One of the most important things I’ve learned while traveling with kids is that their most treasured vacation memories are often completely unexpected.
They’ll forget everything about the famous museum we visit but rhapsodize months later about the fresh-baked cookies in the cafe we stopped at afterward.
They’ll pose with bored and irritated faces at the scenic view we’ve reached after a three-mile hike, yet fondly recall the glow worms they spied in rock crevices along the path we took to get there.
So these days, we plan our trips accordingly. In addition to the usual landmarks and attractions that make our destination vacation-worthy, we seek out the quirky, the whimsical, the delicious, the rare — all the things that will appeal to our kids and, in many cases (fingers crossed), keep them satisfied through the meals and tours and shopping we adults want to enjoy!
Fortunately, Franklin has fantastic options that fit all of these categories. Whether you’re looking for a quick, keep-’em-happy detour or a place to burn off energy for a few hours, we’ve got you covered with a heaping helping of kid-friendly ideas.
Most parents spend a significant amount of vacation time helping the kids burn off excess energy, and you’ll find plenty of ways to do it in Franklin, no matter the weather.
For smaller children, the playgrounds at Crockett Park in Brentwood and Pinkerton Park in Franklin are very popular. Got bikes? The Brentwood Trail System has miles of paved, flat trails perfect for a scenic family bike ride. Stand up paddleboards, kayaks, and canoes are available to rent each weekend on the family-friendly Westhaven Lake from Paddle Dog Adventures.
Daredevils of all ages will enjoy the SOAR Adventure Tower challenge, which features more than 110 climbing elements for all ages and skill levels.
Virtual reality games can be enjoyed by the entire family together at Franklin’s Digital Worlds Virtual Reality Arcade. And Urban Air Adventure Park is Franklin’s ultimate indoor playground, featuring trampolines, virtual reality, a Sky Rider, climbing walls, and more, as well as jump time for toddlers on Tuesday and Thursday mornings.
For your tiniest tots, Monkey’s Treehouse in Brentwood is an incredible indoor play option — It was my children’s absolute favorite place to play when they were small.
And if you’re looking for a quiet and inexpensive spot to decompress, you’ve got to see the Brentwood Library’s magical children’s room. It’s designed to look and sound like a forest and has tons of comfortable reading nooks and crannies — Your kids will love it.
Tour de Force
Franklin’s fascinating Civil War history draws visitors from far and wide, and the best way to learn about its past is with a tour — something that often draws groans from the smaller set.
The good news is that there are several ways to make learning here fun! Locals rave about Franklin on Foot’s I Spy tour for kids. Either book a tour with a guide or pick up the I Spy booklet from Landmark Booksellers in downtown Franklin and enjoy this historical scavenger hunt on your own.
Tweens and teens will enjoy Franklin on Foot’s ghost tour, a family-friendly introduction to some of downtown Franklin’s spookiest stories. Older school children may well be captivated by a tour of the historic Lotz House — Its story centers around the children who lived in the home during the Battle of Franklin.
The Battle of Franklin Trust offers several online resources for students as well as a more in-depth story of the area’s Civil War history, which is worth reading ahead of time so that you can come up with ways to tailor the learning experience to your children’s interests.
Of course, tours don’t always have to be about history! Children and adults alike love the educational farm tour at Noble Springs Dairy. Here, you’ll get a hands-on experience cuddling baby goats, viewing the milking parlor and cheese making facility, and learning how goat cheese is made.
For another unique experience, visit the alpacas at Franklin’s Mistletoe Farm. You can book a private half-hour or hour-long experience for your family with the farm’s beautiful and friendly alpacas. Now that’s what I call a photo op!
There’s no better way to revive a tired child than with a stop for snacks. We go out of our way to find the best bakeries and dessert shops in any town we visit, and Franklin has some of the best in Middle Tennessee.
Located in an Airstream trailer just outside downtown Franklin, a pit stop at Tiny Little Donuts has quickly become a weekend tradition for many Franklin families. Also downtown, you’ll find Triple Crown Bakery, specializing in cookies, cakes, cinnamon buns, scones, and other delectables.
At The Factory in Franklin, Five Daughters Bakery’s 100-layer donuts ensure there’s always a line of people waiting to order — They’re so amazing that I generally choose them each year in lieu of a birthday cake! Brentwood’s Puffy Muffin is legendary for its massive cases of delicious Southern cakes, pies, and cookies.
Franklin’s Paletas Tocumbo is a wonderful family-owned Mexican dessert bar with fresh fruit popsicles, ice cream, and more. And Whit’s Frozen Custard in Franklin is quickly developing a loyal following of customers who swear the place is home to the best frozen custard in the nation.
No family vacation is complete without a little souvenir shopping, and Franklin has some really unique options for your little ones. Downtown Franklin’s Landmark Booksellers has the most charming collection of antique and vintage children’s books I’ve found in Tennessee.
Also downtown, you’ll find a charming boutique called The Purple Butterfly, which is owned and operated by a pair of doting grandparents and has a wide selection of children’s clothing, accessories, and plenty of toys and games.
If you’re spending a few hours in Leiper’s Fork (and I highly recommend it!), you’ll find a whimsical selection of vintage-y toys, games, and candy at Prop’s Antiques.
Historic downtown Nolensville is home to the Nolensville Toy Shop, a highly-regarded toy and gift shop housed in a cozy historic home.
Thanks to Facebook’s Franklin, TN Mom’s Group, for their help with ideas for this post!