The warmer weather, from April-October, attracts the most music performers and visitors. Nashville is a beautiful city lush with greenery from the weaving Cumberland River. Many festivals take place throughout the year, and one of the most popular is Octoberfest.
There is a lot of history to Nashville, musically and from the colonial period. Just driving around you may see a sign for a historical building, cemetery, or other landmarks. Belle Meade Plantation is about a fifteen-minute drive from Downtown Nashville. Driving around the neighborhood surrounding Belle Meade Plantation you can see a few other historical homes and other Nashville mansions.
The Grand Ole Opry + Opry Mills Mall
The Grand Ole Opry is such a legend I thought it should have its own section. The roads are well marked leading you past the Opryland Resort to the actual Opry, Ryman Auditorium, which also boasts the Opry Mills Mall next door. Because of this, there is a very large, you will find 15-20 accessible, paved parking spaces right In front.
There are two accessible paths from the parking lot to the main Opry doors, stairs are located in the middle. The paths are concrete and a little bumpy but very manageable even for wheelers with limited upper arm strength. The walkway does become moderately steep the last 100 meters up to the main entrance. The entrance area has gorgeous trees and other foliage as well as a few giant guitars for a needed “Music City” photo op!
The entry doors were more than wide enough for manual or power chair users. The main concourse is wide and flat. Restrooms are clearly marked with accessible stalls large enough for both power and manual wheelchairs. Accessible seating is located along the back rows of the main floor. The majority of Opry seating is church pews. The back row has space for wheelchairs to pull up as well as more padded seats which are slightly larger than average. The Opry is smaller than I imagined so even seats in the back row still gave a great view of the stage.
The Opry staff could use additional training in interacting with a variety of disabilities. We were not warmly greeted when we entered. Instead, an employee bluntly attempted to give us a ticket without an explanation. After a few questions, I realized he wanted us to check our wheelchairs to enter the auditorium. I explained that we needed our wheelchairs and could not walk at all and would remain seated in them for the show. We faced similar confusion from staff in the auditorium. My husband and I were sitting in our chairs next to one another in the marked seating while my aunt was sitting next to us. The employee kept trying to indicate that we could not both sit in the marked spaces in our wheelchairs.
Since we were right next door to the Opry Mills Mall, I had to visit. It is a very large mall but mainly flat with smooth outdoor and indoor walkways. I checked out two restrooms, both boasted accessible stalls with grab bars large enough for power or manual chair users. The mall has a center stage for entertainment which has a nicely integrated ramp. There is also a restaurant that is inside an aquarium!
One of the biggest attractions in all of Nashville is the Country Music Hall of Fame, right across from the Schermerhorn Symphony Center downtown; the John Cash Museum is also nearby. The closest parking is on 5th Avenue in Downton Nashville where you will find an accessible entrance. The tickets are not cheap, and I recommend getting there early as the line gets very long. A local-inspired restaurant, the Farm House, is on the next street over from the Country Music Hall of Fame.
The ramp to the doorways of the Country Music Hall of Fame is on the side of the building and is a gentle slope. The Country Music Hall of Fame has multiple levels, each packed with memorabilia and multimedia displays, so to see everything takes a while. From elevators to bathroom stalls, access for power and manual wheelchairs is great.
To further your music exploration, signup for the Country Music Hall of Fame’s tour to the historic RCA Recording Studio B. An additional ticket must be purchased for this tour. Studio B is known for hosting some of the most influential country music performers; it put Nashville on the map as an industry leader. To take this tour, an accessible bus shuttles people from the Country Music Hall of Fame to the RCA Studio B. Though this tour is accessible, it requires advanced notice; the more the better.
In the middle of Downtown Nashville is a bunch of bars, restaurants, music venues, and shops. The heart of this area is known as Broadway Street. I recommend visiting this district earlier in the day or on a weekday, otherwise getting through the crowds is challenging. This is a very popular tourist area. A local recommended 3rd & Lindsey Bar and Grill for great local and international stars, a bluegrass venue called The Station Inn, and Roberts Western World for classic country music.
