Make the Most of Half a Day in Franklin

Franklin is a town worth stopping for whether you have two hours to grab a bite to eat or five hours to explore. You’ll find a little bit of everything in our corner of the world, from myriad small businesses to adventures that fly you through the sky to the friendliest folks in the state (but I’m biased).

Choose how to spend your half-day in Franklin wisely—you’ll want to pack in as much as you can!

An outing with girlfriends

Downtown Franklin has a shop for every style, making it a fun, versatile option for a day with friends. Kick-off your girlfriend getaway with free parking in the public garage off of 4th Avenue South.

Just across the road, you’ll find Merridee’s Breadbasket, one of my favorite spots for a light breakfast or lunch. In addition to a long list of sweets—like sticky buns and fruit turnovers—you and the gals can enjoy egg sandwiches, breakfast burritos, and plenty of coffee. Merridee’s opens at 7 a.m., so they’re ready to fuel the early birds with a latte and a thick slice of fresh bread.

The town is yours! Spend a few hours walking up and around Main Street. At The Heirloom Shop, you’ll find Tennessee souvenirs and keepsake gifts, like hand-embroidered pillows.

Inside Holly Williams’ White’s Mercantile, you can look through an eclectic “general store” with everything from apothecary items to cookbooks to baby goods to pet supplies.

At Hester & Cook, peruse elegant tablescapes, colorful art prints, and thoughtful home decor. And, at Walton’s Antique & Estate Jewelry, you can ooh and aah over stunning pearls, eye-catching emeralds, and dazzling diamonds. (Please note that Walton’s asks guests to make an appointment to visit their showroom.) There are dozens of shops, galleries, and eateries to explore.

Take a break with a cup of tea (served in a gilded teacup, of course) and a luscious raspberry macaron at Triple Crown Bakery, a shop owned by award-winning pastry chef Alena Vaughn.

Triple Crown’s pastry case is full of photo-worthy edible art, but the shop itself is worth experiencing. Inside this renovated home, you’ll find walls adorned with teacup saucers and vintage wedding photos submitted by guests, a nod to Alena’s talk-of-the-town wedding cakes.

On your way out, commemorate your visit with a photo opp in front of the colorful Welcome To Franklin postcard mural. You’ll find this cheery artwork at 509 Hillsboro Road, on the side of Urgent Care, complete with 10-foot letters and the iconic Tennessee tri-star.

An evening fit for two

If your visit to Franklin happens to fall in the second half of the day, you’ll witness a dreamy transition from a downtown drenched in the light of golden hour to bustling nightlife dressed in neon.

Shops close between 5 and 8 p.m. on weekend evenings, so you may be able to squeeze in a few stops before settling down to dinner. 

You can intentionally choose your atmosphere with all of the options that downtown Franklin offers. For an intimate meal over tender steaks and adventurous spirits, sit down at Cork & Cow

If you’d like something a bit more casual with southern charm and chargrilled oysters that’ll knock your socks off, stop in at 55 South. And, if you’re in the mood for fish and chips served with an Irish pint, opt for the boisterous charm of McCreary’s Pub. The list goes on.

After dinner, celebrate the beauty of Middle Tennessee from the sky! Book a sunset hot air balloon tour with Middle TN Hot Air Adventures to soar over 2,000 feet above glorious countryside with the guidance of an expert pilot. You’ll want to snap lots of photos of this scenic trip, which typically lasts between 60-90 minutes.

Upon landing, you and your sweetheart will enjoy a champagne toast—along with memories neither of you will soon forget. A shared flight runs at $275 per passenger, though private tours are also available.

Sneak away for a romantic nightcap (and a round of cards) at JJ’s Wine Bar. In addition to an extensive wine list and state-of-the-art wine-dispensing machines, JJ’s offers a lengthy craft cocktail list and a Brown-Butter Cake you must try.

A historic snapshot

While a true dive into Franklin’s story takes much longer than a few hours, you can get a taste of our town’s history within ten miles. 

Enjoy a meal at Puckett’s, whose Tennessee restaurant roots go back to the 50s. This storied favorite serves up classic southern comfort food and is a frequent family breakfast stop.

Don’t skip out on the whiskey-glazed skillet cinnamon rolls or applejack pancakes! You may even hear a bit of live music—a Puckett’s trademark.

Take your pick of tours through the Battle of Franklin Trust. At Carnton, visitors can explore the McGavock House, which served during the Battle of Franklin as the area’s largest field hospital for Confederate soldiers.

You’ll also find a two-acre cemetery on the property, the final resting place for 1,500 fallen soldiers. Carrie McGavock, the woman of the house, meticulously wrote every name down in her records.

Businessman Fountain Branch Carter built nearby Carter House in 1830. In 1864, the home’s parlor became the headquarters for Federal Brig. Gen. Jacob D. Cox, as nearly 40,000 men—20,000 on both sides—fought a bloody battle. The large Carter family took refuge in their basement.

Guests can purchase a combination ticket including both Carnton and Carter House for $30. Each tour takes about an hour, and combination tickets are available for purchase at both sites.

If you have a few minutes to spare, stopover at Winstead Hill Park. From this vantage point and the surrounding 61 acres, General Hood led Confederate troops in battle against Federal soldiers led by General Schofield.

There are historical markers around the park and a view at the top (grab your camera!) that gives history buffs some perspective on why General Hood chose to observe his troops from Winstead Hill.

An off-the-beaten-path adventure

Time seems to stand still in the quiet village of Leiper’s Fork, where the pace is relaxed and friendly.

Explore the beauty of an idyllic Tennessee village with a charm you won’t experience elsewhere. While you may expect Leiper’s Fork to be all American Pickers—and you will find some heirloom antiques—you’ll also come across high-end art, classical music, handcrafted bow-ties, intricate jewelry, and homemade pottery.

Don’t miss the David Arms Gallery in a renovated barn, The Copper Fox in a restored 1860s home, or Leiper’s Creek Gallery—formerly a gas station.

Refuel with a “cup of joy” from a tiny house. You may do a double-take when you drive by The RedByrd Coffee Shop, an eclectic little spot founded in 2018 by husband and wife duo Kyle and Sadie Brooks as a place for creativity and great coffee.

“We love living in Leiper’s Fork and serving this community,” Sadie shares. “Our hope is to brighten people’s day with a smile and a ‘cup of joy.’ Building relationships with locals and showing visitors some ‘RedByrd-style’ hospitality has been so rewarding and fun!”

Walk up to the window and order a Mama Byrd—one of their signature vanilla lavender lattes—or pick up an organic pastry made by local FireFlour Bakery. The RedByrd even offers oat, hemp, almond, and coconut milk options for those with dietary restrictions.

Plus, every Saturday, The RedByrd serves up Ellie’s Old-Fashioned Doughnuts, purveyors of an original cinnamon-sugar doughnut that locals love. Enjoy your treats on a picnic table outside and grab a Cold Brew growler for a caffeine boost down the road!

Finish off your visit at a higher elevation. Jump on the Natchez Trace a short ways and journey up to the Garrison Creek Trail, a 1.3-mile (dog-friendly) path that takes visitors on a moderate hike.

The trailhead can be found behind the restrooms and, while it starts with an incline, Garrison Creek Trail opens up to a picturesque view overlooking the parkway. It’s especially impressive in the fall when you’ll observe dramatic hues on the foliage. 

Before you leave, take a photo at one of our most-snapped spots—the iconic double-arch Natchez Trace Bridge. At 145 feet high, you’ll get a glimpse of Leiper’s Fork in all its glory: a patchwork quilt of fields, farms, antique trees, and vast stretches of sky.

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.