Cool Springs is Franklin’s industrial older sister that has a little something special—a store, a restaurant, or an experience—for everyone. The mall and the movie theater were favorites of mine as a teenager, of course, but Cool Springs has grown in leaps and bounds since then. It’s also become a hub for business travelers, with conventions and conferences happening across dozens of hotels every week.
If you’re in town for work, whether for a night or a weekend, there’s no reason to stay cooped up in your room. Pick an adventure to get started!
Unleash Your Inner Child
Taking a break from business can be as simple as taking a trip down the street—and down memory lane. Scale walls beat bad guys, shoot arrows, and climb towers without ever leaving Cool Springs.
The Rabbit Hole VR (virtual reality) provides solo and team players with immersive virtual reality experiences. The Rabbit Hole has an extensive library of over 30 VR games like Fruit Ninja, Beat Saber, Elven Assassin, and Smashbox Arena, and is the only virtual reality arcade in Middle Tennessee to offer VR Escape Rooms. As owner Jennifer Poythress says, “These aren’t typical, old-school video games that you can play while sitting on a couch. Our VR arcade puts you inside the game, and your body is the controller.”
You can’t miss SOAR Adventure Tower as you’re driving down I-65—and, honestly, you won’t want to. SOAR is a local mini-golf favorite, but it’s always home to an impressive climbing tower that draws visitors off the exit. SOAR hosts solo adventurers and groups with 90+ climbing “elements,” like suspended steps, bridges, tunnels, and balance beams. The Adult Adventure Pass lets you take on the tower as many times as you’d like and takes 2-3 hours, which is just enough time for you to get back before the evening conference sessions.
If you’re up to get out of the hotel for a workout, you’ll want to make a note in that conference agenda to go rock climbing at the Crag. Even if you’re just a hobbyist climber, like myself, you’ll scale walls alongside beginners and pros. If you’re not bringing your own gear to the party, you can pick up “The Package” pass, which includes a day pass, climbing shoes, and a harness rental. If you’re brand new, you can even take a Climbing 101 class to learn the (literal) ropes.
And, when the urge to do something totally off-the-wall hits, you can join me—and plenty of other adults—at Urban Air Trampoline and Adventure Park. Bounce your way across dozens of trampolines, navigate an obstacle course—”American Ninja Warrior” style—above a massive ball pit, scoot around in bumper cars, jump into a foam block pit, shoot hoops in the Slam Dunk Zone, jump off a high platform in the Leap of Faith, and climb up quirky “rock” walls. Everywhere you look, there’s something new to be discovered. Snag a Platinum Attractions pass to make the most of your visit.
Find Your Go-To Happy Hour
Happy hour is always more fun in a new city. These spots offer drink deals and incredible appetizers, making them the perfect post-work meet-up joints.
Drake’s is a local favorite, and you’ll quickly see why. It’s a self-proclaimed “restaurant that loves beer and bar that loves food.” They have over 20 craft beers on their menu every day and keep Middle Tennessee locals like Yazoo, Black Abbey, Turtle Anarchy, and Tailgate in the rotation. Happy hour offers great deals on tap beers, in addition to daily deals: Tuesday $3 Drake’s Lager and Beer of the Month pints; Wednesday $5 and $6 whiskey selections; and Thursday $2 PBR, $4 house wine, and $6 Pixy Stix martinis.
In nearby McEwen Northside is Vintage Vine 100 – an indulgent wine experience with the best rooftop view in Cool Springs. Walk into their vibrant, glass-enclosed bar and be transported to your favorite wine region. They specialize in 15 different wine flights, along with wines by the glass and bottle, of course too. While the primary focus is on the wine, they also offer high-end craft beers and bourbons for those seeking something a little different.
Just around the corner, you’ll find Chuy’s—a Tex-Mex chain that prides itself on creating a different experience in every location. Walk into their vibrant dining room and bar between 4-7 p.m. and enjoy free nachos from an open car trunk with queso, taco meat, chips, and salsa. Drink on $4 domestic beers, $5.75 house margaritas, and wine specials. It’s my favorite happy hour in town because who can beat free nachos?
Nestled in the Drury Plaza Hotel is the hidden gem of Granite City. It’s not your average hotel bar; Granite City brews their own beer—like the seasonal Blue-Eyed Brunette—and has daily happy hour specials. Grab two-for-one pints of house beer, two-for-one premium well drinks, $5 glasses of wine, and $5 appetizers from 3-6 p.m. and 9 p.m. to close on weekdays. Plus, you can’t go wrong with the Idaho Nachos: waffle fries covered in cheese and bacon.
Just because you’re in the area on business doesn’t mean you can’t treat yourself.
