Franklin’s history can be found woven throughout every storefront, farmland, mansion, and side street in town, and even though I’ve called the city home for nearly 30 years, I still find myself constantly learning something new.
Whether you’ve lived in the area your whole life or are planning a visit, the brand-new Franklin Hop experience is the best way to see Franklin’s historic highlights. In a partnership between Gray Line Tennessee and Visit Franklin, the trolley tour is packed with trivia, information, and backstories uncovering decades of history, all narrated by a professional guide.
With the option to stay aboard during its 90-minute journey or hop off at destinations along the way, you can choose your own adventure based on your interests and how much time you want to spend. If electing to hop off at any spot along the route, passengers have two hours to explore before the trolley’s return.
On a brisk fall day in October, I grabbed my sister (also a lifelong Franklin resident), and we climbed aboard the Franklin Hop for a memorable outing. Here’s what happened.
Stop 1: The Visitor Center
The adventure begins at the Visitor Center in downtown Franklin located near Main Street and Fourth Avenue, where the adorable blue trolley was waiting to welcome us and its other passengers. It was the most perfect fall day: The sky was overcast, the bright orange leaves were showing off, and the air was cool enough for a cozy sweater. We took our seats and were soon on our way.
Stop 2: The Factory at Franklin
After departing, the trolley routes through Franklin’s iconic public square and toward the The Factory at Franklin—the first opportunity to hop off and explore. We learned about The Factory’s history and future plans, and our guide made recommendations for the best way to experience the weekly farmers market on-site. On our way out, we waved goodbye to Rusty—the giant metal man that stands watch over the former stove plant—before carrying on.
Stop 3: Carnton
The trolley continued down some of Franklin’s most charming side streets, allowing each historic home to fade into view. Our guide navigated each property’s history and current preservation efforts before arriving at stop number two: Carnton. During the Battle of Franklin in 1864, the home served as a hospital for soldiers wounded and dying, a number that would be nearly 9,500.
Stop 4: Carter House & Lotz House
Our look inside Franklin’s Civil War history continued toward Carter House, the third opportunity to hop off on the tour, where we learned how the Battle of Franklin impacted the Carter family as they were caught in the crossfire. Also nearby and within walking distance of the stop stands the Lotz House, known as “ground zero” of the Battle of Franklin and said to be one of the most haunted houses in Tennessee.
Stop 5: Leiper’s Fork Village
After exploring Franklin’s complex Civil War history, we took to the backroads on our way to Leiper’s Fork, passing rolling hills of farmland, including the picturesque Leiper’s Fork Distillery. The trolley stopped in the village of Leiper’s Fork, which serves as a great opportunity to hop off for a bite to eat or a bit of shopping at the various antique stores and art galleries.
Finally, we journeyed back toward downtown Franklin, absorbing a few remaining bits of history found along Highway 96, from the touching backstory behind Gentry’s Farm to the inspiring legacy of McLemore House.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time aboard the Franklin Hop! We laughed, we learned, and we fell in love with Franklin in a whole new way.
The trolley currently runs Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tickets are available at FranklinHop.com, or in person at the Visitor Center in downtown Franklin.