5 Spots To See The Best Holiday Lights In Town
Christmas in Franklin is, simply, magical.
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.
Even amidst a Christmas season unlike any other, the spirit of the holidays lives on. We all need a little extra rest and relaxation these days, after all. Gratefully, some of our favorite traditions lend themselves to social distancing without compromising any of the magic we look forward to year-round.
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’s Festival of Lights
When: Nov. 26 through Dec. 26, 5-9 p.m.
Where: Williamson Co. Ag Expo Park; 4215 Long Lane, Franklin, TN 37064
Cost: $25 per car (find tickets here)
The Draw: A full mile 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 Open Hearts Festival of Lights, Franklin’s biggest drive-through light show, featuring 200 displays over a mile-long course synced to festive music.
This year, to help keep visitors safe and socially-distanced—there were over 70,000 visitors last year—Santa’s Village will be replaced with a 30-foot Christmas tree for free photo ops and a gingerbread house-themed concession stand. Families can take a photo together in front of the colorful tree while sipping on hot chocolate and enjoying holiday sweets. 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 over 28 programs for underprivileged youth, even serving upwards of 15,000 meals to hungry kids last year. As Events Manager Rick Runyeon says, 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.”
Grzegorczyk Family Christmas Food Drive & Light Show
When: Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day, 4:30-11:30 p.m.
Where: 1510 Charleston Park, Spring Hill, TN 37174
Cost: Free (but non-perishable/unexpired donations are gratefully accepted)
The Draw: An extravagant display and a growing food drive that supports neighbors in need
Over 14 years ago, Laura and her husband John started a Christmas light display at their home in Middle Tennessee, but it was much smaller than the 30,000+ LED lights synchronized to music that they now put up at their home in Spring Hill. “We bought our first home in 2002,” Laura shares. “It was the first Christmas that we weren’t renters, so we could decorate our home. We started off gradually, adding more and more lights over the years until we became one of ‘those’ houses!”
The Grzegorczyk Family Light Show—celebrating its 12th year at their current home—has quickly become a local favorite, even winning the local television News 2 Holiday Lights Competition for their impressive display of yard decor, lights, and a nativity scene. It’s a family affair, with Laura and John’s three boys (and John’s father) getting involved in the intricate set-up and programming. Visitors can tune their radios to 87.9 FM and experience a 20-minute show with the Christmas story, a mash-up of songs from Frozen, and several popular holiday tunes. “The newest favorite is ‘I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas,'” says Laura. “JT, our son, did a great job programming the video screen, which he hand-drew one pixel at a time. The first time I saw the hippo wearing a superhero cape, I laughed out loud.” To skip the traffic, Laura recommends coming after 9 p.m. or on a weeknight. If it’s sprinkling, even better. “Light rain makes the lights sparkle even more!”
The most important part of their spectacular display, however, is the food drive in which they collect donations for The Well Outreach. “We’ve had kids do their own food collections for our food drive. We’ve had families give dozens of canned goods while others give one can,” Laura says. “Every donation counts.” Since 2009, the family has collected over 23,700 donations for the food bank and hopes to keep that number growing. In 2019, they collected over 2,700 items. They’ve even added a “Text To Give” sign, where visitors can donate directly to The Well from their cars. “The overwhelming support of our community has ensured the drive’s continued success,” she says. “We started our light display with the idea of helping our boys focus on the real meaning of Christmas. It’s about celebrating the birth of Jesus and it’s also about giving back to our community.”
Hello Trolley’s Holiday Lights Tour
When: Dec. 2-23 on select days starting at 5:45 p.m.
Where: Picks up at The Factory at Franklin (230 Franklin Road, Franklin, TN 37064)
Cost: $25 per person (find tickets here)
The Draw: A nostalgic trolley ride shows 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 says. “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 four years ago. Sara says they have a goal of improving the experience every year—even going so far 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 around the dressed-up square, by stunning homes on West Main Street, and through neighborhoods where Sara and Chad have pinpointed the best holiday light displays.
This year, they will be implementing new precautions to make sure everyone has a safe, comfortable experience. Private tours are available starting at $600 per trolley, and seating will be greatly limited (and assigned) on public tours to help with social distancing. Masks will be required for public tours when multiple groups are on-board. Surfaces and high traffic areas will be disinfected between each tour. While the usual holiday treats won’t be available due to limiting contact, guests on public tours are welcome to bring on their own personal-sized food and drinks if desired (coolers only permitted on private tours). 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.
The Lynch Family Light Display
When: Starting Dec. 2; dusk to 9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, dusk to 10 p.m. Friday-Saturday
Where: 820 Fontwell Lane, Franklin, TN 37064
The Draw: Interactive buttons start 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 says, kept his family close. Now, as an adult with his own kids, Eric’s bright holiday lights carry on the torch. As tribute, he includes a 40-year-old Santa Claus on his porch from his parents’ original display.
This year, the Lynch family will have 21,397 lights—3,000+ more than they had last year and a whopping 15,000+ more than they had in 2018. But, it’s not just any looping display. Eric’s musical Christmas lights—with a wide variety of classics like “A Marshmallow World,” hits from The Grinch, and few favorites from past years—are activated by two large, interactive buttons, making it a must-stop for families with young children. This year, Eric is adding additional screens, flood lights, and “my favorite, moving spotlights!” he says.
To prepare for his Christmas spectacular, Eric starts planning in February (he even takes a month off) and installation begins 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 says. “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 the buttons.”
The Lights in Downtown Franklin
When: Holiday Magic on Main kicks off Nov. 27
Where: Main Street, Franklin, TN 37064
The Draw: 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 Heritage Foundation of Williamson Co. and the Downtown Franklin Association have partnered with Visit Franklin and the City of Franklin to present a safer holiday celebration: Holiday Magic on Main. The season kicks off the day after Thanksgiving with the lighting of Franklin’s beloved NOEL sign in Five Points followed by a proclamation from Mayor Ken Moore. Expect pop-up appearances from Dickens characters and live Christmas music down the street.
Once you’ve filled up on sugar plums, take a free shuttle to The Factory at Franklin to admire its stunning display of live Fraser Fir Christmas trees, put up by resident merchants and businesses, glittering with lights. 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. Shuttles run between Downtown Franklin and The Factory every Saturday from Nov. 28 through Dec. 19 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Where are you spotting lights around Franklin, Tennessee this Christmas season? Share your family’s favorite holiday light traditions with us below.