Christmas in Franklin is simply magical.
Lights twinkle in storefronts, oversized ornaments hang in trees, and the usual warmth that resounds from Franklin locals is amplified with a nod of holiday cheer. The streets hum with the chatter of friends and families—there are no strangers in our town.
For my family, every December, we pick a night and all pile into the car—a car in which we’re all too big to fit anymore—and we “go for a drive.” Holiday lights are the catalyst, but the tradition of spending that precious hour together reminiscing, laughing, and admiring our neighbors’ masterful displays is the memory, even as adults, we cherish.
Some houses are decked out with familiar cartoon inflatables, while others—like you’ll find in stately Westhaven—shimmer glamorously with white lights, elegant wreaths, and candles on every windowsill.
Whichever your preference, the holiday light displays around Franklin are a sight every visitor, and family, should enjoy. Here are a few of our favorite spots:
FRANKTOWN FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS
When: Nov. 18 through Dec. 31, from 5–9 p.m.
Where: Williamson County Ag Expo Park, 4215 Long Lane, Franklin, TN 37064
Cost: $30 per car (Find tickets here.)
The Draw: A mile and a half of dancing lights with all proceeds supporting at-risk youth
What better way to celebrate the spirit of the season than to combine your love of lights with a cause that equips local at-risk youth with life skills and vocational opportunities? Welcome to the FrankTown Festival of Lights, Franklin’s biggest drive-through light show, featuring over 200 displays along a mile-and-a-half-long course synced to festive music.
Returning this year, families can take a photo together in front of the massive, colorful Christmas tree. Then they can enjoy s’mores around the warmth of a fire pit. The 2022 event will also bring back Walkin’ Wednesdays with even more dates (Nov. 23 and 30, and Dec. 7, 14, and 28) for those who want to get a little exercise and experience the enchanting lighted route on foot! And it’s all for a terrific cause.
All proceeds go to FrankTown Open Hearts, a local non-profit with the goal of ending generational poverty. FrankTown supports more than 30 programs for underprivileged youth, even serving upwards of 15,000 meals to hungry kids a year. As Events Manager Rick Runyeon said, Festival of Lights is “a perfect blend of merging a family-friendly event, the faith-based component of Christmas, and the opportunity for the community to support a worthwhile organization.”
HOLIDAY WONDERS AT BOWIE PARK
When: Nov. 25 through Dec. 10, Thursday–Saturday, from 6–9 p.m.; Dec. 15–23, daily, from 6–9 p.m.
Where: Bowie Nature Park, 2268 Fairview Blvd., Fairview, TN 37062
Cost: $25 per car (Find tickets here.)
The Draw: Experiencing a popular nature park in a whole new light
If you’re planning to spend your time in Williamson County closer to Fairview than Franklin, kick off your festivities with Holiday Wonders at Bowie Park. This drive-through light show brands itself a “celebration in light and sound.” And it’s easy to see why. Produced by ELS Nashville—a company specializing in audiovisuals and lighting design—the mile-plus drive features your classic walls of light and music while also boasting lasers and video.
Holiday Wonders has more than doubled in size in 2022, with over 65,000 pixels shining as part of the show. And this year, a donation will be made to Bowie Nature Park based on profits post-event—allowing your seasonal visit to benefit the 700-acre forest in the new year.
As you roll past brightly lit displays casting a glow on the towering trees of Bowie Nature Park, you might just be captivated enough to return during the day to hike over wooden bridges and past still waters on the park’s 17 miles of trails. But for the time being, enjoy exploring the park on four wheels rather than two feet by sinking into your seat and gazing out the car window at the multi-colored scenes slipping by.
HELLO TROLLEY HOLIDAY LIGHTS TOUR
When: Dec. 3–23 on select days; Saturday and Sunday at 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; Wednesday–Friday at 6:15 p.m. and 8:15 p.m.
Where: Picks up at The Factory at Franklin, 230 Franklin Road, Franklin, TN 37064
Cost: $30 per person (Find tickets here.)
