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25 Fun Things To Do in Franklin, TN

Downtown Franklin TN Gray's on Main Sign

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I’ve spent most of my life living just an hour and a half away from Franklin, Tennessee. And yet I never new how much fun this little Southern city could be. It’s got shopping, history, outdoor adventure — pretty much everything you could want for fun getaway! So here’s are some of the best things to do in Franklin, TN!

Thanks to Visit Franklin for sponsoring this post! All opinions are of course my own.

Quick Guide to Franklin, TN

Best Things To Do in Franklin

Where To Stay in Franklin

Where to Eat in Franklin

Where is Franklin, TN?

Franklin, Tennessee is located in middle Tennessee, just over 20 miles south of downtown Nashville.

This means you can get to Franklin easily if you are flying into Nashville International Airport. But I definitely recommend renting a car to explore Franklin if you are flying in. While the (super cute) downtown is totally walkable, there are sights around town you might want to see that it will be best to have a car for (like driving the Natchez Trace.)

Best Things To Do in Franklin, TN

Explore Downtown Franklin

Truly the single best thing to do in Franklin is explore their extremely adorable downtown! It’s walkable and full of boutique shops and fantastic restaurants restaurants. It’s also a pet-friendly downtown, and you’ll notice that many of the stores have signs welcoming in your pets and water bowls outside.

There are lots of shops in downtown Franklin, but some of my favorites are:

  • Rock Paper Scissors — This shop is just full of color and joy and dedicated to stationery and paper products.
  • White’s Mercantile — A fun gift shops owned by Hank William Jr.’s daughter, Holly Williams. They had some of the best stuff in here and it’s a perfect place to buy local souvenirs.
  • Landmark Booksellers — You know we love a bookstore around here! And this one is like a rabbit warren of good books. They sell new, used, and rare books. And the store has a community vibe, as locals come in and take a seat and have a chat.

Civil War History on the Square

March to Freedom Statue in front of Franklin Courhouse
March to Freedom Statue

Another thing you’ll want to see downtown is the Civil War history. Yes, this is a Southern city and yes, they have a confederate monument that hasn’t been taken down. BUT before you leave me here, HOLD ON.

Apparently, because their confederate monument is just a general monument and not a monument to a particular person, taking it down was legally too tricky. So instead, Franklin decided to tell the “fuller story” and around the square you’ll find historical markers telling the story of the Franklin slave markets, race riots, the US Colored Troop division, and more, along with a “March to Freedom” statue.

So take some time to walk around the square and learn about Franklin’s deeper history!

Franklin Hop Tour

Want to get an overview of Franklin in one go? Then the Franklin Hop Tour is probably perfect for you. This hop-on-hop-off trolley tour takes you around Franklin and gives you a live narration as you see 50 points of interest in Franklin.

There are 5 stops around town where you can hop off, explore, and then hop back on the next trolley:

  • Downtown/Franklin Visitor’s Center
  • The Factory at Franklin
  • Carnton
  • The Carter House/Lotz House
  • Village of Leiper’s Fork

The Franklin Hop Tour is available Tuesday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., with the last tour departing the Visitor’s Center at 4:00 p.m. Buy tickets here.

Franklin On Foot

Another great way to get an understanding of the history of Franklin is to take a walking tour. These tours walk you through the story of Franklin and there are a bunch of different options that you may like depending on your interests. Franklin on Foot has a Civil War Tour, a Haunted Franklin Tour, a Food Tour, and more.

Another option is to tour Franklin with Franklin Walking Tours. They have some slightly different options like a Franklin’s Fierce Females Tour and a Franklin Charm Tour.

Trails & Scavenger Hunts

One fun way to get to know Franklin and the surrounding Williamson County is to gamify it with a scavenger hunt or trail.

Whether you want to learn more about the history of Franklin or experience some of culinary specialties of the area, there are some great options. You can download guides to most of these self-guided tours on your phone for free through the Visit Franklin site. Then, if you complete the tour, you can get a small prize at the Franklin Visitor’s Center!

