Traveling to Franklin with your dog

Dogs aren’t just tolerated in Franklin—they’re welcomed. As a proud dog owner, my first thought on any trip away is how to best accommodate my pet.

Does he need to be boarded, or can he come with me? Vacation is always better when you have every family member—even furry ones—with you.

Groot is my three-year-old Jack Russell mix, and he has an even finer appreciation for new places (and smells!) than I. You should see this little pup get a whiff of fresh candy through the door of Kilwin’s on Main Street.

When I plan trips around Franklin, he’s my co-pilot—owing largely to the fact that he’s welcome to come and visit. In fact, in 2017, Franklin was the pilot city for the Mars PetCare Better Cities for Pets program: an initiative launched by the pet care company to educate and inform businesses and guests about the possibilities of building better, happier communities through inclusion and awareness of pets.

And, guess what? Pet owners can vouch for the benefits; having a dog-friendly city makes you want to come and stay.

Franklin is a Pet-Friendly City

As part of the Better Cities for Pets program, more than 90 Franklin business owners agreed to a “pet code of conduct” to welcome dogs in their stores just like they would humans.

According to the research, businesses saw positive results. Mars interviewed several shopkeepers and owners, sharing quotes about the experience.

Holly Williams, the owner of White’s Mercantile, said, “People were so excited when they found out their dogs could come inside. And the pet owners are very respectful! We haven’t had any issues, just enthusiasm.”

While restaurant owners can’t allow pets in indoor dining areas due to health codes, there are plenty of patios that have been made pet-friendly downtown.

Sharon Davis, Director of Operations at 55 South, told Mars: “We made our patio pet-friendly and it’s been a huge hit. We notice that patrons linger, and they seem to have a great time when their pet is camped out by their feet.”

Groot and I love visiting Franklin for the many, many dog-friendly options we have. From beautiful hotels that pamper both humans and pets to bakeries that cater to cookie-loving canines and spacious natural areas—here are a handful of our favorite pup-approved spots.

Where to Stay

Finding a place to spend the night that welcomes dogs (and doesn’t just tolerate them) can be a challenge for pet owners.

But, when you’re in Franklin, your first search never has to be for a separate boarding facility. There are plenty of easy, accessible, and affordable options to bring your pup along.

First of all—there are dozens (several hundred, actually) of Airbnb options in Williamson County that allow pets.

You can find homes in downtown Franklin within walking distance of Main Street, charming cottages in more rural Thompson’s Station and Leiper’s Fork, and private apartments for you and your dog to have your own dance party (Groot’s favorite kind).

Simply filter by the “Pets Allowed” category under Airbnb House Rules to get started.

If you’d rather stay at a hotel, you’re in luck! There a handful of luxurious hotels in the area that love dogs as well as people.

The Harpeth Hotel in downtown Franklin—a Hilton hotel—is one of the city’s newest (and prettiest) places to stay, with tasteful, storied décor and generously-sized rooms that even offer balconies.

Now, Groot can’t appreciate a view of the courtyard like I can—but he can enjoy a bag of dog treats put together by the hotel’s guest services team, custom-made bowls, and dog beds (for use upon request).

Dogs are welcome in almost the entire hotel, with the exclusion being dining areas. However, they are allowed on the patio so outdoor brunch is always an option.

Another popular dog-friendly hotel is the Aloft in Cool Springs. While it’s a little farther from downtown, the Aloft—a Marriott hotel—is central to all sorts of shopping opportunities, including Groot’s favorite Franklin stop, Three Dog Bakery.

The hotel welcomes pets with complimentary treats, toys, bowls, and beds. If your pet is larger than 40 pounds, like chunky Groot, contact the hotel to sign a waiver before bringing your pup.

You’ll also find pet-friendly accommodations at TownePlace Suites, the Drury Plaza Hotel, and the Hyatt Place Hotel.

Each has a pet policy with specific parameters—pets cannot be left in the room unaccompanied at Drury and must be created if unaccompanied at the Hyatt Place—so be sure to call the hotel beforehand so you know what to expect.

Where to Eat

Groot considers every meal to be pet-friendly, so he’s always up for a patio lunch around town.

Franklin has an abundance of outdoor seating options at restaurants in a wide variety of cuisines, so you can find a place for you and your pup to go enjoy a meal outside (often in a covered spot) no matter the time of day.

