9 Perfect Pairings for a Spectacular Summer Day in Franklin

In Franklin, Tennessee, you don’t have to choose between spending summer days out in nature, shopping at local businesses, seeking out live music, or dining at some of the best restaurants in the state; you can do it all. Franklin is a hub of activity during the day, with plenty of options for both individuals and families. When the sun goes down, the town also boasts vibrant nightlife, with music at its roots.

If you’re visiting Franklin this summer or just need a few fresh ideas for how to spend a summer day with friends, here are some of our favorite local pairings (both indoors and out) that everyone should try.

Drinks at The Skylight Bar + a show with StudioTenn

If you haven’t yet visited the new light-filled bar in the middle of The Factory At Franklin, make plans to go for a drink at The Skylight Bar. With mocktails for non-drinkers and a curated cocktail menu, this thoughtful bar is a convenient and fun spot for Happy Hour. When you’ve finished off a refreshing Hummingbird (vodka, watermelon-raspberry syrup, and lime), take a short walk through The Factory over to Turner Theater for a show with resident theatre company and nonprofit Studio Tenn. It’s one of the most celebrated theater groups in the southeast, putting on spectacular, Broadway-quality performances while passing on the joy of theatre to the next generation. In the summer, they offer acting camps to inspire young actors and invite all ages to sharpen their performance skills through master classes.

Kayaking with Paddle Dog + an island-inspired meal at Kokomo Trading Company

Spend an afternoon on Westhaven Lake soaking up the rays with a little help from family-owned Paddle Dog Adventures. Rent a paddleboard, kayak, or canoe for a few hours with friends or family and cool off from the Tennessee heat. Reservations are not accepted, so get to the boat house a little early to guarantee your spot! When you’ve finished your jaunt around the lake, stop in for dinner at Kokomo Trading Company on Westhaven’s Front Street. With wild-caught seafood and locally sourced, fresh ingredients, this island-inspired spot has a fun, casual atmosphere, plus great food and drinks. Kokomo was opened by Westhaven locals in 2023 and invites guests to sit and stay awhile out on their beautiful patio. You can even catch live music on the weekends!

A walking tour of Franklin + a glass of wine at JJ’s Wine Bar

When the sun goes down in Franklin, you’ll find locals spending every pretty summer evening outside. A great way to explore all that historic downtown Franklin offers—and enjoy our gorgeous weather—is through the lens of a top-rated guide with Franklin Walking Tours. The small group tours cover a range of interests, from their award-winning Grim and Ghostly tour (of our most haunted buildings) to the Franklin Charm tour that takes guests through our town’s storied history. Tours start at Landmark Booksellers, which is conveniently located a block away from locally owned JJ’s Wine Bar. After your walking tour, enjoy a glass of vino on the wrap-around porch at this upscale spot, which allows guests to choose one of 28 rotating pours from state-of-the-art wine dispensing machines (seriously!). Pair your sip with an appetizer, charcuterie board, or even chocolate fondue.

A trip to Bowie Nature Park + ice cream at Farm Fresh Vintage Finds

It’s worth the scenic drive out to Fairview, Tennessee for a visit to Bowie Nature Park. This beautiful 700-plus-acre nature preserve bustles year-round with visitors and pets, but it’s especially popular come summer. In addition to Bowie’s new adaptive playground, the park has 17 miles of winding trails through forests and fields, including one that runs around a central lake and another that follows a bubbling creek. Bring a picnic and a bottle of water, and don’t forget to stop in at the Nature Center near the park entrance to learn more about the area’s unique biodiversity. After your visit to Bowie, stop in at Farm Fresh Vintage Finds & Creamery along Fairview Boulevard for a scoop of ice cream (or an ice cream pop) supplied by Sweet T’s in White Bluff. You’ll also want to browse Farm Fresh’s extensive collection of decor, revamped furniture, and antiques. 