History & Architecture Trails

  • Great American Main Street — This is a self-guided tour that shares the history of Franklin’s Main Street and some architectural highlights of the historic buildings.
  • Historic Homes of Hincheyville — Hincheyville is a historic neighborhood in Franklin just a few blocks from downtown. This tour helps you walk through the neighborhood and learn about the history and architecture of the homes.
  • Midnight Sun Scavenger Hunt — This is a fun one if you are traveling with kids! This scavenger hunt gives you clues for places where you can find statues of a famous Tennessee Walking Horse named Midnight Sun.
  • Haunts & Headstones — Learn about the haunted areas and buildings of Franklin, where it is said some ghosts may roam.
  • Murals of Williamson County — Explore Franklin and Williamson murals with this art trail! Check in at 3 of the murals to claim your prize. (Fun fact: My favorite might be the “This Girl Can” mural by Kim Radford, who also happened to paint one of my favorite murals in Huntsville!)

Food & Drink Trails

  • Masters & Makers — This trail takes you to the best wineries, breweries, and distilleries in Williamson County, including Arrington Vineyards, Leiper’s Fork Distillery, and more. If you check in at 4 of the stops, you can get a special t-shirt at the Franklin Visitor Center.
  • Craft Coffee Trail — Franklin has so many options for specialty coffees! Check in at 5 of these stops to get your prize.
  • Sweet Treat Trails — This is my kind of trail because I am always a dessert first person! Some of my favorites here include Jeni’s Ice Cream, Sweethaven, and Triple Crown Bakery. But there are even more I hope I get to try in the future! Check in at 5 of these stops to claim your pin at the Franklin Visitor Center.

Pedego Electric Bike Guided Tour

Another way to see the city of Franklin is on a bike! You can rent an electric bike on your own from Pedego or explore the city with a guided tour. There are several to choose from:

  • The Fun Franklin History Tour — This tour takes you through Franklin’s historic district.
  • Historic Homes Tour — Focus on the historic residential neighborhoods of Franklin with this tour.
  • Leiper’s Fork — Take backroads to the small village of Leiper’s Fork.
  • Natchez Trace — Take this tour to ride your bike on the Natchez Trace, including over the Natchez Trace Parkway Bridge.

You don’t have to be a super experienced cyclist to enjoy these tours, but you do need to be comfortable on a bike and riding a bike with other traffic on the road.

The Factory at Franklin

The Skylight

The Factory at Franklin is a repurposed stove factory that has since become a dining and entertainment venue. This is a perfect place for some shopping if you, like me, are in Franklin on a hot day! There are cute boutique shops plus some unique spots like Luna Record Shop and Amelia’s Flowers.

The Factory is also home to the original Five Daughters Bakery, which is an amazing donut shop! They are known for their tall 100-layer donuts which are truly just incredible.

Currently, The Factory is going through a major facelift. So the amount of space that is open to the public is smaller than normal. But already some new spaces, like The Skylight, a beautiful new bar space, have begun opening. And more is coming soon!

Franklin Farmer’s Market

If you are visiting on a Saturday, spend your morning at the Franklin Farmer’s Market! Honestly, this is a great Saturday morning activity because so many of the other attractions and shops in Franklin won’t be open as early at the Farmer’s Market!

The Franklin Farmer’s Market has a variety of local farmers who sell everything from produce to dairy to honey to meat. They also have a handful of baked goods vendors and artisans.

You’ll find the Franklin Farmer’s Market right behind The Factory at Franklin. And it’s open every Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

Listen to Live Music

Because Franklin is located so close to Nashville, there is a lot of live music in Franklin! Franklin is actually home to a lot of big name stars who love the area for its low-key vibes. But up-and-coming musicians play on stages in Franklin all the time!

Here are a few places where you can catch live music in Franklin:

  • Puckett’s Grocery — This restaurant in downtown Franklin is well-known for its live music scene, and there are many artists who credit this stage as the place where they were “discovered.”
  • Fox & Locke — This restaurant is located in the nearby town of Leiper’s Fork. They have live music every night Wednesday-Saturday. And they are especially known for their Open Mic night every Thursday, where you never know who is going to get up on stage. You need tickets for their evening shows, and you can buy them here.
  • Kimbro’s Pickin’ Parlor — Kimbro’s is a house turned music venue near downtown. It’s a unique venue that has live music every night and has “patio music” on the porch every weekend before the evening show.

Carter House

The Carter House

I never would have guessed that one of my favorite things to do in Franklin, TN would be to learn about their Civil War history. But here we are.

The Carter House is located just a couple blocks from downtown, and the basic story here is that the gory Battle of Franklin took place in this house’s backyard while the family hid in the basement.

