8 Great Ways to Make the Most of Franklin’s World-Class Music Scene

If you’re looking for live music in Tennessee, you might first think of Memphis or Nashville and their acclaimed venues of soul, country, jazz, rock, and beyond that have brought up iconic musicians of our time—but don’t overlook the hidden charm of Franklin, whose roots run equally deep.

Just twenty minutes down I-65 from historic venues like the Ryman and the Grand Ole Opry, Franklin has cultivated a music scene unlike any other, with many world-class musicians calling Williamson County home and supporting their local arts scene. Here are eight must-do music experiences in Franklin, from unique places to stay and famed spots to watch live bands to a beloved music festival that shines light on the storied roots of Americana.

Stay at The Harpeth & Catch Songwriters Night

The beautiful Harpeth Hotel in the heart of downtown Franklin is a central location to begin your musical adventures, and it’s also one of the finest places to stay in the region. Check in to one of 119 meticulously curated guest rooms (you can even bring your pup) and find everything you need in walking distance, from The Harpeth’s in-house coffee shop, McGavock’s, to a robust seasonal dinner menu at 1799 on the first floor. Friday through Sunday, 1799 hosts “Live In The Lounge” with rotating artists that provide ambient music as you dine. If you can, however, plan a trip around Songwriters at The Harpeth led by beloved songwriter Roger Murrah. Roger is one of Nashville’s most prolific writers—he’s written hits for artists including Waylon Jennings, The Oak Ridge Boys, Travis Tritt, Conway Twitty, Alan Jackson, and more—and welcomes guests to The Harpeth’s Riverside Ballroom for a thoughtful evening of music and storytelling.

Spend The Night at a Recording Studio

For the full, immersive experience of live music in Middle Tennessee, you won’t want to miss the Airbnb listings at Dark Horse. Founded by entrepreneur and best-selling author Robin Crow, Dark Horse Recording has celebrated over two and a half decades of welcoming some of the biggest names in music to record and stay on the property, like Taylor Swift, Tim McGraw, Carrie Underwood, and Keith Urban. Now, with Airbnb listings for The Gatehouse (1 bedroom, 1 bath), The Bunkhouse (bunk beds, 1 bath), and The Cottage (3 bedroom, 3 bath), music lovers can spend the night close to where the magic happens. There’s even a disclaimer that you may occasionally be able to hear sessions or interviews—“the creative process,” Robin’s listing states—from inside your room. Guests are welcome to roam the grounds of this stunning 10-acre riverside estate and can even request an exclusive tour of the world-famous studios.

Experience a World-Class Open Mic Night

Have you ever attended an Open Mic Night where Carrie Underwood popped up on stage? You just may be in luck at Fox & Locke in the charming community of Leiper’s Fork. Every Thursday, Fox & Locke—housed in a 1947 general store—opens up the stage for Open Mic Night with some of the greatest musicians in the country, including the occasional drop-in from a Grammy-winning artist. Tickets for Open Mic Nights must be purchased in advance as they often sell out seats. If you are a musician hoping to get on the roster, you can text to sign up after 3 p.m. on the day of the event (here are the specifics). Either way, don’t miss out on a meal while you’re there; Fox & Locke is serving up good ol’ Southern classics like slow-smoked barbecue, fried catfish, and meat + three. In addition to Open Mic Night, Fox & Locke hosts live music frequently throughout the week and weekend; check out their calendar for dates.

Enjoy Live Music While You Dine

The homestyle Southern food at Puckett’s Restaurant in downtown Franklin is nearly as well known as their musical reputation, and that’s saying something. Puckett’s is a long-standing staple on Fourth Avenue, and hosts live music almost every night (most without a cover charge), including special “In The Round” events and songwriters’ nights. You never know who will show up on the stage at Puckett’s; stars like Walker Hayes, Thomas Rhett, Carley Pierce, and more found their start at this local eatery. While you appreciate the riffs, order local favorites like fried Pimento Cheese Bites, Southern Fried Chicken, Shrimp & Grits, and Puckett’s famous cobbler made from scratch every day.