Start with a drink and oysters at The Honeysuckle, an upscale restaurant that serves elevated Southern food—like Deviled Eggs Five Ways (pimento cheese and bacon jam included!) and wild gulf shrimp and grits. They have an extensive wine list, a warm and welcoming dining room, and plenty of space for solo travelers to sit comfortably at the bar. A book and a glass of Cabernet sounds nice!
If you’re looking to upgrade from dinner at the hotel, might we recommend The Rutledge? You’ll want to spend a few hours in their comfy white chairs accompanied by an extensive drink menu. The Rutledge has dinner options for all tastes, spanning from seafood and sushi to filet mignon and prime rib. They’ve put care and detail into their dining experience, which is evident when you sit down to attentive service and a hearty helping of Lobster Mac & Cheese.
If you’re up for an after-dinner cigar, you’ll find the whole package in Cool Springs. Franklin Cigar, located right down the road from The Rutledge, gives visitors a relaxing lounge experience in a warm, inviting environment. The shop has a 3,000-foot humidor with a team of cigar lovers to help you find the right fit. Pick your cigar based on strength, origin, and age, and enjoy alongside an ice-cold tap or bottled beer. Plush leather chairs and a fireplace will transport you into an old-fashioned smoking room from the movies.
Treat Your Sweet Tooth
I look for any excuse to get out into the Cool Springs desert scene. These sweet stops make a great break from your regularly scheduled programming, and you can even bring some treats back to butter up the rest of your crew (we’re looking at you, mini pies!).
Buttermilk Sky Pie Shop founders Scott and Meredith Layton took inspiration from their maternal grandmothers to create melt-in-your-mouth pies from scratch in a cozy family atmosphere. Visitors can pick up mini pies (two-inch by pre-order, four-inch in-store) and full-size pies in flavors like Granny’s Apple, Ghirardelli Chocolate Cream, Coconut Cream, and their best-seller, the I-40—pecan pie with chocolate chips and toasted coconut in their signature shortbread crust. If you’re visiting in the summer, be sure to pick up a “Cloud Nine”: your choice of pie mixed with Bluebell vanilla ice cream.
Take a mid-afternoon froyo break at Sweet Cece’s for something a little lighter. Personally, I’m a big fan of the 10-plus flavors of frozen yogurt (they rotate) and unlimited topping options. Some days, I like to go for vanilla with fresh strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and kiwi. Other days, you’ll catch me filling up a cup—or waffle cone—with old-fashioned peanut butter yogurt, cookie dough chunks, Reese’s Puffs cereal, and peanut butter chips. The combinations are endless, and they even offer non-dairy sorbets.
When those late-night cravings hit, you can get a little taste of home with Crumbl—one of Cool Springs’ tastiest obsessions. The gourmet cookie shop has giant, ready-to-eat cookies that can be delivered or picked up in-store. They rotate flavors every Monday, with two classic constants—Chocolate Chip and Chilled Sugar—and four specialty flavors. You may be able to snag a S’mores Brownie cookie—a half-chocolate, half-graham cracker cookie with marshmallow cream and graham cracker crumb—or a Peanut Butter & Jelly cookie—a peanut butter cookie with peanut butter frosting and a swirl of raspberry jam. You deserve a warm, gooey cookie.
Create Your Own Bar Crawl
Friday nights are far from boring when you have the nightlife of Cool Springs to keep you company. Why not design your own tour de beer? These popular joints are only a few miles apart, and ride-sharing services make it easy to hop to and from.
Start at Brewhouse South, sister restaurant to downtown Nashville’s popular Broadway Brewhouse. The Brewhouse brand claims the original Bushwhacker—an alcoholic chocolate milkshake that every visitor should try at least once. Throw some darts, try dozens of beers (including local brews from Mill Creek Brewing Co.), sip a Bushwhacker, make some friends, eat some homemade gumbo, and have a good time.
Just around the corner, you’ll find The Draft Room at King’s. Kings offers 18 beers on draft, both craft and domestic, with a rotating selection from Tennessee breweries. Shorter draft lines—only three feet—mean fresher, colder beer. Watch your favorite team play on 15-foot televisions, enjoy ten-pin bowling, or shoot pool accompanied by a plate of Buffalo Chicken Wontons. The Draft Room also has several non-alcoholic drink options—like a Raspberry Mellow Mule made with ginger beer and raspberry purée—that make it a friendly spot for everyone on your bar crawl to hang out.
Every good bar crawl needs to stop at a burger joint, right? We like to grab a bite to eat with our drinks at Franklin Burger Co. You may hear some live music or play a round of trivia while you sample one-of-a-kind tapped beers like Mill Creek Little Darlin’ (wheat beer made in nearby Nolensville) or Blackstone St. Charles Porter (brown porter brewed in Nashville).
In Cool Springs, there’s no need to sacrifice an afternoon or night out on the town. There are things to see, do, and eat around every plaza—just step out of your hotel room. Or, order in Crumbl cookies. I won’t tell.