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A Great American Main Street
Just 17 miles south of Nashville, Franklin’s Great American Main Street runs through the heart of a 16-block historic district that radiates sophistication and brims with history, music, shopping, and southern hospitality. Along Franklin’s Main Street, you’ll find over 15 spots to hear live music daily, many times from the names that make Nashville famous but call Franklin home.
You’ll also find nationally acclaimed shopping and restaurants, not to mention bakeries that made the Travel Channel named Franklin one of the top 10 spots in the world for people with a sweet tooth. The Harpeth Hotel, a Curio Collection by Hilton luxury hotel, gives people an idyllic place to rest their heads at night and soak up the peaceful pace of America’s Favorite Main Street.
Telling Franklin's "Fuller Story"
Franklin’s history is complex, including much more than just the Civil War battle here. The full story of Franklin’s history is that some events and occurrences happened in its public square and downtown area, particularly denigrating to the black citizens of the time, which would be considered wholly unacceptable in modern society. While not a positive history or source of pride for Franklin, these events cannot be overlooked as if they never happened.
In 2017, Franklin area pastors and community leaders of all races gathered for a prayer vigil around Franklin’s public square in the wake of tragic events at a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. From that, discussions began about how all of Franklin’s history was not adequately acknowledged in the downtown square. Those pastors and community leaders rallied support and funds to erect five historical markers around the public square to recognize the terrible events of the past and serve as an education to residents and visitors alike about more than just the Civil War story, but the ‘Fuller Story.’
These markers describe the market house that stood on the square in the early years of Franklin’s founding which was used for the purchasing and selling of human beings, a riot in 1867, and local involvement of U.S. Colored Troops who signed up for service in the USCT Infantry at the courthouse on Franklin’s square.
In November of 2021, a statue of a U.S. Colored Troop titled March to Freedom was erected outside the historic courthouse next to that marker to honor the men who signed up for service there, and their story will be visible to all who walk by. When installed, the statue was only the sixth of its kind in the U.S. and the only one in the country displayed in a city’s public square.
A Pet-Friendly Paradise
Franklin, Tennessee, was the pilot city for Mars Petcare’s national Better Cities for Pets program. The BCFP program includes advocacy, education, giving back, and partnering with businesses, non-profits, and governments worldwide to help make pets’ lives better. The program launched in June of 2017 along Franklin’s iconic Main Street. Today, you’ll find over 90 businesses with dog bowls out front, each welcoming pets inside their shops so travelers can feel comfortable bringing their furry companions along. After launching in Franklin, the BCFP program expanded to dozens of cities nationwide.
The Hidden Gem: Leiper's Fork
If it’s a little weird – or something to do just for the fun of it – they are into it in Leiper’s Fork. The tiny hamlet that is home to just over 600 residents just outside of downtown Franklin is where you find the finest art galleries right next to BBQ spots where you eat on a paper plate. The antique stores have famed pickin’ corners, unrivaled scenic views, and unbelievable music.
The entire village – which is not much bigger than an average city block – is filled with a spirit of community. Each business has a front porch or fire pits with S’mores or swings out front, so people have a place to gather and have real interactions. The Lawnchair theatre is a place you show up with nothing but a lawn chair and hear incredible music or catch family movies on a summer night.
And then there is the music. Many of the world’s most iconic musicians call the area home, and on a Thursday night at Fox & Locke, you never know who will take the stage. The number of Grammy award winners who step to the microphone just inside from the porch out front is too many to count, as is the number of widely known artists today who got their first break playing the Fox & Locke’s stage.
A Preservation Leader
Franklin is a Civil War town, home to the 1864 Battle of Franklin, one of the only civil war battles to take place in a downtown setting. The Battle of Franklin was one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War, and nearly 150 years later, over 200 acres of the original battlefield have been reclaimed from the development that popped up over the years. Civil War sites on these preserved lands – Carnton, Carter House, Lotz House, & Rippa Villa – now serve as museums and offer in-depth tours to share their unique stories and roles during the battle.
Roughly 25 years ago, preservation of the battlefield was virtually non-existent as much of it had been commercially developed with strip malls, golf courses, etc. National Geographic visited to spotlight the worst preserved battlefields in America. It helped provoke a preservation effort that today has raised and spent over $28 million to reclaim over 200 acres of the previously developed battlefield and return it to its natural state from 1864.
It's not just Civil War history that has been preserved, either. Franklin's iconic Main Street and the Franklin Theatre are both examples of the hundreds of locations throughout Williamson County that have been preserved through the years by a concerted community effort and dedicated organizations like the Heritage Foundation of Williamson County.
Additionally, the village of Leiper’s Fork is full of charms that are hidden gems, and the area’s quaintness will forever be protected from growth because of the Land Trust of Tennessee. Beginning in 1999 in Leiper’s Fork, The Land Trust for Tennessee is a non-governmental organization that works with communities across the state to protect public and private lands that define the character of Tennessee. The initial conservation effort in Leiper’s Fork preserved roughly 200 acres on either side of the village, preventing future growth. The Land Trust has now expanded to protect over 123,000 acres across Tennessee.
World-Famous Music in Franklin
Franklin, Tennessee, is home to some of the biggest names in music, so naturally, music permeates the city in almost everything it does. In Franklin’s historic 16-block downtown district alone, you’ll find over a dozen spots to catch live music! This ranges from restaurants like Gray’s on Main and Puckett’s, which have stages inside to serenade guests as they dine, to the iconic 1930s-era Franklin Theatre, the best 300-seat music venue in the world. World-class acts take the stage at Franklin Theatre, while songwriters and artists behind some of radio’s biggest hits can are found playing stages across Franklin.