In addition to live music at Puckett’s, there are several other notable restaurants in downtown Franklin that offer a lively dinner experience. You may hear Celtic musicians outside of McCreary’s Irish Pub, for instance, or catch a weekend show during dinner at Gray’s On Main. Past the square, Americana Taphouse often treats guests to live music on stage.

Relax with Free Jazz & Bluegrass Among the Vines 

Over in Tennessee’s wine country, Arrington Vineyards is fermenting some of the best wine in the state—they have the awards to prove it—against the backdrop of scenic rolling hills and expansive farmland. One of the most idyllic ways to spend a weekend in Franklin is with Music In The Vines: free live jazz and bluegrass from bands who play while folks picnic on Arrington’s gorgeous 94-acre estate. Parking is free and there are no covers or reservations; just bring a blanket and snacks (they also offer selections on-site) to enjoy with a glass of Arrington wine or frosé. You can even do a self-guided wine tasting at your picnic table while the music plays. It’s no wonder that Arrington Vineyards values music; the vineyard is co-owned by country music star Kix Brooks, half of award-winning duo Brooks & Dunn. In the fall, at the vineyard’s annual Harvest Party, Kix takes the stage for a free concert (there’s a small fee for parking, which benefits the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt) and has been known to bring a few famous friends along.

Visit a Legendary Juke Joint

For a late night at a bonafide juke joint in line with the “Old Nashville” experience, make sure to add Kimbro’s Pickin’ Parlor to your bucket list. Kimbro’s is located on South Margin Street in Franklin and spans two old historic houses, formerly a Victorian cottage and a neighborhood market, that have been converted into an eccentric music venue. From the moment you open the front door, you are welcomed graciously into what could best be described as a genre-bending house party. It’s one of the most authentic live music opportunities in town, and often the first that locals mention when asked. Kimbro’s hosts a weekly songwriters’ night every Tuesday and a weekly Sunday night Super Jam with some of the area’s most talented musicians. Pair this unique experience—never the same twice—with a wide selection of beverages from imported and domestic (including local) beers to ciders, wines, and more from the venue’s sticker-clad bar.

Take in a Show at the Historic Franklin Theatre

If you’ve never visited our historic Franklin Theatre, it won’t be hard to find. Since the summer of 1937, the marquee of this beautiful landmark has brightened downtown Franklin and welcomed visitors to enjoy movies and concerts (and first kisses, as the stories go). The theater underwent an $8-million-dollar renovation through the Heritage Foundation of Williamson County in the early 2010s and now, fully restored, invites guests to enjoy the spirit of Franklin’s history coupled with perks of today, like state-of-the-art lighting and sound. In addition to movie showings, Franklin Theatre frequently hosts national music acts, chamber concerts, dance troupes, and songwriter series in their 300-seat auditorium. They have a long list of musical events to explore on their calendar for a date night you won’t soon forget.

Make the Pilgrimage to Music at A Century-Old Horse Farm

Celebrating its tenth year in 2024, the annual Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival has made Franklin a destination for music lovers across the country. The festival takes place each fall on a 200-acre horse-farm-turned-park and brings together musicians of all genres—from rock to country to gospel to jazz and beyond—with a star-studded lineup that plays to thousands of fans against the golden backdrop of autumn-gilded rolling hills in Franklin. Co-founded by local musician Kevin Griffin, Pilgrimage has grown rapidly since its inception and now boasts six stages, hundreds of local vendors, and, notably, the Americana Music Triangle Experience which celebrates the rich heritage of Americana under one (tent) roof. Stay up to date on the festival’s lineup and ticket dates here.

From staged performances to impromptu buskers around the square (especially around the holidays), keep your ears open in Franklin and your eyes on the local event calendars for your chance to appreciate some of Middle Tennessee’s finest music, right in our backyard.

Abbi is an adopted Tennessean who has fallen in love with the South—especially its people, warmth, and incomparable food. When she’s not telling stories or experimenting with family recipes, Abbi loves to explore new places with her husband Zach and dog Groot.