Although Franklin truly is a four-season city, I especially love it in winter, when the crowds on the sidewalks have thinned and a peek through the windows of the cozy shops and restaurants along Main Street is all it takes to lure me inside. Looking for ideas on what to do in Franklin in the wintertime? We’ve got you covered.
Head out on a winter hike
Franklin’s winters are typically mild, making it a perfect time of year for a hike on one of the area’s lovely trails. Just a few minutes from downtown Franklin, Owl’s Hill Nature Sanctuary is one of Middle Tennessee’s best-kept secrets. A $5 day pass (you can get one online) will give you access to the sanctuary’s miles of trails, which are full of whimsical surprises. Owl’s Hill has embraced the season with events planned throughout the winter months, including marshmallow hikes, a geocaching workshop, and a class on bluebirds. Check out Owl’s Hill’s website for more details.
Bowie Park is one of my favorite places to hike in winter. The Fairview park’s miles of trails wind around a number of lakes and ponds, adding plenty of color and interest to the cold-weather landscape.
For an unforgettable outdoor experience, head to Thompson’s Station on a sunny day and hike the 3.4-mile Battlefield Trail at Preservation Park. Here, you’ll find rolling pasture land, a gorgeous old barn, and a grassy bald hilltop with stunning panoramic views of Williamson County’s countryside.
Want more hiking ideas? Check out our complete list of Franklin’s best hikes here.
Savor a Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup at The Grilled Cheeserie
No meal says ‘winter’ like a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup, and downtown Franklin is home to one of the most popular grilled cheese restaurants in the state. At The Grilled Cheeserie, choose from exotic grilled cheese options like spinach and artichoke melt, quesabirria, or pimento mac and cheese. Pair your melt with crispy tater tots or tomato soup and you’ll warm right up on a chilly afternoon.
Spend a day in Leiper’s Fork
The historic village of Leiper’s Fork is one of my all-time favorite day trips and it’s a quick drive away from downtown Franklin. It can get quite crowded in warmer-weather months, so if you want to beat the crowds, winter is definitely the time to go. Browse through the village’s charming shops and art galleries and be sure to make breakfast at The Country Boy (Williamson County’s oldest diner) or lunch at Puckett’s part of your visit. Check out our complete guide to Leiper’s Fork here.
Try one of Franklin’s indoor activities
If the weather outside is frightful, don’t worry! There are plenty of indoor activities to enjoy in Franklin during the winter season.
At Third Coast Clay Ceramic Studio, you can paint pottery using their supplies for just $8 per person, plus the cost of the pottery (most options are under $20.) Pottery is glazed, fired, and ready for pick-up in seven days.
Looking to burn off some energy? Head to The Rabbit Hole VR in Cool Springs, where you’ll find virtual reality arcade games and group escape games that will keep everyone in your crew happy. Children eight and up are welcome to play the VR arcade games as long as they can fit in the equipment. All games are open to ages 10 and up.
You’ll find plenty of entertainment options at The Franklin Theatre in winter. Upcoming shows include popular movies new and old, notable musicians, local theater productions, family shows, and more. Tickets here are typically more affordable than in Nashville, making it a go-to for my family when we’re looking for something to do on a weekend or day off.
Ice skating enthusiasts will want to check out The Hockey Lab. Although it’s primarily a training facility for hockey players, public skating hours are offered in winter on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Be sure to register on the Lab’s website ahead of time if you’re planning to visit.
Immerse yourself in history at one of Franklin’s historic homes
The story of The Battle of Franklin is worthy of its own TV series – Imagine one of the Civil War’s bloodiest battles being fought in your own front yard and you get an idea of the kind of drama I’m talking about. You can relive what happened through the eyes of three different families who survived the battle on house tours of Carnton, the Lotz House, and the Carter House. All three houses border downtown Franklin. Each tour lasts between 30 minutes and an hour, so history buffs might opt to do all three and make a day of it. Since these tours are on most visitors’ Franklin itineraries, winter is a perfect opportunity for a quieter and more intimate experience.
Check out the Franklin Farmers Market’s Winter Market
It’s no secret that Franklin has one of the best farmer’s markets in Tennessee – On a nice day, thousands flock to The Factory at Franklin every Saturday morning for the Franklin Farmer’s Market’s fresh produce, local meats, and baked goods. What many people don’t know is that the market actually runs year-round! On a typical winter Saturday at the market, you’ll find greenhouse produce, homemade soups, and baked goods, local arts and crafts, and more, along with plenty of parking. This is one of my favorite winter weekend activities and definitely worth exploring.
Treat yourself to a big night out
There’s something deeply satisfying about a rich, decadent meal at a fancy restaurant in the wintertime, and Franklin has some fabulous options.
Downtown, Culaccino is earning raves from Nashville foodies who make the drive to Franklin to experience the restaurant’s delicious grilled octopus and pizzas made with a dough that’s undergone a three-day fermentation process.
The Cork & Cow steakhouse is a longtime Franklin favorite featuring high-quality steaks, craft cocktails, and sumptuous appetizers and sides.
Sperry’s, the longtime Nashville restaurant favored by the city’s old-money crowd, has an outpost in Cool Springs that’s equally popular. When you taste their delicious steaks, sides, and incredible desserts, you’ll understand why.
Cozy up with coffee and a good book
Franklin has so many great coffee shops, it actually has its own Coffee Trail! Sign up for a digital passport, check-in with your phone at each stop, and you’ll qualify for discounts at select locations. Check-in at five or more locations and you get to pick up a prize from the Visitor Center in downtown Franklin.
A few of my favorite coffee shops for reading include The Coffee House at Second & Bridge, which you’ll find in a historic home beside Franklin’s Harpeth Hotel, The Good Cup in Franklin’s Grassland community (I consider this the ultimate neighborhood coffee shop), and Frothy Monkey in the heart of downtown Franklin.
Looking for a book to dive into this winter? Make time to browse at Landmark Booksellers, located inside the oldest commercial building in downtown Franklin. Once frequented by the likes of Davy Crockett and Andrew Jackson, the historic structure now houses thousands of new, old, and rare books and a staff that’s passionate about matching you with your next great read.
And in the Westhaven community a few minutes from downtown Franklin, you’ll find Bound Booksellers, a shop filled with a carefully curated selection of books, toys, games, and gifts.
Shop for antiques
Winter is an ideal time for antique shopping in Franklin since five popular antique shops are within walking distance of each other in the downtown area. You’ll find the Winchester Antique Mall and T. Nesbitt & Co. across the street from the Harpeth Hotel on Second Avenue. Riverside Franklin is just a few steps away, on the corner of Second and Bridge. Take a five-minute walk (or two-minute drive) up to Second Avenue and you’ll find the Franklin Antique Mall and JJ Ashley’s Antiques. All are great places to score antique and vintage finds, no matter your budget.
Taste wines, spirits, and brews on the Masters & Makers self-guided trail
Williamson County has some of Tennessee’s best breweries and distilleries, as well as what has to be the state’s most popular winery, judging from Instagram! You can see them all on the 70-mile Masters & Makers self-guided trail — A crisp winter day is a great time to make the scenic drive. First, you’ll want to download the Masters & Makers digital passport on your phone, which will help you find each destination. Check-in at four out of five of them and you’ll earn a limited edition t-shirt, which you can pick up at the Visitor Center in downtown Franklin.
The trail includes Arrington Vineyards, Curio Brewing Company, Company Distilling at Thompson’s Station (formerly H Clark Distillery), Leiper’s Fork Distillery, and Mill Creek Brewing Company. Want to make a weekend out of touring the trail? This guide shows you how to do just that.