Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Hampton Inn & Suites Nashville @ Opryland


Date of Visit: July 15-16, 2017

As we only decided at the last minute to swing through Nashville to see a show at the Opry, our choices for lodging were limited. Hilton is usually the last place I look for a hotel even though Mom has plenty of points to use for free nights because I hate their website (and if I plan to pay for a room it seems more worthwhile to earn at Hyatt or Best Western). In the end, though, this worked out great as we used points to stay free and even managed to book AND get an accessible room.


The room was very spacious. The bathroom was also a good size. There was also a seat for the tub in the closet.


Destination Info:
Hampton Inn & Suites Nashville @ Opryland
230 Rudy Circle
Nashville, TN 37214

Monday, July 17, 2017

Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site


Date of Visit: July 15, 2017

We started our visit to the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic with the movie in the Visitor Center. The theater is set up with areas in the back row as well as in the middle of the front row for wheelchairs. Upfront seemed too close, so we sat in back, although that then kind of seems too far as the size of the screen is somewhat small for the size of the room. It was still a very worthwhile movie to see, though.


After the movie, we headed up to the Birth Home, which was being done as an open house from 10am to 11:45am during our visit. When we got near the house we saw a sign pointing to an accessible entrance by the house next door. It turned out that was the access to the gift shop, which has a ramp up into it on the backside.


From the gift shop, they directed us over to the house from the backyard as that’s where the accessible entrance is to the house. They made it clear it was somewhat difficult that way, so it wasn’t unexpected that we had to go through the grass and there was a step up onto the paver sidewalk into the Birth Home backyard.


Once we were in the backyard, it isn’t clear what to do because the tour starts in front. Thus, we went down the path to the front, which is an easy access path and really the way to access the Birth Home. Once in front, there was a line down the sidewalk waiting for their turns. It was impossible to get to the back of the line and half the line ends up going up steps before you even get to the park rangers. Mom cut through the line to get up to the porch and ask the park rangers what to do. They didn’t exactly seem to have a protocol other than obviously the wheelchair enters through the back. Mom just suggested she’d wait in line and then they could let us in from the back when she got to the front.


Overall this concept worked except the park ranger let us in from the back and we just assumed they were letting us in because Mom was on the next tour. She was supposed to be, but the ranger letting the group in said they only had room for one more person and Mom thought she couldn’t join because she was saving space for us to join. No big deal as she just ended up one tour behind us and it’s not a long tour, but it kind of added to the house tour not really being all that worthwhile.


The Birth Home tour wasn’t bad, but they sure pack you in and it really felt rushed through without much information given. Also, it was only the first floor because the second floor was closed, which to some extent we knew could be the case because the lift to it might be out. However, it was unexpected that the second floor was off limits to all tours due to structural problems and there isn’t a notice about that on the website.



On the way back to the car from the Birth Home, we walked through the King Center outdoor area with the reflecting pool, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s tomb, and an eternal flame. There are stairs to access the area from the street, but there is also a ramp on both ends and one end actually had the stairs closed off and only the ramp access was open.


Destination Info:
450 Auburn Ave NE
Atlanta, GA 30312

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Embassy Suites Atlanta - Galleria


Date of Visit: July 14-15, 2017

When I booked the Embassy Suites Atlanta - Galleria using Mom’s points, I really thought I had selected a mobility accessible room, but the reservation email didn’t mention it. When checking in we asked if it was an accessible room and it wasn’t, but they checked what they had available. They didn’t have a roll-in shower (of which we learned they only have 1), but had other ones, which was fine with us except when we got up to the room we discovered it just meant it was only with the hearing accessibility features.



While it is slightly inconvenient to not have the larger bathroom, the rest of the suite was plenty spacious that we didn’t bother to try to change it, especially since we were just staying the night. Also, the bathroom was pretty typical hotel size and not small like when you end up at places with the sinks outside the bathroom such as most Best Western and Hyatt Place non-accessible rooms we’ve experienced.



Mik really enjoyed the living room area as even when the sofa bed was out there was still plenty of floor space. Not that he had any need to use it this trip, but he also liked he could reach and use the microwave, which was about the only thing that made it seem like potentially an actual mobility accessible room.



