There’s no experience quite so quintessentially Tennessee as making the pilgrimage to a 19th century, 200-acre horse-farm-turned-park in Franklin each fall to experience one of the best music festivals in the country.
Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival, celebrating its ninth year in 2023, is a jamboree of Americana co-founded by musician (and Franklin local) Kevin Griffin. The Better Than Ezra vocalist, who performs each year at Pilgrimage, credits his inspiration for the festival to a September run through the scenic rolling hills of the Park at Harlinsdale Farm, a historic cornerstone of Franklin’s culture. Add in cold drinks, deep orange sunsets, and chart-topping musicians, and Pilgrimage has solidified itself as an annual tradition.
The festival has grown rapidly since 2015, attracting musicians of all genres to perform to thousands of rock, country, bluegrass, gospel, and jazz (the list is diverse and extensive) fans over two days in late September. Past headliners have included A-list artists like Chris Stapleton, Brandi Carlile, Justin Timberlake, Dave Matthews Band, The Killers, Foo Fighters, Lionel Ritchie, Willie Nelson, and Keith Urban.
Ready to plan your visit? We’ve got the scoop on Pilgrimage Festival 2023 so that you can experience the best of this Southern music festival—and enjoy basking in the charming glow of Franklin, Tennessee, in the process.
Pilgrimage will host over a dozen artists on each day of the festival, held September 23 and 24, 2023, across three main stages around The Park at Harlinsdale Farm. (Fun Fact: The festival’s main stage, Midnight Sun, is named after a Grand Champion Tennessee Walking Horse that grew up at Harlinsdale.)
Day One, Saturday: Catch the headline performance by notable folk band The Lumineers, who shot to stardom with the rhythmic melodies of songs like “Ho Hey” and “Ophelia.” Saturday’s shows also include The Black Crowes, The Head and the Heart, Yola, Better Than Ezra, James Bay, Hailey Whitters, Boy Named Banjo, Peter One, Butch Walker, The Watson Twins, Bones Owens, Tash Neal, People on the Porch, and Michael Rix.
Day Two, Sunday: You’ll finally have a chance to see Zach Bryan in concert, the hottest ticket right now in country music and ACM’s New Male Artist of the Year. In addition, Sunday’s shows will feature Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Ashley McBryde, Margo Price, The War & Treaty, Charlie Worsham, Luke Grimes, Ian Munsick, Patrick Droney, Madeline Edwards, Tigirlily Gold, Tommy Prine, Troubadour Blue, and Down Home Church.
Tickets for Pilgrimage 2023 are on sale now, and the earlier you buy them, the more you’ll save. Choose between two-day General Admission tickets, two-day VIP tickets, or individual day tickets (both GA and VIP) mailed your way in the form of a collectible wristband.
The VIP Village is by far the most luxurious way to experience Pilgrimage Festival. There are limited VIP passes available which include access to the VIP Village with games, shade, live TV, and air-conditioned restrooms; exclusive stage-front viewing areas; express gate entry; on-site parking; free water stations; happy hour VIP drink prices; preferred access to exclusive food options; and even on-site amenities like massages and blowouts for purchase.
The party doesn’t just start on Saturday. Franklin (and nearby Leiper’s Fork) holds a rich history within the Americana Triangle, with live music drawing visitors from far and wide—frequently played by world-class musicians popping up here and there on a Thursday or Friday night. (It’s no wonder that a friendly Americana music festival took off in our backyard!)
On Friday before the festival, make plans to explore downtown Franklin to catch live shows at several happenin’ local spots, like Puckett’s and The Legendary Kimbro’s Pickin’ Parlor. You’ll find a wide range of genres set against the background of America’s Favorite Main Street in addition to top-shelf cocktails (check out the new Skylight Bar in The Factory at Franklin) and unparalleled dining options. You can rest up at the Harpeth Hotel (plan your stay)—less than a mile walk from the festival, which, trust us, is a huge parking perk.
At Pilgrimage, come for the music and stay for the authenticity. Added to the list of memories you can’t make at any other music festival in the country is the one-of-a-kind Americana Music Triangle Experience, which brings some of the South’s most storied cities together to showcase their musical roots. Sit in church pews, browse relics, view the historic photo wall, and peruse exhibits to immerse yourself in “the living history of American Music,” the festival says.
You’ll also find a Maker’s Village (hand-crafted artisan goods), Craft Beer Hall (giant tent of local and regional brews), large Farm To Turn-Table food truck park, Lil’ Pilgrims Family Stage (kid-friendly area with everything from singing pirates to craft workshops), and much, much more.
Festive Food & Drink
Middle Tennessee has figured out the key to making almost everything better—and the cuisine at Pilgrimage Festival is no exception. Over 30 local and regional purveyors show up as part of Pilgrimage’s Culinary Program, so you can dine on heaping plates of everything from paella to pizza to po-boys, including cherished local brands. (Note that no outside alcohol/food/drinks is allowed inside the gates.)
There are water and misting stations located throughout the park to keep you cool and hydrated, but you won’t want to miss out on Pilgrimage’s exceptional bar selection, including specialty cocktails, frozen drinks, beer, and wine. There’s even a Pilgrimage mixology experience offered with the help of beloved distillers like Deep Eddy Vodka, Hendrick’s Gin, Milagro Tequila, and George Dickel.
Sipping on a bit of Tennessee whiskey and listening to Zach Bryan play “Something In The Orange” doesn’t sound like a bad way to spend a Sunday night, now does it?
Keep In Mind
Parking can be a challenge, so Pilgrimage encourages walking or biking to the Park at Harlinsdale or purchasing a parking pass for one of their designated lots (parking recommendations here).
You can’t bring umbrellas, tents, coolers, glass, large backpacks, pets, or instruments into the festival (full list here), but you can bring in blankets to sit on, low-backed chairs, sunscreen, purses/handbags (subject to search), strollers, and wagons. We’d highly recommend bringing something to sit on throughout the day; many other concert-goers will, as well!
Hitting The Town
Pilgrimage allows ticket-holders entry and exit privileges (just make sure you scan your wristband when leaving), which means that you can spend a few hours at the festival, head out for a late lunch or some air-conditioned shopping across the street at The Factory, and then meet back at Harlinsdale for the headline show.
Refuel with chicken nachos and margaritas at Mojo’s, a premium latte at Honest Coffee, or a 100-layer doughnut from Five Daughters Bakery. In addition to Pilgrimage merch, you’ll find some fantastic souvenirs at Fork of the South General Store to commemorate your visit.
We’ll see you when you make the Pilgrimage!