Certified Sensory Inclusive Facility

Partnered with Non-profit Kulturecity

This new initiative will promote an accommodating and positive experience for all guests who visit the Zoo. KultureCity, who works with many zoos and aquariums around the country, is a global organization recognized for using their resources to revolutionize and effect change in the community for those with sensory needs.

Our objective is to provide an inclusive and seamless experience for all guests for all events including those with sensory needs. We strive to raise awareness of the needs and challenges faced by individuals with sensory processing disorders by supplying our Team Members with continuous training and by offering the resources and accommodations below to our guests.

Sensory Bags

Sensory backpacks and weighted lap pads are available for rent in the Gift Shop located inside the Zoo, to the left upon entering through the Ticket Booth.

Bags include: noise-reducing headphones, wacky track fidget, Monkey tube fidget, Marble fidget, visual cue card and KultureCity VIP lanyard.

Bags are available to rent for a Zoo daily visit at no additional cost by leaving a photo ID at the Gift Shop. Bags must be returned at the end of each visit and are sanitized before the next use.

Weighted Lap Pads

Weighted lap pads are also available upon request (at no cost by leaving an ID) for our Zoo Train experience, which is located at the podium at the Zoo Train. Lap pads must be returned at the end of each use and are sanitized for the next guest.


Download the KultureCity All-Inclusive App to get your social story to help you further with your visit to the Virginia Zoo:

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1: I’m going to Virginia Zoo today!

Today I am going to the Virginia Zoo in Norfolk, Virginia.

2: When I arrive

I will need to purchase tickets from Guest Services before entering. I must remember to wait in line for my turn and stay with my group/family. It may be busy but that’s okay, this is a sensory inclusive location.

sensory inclusion bag

3: Where to get a sensory bag

After I get my tickets, I can ask to borrow a sensory bag in the Membership Office.

sensory inclusion flat lay kit

4: What’s in a sensory bag?

There are items in the sensory bag that will help me feel calm while I enjoy my time at the zoo. I can use the headphones in areas I find it is too loud. I can use the fidget tools in my sensory bag to help me stay focused. These items and others in the sensory bag can make me feel more comfortable during my visit.

5: Map

I can visit this map to help me decide where I would like to go first so I can see all the animals.

6: Staff

Some of the staff interact directly with the animals. I can ask them questions about the Zoo or the animals. I will wait my turn to ask my question.

7: Headphone Zones

Some areas of the Zoo might get a little loud. Headphone Zone Signs let me know I might want to wear my headphones.

8: Quiet Areas

If I start to feel overwhelmed I can look for one of the Quiet Areas. Here I can take a break and relax away from all the excitement. When I feel ready, I can rejoin the fun!

9: Animal Exhibits

The zoo has many rare and interesting animals. I will have lots to look at and explore. It is important that I follow instructions when at the Zoo to keep the animals and myself safe!

10: Touch Animals

I might have the opportunity to touch a goat. I will always ask a staff member before touching the goats.

11: Restaurants

If I get hungry, I can visit any of the restaurants located inside of the Zoo.

12: Restrooms

If I need a restroom break during my visit at the zoo, there are many options available. I can check one of the zoo maps or ask a friendly staff member where the closest one is.

13: I had a great day!

Knowing what to expect will help me have a great day at Virginia Zoo! I can’t wait to visit again.


What is the sensory inclusion initiative?

The sensory inclusion initiative is designed to help arenas, zoos, aquariums, museums, restaurants and other places of public attraction better entertain their guests that might have sensory needs/sensory processing issues.

What is a sensory need/sensory processing issues?

A sensory need/sensory processing issues is one where the guest affected by this finds noises, smells, lights and even crowds not only overwhelming from the sensory perspective but also sometimes physically painful. Because of this, these guests often find themselves isolated from the community.

What is the difference between sensory inclusion and sensory friendly?

Sensory friendly is one where the location has had all the potentially noxious stimuli removed. Because this is sometimes a difficult task, accessibility is therefore limited to the day and location of the sensory friendly event. Sensory inclusion liberates that. It creates daily accessibility with training, tools and other modifications that although do not remove the noxious stimuli. help the guest cope with this potential sensory over stimulation better thus ensuring an accepting and inclusive experience for all.

What are some groups that are affected by sensory need/sensory processing issues?

These could be guests with PTSD, autism, early onset dementia, anxiety, stroke patients just to name a few.

How does partnering with KultureCity help?

KultureCity helps by providing the necessary training to better entertain guests with these needs. They also provide signage, weighted lap pads, sensory bags that contain noise cancelling headphones, fidgets tools and much more in order to truly create a welcoming experience for these guests.

What is the end result of the initiative?

It helps all guests feel welcome and included in our locations. It also helps us reach a huge portion of our community that has long been isolated.