It’s not simple to maintain a historic city fantastically preserved…and even tougher to replace it to Twenty first-century sustainability requirements. But Franklin, Tennessee (est. 1799) has completed the uncommon combo of National Historic Register of Places and LEED-certification…citywide! They are simply one among 120 cities (of the ~20,000 within the USA), to have earned this Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design accolade for his or her forward-thinking techniques and improved high quality of life. Locals are happy with the place they’re from so that they take excellent care of their hometown and are blissful to share it. Walking the historic streets stuffed with impartial outlets and cafes, canoeing proper from our resort, and tapping our toes to stay music throughout city, we rapidly fell in love with this place too. Long overshadowed by its big-city neighbor Nashville, Franklin is now not a day-trip vacation spot. We stayed 4 nights within the space and nonetheless have extra we wish to come again and discover. Get to know probably the most charming and sustainable cities in America with our Franklin, TN Travel Guide.
Franklin Walking Tour
You may not assume a downtown that’s 16-blocks massive would wish a strolling tour (particularly when Visit Franklin has crafted some nice self-guided options), however exploring with an area information is one of the simplest ways to get your bearings and the within scoop. So we set out with Alicia Marshall, the proprietor and self-proclaimed historical past nerd at Franklin Walking Tours, for the two-hour “Franklin Charm” stroll. Tours meet Monday-Saturday at 9am in entrance of the attractive Landmark Booksellers, the oldest industrial constructing on the town. Before the Civil War, Williamson County was one of many richest within the state and so they have a lot of opulent Antebellum structure to point out for it. But the Battle of Franklin on November thirtieth, 1864 devastated the city, with over 8,500 casualties turning just about all their buildings into discipline hospitals. Alicia identified blood stains soaked into the picket flooring and bullet marks pocking the partitions of buildings. Like any former accomplice state, their story isn’t fairly however we admire that Franklin isn’t sugarcoating its previous. The metropolis is making ongoing reparations with initiatives like their “Fuller Story” markers and the March to Freedom Statue on the principle sq., honoring the function and sacrifices made by African Americans in making Franklin what it’s immediately. We cherished our cease at ANC Williams’ home, who was the primary African American enterprise proprietor in downtown Franklin, and studying that the town simply named a road after him. Continuing our stroll round city, Alicia confirmed us the row of homes the place Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, and different musicians usually keep after they have tasks in Nashville and that many stars (Keith Urban, Nicole Kidman, Brad Paisley, and extra) have made Franklin their house. After stopping at locations just like the Heritage Foundation (the outdated jail) and an 1820s house-turned artwork gallery, we rapidly realized that every constructing had a deeper story behind its fairly facade. The tour ended at Bakehouse with a heat sprinkle cookie for good emotions throughout.
Shopping Main Street
Franklin’s Main Street is so charming and well-preserved the National Civic League named it a “Great American Main Street.” The constructing facades are a beautiful mixture of Victorian, Tennessee Federal, Art Deco, and Craftsman structure, and the interiors are renovated to modern perfection. Virtually no chain shops or tchotchke outlets, the boutiques are genuine and hip, like Holly Williams’ (granddaughter of nation legend Hank Williams) White’s Mercantile providing a group of her favourite issues with Southern fashion. Or Rooted From Yarrow Acres aka “Franklin’s Little Plant Shop,” run by a mother-daughter workforce who supply “fresh” decor and workshops on construct your personal terrariums. And Philanthropy who donates 10% of their trend and residential items proceeds to charitable causes (and 100% if you store on-line)! Strolling below lamp posts, adorned with hanging flowers and flags, we discovered ourselves stopping each few toes for a cute new retailer. For the last word Main Street expertise, we caught Franklin’s First Friday Art Scene, when outlets keep open late to show new artworks and share a glass of wine with the neighborhood. This occasion introduced us into cute companies that we wouldn’t have in any other case visited, like Parker House Salon that had painter Lorrie Fowler making stay artwork with a blow dryer (which is now hanging on Buddy the Camper’s wall and gave us the possibility to fulfill so many pretty locals.
