How to Visit Franklin on Just $20

Life is full of its challenges and their blessings, and our collective 2020 experience brought some silver linings to light: cherished time with loved ones; moments that matter; the importance of fresh air and wide-open spaces; and the value of experiences we might not have otherwise taken the time for in a pre-pandemic, frenetic world. Plus, for many, it meant finding a way to do these things on a budget!

Here in Franklin and Williamson County, we’re fortunate to have the best of it all – warm and welcoming people and places that are totally unique to our community, a balance between the built and natural environments, and an ethos that places an emphasis on preserving and enhancing what’s most important… now more than ever.

There’s so much to see and do, much of which is free or very inexpensive. For $20, you can pack a day full of experiences and treats you won’t forget, whatever your passion. Chances are, you’ll spark a few new ones!

Parks and Recreation

Franklin and Williamson County offer some of the best parks and trails to be found anywhere, from former horse farms and Civil War battlefields to pristine woods. In town, most are connected by greenways that meander along the Harpeth River and sidewalks that stroll past National Register historic neighborhoods. Just beyond the city limits, a bicycle or car ride down backroads through rolling hills is an experience in itself. But there’s much to be discovered along the way.  

Just north of the Square lies Franklin’s “Central Park,” the Park at Harlinsdale Farm. A 200-acre property that was once the center of the Tennessee Walking Horse universe, the farm is dotted with historic structures, a world-class dog park, miles of walking trails, plenty of wildlife, and even a canoe launch onto the Harpeth. You might even catch a horse show or polo match happening in the equestrian arena. 

Stop into the Factory at Franklin across the street. The 1930s-era Dortch Stove Works facility is now a restored mecca for makers and masters of various crafts, culinary to creative. Explore art galleries, boutiques, and local treasures while sipping a responsibly sourced and just-roasted java from Honest Coffee Roasters ($2.75) and a 100-layer croissant donut ($4.50) from Five Daughters Bakery – think chocolate sea salt, or the King Kong, cream-filled with the perfect maple glaze and bacon on top. If you’re looking for something more substantial, don’t miss Mojo’s Tacos. Whether house-smoked brisket or authentic pork adovada is more your style, or fried avocado or Korean cauliflower would catch your eye, these tacos are unequivocally some of the best in the south. For $10, you can score two tacos and chips and be more than satisfied.

A short walk away lies Fort Granger, a U.S. Army garrison from the Civil War featuring preserved earthworks and educational kiosks, along with incredible views and a bridge over the Harpeth to Pinkerton Park, with its Tinkerbell playground, outdoor ping pong, and more. From the park, you can walk right back into downtown Franklin.  

Town and Country

Just south of Franklin lies the essence of Middle Tennessee, and thanks to the topography, some of the most pastoral views you’ll find in the region. Cruise just a few miles and discover the village of Leiper’s Fork, where you can easily spend a couple of hours soaking up the local flavor. Stop by The Red Byrd, a tiny house-turned-coffee shop serving an impressive array of specialty lattes and espresso drinks. Travel a couple more miles south and you’ll reach the Davis General, the kind of well-preserved old country store where a fried bologna sandwich ($8) or BLT could prove to be permanently mood-altering. 

From here, you could spend a day exploring the easily accessible and so-worth-it Natchez Trace Parkway. Walk in the ancient footsteps on the Garrison Creek trail, an original section of the Trace used for thousands of years, and then visit the stunning double-arch bridge over Birdsong Hollow. The 72-acre Timberland Park and its interpretive center, forest trails, and butterfly garden is right there, as well. Afterward, a short drive down Highway 96 West will bring you right back to downtown Franklin.

Soak It All In

From the hub-and-spoke known as Five Points in downtown Franklin, a full slate of history is within reach. Walk down Main Street to Fourth Avenue South and Meridee’s Breadbasket to fuel up with breakfast, where you can grab fresh pastries, build your own omelet ($9.75), or indulge in stuffed French toast ($8.25). 

Afterward, head up Fourth Avenue North to visit the historic Rest HavenOld City, and Toussaint L’Ouverture cemeteries – a free audio tour from the City’s Parks Department tells some incredible stories behind the tombstones. You can download the free Haunts & Headstones digital passport to take a free self-guided tour. There and back, you’ll pass a diverse set of lovingly restored homes ranging from Federal-style icons of Franklin’s earliest days to 1890s Victorians and 1930s Tudors. 

Just up Columbia Avenue, walk the area where one of the most intense battles for America’s Civil War occurred. The Lotz House and Carter House are open for tours, and “ground zero” of the Battle of Franklin is a powerful experience, complements of the audio tour and interpretive signage on the property. Back at Five Points, stop into Hop House Tennessee for a Bavarian pretzel with beer cheese ($7) or a flight of four 5 oz. local beers ($9).

To Your Health!

If you’re looking for something guilt-free to treat your mind, body, and soul, we’ve got you covered! Runners and walkers love the Franklin Greenway Path that runs from Bicentennial Park in downtown Franklin along the Harpeth to the Williamson County Parks’ Franklin Recreation Center (a day pass is only $3) and its state-of-the-art facilities. There and back is a relatively flat five-mile trip and a quick escape to serenity. Catch a yoga class at Heart of Wisdom, which offers flow, restorative, and yin studio sessions ($10). For lunch, grab a kale Caesar ($11) from Frothy Monkey on Fifth Avenue South, or a fresh-pressed delight from I Love Juice Bar ($6.25) on Fifth Avenue North. From there, explore more architecture in the Hincheyville Historic District with a free digital passport, or spend some time shopping on Main Street. 

Franklin and Williamson County can be a whole lot of fun on a budget, and the memories will be priceless. There’s no better time than now, so start planning your trip now.

Jay Sheridan