Whether you’re headed to Franklin for the very first time or you’re a repeat visitor with a serious case of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), I’m here to help you out! Here are 10 must-do activities for Franklin visitors.
Natchez Trace Parkway
This federally protected, 444-mile road will take you from Nashville all the way to Natchez, Mississippi, but it’s fun to hop on the Natchez Trace Parkway off Highway 96 in Franklin even for just a few minutes, to enjoy the sights and sounds of nature.
While you’re on it, be sure and cross the famous Natchez Trace Parkway Bridge at milepost 438, which spans Birdsong Hollow and offers spectacular views of Franklin’s verdant pastoral landscape. Just beyond the bridge, you’ll find the entrance to Timberland Park, which boasts several family-friendly hiking trails. Try the 2.5-mile Big East Fork Reserve Trail for a walk to remember!
No trip to Franklin is complete without a visit to the historic village of Leiper’s Fork. There’s a reason Nashville’s celebrities all want to live here — The combination of sophisticated shopping options, delicious Southern-inspired restaurants, and folksy, small-town ambiance is intoxicating and guaranteed to keep you coming back every chance you get. This may be the only place on earth where I can enthusiastically recommend every single restaurant and shop in the village!
Historic Main Street
Speaking of shopping, Franklin’s historic Main Street is an absolute shopper’s paradise, with a wide range of specialty shops to suit every taste and budget and plenty of restaurants serving up some of the best food you’ll find in the state. It’s billed as America’s Favorite Main Street and I’d say that’s an accurate statement — The shopping and eating experience is only enhanced by downtown Franklin’s gorgeous historic buildings and relaxed Southern charm. Create a stylish table centerpiece at Hester & Cook, nosh on fried pimento cheeseballs at Gray’s on Main, or take a coffee break at Frothy Monkey. There’s only one place you can’t go on Franklin’s Main Street: wrong!
New to the Franklin vacation experience is free Digital Passports — Think of it as a self-guided tour/ scavenger hunt combo, complete with a prize at the end! There are currently four digital passports (with plans for more!), including Masters & Makers, Historic Homes of Hincheyville, Sweet Treats Trail, and more. Browse the Digital Passports then signup for free, follow the instructions to complete your self-guided tour, and head to the visitor center in downtown Franklin to pick up a prize.
The Factory at Franklin is a former stove factory that’s been lovingly transformed into a bustling local hotspot. Inside, you’ll find artisan goods, fantastic food, and live entertainment — Plus, on Saturday mornings The Factory is home to the year-round Franklin Farmers’ Market, which is my favorite farmers market in all of Tennessee! The Factory includes the delicious Five Daughters Bakery, the new Pinchy’s Lobster Co, Mojo’s Tacos, Jeni’s Ice Cream shop, and the always-hopping Honest Coffee Roasters, as well as some wonderfully unique shops offering jewelry, home goods, and products made right here in Tennessee.
No visit to Franklin is complete without at least one tour of the area. Close to downtown, you’ll find not one but three historic house tours: the Carter House, the Lotz House, and Carnton. All three houses belonged to families who survived the Civil War’s terrible Battle of Franklin, which took place right at their doorsteps.
Franklin on Foot is another popular option, offering walking tours that meet a range of interests, whether you’re into general history, the Civil War, local food, ghost stories, crime, or you’re looking for a tour your children can enjoy.
And if you’re looking for a self-guided tour of Franklin, stop by the Visitors Center downtown and pick up a free brochure that will tell you more about the city’s rich past and beautiful historic structures.
Want to ride your bicycle? Franklin has some incredible options. If you’re bringing your own bikes, you’ll definitely want to hop on the Brentwood Trail System, which consists of eight interconnected, paved trails that take you through forests and parks, cozy neighborhoods, lush fields, and alongside the Little Harpeth River. The trails are mostly flat and family-friendly, and they cover a lot of ground! Don’t miss this experience if you love to ride.
For longer rides on Franklin’s scenic rural roads, consider renting a Pedego Electric Bike. These bikes offer electric assistance only when you need it, and allow you to ride longer and farther than you otherwise would. Head out on your own or schedule a guided Pedego bike tour of historic Franklin or Leiper’s Fork. Either way, you’re sure to have fun and get some exercise.
If you’re coming to Franklin, you’d better bring a big appetite — This town has plenty of fantastic restaurants guaranteed to satisfy your comfort food cravings. Tennessee’s meat and threes (restaurants that feature meat of the day and at least three classic sides) are well represented in Franklin — Local favorites include Bishop’s Meat and Three, the Cool Cafe, and The Country Boy in Leiper’s Fork. Biscuit Love serves up delicious Southern hot biscuits in downtown Franklin’s historic Corn House. Barbara’s Home Cooking in Franklin’s Grassland community is the best place to go for home-cooked takeout meals like her signature poppyseed chicken casserole, fried catfish, and incredible homemade fudge pie. And for classic Nashville hot chicken (and hot fish!), try Big Shakes.
Middle Tennessee has lots of great hiking options, but one of the most unique and beautiful trails in the state is in Thompson’s Station, a short, scenic drive from downtown Franklin. Take the trail from the parking lot through a restful field and up to the top of a huge, grassy hill offering panoramic views of the countryside. You’ll then wind down into a forest and loop back to skirt around the big hill on your way out. It’s one of the most satisfying hikes around, and the hilltop views make for a Sound of Music-worthy photo op!
Franklin is surrounded by farmland, so you’d better believe it also has some amazing farms that are open to visitors. Gentry Farm is a family favorite for fall pumpkins and harvest festival-style fun. Thousands of families flock here each weekend in October for hayrides, pumpkin picking, and other autumnal activities. Noble Springs Dairy offers educational farm tours that get raves from adults and children alike. Mistletoe Farm has a hands-on alpaca experience for small groups that’s sure to leave you with truly unique photo memories! And Morning Glory Orchard in nearby Nolensville offers tours of its orchard during apple-picking season in the fall, as well as fresh-picked peaches starting in June.