Tip: Don’t miss Cards of Care. In entrance of metropolis corridor you’ll see a yellow mailbox with pens and paper the place individuals depart nameless notes of positivity for anybody who wants a smile. Take a observe and depart a observe to maintain this circle of fine vibes going.
Where to Eat
Southern cooking is finished to perfection on this city, with some eating places serving up the classics (BBQ, biscuits, scorching hen, candy tea) and others giving it a up to date twist. We cherished Frothy Monkey for his or her artsy vibe and bountiful vegan choices and spectacular espresso bar, and Red Pony was the right spot for a date evening. Voted “Best Restaurant in the County” and incomes a half-dozen Open Table awards, Red Pony is an upscale native favourite. We noticed Jerk Eggplant Meatballs on the menu and had been instantly intrigued, and once we requested about different vegan choices, they crafted a cashew-cream stuffed portobello and an almond-milk & darkish chocolate mousse for dessert. What a deal with! And for true southern fare and one among coolest tales on the town, there isn’t any higher place than Gray’s. With its iconic neon signal and a entrance door painted with the names of all of the earlier house owners of Gray Drug Company over the previous century, you’ll know you’re in the appropriate place. The newest house owners have honored its Rx historical past and used outdated prescriptions (they unearthed throughout a renovation) for wallpaper and stored the graffiti-style dairy of a previous worker (beginning with the delivery of his son in 1950 and ending 30+ years later with “Gone Fishing”). Another purpose to go to Gray’s is the stay music and cocktails. Their Anthym Spirit was voted the “South’s Best Whiskey Drink,” with its easy mixture of apricot brandy, benedictine, and chai bitters. We indulged in a mid-day cocktail, fries, and crispy Brussels sprouts and had been blissful vegans. (see our TikTok about Gray’s). As for espresso outlets, don’t miss The Coffee House at Second and Bridge in a historic cottage with a lovely yard to sip your espresso.
Fun Fact: The round city sq. is nicknamed is the “Squircle.”
While it is best to actually hit up Gray’s for stay music and their subsequent door neighbor Oh Be Joyful for artistic cocktails, a go to the Legendary Kimbros Pickin’ Parlor is obligatory. An outdated nook retailer smashed along with a Victorian cottage, this funky spot is the place Franklin will get down. We walked via the collection of rooms-turned bars and hang-spaces and felt like we had been at an superior home occasion. The foremost stage has seen names like John Prine, Wynonna Judd, to Emmylou Harris, and also you by no means know who’s gonna present up on open mic evening or of their free-for-all jam room. Also, examine which exhibits are enjoying on the iconic Franklin Theater (saved by the Heritage Foundation!), they’ve performs, stand-up comedy, films, and extra for a fantastic date evening.
Factory at Franklin
This truly isn’t our first time to Franklin, TN. Years in the past we got here for a gathering on the Lonely Planet workplaces in The Factory at Franklin. While that journey writer is now not headquartered there, The Factory is getting cooler by the day…in actual fact, come fall 2022 they’re having a grand reopening of their unbelievable complicated of outlets, eating places, and leisure venues. Originally a Nineteen Twenties range manufacturing unit, it was on the verge of being demolished within the ’90s, however an area developer Calvin Lehew noticed the sweetness within the industrial house and its potential for a group hub, and now it’s on the National Historic Register of Places. Keeping the unique water tower, metal beams, paned home windows, and concrete flooring, it’s house to 80 native companies, just like the Luna Record Shop, Five Daughters Bakery, The Mockingbird Theater, Mojo’s Tacos (sooooo good), and the weekly farmer’s market. We bought chatting with Bonnie, the proprietor of the reward store Times Past & Present, who was the second tenant within the constructing and so proud to nonetheless be right here 23 years later and past excited for the place The Factory at Franklin is heading.
Where to Stay
We checked into downtown’s scorching new resort, the Harpeth. It’s in Hilton’s Curio assortment of boutique resorts with modern decor and private touches. Their 1799 Kitchen & Cocktails is among the nicest eating places on the town, and McGavock’s espresso store is cool sufficient that locals come for lattes. We adored our nook suite with stylish decor, spa-like toilet, seating space, and a balcony wanting over city. Cleverly designed, they positioned the mattress in the course of the room and made a headboard with a fold-out desk—as a pair that works collectively, we completely admire this house answer! That mentioned, with a bottle of champagne and sundown view from our balcony…we didn’t get a lot work performed!