Overall this hotel was a good pick for this trip as it was very convenient to go to the ball game at SunTrust Park. We drove to the ballpark, but they do offer a shuttle as well. I would just be more particular next time about making sure I’m getting a room with accessible bathroom.

Destination Info:
Embassy Suites Atlanta - Galleria
2815 Akers Mill Road SE
Atlanta, Georgia, 30339

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Best Western Travelers Rest/Greenville

Date of Visit: July 13-14, 2017

As we were booking on the road, we were not surprised to not be able to find an accessible room. In fact, we had a hard enough time booking anything without getting closer to Atlanta than we really wanted for the day, especially considering Mik ended up wanting to go to the Zentrum and we backtracked to it in the morning before continuing on to Atlanta.


We ended up with a room with 2 double beds. Overall it wasn’t bad, but the beds were extremely high and the double size seems even smaller so high up. Also, the bathroom was quite small, but not too different than we get stuck with the non-accessible rooms at Hyatt Places. The only real problem with the room was that the shower was confusing/broken. It was hard to figure out how to get hot water and then when you did it got stuck too hot.


The breakfast area was also problematic. There is not really enough room to roll into it much less through it. Partly it was due to all the tables being occupied, but even if it was empty with all the chairs pushed in it seems like it would of been hard. Another problem is half the seating is a high table. Luckily, one group noticed those were the only available seats when we were trying to find a place to sit and offered to move so we could sit at a regular table. The food was as expected, though, and Mik enjoyed having a waffle.

Destination Info:

Best Western Travelers Rest/Greenville
110 Hawkins Road
Travelers Rest, SC 29690

Friday, July 14, 2017

The Zentrum BMW Visitors Center


Date of Visit: July 14, 2017

As we were almost to where we had decided to stop for the night on the way to Atlanta, I pointed out the BMW Visitor Center sign as we went past the exit. Mik actually expressed interest in visiting and at first we were going to do it on the way home, but it is only open on weekdays. Thus, we decided we could backtrack to it and move visiting the Martin Luther King, Jr. NHS to Saturday.


There isn’t a whole lot to see at the BMW Zentrum, but we still found it a worthwhile detour, especially since it is free. Mik really enjoyed seeing the old BMWs, but he also liked checking out the current models.


Destination Info:
BMW Zentrum
1400 SC-101
Greer, SC 29651

Guilford Courthouse National Military Park

Date of Visit: July 13, 2017

We spent most of our visit to the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park in the Visitor Center. Mom saw the movie, but Mik again wasn’t interested. Instead, we enjoyed the exhibit area.


We found the exhibit to be a good size in that it has a lot of information about the site and events along with artifacts while still being not that large of an exhibit overall.


One of the most interesting parts of the exhibit was the wall of windows that look outside to where they have put up some silhouette soldiers kind of as if the battle was going on.


We also walked some of the trails near the visitor center. The trails seem to be mostly paved paths and we certainly would’ve done a lot more of it including the other stops on the driving tour if it hadn’t been so hot and humid.


Monument Row behind the visitor center was the main part of the trail we checked out.


Mik also liked when we went into the woods behind the parking lot while waiting for Mom to finish checking out at the store. The trail didn’t have anything specific to see as far as we went (first sign, which really wasn’t far at all), but we liked that it did have information signs to read like when we did the Henry Hill Loop Trail at Manassas.

Destination Info:
Guilford Courthouse National Military Park
2332 New Garden Road
Greensboro, NC 27410

Booker T. Washington National Monument


Date of Visit: July 13, 2017

When we were taking pictures outside the visitor center, they were starting the movie. Mik wasn’t really interested, but Mom and Dad went in and saw it. We saw the end of it when we went in and found it was being done in the bookstore instead of their normal theater because that area was under construction.


After the movie, we did part of the trail down to the plantation. The trail down to the reconstructed slave cabin is paved without much of a grade.


The cabin is not accessible to go into, but you can see most of from the doorway.


The smokehouse is nearby and the grass isn’t hard to go through to go look into it (visitors aren’t allowed inside). Past here you can go down to the tobacco barn, but it was hot and humid and Mik wasn’t interested in a grassy/wooded area trail excursion.


