An Accessible Guide to Having Fun in Nashville
These accessible museums, parks, events, and activities are guaranteed to be a good time.
Nashville is one of the most fun cities in the country. There’s unlimited music, an endless stream of events, and countless museums. Music City is also good at making sure that fun is available to locals and visitors seeking accessible activities, whether for mobility impairments, sensory sensitivities, or other accommodation needs.
“Overall, I feel like most places are fairly accessible,” said Kasondra Farmer, an Independent Living Specialist for Empower Tennessee who utilizes a wheelchair for daily mobility. “We are pushing to make changes every day. Many of our more historical sites are much more limited, but we’ve seen progress as more and more things come to Nashville.”
The discerning reader will notice a lack of Lower Broadway representation on this list. These buildings, historic as they are and built years before the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 was enacted, are required only to get as close as possible to code due to structural concerns, even over the course of decades and through multiple ownership cohorts.
“There are a lot of situations you see with a tiny bathroom situation tucked in the back of the bar, with narrow aisles and support beams into the walls,” said John Morris, who runs travel website www.wheelchairtravel.org and has spent time touring Nashville. “That’s an example of a modification we can’t reasonably expect a business to make, because it would require major construction to the building. The physical changes required would be an unreasonable expense for the business to bear, and a lot of it comes down to the extent of the renovation that occurs.”
Luckily, Nashville is a much bigger place than Lower Broadway and has plenty of accessible things to do on offer for anyone visiting or just looking to have a good time in Music City.
Accessible museums in Nashville
Adventure Science Center
A must for all ages, Adventure Science Center offers a multitude of accessibility services. Included among these are resources such as sensory maps, a sensory room, and sensory kits for guests. The Center also worked with the Nashville ADA office to make each experience as accessible as possible, with two of the four Adventure Tower levels accessible via ramp.
The Country Music Hall of Fame
Much of what was just said about Adventure Science Center? Go ahead and apply it to the Country Music Hall of Fame, which adds additional resources like Braille descriptions, assistive listening devices, and large print guides of the audio tour for guests visiting one of Nashville’s most iconic destinations. The Hall of Fame worked with Vanderbilt University’s Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders to develop its autism and sensory sensitivity programs as well, which include maps, kits, and an illustrated guide to know what to expect upon your visit.
Tennessee State Museum
Learn about the Volunteer State, from its natural history to its first inhabitants, all the way up to present day—an installation in June 2023 in conjunction with Fisk University highlights Black Communities and Rosenwald Schools in Tennessee. Every fourth Saturday of the month, Storytime in the Children’s Gallery features an ASL interpreter provided by BRIDGES for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and admission is free for all.
Frist Art Museum
A beacon of culture on the northern end of Broadway, the Frist hosts both a permanent collection and rotating galleries throughout the year. On the first Saturday of each month, a certified American Sign Language interpreter is available for the 1:30 pm Docent Tour and the 3:30 pm Architecture Tour, and the museum makes efforts to arrange an ASL interpreter with advance notice of a visit. The Frist was certified as “Accessibility Friendly” by the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp (NCVC) and received Empower Tennessee’s first Access Music City Business Champion Award in 2019.
Lane Motor Museum
Lane houses the largest collection of European vehicles in the United States. This walking museum, with a large showroom floor, is completely wheelchair friendly and visitors can use all manner of mobility devices, and V.I.P. (Visually Impaired Persons) guests can experience the museum through a guided touch tour.
Accessible activities and parks in Nashville
Adaptive climbing gyms
Nashville has a vibrant indoor climbing scene, and Farmer suggested adaptive climbing, with multiple gyms—including Climb Nashville on Charlotte Pike, along with Climb Franklin and two locations of the Crag—offering inclusive and empowering experiences for individuals of all ages and ability types.
Nashville Zoo at Grassmere
The gently rolling hills and wide paths make the zoo an accessible activity for all patrons requiring a wheelchair. The Zooper Packs contain aids for a fun day at the zoo for those with sensory sensitivities, including a sensory-friendly map and a visual schedule.
The Parthenon and Centennial Park
Nashville’s ode to ancient Greece, the Parthenon is nestled in among the beauty of Centennial Park, with plenty of wide trails and green space near Vanderbilt. Now home to an art museum, the Parthenon offers stair-free pathways inside the museum and is a member of the All-Access Inclusion Network (AAIN), led by the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center’s Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders (TRIAD).
Nashville has a plethora of parks and greenways in the area for people to get out of the city, and many of these have paved pathways for use. In addition, Tom Jedlowski of the Tennessee Disability Coalition pointed out that Shelby Bottoms Greenway offers a program called Birdability in conjunction with the Audubon Society to introduce birding to people with disabilities and other health concerns so they can experience the joys of birding. If biking the trails is what you’re after, Farmer added that Lockheed Dam offers the only accessibility-compliant adaptive mountain biking trail in Nashville.
Accessible venues and live music in Nashville
Grand Ole Opry
Since 1925, Saturday nights in Nashville have been synonymous with the Grand Ole Opry, which moved into its current home adjacent to the hotel in 1974. The legendary venue, which hosts events throughout the week year-round, has its flagship program every Saturday night. Like most venues in Nashville, the Opry House is ADA-accessible—although, as Morris pointed out, a lack of wheel-chair accessible taxicabs in the city means planning is needed ahead of time so far out from downtown for those in need of an accessible ride back into town, especially since the Opry ends almost at the same time as the final public bus leaves the area for the evening.
The Ryman Auditorium
The Mother Church. While wheelchair seating is limited during performances, Morris has taken the tour and was delighted at how accessible the experience was, including access to the legendary Ryman stage and all the exhibits.
More live music venues
If you’re coming to Nashville, you’re likely looking for some live music. Many of Nashville’s primary daily use music venues are ADA-friendly, including Ascend Amphitheater, Bridgestone Arena, City Winery, Marathon Music Works, and more.