Tip: For a luxurious resort in Franklin’s countryside, Southall Farms is poised to be the world’s premier getaway with its 62-room inn, farm-to-table delicacies, spa, and trails stretching throughout 325 acres. Opening winter 2022.
Harpeth River Blueway
Where does the Harpeth Hotel get its identify? The river that runs behind their resort and thru downtown Franklin! To give residents extra human-powered transportation and recreation alternatives, the town joined the Harpeth River Blueway Project to make the river simpler to kayak and SUP. Downtown has six entry factors; we selected Harlinsdale Farm, a historic 200-acre park (and residential of the annual Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival), and paddled upstream in direction of our resort. When it’s a relaxed river, we wish to paddle upstream, then have a leisurely float again (no shuffling of vehicles or hitchhiking required). The Harpeth water ranges can get just a little low by mid summer time so spring is the very best time, however we didn’t thoughts selecting up our kayak for brief stretches—particularly as a result of we had the river all to ourselves! We noticed a number of nice blue herons, dozens of turtles, and big bass splashing about on this biodiversity hotspot. We hopped out on the pretty Bicentennial Park for a stroll then paddled upstream till we hit our resort.
Tip: For leases and guided journeys on the Harpeth, Paddle Dog has you lined.
The Village of Leiper’s Fork
Eight miles west of Franklin lies one other world…Leiper’s Fork. This was a near-forgotten whistle cease city till the Nineteen Nineties when a handful of Tennesseans turned its destiny round. Aubrey Preston and Bruce & Marty Hunt began renovating the historic buildings and hand-selecting artists, antiquarians, entrepreneurs, and individuals who would love and look after this place. They weren’t trying to flip an enormous revenue and so they by no means needed it to develop too massive. Fostering group and desires was at all times at its coronary heart. Today, Leiper’s Fork is only a village of round 650 individuals, however among the residents embrace Chris Stapleton, Mike Wolfe (host of American Pickers), and Justin Timberlake. The arts run via the veins of this city—from David Arms Gallery, a century-old barn dispalying the artist’s work and ornamental curiosities, to Leiper’s Creek Gallery that options internationally acknowledged artists (a lot of that are native). Serenite Maison has a beautiful assortment of house decor and about 15 devices…that aren’t on the market. That’s Picker’s Corner, the place guitars and fiddles are on the prepared if any passerby seems like enjoying a tune. (We had been there all of 5 minutes earlier than somebody began pickin’!) Sadly, after twenty years, the beautiful proprietress Alexandra is retiring, however with the constructing nonetheless owned by Leiper’s Fork matriarch Marty Hunt, there isn’t any method this house will lose its Leiper’s magic. Many guests come for a day journey, however we’re so glad we stayed the evening at Pot n’ Kettle Cottages. Owners Sam & Eric had been additionally wooed by this place across the time of its restoration and their magazine-worthy leases helped put Leiper’s on the map as a vacation spot in its personal proper. Our 1939 “Picker’s Cottage” with its entertaining kitchen, three bedrooms, and funky hangout areas made us really feel native for the evening. Someone noticed our camper parked on the residential road and welcomed us like we had been transferring in. Everyone on the town is so darn pleasant!
Tip: Don’t miss Tennessee Turquoise within the outdated smokehouse tucked off the principle road behind Leiper’s Creek Gallery. This is Morgane Stapleton’s (Chris’ spouse) jewel field of a store the place every buy of their new and vintage turquoise offers again to the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center.