Drinks at O’ Be Joyful + a night of live music at Kimbro’s

Seeking a summer night of cocktails, burgers, and live music in downtown Franklin? Start at O’ Be Joyful, a locally owned whiskey and burger bar on Main Street. Rated as “Bar Destination of the Year” by the Downtown Franklin Association, OBJ releases seasonal cocktails that can’t be missed in a casual environment that oozes Southern hospitality. After drinks, head on a short walk (less than a half-mile) to the legendary Kimbro’s Pickin’ Parlor. This eclectic Franklin juke joint, which was opened as a pickin’ parlor by songwriter Ron Kimbro in 2005, is situated in a former neighborhood store and Victorian cottage. There’s always something going on at Kimbro’s, with live music every night and a weekly “Sunday Night Kimbro’s Super Jam” that unites some of the best musicians in town. Join in with your own instrument!

A morning at the Farmer’s Market + 100-layer doughnuts at The Factory At Franklin

Summer Saturday mornings are made for browsing the Franklin Farmers’ Market. Stock up on heirloom tomatoes and peak-season vegetables from local vendors or pick up free-range eggs, fresh cheese, homemade baked goods, hand-crafted souvenirs, and more. The market is held weekly behind The Factory At Franklin on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon. After the market, stop into The Factory for one of our favorite treats: a 100-layer doughnut from Five Daughters Bakery. The doughnut shop was started by Franklin locals Isaac and Stephanie Meek who, as their bakery’s name suggests, have five daughters—and now a handful of locations across the South. Five Daughters serves up croissant-style doughnuts made from scratch with locally sourced ingredients without preservatives or artificial flavors. On their website, you can check the Donut Cam to see which pastries are still in stock.

Outdoor adventures at Southall + Dinner at Sojourner

Franklin’s newest luxury inn and spa isn’t just for special occasions, though it certainly fits the bill. Situated on 325 acres of gorgeous Tennessee farmland, Southall Farm & Inn offers a wide variety of outdoor experiences and activities for guests and locals alike. From an Aerial Adventure Course to archery and axe throwing to the Trust Me Honey honey taste-testing experience, explore the best of summer with upscale flair. Follow up your adventures with dinner at Sojourner in the heart of the Inn—self-described as “butcher to beekeeper, barista to sommelier, hen house to patisserie” and “elegant but casual.” This thoughtful dining experience is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (make reservations!), with fresh ingredients from the farm’s orchards, greenhouses, and kitchen gardens on every plate.

Breakfast at Merridee’s + Fly Fishing with Franklin Fly Fishing Co.

If the promise of sunny and 85-degree weather immediately makes you want to jump on a boat and hit the water, don’t miss this perfect summer pairing. Start with breakfast at one of Franklin’s best local restaurants, Merridee’s Breadbasket, in the heart of downtown. Though their pastries and fruit tea have a fan following, it’s their homemade bread and fresh biscuits that make breakfast their busiest time of day. After fueling up, head out for an incredible experience on the Harpeth or Caney Fork River with Franklin Fly Fishing Co. Make a reservation in advance, and enjoy our waterways for a float fishing trip, wading trip, one-on-one fly-fishing lesson, or relaxing pleasure cruise. You won’t regret a summer day on the river.

Shopping at Painted Tree Boutiques + pasta at Zolo’s in downtown Franklin

If the summer heat is just a little too much for you to bear, make plans for a cool shopping trip to Painted Tree Boutiques off of Murfreesboro Road. Though Painted Tree itself is a chain, the hundreds of local businesses that can be found inside—antique mall-style—are Tennessean through-and-through. You’ll find clothing, gifts, cards, furniture, treats, jewelry, and more in this shopper’s paradise; there’s something for everyone down rows and rows of vendor stalls. After you’ve worked up an appetite, make the short trip to downtown Franklin for pasta at Zolo’s Italian Restaurant. The restaurant has been a fixture of Franklin since 2007, serving up from-scratch Italian classics and wine straight from Tuscany. Try their cheesy Baked Lasagna, cozy French Onion Soup, or expertly seared salmon with house-made garlic oil. 

If you’re still looking for summer activities in Franklin, here are a few bonus ideas: go antiques shopping in Leiper’s Fork and finish with dinner and live music at Fox & Locke; take the whole family bowling at Franklin Family Entertainment Center and stop by Mi Kitchen for a delicious modern spin on traditional Korean dishes; or sign up for a tour of Morning Glory Orchard, pick up some tree-ripened peaches, and dive into traditional soup dumplings at nearby Steam Boys in Nolensville.

Now, only one question remains: Where will you start your summer fun?

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.