Fox & Locke in Leiper’s Fork is known for its legendary Thursday open mic nights featuring new up-and-coming talent and local Grammy award winners. Located in a village called Leiper’s Fork just outside downtown Franklin that is not much larger than an NYC city block, Leiper’s Fork is also home to many of the biggest names in music. Open mic night at Fox & Locke’s is a place for them to relax and play. Many music careers have begun on the stage of Fox & Locke, and each Thursday, there are talent scouts in the crowd searching for the next big act to sign.
Making the Pilgrimage for Music
Franklin is home to the Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival each September. Better than Ezra’s frontman (and Franklin resident), Kevin Griffin had the initial vision for the festival. In 2015 the first Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival debuted with acts like Willie Nelson, Chris Stapleton, Sheryl Crow, and Steven Tyler kicking it off. In year one, Rolling Stone called Pilgrimage the best-curated festival in the country. Modeled in the New Orleans Jazz Festival vision, Pilgrimage mixes stages of great music with cultural areas, family fun, and great food and drink. Pilgrimage added new Franklin resident Justin Timberlake as a co-producer of the festival in 2016, and Timberlake headlined the festival in 2017. Over the years, names like Keith Urban, Foo Fighters, Dave Matthews, Kacey Musgraves, The Killers, and many more have taken the Pilgrimage stage.
Franklin's Green Scene
Franklin became Tennessee’s first LEED Silver-certified city in 2018 and, as of the latest listing from the U.S. Green Building Council, remains one of only 10 Silver-certified cities worldwide. The city has continued to enhance its sustainability efforts through the years, also becoming named a Platinum Community by the Tennessee Valley Authority.
The historic Franklin Theatre on Main Street was Williamson County’s first LEED-certified historic restoration project back in 2011. Since, new construction projects like Harpeth Square – home to the luxe Harpeth Hotel – have followed suit by receiving LEED certification as the city continues to expand sustainability efforts.
Additionally, the newest luxury resort in Franklin, Southall Farm & Inn, was awarded one of Travel + Leisure’s Global Vision Awards in 2022 for their efforts on the 325-acre property to blend heritage farming and regenerative practices into the resort’s daily operation and mission.
How a Trip to the Dentist Helped Create the Tennessee Whiskey Trail
In less than a decade, Tennessee has gone from having only three whiskey distilleries to creating the country’s largest trail of whiskey distilleries. That change is thanks largely to Franklin-area lawyer Heath Clark, who opened his H Clark Distillery (now Company Distilling of Thompson’s Station) in Williamson County.
At the time, it was only legal to produce whiskey in three of Tennessee’s 95 counties, so Clark crafted legislation to change that law. Still, it wasn’t until a trip to the dentist, and a helpful introduction put Clark in contact with the right Tennessee State Senator to get it passed. Since that law passed, over 50 distilleries now call Tennessee home, and the Tennessee Whiskey Trail was launched from Franklin in June of 2017. The trail now links over 35 distilleries across the state of Tennessee, including two in Williamson County.
Whiskey, Beer, Wine, Oh My!
While School House Rock’s Conjunction Junction famously hooks up words, clauses, and phrases, Franklin’s Masters & Makers Trail hooks up the area’s breweries, distilleries, and winery onto one fun-filled and delicious trail. Winding 70 miles throughout Williamson County, the trail takes you to breweries like Mill Creek Brewing Co. and Curio Brewing Co. for a taste of their unique brews. It then winds you into the countryside for visits to the area’s first [legal] distillery in 100 years Company Distilling at Thompson’s Station, along with the beautiful Leiper’s Fork Distillery. Atop a beautiful hillside with views galore, country music legend Kix Brook’s acclaimed Arrington Vineyards awaits wine lovers.
Top Place for a Sweet Tooth
Franklin is known for being a sweet lover’s paradise! In 2017 Travel Channel named it one of the Top 10 Cities for People With a Sweet Tooth based on the number of bakeries, pie shops, and specialty shops just for sweets you’ll find. The crowning piece for sweets lovers? Franklin is the home to the original Five Daughters Bakery and its famed 100-layer donut, just one of many sweet stops on the acclaimed Sweet Treats Trail that also winds throughout the county!
Franklin Is Tennessee's Luxury Getaway
Those looking for the all finest options for a getaway can find just what they are looking for in Franklin, Tennessee. They can rest, pamper, and explore at luxe resorts like the plush 325-acre Southall Farm & Inn, where luxury lives in harmony with the land amongst Middle Tennessee’s rolling hills. Those wanting a downtown retreat will find the boutique Harpeth Hotel along Franklin’s iconic Main Street is a spot that wows in every sense.
From relaxing private tasting experiences at the Kix Brooks-owned Arrington Vineyards to unforgettable meals by world-class chefs, countless days at world-renowned spas, exclusive hot air balloon excursions, and luxury sports cars driving down the scenic two-lane Natchez Trace Parkway, there is no shortage of unforgettable luxury experiences in Franklin, Tennessee.
The Bookstore that Inspired a New York Times Bestseller
Landmark Booksellers, an independent bookstore in downtown Franklin, inspired author and Franklin resident Karen Kingsbury’s New York Times bestselling novel The Bridge. After moving to town, the renowned author was drawn to the bookstore, its owners, Joe and Carol Tomlin, and their unique love story.
Inspired, she penned the fictional novel with the Tomlins as the main characters. The book quickly soared to the top of the New York Times bestseller list and has since been turned into a holiday Hallmark movie of the same name. Today, visitors will meet the same Joe and Carol and have the same experience that Kingsbury did when she first fell in love with the shop.