Choose Your Own Adventure: Summer Road Trip to Franklin, Tennessee Edition

Spinning your wheels trying to decide how to spend your day during a stop in Franklin?

There’s a solution—or seven. That’s right. We’ve spun up seven sample itineraries sure to save your summer road trip, whether you’re traveling with your favorite foodie, your family, or that friend you can’t keep out of the forest.

What are you waiting for? Put your car in park and start scrolling so you can start strolling. (I’m only mildly ashamed of how cheesy that sounded. Okay, let’s do this.)

The Outdoor Enthusiast 

You drove, so you can’t claim jet lag—start your day at dawn with a hike along the Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail. If the temperature has risen before the sun, step into the woods a little farther down the parkway at Burns Branch, a section characterized by its creek crossings.

Bracket your day with a Full Moon Hike at Owl’s Hill in Brentwood, where you’ll listen for nightlife (of a different variety than you’ll find downtown) and look for constellations. With a plea of “No flashlights, please!” you know the nature sanctuary has something memorable under its wing…er, up its sleeve.

Fill the time between your forays into the forest with a trip to Bink’s Outfitters on Main Street, which is stocked floor to ceiling with colorful outdoor gear. When you get hungry, pack a cooler (maybe one you purchased at Bink’s), grab a blanket, and head out to Morning Glory Orchard in Nolensville for a picnic—and a Cider Slush or two.

Your day of outdoor adventure doesn’t end once you’ve stepped off the trail. At least, not when you’ve booked a stay in a sunny vintage camper in Leiper’s Fork. Aptly named The Quirky Canary, the remodeled circa-70s vehicle is permanently parked and bordered by a fire pit area, and netting strung up through the surrounding trees, perfect for continued stargazing.

The Academic 

Mindlessly driving with the radio playing is great—for a few hours at a time. Now it’s time to engage your brain on an intellectual adventure. If you still haven’t had enough of the open road, there’s good news: Pedego Franklin offers guided tours on its electric bikes for easy coasting by Franklin’s most fascinating spots.

Then it’ll be time to have a bit of unexpected fun. Enter (and have a hard time exiting) Extreme Escape Games. We bet when you came into town, you didn’t expect to work with a scientist, a secret agent, or an inventor. But these themed escape rooms will allow you to show off your smarts—and have a blast doing it.

Bibliophiles might have an equally difficult time escaping from Landmark Booksellers once they’ve stepped into the cozy shop, pipe smoke hanging in the air. If you find yourself in the area for Franklin on the Fourth, drop in to meet local authors and add to your (already overloaded) bookshelves.

After spending your day in such a thoughtful way, a nightcap is in order. But we’re not sending you history buffs to just any old establishment—just an establishment that’s intended to look old. Amendment XVIII Cocktail Club in the Westhaven neighborhood is a 1920s, speakeasy-style space serving various inventive drinks, including the creamsicle-inspired Daisy Chain. End your day by mulling over all that you’ve learned as you drift to sleep at the quaint Magnolia House Bed and Breakfast, built on the site of the Battle of Franklin.

The Foodie 

Join the countless vehicles lining the lots at The Factory at Franklin for its Franklin Farmers Market. As you approach the industrial building’s border, you’ll notice that a handful of these vehicles are bright and boxy and bordered by lines of hungry people: food trucks! Grab a meal to go and wander through the Saturday market to buy blueberrieslocal honeygourmet pretzels, and more.

Pair your salt with some sugar by following the Sweet Treats Trail, which will lead you to 14 dessert destinations, featuring everything from buttermilk pie and miniature donuts to ice cream and cook. Your cravings are sure to be satisfied. As you wander around the area, pop into the Rock Paper Scissors shop to customize some cotton candy—an ideal souvenir for your most whimsical friend (if the festive fluff makes it all the way home). Yum! 

Before you flop down on your bed, full and fulfilled, check out the summer menu at Frothy Monkey and enjoy a seasonal beverage and dish out on its wraparound porch. Then retire to The Harpeth Hotel, where you’ve surely booked one of its summer packages—hint, hint.

With the locally sourced menu and whiskey barrel-esque décor (small-batch spirit before bed, anyone?) at 1799 Kitchen & Cocktails, the Harpeth’s on-site restaurant, and the room-service offerings from McGavock’s Coffee Bar & Provisions, this upscale hotel is home base for your culinary adventure.  

The Tourist

Did you know downtown Franklin has free parking? Yep! You might say we’re pretty darn proud of it. So, swing into a spot and start your classic adventure from the heart of the city. As you wander down Main Street, peering into shops, you’ll pass dog walkers and musicians, and you might even stumble upon a full-blown festival if you play your cards right.

Midway down Main, purchase a ticket for a movie at The Franklin Theatre. Once you’ve experienced our small-town cinema’s charm, you won’t want to go back to bucket-sized sodas. After the showing, cross the street and make your way to the Visitor Center to buy a Franklin-themed t-shirt and pick up a few extra tips on how to spend your day. Who knows, they might just point you toward Leiper’s Fork.