And, of course, many of our local restaurants offer takeout and delivery so even if you don’t have access to outdoor seating (or it’s cold), you can take your favorite meals on the go.

Scout’s Pub is one of our go-to spots for enjoying a meal. Scout’s was actually named for the founder’s beloved dog—who you may glimpse at one of the pub’s summer “Yappy Hour” events. Their patio is 100% open to dogs, all the time.

They offer water bowls and special dog-themed events. In 2019, their monthly summer Yappy Hour was a partnership with the Williamson County Animal Center (WCAC) and ran through October. Scout’s donated a portion of the extended happy hour sales to WCAC, who brought adoptable dogs to each event.

The pub even offered “pupsicles” for furry clientele and brought in Tito’s (Vodka for Dog People) to make custom engraved dog tags for owners.

This year, Scout’s is planning to start the event earlier in the summer and partner with even more dog-centric vendors. When you’re finished socializing, take a picturesque after-dinner stroll on the walking path across the street.

When it’s time for brunch, you’ll find Groot and me on the patio at Tupelo Honey in Cool Springs.

Not only do they serve up incredible elevated Southern food—they offer a “Bone Appetit” dog menu so that your pup can enjoy their own little meal.

The menu offers A Pawfect Snack (three strips of bacon with optional peanut butter), the Ruff Day Remedy (three scrambled eggs), the Bow Wow Bowl (milk gravy and a biscuit), the Healthy Fella (chicken and sweet potato), and The Notorious D.O.G. (ground beef and sweet potato).

If you’re looking for a pup-specific treat, check out Woof Gang Bakery in Westhaven. They have all kinds of healthy snacks and toys for dogs, not to mention iced cookies and a bulk treat bar (BBQ Bones, here we come!). This location even offers grooming services in case your pet is in need of a fresh ‘do.

Thanks to the Better Cities for Pets program, most restaurant patios in Franklin allow dogs to join their owners, and staff will provide drinking water.

Groot and I especially love meeting friends for breakfast at Puckett’s on Fourth Avenue South or munching on Holy Shiitake pizza at Mellow Mushroom.

What to Do

There is no shortage of things to do with your pet when you visit Franklin. Let’s start with shopping: You’ll see common stickers in the windows of shops down Main Street indicating if pets are welcome inside or on the patio (or if the shop loves pets but doesn’t allow them indoors).

Bring your pup inside dozens of local businesses, like Twine Graphics and Rock Paper Scissors; the shopkeepers have been trained on welcoming pets and will even share treats!

There are water bowls located outside many of the stores to make sure your dog doesn’t go thirsty.

If Groot ever took his own Homeward Bound adventure, he’d almost certainly end up at the K-9 Korral Dog Park at Harlinsdale Farm. Go in the north entrance (not the main entrance) to find an off-leash, fenced, four-acre dog park that’s a favorite with locals.

In addition to the double-gated entry holding area that keeps pups from accidentally getting out, it has gravel, grass, benches, a covered sitting area, and a beautiful view of the historic horse farm next door.

Dogs of all sizes are welcome, and there is a small dog area adjacent to the larger park. If your dog doesn’t play well with others, the Harlinsdale grounds also offer scenic walking paths.

If your dog, like mine, has plenty of energy and loves to explore nature, there are a few other spots you’ll want to visit. In Thompson’s Station, one of our favorite places to go for a walk is Sarah Benson Park.

In conjunction with the town of Thompson’s Station, Mars PetCare developed a dog sensory garden filled with herbs like mint, rosemary, and lemon thyme for four-legged friends to walk through and sniff.

Behind the walking trail—which goes around the park in a loop—you’ll find a hiking path that leads up and over to Alexander Trail, which is a multi-use path that connects to nearby Heritage Park.

You’ll also find hiking options up off the Natchez Trace Parkway at beautiful Timberland Park, where dogs can get out their zoomies on short (but elevated) walking trails. Note that dogs are allowed on Timberland Park trails but not on the adjacent Big East Fork conservation property (signage is posted).

There’s always a place—a comfy room, a bakery, a hiking spot, a keepsake, or a new memory—for you and your best friend in Franklin. Have a paw-some time!

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.