But there is SO much more to it than just that. I’m sure your mileage may vary based on your tour guide, but we had an incredible tour guide who really focused on the story of the family at the house, the enslaved people, and the history and politics of the Battle of Franklin and the Civil War.

If I’m being honest, I’ve personally been a little hesitant to visit Civil War sites in the South. But I am here to tell you that this tour was excellent, and really laid out the humanity of everything in the Civil War, from the practice of slavery to this particular battle to the impact it had on the family who lived at this house.

There are several different tour options here, including:

  • Classic House Tour
  • Battlefield Tour
  • Slavery & the Enslaved Tour
  • Extended Tour
  • Reconstruction & the Aftermath of War Tour

Some of these tours are offered daily, but some tours (like the Slavery & the Enslaved Tour) are only offered certain days of the week and require advanced ticket purchase.

Lotz House Museum

The Lotz House Museum is right across the street from the Carter House. In fact, because the Lotz House is wooden and the Carter House is brick, the Lotz family decided they would be safer across the street during the Battle of Franklin. So the family hid in the cellar across the street at the Carter House.

During the battle, the Lotz House suffered damage, including a cannonball that crashed through the roof. After the battle, the Lotz House became a hospital for soldiers. But the Lotz family couldn’t recover after the war, and eventually moved on to Memphis and then California.

There are several different tours you can take at the Lotz House, including:

  • General Guided Tour
  • Battlefield Tour with famed historian Thomas Y. Cartwright
  • Women’s History Tour
  • Ghost Tour

Reservations for the specialty tours are required.

Carnton

Carnton

Carnton is another Civil War house to visit in Franklin. And while you definitely get one perspective by visiting the Carter House and the Lotz House, Carnton gives you a completely different perspective!

Carnton is a few miles away from downtown Franklin and was home to the McGavock family. So while this house was slightly removed from the fighting of the Battle of Franklin, it still played a key role.

After the battle, it became the field hospital for wounded confederate soldiers. And this really such a fascinating story. Because you can imagine a battle happening nearby and then having HUNDREDS of wounded soldiers show up at your door and you have no choice but to take care of them?

It’s an amazing story and there’s still evidence in the house of the terrors that went on that night (like bloodstains on the floor).

But besides the amazing tour, Carnton is also just a beautiful place. It’s a stately house that opens up to the wide open space of the Franklin Battlefield. It also has a small garden and a slave house open to look into.

The Carter House and Carnton are both run by the Battle of Franklin Trust, so you’ll find similar tours here.

  • Classic House Tour
  • Slavery & the Enslaved Tour
  • Extended Tour
  • Behind the Scenes Tour
  • Carnton Battlefield Tour
  • Reconstruction & the Aftermath of War Tour
  • The Amazing Grace Tour

Classic House Tours are offered daily. Other tours require advanced reservation and are only offered on certain days.

McGavock Confederate Cemetery

McGavock Confederate Cemetery

Next to Carnton, you’ll find the McGavock Confederate Cemetery. You can access it either from Carnton or from the Franklin Battlefield next to Carnton.

This cemetery is the largest privately owned confederate cemetery and the story is so interesting.

SO many men were killed in the Battle of Franklin, and eventually this became a problem, because there were graves just everywhere. Eventually, the city of Franklin raised funds and the McGavock family donated land for the remains to be exhumed and re-interred in a single cemetery.

Here’s the thing about this place. I totally get that it is easy to dismiss the suffering of the confederates. But what I found so fascinating here was really how seriously the McGavock family took their responsibility to care for this cemetery.

They didn’t ask to be overrun by hundreds of casualties and have men dying in the yard. But when it happened they did everything they could to give the families who lost their love ones some peace by caring for this cemetery and for many soldiers who remained in their care for months after the battle was over.

So this confederate cemetery is definitely worth stopping by, and I recommend seeing it in conjunction with a tour at Carnton so you can get the full story.

McLemore House

McLemore House

The McLemore House sits just west of downtown in an area of Franklin called Hard Bargain. After the Civil War, Hard Bargain grew into a community of African Americans. The McLemore House was owned by Harvey McLemore, who was once enslaved and went on to manage local land and earn enough money to buy this section of land.