The Capitol of Tennessee Building sits on a large hill downtown. Right across from it is the Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park and the official Nashville Farmer’s Market is also nearby. Walkways around the 15+ acre park are paved and very flat. Many memorials and picturesque fountains are on displayed. Right next to this park is the First Tennessee Park which has a venue for minor league baseball games and another for concerts with a giant guitar stage.
The Riverfront Park is a narrow and flat walkway along the Cumberland River downtown across from the Tennessee Titans football stadium. The Tennessee State University is also located downtown.
Music Row is an area Downtown where a lot of music industry people work. Everything from recording studios to licensing to radio—all the music business and magic happens here.
Marathon Village and the Nelson’s Green Briar Distillery is the holy grail of locally owned business in historic spaces but was very accessible! Scattered between drink staples are local shops which include home décor, jewelry, clothes, and antiques. Some shops are a little tight for wheelchair users but all of the shopkeepers were helpful and friendly.
There are two accessible entrances to the Marathon Motor Works building, both have ramps that are not steep. The restroom in this building is open and large with multiple grab bars. This building is a one-stop destination from a coffee shop, to a candy and soda fountain, to a microbrewery with a great patio.
From the Marathon Village area, it is a five-minute roll on a flat, well-maintained sidewalk to the Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery. Even if you are not a whiskey drinker, GO! All of the staff treat you like family and the tour is an amazing glimpse at a great family story. We met one of the brothers who restarted the family business, so nice! The entire distillery is very accessible and the restroom is large with grab bars. We bought quite a few bottles of whiskey to give as gifts with rave reviews.
For fans of the American television show American Pickers, Mike Wolfe’s Antique Archaeology store is close by and has its own entrance (outside) with a short ramp leading up to the store. The store is well spaced to allow for easy movement when the crowd is not huge.
Just north of Downtown Nashville is Germantown, a hip spot with a lot of brick infrastructure. A number of great places to eat, drink, and shop are located here. In particular, multiple Nashville locals suggested the store Emil Erwin for fine leather items.
In Nashville’s West End by the Vanderbilt University is Centennial Park where you can see a few historical sites along with a number of other points of interest, like the replicated Parthenon. A lot of effort has been made to make this park wheelchair accessible. Not too far away, in the West End, is a fantastic place to get an authentic Thai massage to give your body a nice stretch.
The Bellmont/Hillsboro Village district is slightly south of Downtown Nashville. On the southern border of it is a hip little neighborhood known as 12South as well as Sevier Park. Both areas are smaller than the surrounding neighborhoods. Tasty locally crafted beer can be found at the 12South Taproom and Grill.
One place I would not pass up is Olive & Sinclair Chocolate Company. Located in East Nashville at the corner of Fatherland and South 17th Street you can watch beans turn into sinfully, delicious chocolate. Besides the yummy taste test, the shop is a gorgeous reminder of the city’s history. If you are in town on Saturday you can even take a tour! My picks are the coffee bean chocolate bar, the sea salt & vinegar caramels, and the Bourbon Nib Brittle.
Only street parking is available in this mostly residential neighborhood, however, the road was not highly traveled so I felt safe unloading my wheelchair. There is a small parking lot with an accessible space at a café across the street that may be an option. Curb cuts are smooth and on all four corners of this intersection. Olive & Sinclair has no stairs to enter and plenty of space to move around. Be aware there is no public restroom.
While you are in the neighborhood, drive down a few blocks to the 5-Points area for a large number of eclectic art galleries, bars, restaurants, and coffee shops to explore.
Shelby Park by Cumberland River is also located in East Nashville. It has a nature center and some paved ADA trails that are wide and flat for manual and power wheelchairs. The MTA Bus Route 4 goes to this park.