My First Sensory-Friendly Museum Visit – calm spaces, less noise, and a chance to enjoy the art

This weekend was my first visit to a museum during sensory-friendly times. Here is my experience.

I want to start out by thanking the local organizations that are working to make these events possible.

Here’s the story. This last Sunday was Mother’s Day in America and I wanted to gift my mom with a trip to the Walker Art Museum. They had a Keith Haring Exhibit I thought she would like.

She was free that day and she loved the idea. When I went to get tickets, I noticed the option to attend the Sensory Friendly times of 8:00am to 11:00am.

I have always struggled with crowds. I avoid a lot of things because of it. Concerts, museums, theme parks, the state fair, the renascence festival, I got left home from the Winnipeg Folk Festival when I was a teen because I would have been a royal pain in the butt.

In the past ten years as I have been learning more and more about neurodiversity and in talking with so many clients, I have come to realize that my avoidance of crowds and my total energy drain after them is typical for a person with some sensory sensitivity.

Here it was a chance to explore what it might be like to go to a museum in a different way. To qualify I just needed to email them why I qualified and how many people.

They responded back within 24 hours with a link to get tickets and details about the event. I was amazed at how easy it was, no additional stress to the process.

I just explained that I was sensory sensitive, and my family was coming with me, so I needed three tickets. I did tell my mom this is what I did and asked if we could go early. Luckily, she is a morning person like me, and we were coming the 1.5 hours to her, so she was good with it.



The day of the visit. We got there around 9:30 am, traffic was very nice, and to reduce the stress of parking we used a ride-share app and got dropped off at the front door. The check-in was easy, they scanned our tickets, which I had downloaded the PDF to my phone and opened.

They asked us to wear a mask. They pointed out the map we could take with us and they had stickers we could wear that noted how much interaction we were comfortable with.

Green – I am open to talking to people

Yellow- I am open to talking to people I know

Red – I do not wish to talk to people

I gave everyone a sticker in our little group and off we went to check out the exhibit. It was quiet, there weren’t a lot of people and those people that were there also wanted to have space around them.

In the lobby, they had art projects and sensory items for people to use or sit with. They had tinted glasses for people and ear protection if they needed it.


We strolled around and had the most lovely time. I don’t recall the last time I enjoyed a museum in that manner. There were a good number of people taking in the event, we just didn’t see a lot of them, because it is a big museum.

We spent a couple of hours there and we were just wrapping up at the gift shop when the doors opened, and a flood of people came in rushing in. I was hit with a wave of anxiety as I could identify this is what it typically feels like most of the time I do these things.


I am grateful to the people who have been working hard with companies and organizations to create these types of opportunities. I also want to thank them for their hard work.

One thing I know is, that it takes a lot of hard work and effort to get them to buy into the idea that something like this is important to the community and something that will be used.

I hope more and more people step up and use these services if it’s helpful. When these opportunities are not embraced, they stop and it can happen quickly.


It was agreed upon by my whole group, that we need to explore more of these opportunities and that it made the experience more enjoyable for each of us, kind of funny since I am the only one who openly has a sensory sensitivity. I can handle that.


I won’t lie, it was a little humbling for me and my ego to ask to be part of this activity. Mostly because I worried that others would judge me as not being neurodiverse enough.

I also didn’t want to take the place of other more qualified people. They told me that to date they have not sold out of tickets and had to turn anyone away, so that made me feel better too.

After having this experience, I recommend that more people test out an event like this if they are sensory sensitive. You might find a whole new world opens up for you.


What is a Sensory Friendly Event?
Here is an example almost directly from the Walker Art Center website click here

Sensory Friendly Sunday is a monthly event designed for kids, teens, and adults with sensory processing differences, autism spectrum disorder or developmental disabilities. The galleries will be closed to the general public–

JG note, that they didn’t open until 10:00am to the general public and this starts at 8:00am

–allowing visitors to enjoy the museum in a calm environment with accommodations such as quiet spaces, fidgets, and sunglasses available. Experience the Walker’s exhibitions, grab an art kit to make art at home, or just hang out in a different setting.

Sensory Friendly Sunday was developed in consultation with the Autism Society of Minnesota (AuSM) click here and the University of Minnesota’s Occupational Therapy Program click here.


If you live in Minnesota here is a recent list of options in the Minneapolis area:

To find other opportunities in your area, just do a little internet searching.

Remember you don’t have to have an exact label for your neurodifference, you just need to know that something like this could make a difference for you.

Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need and to take care of yourself.
I would love to hear your sensory-friendly story.



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