Harvey McLemore’s family lived here for over 100 years. The property was then acquired by the African American Heritage Society of Williamson County, and it’s now a house museum where you can learn about the history and accomplishments of Franklin and Williamson County’s African Americans.

An important note: The McLemore house is ONLY open for tours on Saturdays. You can purchase your tickets online ahead of time for tours at 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., or 12:30 p.m.

Natchez Trace Parkway

Natchez Trace Parkway Bridge from Birdsong Hollow overlook
Natchez Trace Parkway Bridge

The Natchez Trace Parkway is a recreational road that spans 444 miles from Nashville, Tennessee to Natchez, Mississippi. And since it starts near Franklin, definitely make time to drive this scenic and historic road.

It’s a beautiful drive, and I loved winding through the roads and over the bridges.

The Natchez Trace Parkway Bridge is located in Franklin. It’s a huge, double-arch bridge that spans across Birdsong Hollow in Franklin. You can drive over it and also see it from below, and it’s really such a majestic sight!

If you want to see it from above, stop at the Birdsong Hollow overlook just north of the bridge and walk down the concrete path for the view.

Timberland Park

Timberland Park Trails

Just south of the Natchez Trace Parkway Bridge, you’ll find Timberland Park at milepost 437.2. It’s a recreational area with some great hiking trails. There are picnic tables, an ADA accessible trail option, and an Interpretive Center where you can learn more about the park and borrow a handmade hiking stick.

I really enjoyed my short hike on the Still Hollow and West Perimeter Trails. But I just explored a small corner of it. The park sits on 72 acres, so there are several more trails you can hike!

Garrison Creek Trails

Garrison Creek is another great hiking area along the Natchez Trace Parkway. There’s a loop trail here that’s about 3 miles in length, but if you don’t want to take the whole thing you can just do a section of it. If you want to though, you could hike all the way to the War of 1812 Memorial, which is another nearby stop on the Natchez Trace.

The big draw here is that a lot of the trail runs along the Garrison Creek, providing a nice spot where you (or your dogs) can cool off. This is also a trail that’s open to horseback riders. And there’s a big picnic shelter here if you want to stop with your lunch.

Fly Fish on the Harpeth River

The Harpeth River flows through the heart of Franklin (you’ll notice our recommended hotel is named after it), and if you want a unique outdoor adventure, you can go fly fishing on the river with Franklin Fly Fishing Co.

The Harpeth River can be fished all year long. You can catch trout in the winter and bass in the spring, summer, and fall. And if you don’t feel comfortable wading in the river to fish, you can also book a fishing tour in a drift boat.

Explore Leiper’s Fork

Leiper’s Fork

Leiper’s Fork is a small village about 15 minutes away from downtown Franklin. Like, really. It’s tiny. The population is about 650 people. (Since it’s out of the way, it’s actually become home to several celebrities who like the seclusion.)

The main area to see in Leiper’s Fork is right along the highway, where cars slow down in the middle of a small shopping and dining area.

Leiper’s Fork is a perfect place to spend an afternoon. You can cool down by the creek that runs behind the shops. You can browse stores that carry clothes, antiques, and high-end décor items. Or you can wonder through a couple of different art galleries.

And it’s home to Fox & Locke (which we mentioned in the live music section earlier), where you can get some Southern food and enjoy some live music.

I loved poking around this little village. It really has a relaxed feel to it and lets you take in a deep breath of country air.

Wines in the Fork

Having a hard time thinking of a more relaxing place to sip wine.

One of the most unique things to do in Leiper’s Fork is to go to a wine tasting at Wines in the Fork. They offer tasting of Tennessee-made wine in their tasting room. But what makes them really special is their use of the creek behind the wine shop.

They are known for their tasting experiences that actually take place IN THE CREEK. The creek is super shallow all the time here, so they put tables and chairs out for you to enjoy wine tastings and charcuterie. You do need to make reservations for tastings. But you can also stop in for a glass a wine or a wine flight inside without a reservation.

Leiper’s Fork Distillery

Tennessee is known for its whiskeys, and the small town of Leiper’s Fork has its own distillery you can visit. They made their first barrel of whiskey in 2016, and since then have become known for their small batches of unique whiskey.

It’s a small distillery with a family feel. And it’s in a beautiful setting, just a bit down the road from the main Leiper’s Fork area.

You can book a tour and tasting here or just do a tasting. You’ll definitely want to check it out if you are a whiskey fan.

