The 10 Absolute Must-Do’s For Your First Franklin Visit

Whether you’re hoping to uncover American history, enjoy Southern comfort food, snap an Instagram-worthy photo, or shop ‘til you drop, Franklin has something to delight every type of traveler. With no shortage of things to do, it can seem daunting planning your first trip to the small town, but fear not, we’re here to help. 

Here are 10 things you must do on your first trip to Franklin that are guaranteed to have you wanting to come back for more. 

Shop on Historic Main Street 

Downtown Franklin is home to America’s Favorite Main Street—a title well-deserved thanks to its rows of charming shops and restaurants. You can spend an entire day strolling the streets at your leisure: grab a coffee from Frothy Monkey and pastries from Merridee’s Breadbasket for breakfast, browse knick-knacks and gifts at shops like Tin Cottage and The Registry, enjoy a meat and three lunch at Puckett’s Restaurant, break for happy hour at JJ’s Wine Bar and cap your day with dinner at any of Main Street’s eateries. I’ve lived in Franklin for nearly 30 years, and I can confirm a stroll down Main Street is good for the soul. 

Spend an afternoon in Leiper’s Fork

Not to be missed during a trip to Franklin is Leiper’s Fork, home to rolling hills of beautiful farmlands and storied shops and restaurants. Plan a visit to Leiper’s Fork Village to browse remarkable antiques, enjoy innovative dining (including a creekside tasting experience at Wines in the Fork) and catch live music. On your way out, stop by Leiper’s Fork Distillery for a whiskey tasting in its 200-year-old tasting room. 

Learn about Franklin’s Civil War history

One of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War took place on Franklin soil, and its history can be found within the walls of multiple preserved buildings in town. A few key historic sites include Carnton, a mansion that doubled as a hospital during the battle, Carter House, and Lotz House, each of which offer tours onsite. 

Learn about the Fuller Story

Franklin’s history is complex, and in 2017, a group of area pastors and community leaders began discussing a way to honor Franklin’s complicated past in its entirety. Throughout town, five historical markers and a statue can now be found acknowledging the African American experience before, during, and after the Civil War. During your visit, be sure to pay a visit to each marker and the March to Freedom statue telling Franklin’s “Fuller Story.”

Catch a show at The Franklin Theatre 

Stepping inside The Franklin Theatre will transport you right back in time, as both the interior and exterior nod to the original 1930s building. With the nostalgic marquee called the “Crown Jewel of Main Street,” go beyond stopping outside for a photo, and be sure to check the events calendar before your visit, where classic films, concerts, and special events are happening inside all year long. 

Take a ghost tour

The Battle of Franklin had an estimated 2,300 fatalities, and legend says that some of those soldiers never left. During a guided ghost tour, hear the tales of paranormal encounters within Franklin’s Civil War sites and even along some of the town’s most popular streets. Skeptical? During my own tour, I snapped about 25 photos of haunted homes, and not a single one came out clear. Spooky!

Visit The Factory at Franklin 

Since its inception in the late 1920s, The Factory at Franklin has transformed from its origins as a stove factory to the lively shopping, dining, and entertainment destination it is today. A trip to Franklin wouldn’t be complete without stopping in for a donut from Five Daughters Bakery, a scoop from Jeni’s, a taco from Mojo’s, or a souvenir from a number of shops inside. Visiting on a Saturday? Be sure to stop by the weekly farmers market outside. 

Cruise down the Natchez Trace Parkway

Spanning 440 miles from Nashville to Natchez, Mississippi, the two-lane Natchez Trace Parkway is one of the most beautiful drives in the country with a few notable stops located right in Williamson County. A quick drive out highway 96 will lead you to the bridge’s iconic double arches, a sight to behold whether you’re driving underneath it or over it. Once on the Trace, a drive in either direction will lead you to campsites, waterfalls, hiking, and more. 

Sip wine at neighboring Arrington Vineyards

After a drive down the Trace, head the exact opposite direction down highway 96 until you reach Arrington Vineyards, the perfect way to wine down on a nice day. Grab a bottle, a flight of four to taste, or a seasonal frosé onsite, then settle into a hillside picnic table overlooking the vines. Pro tip: pack a picnic of your favorite bites and visit at sunset for an extra stunning view.

Visit Harlinsdale Farm 

Head for a walk through The Park at Harlinsdale Farm, home to 200 acres of farmland complete with walking trails, a catch-and-release fishing pond, a dog park, and a canoe launch on the banks of the Harpeth River. The park was once home to the famed Tennessee Walking Horse Midnight Sun, the first repeat World Grand Champion. Each September, Harlinsdale also serves as the site of the Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival, a two-day festival that has welcomed headliners from Chris Stapleton to Dave Matthews Band.