a famed Civil War general, Ulysses S. Grant, who went on to be the 18th president of the United States. Grant Grove is also home to Panoramic Point, a spectacular viewpoint overlooking the Sierras at the end of a short path. Two additional overlooks lie just a few miles from the Kings Canyon Visitor Center and Grant Grove Village.

Beyond Grant Grove, the forest begins to diminish in the High Sierras due to natural elements and the aftermath of recent wildfires. Despite the scorched earth, the land remains fertile and alive with life. Streams run down the rocks, at times merging into falls, circulating rich minerals into the Kings River. Tree saplings spring out of rock cracks pried open by ancient roots.

Only a couple of designated overlooks exist along Kings Canyon, though there are a number of places to pull over. One section overlooks the deepest canyon in all of North America (8,200 feet deep). I had to pull over several times to get close to the edge to take pictures. The raw beauty was astounding. As the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway makes its way to the valley’s belly, layers of the crumbling rock are replaced by a lush landscape, and the Kings River becomes more vivid than ever. Cedar Grove Visitor Center and Village are near the road’s end.

Grizzly Bear Falls, a short trail, and Roaring River Falls Trail, a little longer, both lead to falling water. At autumn’s end, it was surprising to see the falls fully raging. My favorite trail in Cedar Valley is where the Zumwalt Trail and the River Trail connect. Zumwalt Trail links to the short Muir Rock Trail, or a more direct trailhead for Muir Rock is an option with adjacent parking. The River Trail is barrier-free and wide, but many underlying rocks and roots create bumps. The rushing river will make you stop in awe of its majesty and the mighty power of water.

If you don’t mind a little driving, there are a number of hotels and motels with varying levels of accessible options within 30 miles of the parks. Or, if you want to sleep under the giant trees, you can reserve one of the park’s many accessible camping spots or book an accessible room at one of two lodges in the parks.

Wuksachi Lodge, located in the Giant Forest area of Sequoia National Park, is the only option with roll-in showers. The Lodge has two suites with roll-ins and five or six rooms with the same. Rates range from about $185 to $350 per night, depending on the season. If you can make do with a transfer bench, John Muir Lodge, located in the Grant Grove area of Kings Canyon, has three accessible rooms with transfer benches and is more affordable — $115 to $155. There are also cabins in the park, but none are fully accessible.

For least expensive rates, go after Labor Day and before Memorial Day. A ranger recommended coming between January and early March, but said to reserve early regardless, as accessible rooms do go quickly.

Rolling by on Congress Trail, past the President Tree.

Rolling by on Congress Trail, past the President Tree.

Tips from a Local:
San Luis Obispo
by United Spinal Member,
Brook McCall

About two hours west of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, ample charm and a fresh maritime breeze await you in idyllic San Luis Obispo, California. This sophisticated little town serves as the gateway to the bountiful natural beauty of California’s central coast. With abundant sunshine and predictably comfortable weather, it is easy to embrace the area’s open-air lifestyle.

Agricultural roots and a refined palate make eating well in San Luis Obispo a given. On Thursday evenings, a world-renowned farmers market closes the streets of downtown. Locally grown produce, handmade goods, live music, and Santa Maria style barbecue bring out the community and visitors alike. A few blocks away, historic Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa has stood since 1772. With free Friday concerts, the adjacent Mission Plaza rocks out from June to September and plays host to frequent food, craft and beer festivals.

Just outside of town, the vine covered rolling hills of the Edna Valley welcome you to taste wines that have earned the area recognition. Many of the spacious tasting rooms offer fully accessible lowered bar heights, private tables, or picturesque patio seating options.

A 15-minute drive south to the coast reveals white sandy beaches and rolling sand dunes — while the northern coast, in contrast, is home to a ruggedly magnificent rocky shoreline. In either direction, numerous paved or wooden plank wheelchair accessible paths, boardwalks and embarcaderos allow for access to spectacular ocean views.

Santa Cruz: Sparkling Gem on the Pacific Coast

by Ashley Lyn Olson

Santa Cruz Boardwalk

Santa Cruz Boardwalk

At the northern tip of Highway 1, an hour and a half south of San Francisco, lies the world-famous beach town of Santa Cruz, known for its unique charm. Santa Cruz was established in 1769 when Father Fermin de Lasuen built Mission Santa Cruz, the 12th mission in California. Today you can visit the fully preserved Mission, now a historical landmark, at the edge of downtown.

While downtown, check out the diverse selection of shops. Marini’s, a candy shop founded in the early 1900s, specializes in chocolates. I recommend trying the many hot chocolate recipes. Streetlight Records is also downtown and is the place for selling and buying old and used music, including LPs and 45s. Just around the corner is the quirky, modern barrier-free Felix Kulpa Gallery, open Thursday through Sunday.