Visit a Local Farm

Franklin is located is such a beautiful area of Tennessee, with rolling hills and lots of farmland. And Williamson County has several farms you can visit where you can interact with farm animals and maybe even pick up some farm goodies.

Remember that these places are farms, so they are subject to the whims of the weather. Be sure to check hours and weather policies before you go.

  • Noble Springs Dairy — This farm is a goat dairy. You can tour the farm, see the goats, and learn how their artisanal goat cheese is made. Then take some goat cheese home to enjoy!
  • Mistletoe Farm — Mistletoe Farm is an alpaca farm! You can visit the alpacas and even take a class to learn how to use alpaca fibers.
  • Lucky Ladd Farms — This is where you want to go if you are traveling to Franklin with kids! Lucky Ladd Farms has playgrounds, pony rides, animal encounters, nature trails, and even a splash pad!

Arrington Vineyards

Arrington Vineyards is a favorite for wine lovers! This Tennessee vineyard is the perfect place to spend a relaxing afternoon or evening. They offer wine tastings daily and live music on the weekends. But honestly this is a great place to just hang out!

There are picnic tables where you can enjoy your wine and they offer charcuterie and picnic items for purchase. And they have gorgeous vineyard views, so you can just sit back and relax with your wine.

Note that outside alcoholic beverages are not allowed, but you can bring your own food and non-alcoholic beverages. Pets are also not allowed.

SOAR Adventure Tower

I have driven by SOAR Adventure Tower on I-65 countless times and didn’t realize what it was until recently! And what is it? A huge adventure park with ropes course challenges and mini golf.

And while it may seem intimidating, it actually has challenges for all ages and levels. They have a ground level ropes course that is perfect for kids ages 3-8. Then, there are three levels of larger ropes course elements, whether you want to stick to simpler challenges closer to the ground or really push yourself 45 feet above ground level.

Franklin Festivals

Depending on when you are visiting Franklin, there might be a local festival for you to enjoy! These are going to be full of music, food, vendors and the community spirit that Franklin is known for.

  • Main Street Festival — Fourth full weekend in April. This festival takes place on Main Street with arts & crafts vendors, food vendors, live music, and kid’s activities.
  • Bluegrass Along the Harpeth — Fourth weekend in July. A downtown festival all things Bluegrass music, plus crafts and food.
  • Pilgrimage Music Festival — Late September. Pilgrimage Music Festival takes place at The Park at Harlinsdale Farm and features three stages with headliner musicians.
  • Dickens of a Christmas — Second weekend in December. Downtown Franklin transforms into a Victorian Christmas setting, with vendors, musicians, and characters.

Where To Stay in Franklin, TN

The best place to stay in Franklin, TN is The Harpeth. It’s part of the Curio Collection by Hilton, and it’s right in downtown Franklin, so you can enjoy walking to all the shops and restaurants of downtown.

The Harpeth Lobby with couch and bookshelves
The Harpeth Lobby

I LOVED my stay here. The rooms were clean and luxurious feeling. And each room has it’s own balcony looking out either into Franklin or into the hotel’s courtyard. To be honest, even though I loved my time in Franklin and doing all the things there are to do in Franklin, I was also always looking forward to heading back and relaxing in my hotel room at The Harpeth.

If you’re looking for other hotel or vacation rental options in the Franklin, TN area, you can explore the map below.

Where to Eat in Franklin, TN

There are some truly fantastic restaurants in Franklin, TN. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Biscuit Love — Housed in a historic downtown house, Biscuit Love offers incredibly flaky biscuits and all kinds of breakfast items. They are especially known for their “bonuts” which are like a biscuit version of a donut.
  • Five Daughters Bakery — If you really want donuts, head to Five Daughters Bakery in The Factory, where they have 100 layer donuts and all kinds of flavors.
  • Burger Dandy — A perfect place for a quick burger! This is a retro restaurant that offers burgers, fries, and milkshakes.
  • 55 South — Upscale Southern food. I had a chicken sandwich and cheese grits here and they were both incredible.
  • Grays on Main — This is where to go for date night! It’s housed in a historic downtown pharmacy, and they offer modern, upscale Southern dishes and are also known for their cocktails.
  • Puckett’s Grocery — A casual Southern restaurant that is one of the most popular places to go for live music in Franklin.

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