The Draw: A nostalgic trolley ride showing off the best local Christmas lights
Small-business owners and Franklin locals Sara and Chad Gibbs are a husband-and-wife duo who love bringing the spirit of Christmas to life on their old-fashioned trolley car. The Hello Trolley Holiday Lights Tour is the only one of its kind in Franklin. For Sara and Chad, it’s all about bringing families together to slow down and enjoy the moment in the busyness of the holidays. “The idea of riding on a trolley tends to bring back joyful childhood memories for a lot of adults, especially grandparents,” Sara said. “Young or old, faces light up with joy when families see the lights together.”
It was this same Christmas joy that led the couple to open their trolley tour. Sara said they have a goal of improving the experience every year—even going so far in the past as to sponsor local light contests to encourage homeowners to “go all out” for the season. The trolleys are fully enclosed with heat (and air conditioning, if needed) and take guests through neighborhoods where Sara and Chad have pinpointed the best holiday light displays—with their schedule including both Franklin and Brentwood in 2022.
Returning this year are the complimentary holiday treats that will make your festive ride around Franklin sweet. Private tours are available too and can be booked at any time. For a truly unique Christmas tradition that takes the stress out of finding the best lights yourself, the Hello Trolley Holiday Lights Tour is a memory kids and adults alike will hold dear.
LYNCH FAMILY LIGHT SPECTACULAR
When: Starting Dec. 2; Sunday–Thursday, from dusk to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, from dusk to 10 p.m.
Where: 820 Fontwell Lane, Franklin, TN 37064
The Draw: Interactive buttons starting up 21,000+ dancing lights
Eric Lynch’s love of Christmas lights started at a young age with his family’s yearly displays. These holiday traditions, Eric said, kept his family close. Now, as an adult with his own kids, Eric’s bright holiday lights carry on the torch—as does the 40-year-old Santa Claus placed on his porch from his parents’ original display.
In past years, the Lynch family has featured as many as 21,397 lights. But they haven’t been just any looping display. Eric’s musical Christmas lights—set to a wide variety of classics, like “A Marshmallow World” and hits from “The Grinch”—have been activated by two large, interactive buttons, making it a must-stop for families with young children. Over the years, the Lynch family’s display has also featured screens, floodlights, and Eric’s favorite: moving spotlights!
To prepare for his Christmas spectacular, Eric has been known to start planning in February (even taking a month off), with installation beginning mid-October. For Eric and his wife, Andria, all the work is worth it. “We want to share our love of the Christmas spirit,” Eric said. “Nothing makes our family happier than to see kids (and some adults) dancing and singing in front of our house.”
Here’s a secret fact for visitors: “The light show can be activated up to one hour after the lights turn off at 9 or 10 p.m. by pressing one of the buttons.”
THE LIGHTS IN DOWNTOWN FRANKLIN
When: Christmas Tree Lighting on the Square, Dec. 2, from 6–8:30 p.m.
Where: Main Street, Franklin, TN 37064
The Draw: A picturesque Main Street (worthy of a postcard) with old-fashioned charm
With a mix of shopping, food, music, and spectacular lights, downtown Franklin is the quaintest Christmas town of them all. Streetlights are wrapped in greenery. Shops dress up their storefronts in a way reminiscent of “Miracle on 34th Street” with boughs, red ribbons, and nutcrackers. And, down on the square, a larger-than-life Christmas tree lights up the night, and sparkling snowflakes glitter through the shrubbery.
This year, the City of Franklin’s Christmas Tree Lighting on the Square will include performances by five-time Grammy nominee (and returning headliner) Matthew West and the Freedom Intermediate School Honors Choir.
Once you’ve filled up on sugar plums, take a stroll around downtown Franklin to pick out gifts for everyone on your list. Or head to The Factory at Franklin to shop and eat around in this former stove factory-turned-holiday wonderland at favorites like Mojo’s Tacos, Five Daughters Bakery, Fork of the South General Store, and Luna Record Shop.
Where are you spotting lights around Williamson County this Christmas season? Share your family’s favorite holiday light traditions with us below.