The secret is out—Franklin and Williamson County, Tennessee, are home to landmarks and attractions that bring folks from all over. But while you’re here, don’t forget to get out and explore! Hidden gems abound from Main Street in Downtown Franklin to Brentwood, Nolensville, Thompson’s Station, and Leiper’s Fork.
If a quiet moment in nature beckons, then the options are plenty. Perhaps the best off-the-beaten-path destination for an immersive outdoor experience is Owl’s Hill Nature Sanctuary, with 300 acres filled with more than 2,000 species of native flora and fauna waiting to be discovered. Miles of trails wind through diverse habitats, from riparian to ridgetop. Day passes are available and be sure to check out the evening events, such as the Full Moon and Firefly hikes this summer.
Just a few miles away, Deerwood Arboretum offers a different experience, with 60+ species of trees located within 20 feet of the trails that wind through 27 acres. This Brentwood City Park is also one of the best places in Williamson County for spotting a broad range of migratory birds.
Shoot down Concord Road and find yourself in the quaint downtown area of historic Nolensville. The Florida Panhandle may have 30A, but Nolensville has 31A, full of hidden-gem shops, country markets, even a brewery, and an apple and peach orchard. There’s also a fantastic playground alongside Mill Creek, and the first weekend of October features the Broken Wheel Music & Arts Festival.
From Nolensville, head south to the 840 bypass, then west to Columbia Pike and down to tiny Thompson’s Station. There, you’ll find a historic railroad depot complete with antique train cars, but the latest addition is Preservation Park. As the site of the Civil War Battle of Thompson’s Station, the 200-acre park features interpretive signage detailing the 1863 event important to our nation’s history, along with three one-mile hiking trails suitable for families.
From there, you’re just a short drive to the village of Leiper’s Fork, chock full of hidden gems and unique events. From Thursday night open mic sessions at Fox & Locke to the Friday night outdoor movies at the Lawnchair Theater, and porch-picking and tours at Leiper’s Fork Distillery, there’s plenty to see and do. This fall, the village will host dozens of acclaimed artists at the Plein Air Paint Out, and the annual live-music Fork Fest is set for October 8. Red Thread Farm is also worth a visit, a family-run agricultural operation that offers fresh and prepared products and an incredible glimpse into sustainable, regenerative farming practices.
If you think the vistas are stunning from the road, you should see them from the air! When they’re not competing in balloon events around the globe, local father-son duo Henry and Logan Bedford run Middle Tennessee Hot Air Adventures. The Bedfords can launch and land from a nearby field, carrying you over downtown Franklin and the rolling hills surrounding as the sun rises—a spectacular experience you’ll never forget.
Back in Franklin, be sure to visit the Franklin Farmers Market on Saturday mornings, where dozens of local producers showcase an array of locally grown and made items. Food trucks are on hand if you’re hungry, and The Factory at Franklin (where the market is held) is a destination in its own right.
Then on Main Street, just past Five Points, stands an architectural gem with a fascinating story worth exploring both inside and out. St Paul’s Episcopal Church opened in 1834 as the Mother Church of the Diocese of Tennessee. Today, it is not only the oldest sanctuary in Franklin but the longest-running Episcopal Church west of the Appalachians. The original altar silver is still in use today, and the doors are always open—the stained glass display is not to be missed.
These are but a few of the hidden gems to be found in Franklin and Williamson County. Get out and explore, and you’re sure to discover your own favorites to add to the list. Stop by the Visitor Center and let us know what you loved…we can’t wait to hear your stories!