We did, however, go down the part of the trail that is paved for the horse barn and chicken and duck lot area. This part of the trail does have quite a steep hill and really there isn’t much to see except Mik did enjoy seeing the turkey in the chicken and duck lot.


Overall our visit to Booker T. Washington National Monument was somewhat of a disappointment. Partly it’s just hard to really enjoy outdoor sites with the humidity. It was also hard to enjoy the trail when there were no signs even just labeling what building we were looking at. The main thing, though, was that the visitor center was under construction and the exhibit area wasn’t available.

Destination Info:
Booker T. Washington National Monument
12130 Booker T Washington Hwy
Hardy, VA 24101

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Manassas National Battlefield Park: Stone Bridge Trail


Date of Visit: June 18, 2017

The Stone Bridge Trail is one of the accessible trails (or at least partly accessible) at Manassas National Battlefield Park. It is also one of the stops on the driving tour, so it has a parking lot next to it.


The Stone Bridge Trail is a rather short trail that is mostly a paved path that goes up to the Stone Bridge. The trail is only considered accessible up to the bridge.


Right before the bridge there is a bump to go over and the bridge is not technically accessible due to the slope, but it's not that difficult to go across the bridge. The trails on the other side of the bridge are where it really is no longer accessible partly due to it being a stepped trail down. While not much of a trail, Mik still found it interesting to be able to check out the bridge.

Destination Info:
Manassas National Battlefield Park
Manassas, VA

Manassas National Battlefield Park: Henry Hill Loop Trail

Date of Visit: June 18, 2017

The park actually does have some wheelchair accessible trails, but we ended up not getting around to checking them out except Stone Bridge Trail because we wore Mik out doing the Henry Hill Loop Trail. I am glad we ventured out on this trail first, though, as it was an interesting overview of the battle and while not technically accessible it was quite doable (amazing what a difference the new wheelchair makes as it would've been hard to impossible with his last chair except maybe with the freewheel).


The Henry Hill Loop Trail focuses on the history of the Battle of First Manassas (Bull Run), which mostly took place around the hill. The trail is mostly through low grass, although some parts are more dirt and gravel and there are definitely uneven pothole parts.


The first main stop on the trail is the Henry House, which was destroyed during the battle and rebuilt after the war. There is an exhibit with a movie and history on the house inside, but it is a huge step to get inside that has a big rock as a step making it not really doable to get inside with Mik. If it has just been regular two or three steps, we might've taken Mik inside because once inside it seems you can easily roll through and he would've found it interesting.


Even not being able to go inside the house this part of the trail has several things to see as there is a family cemetery where the only civilian casualty of the battle is buried and an 1865 monument.


Most of the bad parts are past the Henry House as you loop over to the Southern line cannons. You could probably easily skip the worst parts of the loop, which included a steep hill down and right back up, and still get a feel for the whole trail if you went to the Henry House, back to the Visitor Center, and then over to the Jackson statue and Southern line instead of following the whole loop trail.


Following the loop we went past some of the Southern line marked with cannons and over to the Jackson statue that commemorates where he got the Stonewall nickname.


Destination Info:
Manassas National Battlefield Park
Manassas, VA

Manassas National Battlefield Park: Henry Hill Visitor Center


Date of Visit: June 18, 2017

For Father's Day, I wanted to do an outing with Dad and we were originally going to go without Mik to Shenandoah National Park since I've been wanting to do Ranger Dan photos there. When I was looking at the map to see if there were any other National Park units nearby to also do I was reminded that Manassas National Battlefield was close to us. It was also somewhere Mik was interested in visiting as long as it was accessible, which we found after a quick look at the Manassas National Battlefield Park website led us to their accessibility page that has good details on what areas of the park have wheelchair accessible parts.

As usual for a National Park, we started our visit at the Visitor Center. We were impressed with the parking layout here as it laid out so that the middle walkway up to the visitor center has handicap parking on both sides in every row. Thus, you have the opportunity to avoid taking a spot close to the building when all you need is the extra room for loading/unloading.

The visitor center is accessible via a ramp to the side of the entrance and the double doors have a button to open them automatically.