Once you arrive at this quaint countryside village, take a seat inside local-favorite Fox & Locke (formerly Puckett’s of Leiper’s Fork) and listen to live music as you chow down on a pimento cheese or BBQ sandwich. While the restaurant boasts “the occasional visit by Grammy-winning artists” to its stage, you’ll have a firsthand experience with a star-crossed space when you stay at The Cottage at the Dark Horse EstateKnown for hosting artists such as Taylor Swift and Neil Diamond while they record, a stay here guarantees an exciting story to tell post-trip.

The Family

Bumping over bridges and crisscrossing waterways is a given when you’re passing through Middle Tennessee. But if you’ve ever wanted to paddle up and around the bend, you need to check out Cumberland Kayak’s Harpeth River rentals. Spend an hour and a half floating with your family. Once you’ve packed your necessities, simply unbuckle, unload, clip everyone into lifejackets, and plop into single or double kayaks (depending on how many kids you have in tow).

While you’re in water-friendly attire, head over to the Splash Pad at Lucky Ladd Farms in Eagleville. After a while, everyone will be sufficiently waterlogged, so change into dry clothes and pay a visit to Franklin Toy Works to peruse its selection of figurines, miniature collectible cars, stuffed animals, and more.

Before the first “I’m hungry” rings out, snag a table at Kings Dining & Entertainment in Cool Springs. Depending on how picky your little ones are, you can order a classic cheese pizza and chicken tenders or buffalo chicken wontons and fried avocado tacos. Then stir up some friendly competition on your family adventure as you bowl or pair up to play air hockey together.  

Turn in as early as you want in your Barndominium. You read that right! You’re always telling your kids they act like they were raised in a barn. Well, now’s your chance to collect some photographic evidence. This massive, family-friendly Airbnb on 80 acres has plenty of room to romp inside and out.

The Couple 

We can’t point you to a lover’s lane, but we can send you to something even better: Wines in the Fork. Participate in a wine tasting with your partner, then lounge by the creek on the small establishment’s spacious back lawn. Of course, you drink responsibly, so you’ll remember to book a ride with enough time to make it to the Studio Tenn show you bought tickets for.

Time slips away when you’re together, but you’ll want to use it to pack as much into your couples adventure as possible. If you choose to save the bottle you bought at Wines in the Fork for when you’re tucked in for the night, have your driver drop you off in downtown Franklin so you can shop for your shared space at Awaken Tennessee. A mattress might not fit in your trunk, but its amber-colored-glass candles, loungewear, and luxury pillows will. Schedule Sperry’s Restaurant in as well. Located in Cool Springs, the classy eatery serves steaks and desserts, such as Bananas Foster for two.

A respite for business travelers, the Hilton Franklin Cool Springs is also known for its Valentine’s and wedding packages—and you’ll be able to see why year-round. When you’re curled up by its outdoor fire pit or snuggled in bed, you’ll be happy you lovebirds landed there.

The Bachelor or Bachelorette Group 

Did you roll into town on a party bus? If so, we’d venture a guess that you’re a part of a bachelor or bachelorette group—and have we got a fun-filled itinerary planned for your pre-wedding adventure!

It begins at Mill Creek Brewing Co. in Nolensville, where you’ll order a tropical Neon Daze IPA and play corn hole or try your hand at its golf simulator. As if that isn’t enough excitement, the next place on your list is Sticks & Stones Axe Co., where you’ll take turns hurling axes at a bullseye and sipping seltzers.

You may have seen pictures of bachelor and bachelorette groups clad in cowboy hats and boots, happily tromping through the area. Hop on the (band)wagon and buy some Western wear at French’s Shoes & Boots. When you’re suitably attired, head over to the newly opened Neighbors Bar in McEwen Northside for a Hot Honey Crispy Chicken Sandwich and Lemon Ricotta Donuts.

Finally—and we hesitate to include this because once you set foot on the property, you won’t want to leave—retire to SNOW. Snow in the summer? It’s not what you think. This unique woodland Airbnb in Fairview features three funky quarters (one of them is a treehouse!), plus a cylindrical sauna, saltwater hot tub, pond and fishing boat, bar, and rooftop deck…need we go on?

So, tell us, what kind of adventure will you be having during your stop in Williamson County?

Will you decide to follow an itinerary to the letter? (If so, thanks for trusting us. You deserve extra snacks at the next rest station.)

Will you put the pedal to the metal and pack in as much as you can? Or will you mix and match? (You know what, extra snacks for y’all too. You’re about to have a busy few days.)

Whether you reconnect with nature, your travel buddies, or all of the above, we want to hear how your summer road trip turns out. Be sure to tag us in your photos @visitfranklintn.