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is an oceanside amusement park built in 1907 and the city’s most famous attraction. Every Friday night a free music concert is set up on the beach close to the Boardwalk. Countless carnival games sprawl out along the paved promenade overlooking the beach, with a full indoor arcade building. The classic wooden roller coaster is the centerpiece of the park, but this ride along with all others have not had any access modifications.

Overlooking the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is another historical landmark, the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf. A few shops are located here, but mainly restaurants with picturesque views. At the end of the Wharf is Stagnaro Brothers Restaurant and Fish Market, one of the city’s oldest businesses. A newer establishment is the Vino Prima Wine Bar, located on the second level and accessible by elevator. The main reason visitors flock to the Wharf is to see the many noisy sea lions that call this place home. The best spot to see them is a viewing hole at the end of the wharf.

Next to the Beach Boardwalk is a beach mat that extends a few hundred feet onto the beach. Another is a little further down, between the Wharf and Dream Inn Hotel, and one more is located at the Santa Cruz Harbor, where a beach wheelchair is commonly kept. If you can’t get a hold of that chair, or simply want your own, local nonprofit Shared Adventures rents a beach chair for $40/day (see Resources). At the harbor there is also a fully operational lighthouse and a couple of good places to eat. The Crow’s Nest has tasty food and is one of my favorites — it overlooks the harbor at the ocean’s edge. Check out the rooftop patio, accessible by a wheelchair lift, and stop in on Thursdays for a $25 prix fixe menu.

Santa Cruz is world-famous for surfing. One place to watch surfers in action that few know about is Pleasure Point, off East Cliff Drive, but most visitors go to the West Cliff Drive near the Surfing Museum. The nonprofit museum relies on donations to keep doors open to its 100 years of surfing history. West Cliff Drive is also a scenic 3-mile stroll along Lighthouse Field State Beach, with views of the Santa Cruz Wharf and Boardwalk.

Natural Bridges State Park, at the end of West Cliff Drive, provides overlooks and trails to unique ocean landscapes. The Arboretum at the University of California, Santa Cruz has lots of native plant life. The Neary Lagoon has a floating boardwalk on a peaceful, freshwater 14-acre marsh with various ducks, coots and other foul flock. At the Beach Boardwalk, get on the Santa Cruz Beach Train and take an open-air ride through the Santa Cruz Mountains under coastal redwoods to Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park and explore some of the paved trails there. Tickets are $31 for adults and $22 for kids 2-12; kids under 2 ride free.

This beach mat is hundreds of feet long.

This beach mat is hundreds of feet long.

Tips from a Local:
Santa Cruz
by United Spinal Member,
Cindy Ranii

Some call Santa Cruz “Berkeley by the Bay” — street performers, vendors and all manner of diverse folks are a part of the sidewalk
scene. Pacific Avenue, in Santa Cruz’s downtown, has wheelchair friendly curbcuts on every corner. Cafes and boutiques provide great opportunities for browsing or buying. Book Shop Santa Cruz, a premier independent bookshop, is a great way to spend an hour or two.

For a modest-sized town, Santa Cruz has a wealth of movie houses: Cinema Nine is known for big screen features, and the DelMar, Nickelodeon and River Front Twin feature indies and foreign films. All cinemas are downtown within three blocks of each other. Santa Cruz also has an extremely active music scene. Grab a free copy of Goodtime newspaper for a listing of all the local venues and performers.

I recommend staying at the Pacific Blue Inn, a bed-and-breakfast hotel (also on Pacific Ave.) near the beach, owned and operated by wheelchair users Deb and Joe Quigg. It features nine en suite rooms, each fully accessible. Rates vary from $189 to $289 per night. Driving north toward the Bay Area on scenic Highway 1, stop for lunch in Davenport at Roadhouse Restaurant and Inn and enjoy the relaxed ambiance of the Central Coast.


Washington, D.C.
Washington Metropolitan Area Transit, 202/637-7000;
National Mall, 202/426-6841;
Newseum, 202/292-6100;
Smithsonian, 202/633-1000;

Arlington Hotel, 800/643-1502;
Hot Springs National Park, 501/620-6715;
Mountain Harbor Resort and Spa, 800/832-2276;

Sequoia and Kings Canyon
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, 559/565-3341;
Lodging, 866/807-3598;

Santa Cruz
Dream Inn, 831/200-4466;
Pacific Blue Inn, 831/600-8880;
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, 831/423-5590;
Shared Adventures, 831/459-7210;
Santa Cruz Beach Train, 831/335-4484;

Mount Rushmore
Mount Rushmore National Park, 605/574-2523;
K Bar S Lodge, 605/666-4545;