There is also a ramp from the back entrance to go out to the Henry Hill Loop Trail or just view the area from the patio if you don't want to trek out on the grassy trail. There is also a ramp on the back side accessed from around the front that leads down to the basement level where the bathrooms are located.

The visitor center has a small museum, a gift shop, and a theater. We didn't end up seeing the movie because it is shown on the hour and both before and after doing the Henry Hill Loop Trail we would've had to wait 20 to 30 minutes for it to start (and Mik wasn't sure about watching a 45 minute movie).

Destination Info:
Manassas National Battlefield Park
Manassas, VA

Sunday, May 28, 2017

AMC Shirlington - Reserved Seat Recliner Theater


Date of Visit: May 28, 2017

In looking at showtimes to go see the new Pirates movie I found that a lot of the showings were reserved seat, which is kind of annoying to me, but now I get that these are recliner theaters that they seem to have put into a lot of the AMCs in our area. We just got tickets at the theater, but it is nice that you can do it online easily for accessible and companion if you want, which I suppose is actually a good thing because there have been one or two times that we've gone to the movies and there were no wheelchair spots left.


The only real problem with the recliner theater is that they do not end up having cupholders for the wheelchair seat. In the regular theater this has never been a problem because the seats always have them on both sides so there's enough for the person in the seat and the wheelchair next to it. The recliners only have them on the aisles and the middle armrest doesn't have one. I guess it doesn't because that armrest can be put up, but I don't see why they couldn't have made them with a cupholder like middle seat armrests in cars.


Overall we all really enjoyed the recliner theater. Mik definitely wants to do it again, but now that we know what the theater looks like we would probably actually take the seats on the sides in the back row that are not marked as accessible, but we could easily roll next to and transfer Mik to a recliner. That way he not only gets the whole experience, but more importantly a cupholder.

Destination Info:
AMC Shirlington 7
2772 S Randolph St
Arlington, VA 22206

Monday, May 22, 2017

Hyatt House Herndon/Reston


Date of Visit: May 20-21, 2017

Location wise this ended up being farther out from D.C. than I thought, but it didn't really matter in that we were just trying to stay somewhere sort of close for a reasonable rate while Dad had a party on our boat. It ended up being a good option in that it was cheaper than most of the Hyatt Place locations that I could've chosen and you get a kitchenette at the Hyatt House. However, I more chose the Hyatt House because they supposedly have a hot breakfast included rather than just the Hyatt Place more continental breakfast, but that didn't seem to be true in this case.


We stayed in an accessible studio room. Overall we liked the layout, but it seemed a little tight to move the chair through, which I know partially has to do with Mik now has a wider wheelchair (we just switched out our home ramp to a standard ADA 36-inch, though, and it is not a tight fit at all). The only real problem was that the living room chair made the path too narrow to get to the rest of the room, but that was easily fixed just by moving it closer to the couch a little.


Mik liked the bathroom layout as he found it easy to get on the toilet himself since the wall and bars were to the left of the toilet. I was disappointed in that it was a tub, but I couldn't find our reservation saying I booked a roll-in shower specifically even though I really think I did. Not that we really needed it for one night, but the tub really was useless as even if they have seats you can request the shower head is not removable and I had to stand on the edge of the tub to move it just to be able to even take a shower myself since it was set up at a very awkward angle.


The breakfast was really disappointing to us, especially since we have stayed at the Hyatt House in San Diego several times and they offered a real full breakfast buffet similar to the ones at Hyatt Regency restaurants. This breakfast at the Hyatt House Herndon, though, is basically the same as the typical ones we have had at a Hyatt Place.


The only difference was they had little omelets instead of the breakfast sandwiches, which was better in my opinion because they didn't have any meat in them. They have signs everywhere saying you can create your own omelet, which I thought was like the other Hyatt full buffets were they are made to order right in front of you, but it is actually just a little topping bar of things to put on top of the mini omelets.


We were also disappointed the room didn't have a DVD player, which I specifically remember being in the room amenities/features when I was booking. They do have it setup so you can easily plug in such devices to the TV, so I guess it may just be that feature is badly worded on the website.

Destination Info:
Hyatt House Herndon/Reston
467 Herndon Parkway
Herndon, Virginia 20170

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