Fox & Locke Open Mic Night
It wasn’t luck that we arrived to Leiper’s Fork on a Thursday evening, that is when Fox & Locke hosts their legendary open mic. This music venue and homecookin’ restaurant bought its fame as Puckett’s, however they’ve simply gone again to its unique identify from when it was a grocery retailer in 1947. In phrases of expertise, nothing has modified, with artists that are typically previous or future Grammy nominees. We arrived at 6pm and the patio was bumpin’ and inside was standing room solely, however our pal Matt scored us a entrance row seat for probably the most intimate and superior music experiences. Musicians come from throughout (one band drove from Detroit via the evening and one other man flew in from Canada!) to audition day-of for his or her probability at one of many 20 spots on stage. We had been blown away by each act—be it a teenage lady with a giant set of pipes or the author for that “Night Shift” track that’s all around the radio. When the present was over and the bar was closed, the artistic vitality was nonetheless flowing with musicians nonetheless jamming on the entrance porch. Get your self to Leiper’s Fork on a Thursday and keep the evening!
Tennessee Whiskey Trail
Tennessee is world famous for its whiskey, but did you know that only three counties in the entire state could legally make the stuff until 2009?! Before prohibition, Tennessee had hundreds of distilleries, though even after the federally-enforced dry spell, the state’s laws remained tight and only two were allowed to reopen. That said, there will always be moonshine and the stills kept cooking in old barns and backrooms. Come the 21st century, lawyer and distiller, Heath Clark decided to take on these antiquated laws and fight for small-batch makers. After a long battle, he successfully rewrote Tennessee law and whiskey production has opened up across the state with over 60 distilleries bringing craft spirits back to the people! The Tennessee Whiskey Trail connects the dots between the distilleries, so we grabbed a passport and bought stamped at two within the Franklin space. Starting with Heath Clark’s very personal, Company Distilling. He partnered up with former Jack Daniel’s grasp distiller, Jeff Arnett, to make among the finest bourbon, whiskey, and gin round. Leiper’s Fork additionally has their very own improbable distillery. We rolled as much as their 200-year-old cabin-turned-tasting-room, and other people had been having a grand ole time enjoying cornhole on the garden and consuming on the porch. On the Leiper’s Fork Distillery guided tour, we met “Ginger” their huge copper nonetheless, peered contained in the cypress-wood tanks, and sipped their double-gold-winning bourbons till we felt heat & fuzzy. Excited to see the place our passport takes us subsequent! See our Instagram gallery above for photographs from these glorious distillery excursions.
Natchez Trace Parkway & Timberland Park
Leaving Leiper’s Fork, it was nicely definitely worth the detour to the hop on the Natchez Trace Parkway, a National Park-protected 444-mile byway following the historic footpath utilized by Native Americans, European settlers, Mississippi River merchants, Civil War troops, and future presidents. You’ll know the place know the place to show if you see the 1,572 ft-long double arch bridge hovering over the street. We pulled over for Buddy the Camper to get his signature picture opp in entrance of the nationwide park signal and realized you possibly can hike to the bottom of the bridge and climb round this architectural marvel. Driving throughout, the views are fabulous of the plush Birdsong Hollow and a mile later you’ll attain the pleasant Timberland Park. Fun reality, this county park is the one one within the nation allowed to function on federal land. They proved their value and self-sufficiency by working completely off-grid, planting an Audubon-approved butterfly backyard, and providing guided walks and courses for the group. We actually loved our hike alongside their forested trails and occupied with the generations of people that walked these hills.
A very sudden spotlight of our time in Franklin? Scoring live performance tickets at one of many coolest venues within the nation! Once a quarry, tall limestone partitions and 140 acres of forest encircle the model new FirstBank Amphitheater. To reclaim the rock-quarry-turned-trash-heap, they recycled and reused 900 tons of fabric and rebuilt to the best requirements of sustainability. Plus, they’re dedicated to being zero-landfill with plastic-free concessions, the place all the pieces is both recyclable or compostable. In lower than a 12 months of operation they’ve already gained the Tennessee Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Award! We would have seen any live performance right here simply to expertise this candy new venue, however we had the great fortune of catching the nice Willie Nelson. Eighty-nine-years outdated and nonetheless rocking robust, the man is actually residing legend. Singing alongside to On The Road Again…“Like a band of gypsies we go down the highway. We’re the best of friends, insisting that the world keep turning our way…” we felt like he was singing only for us. Watch our TikTok video from the concert.
In every destination we partner with, we find ways to give back to the community that would also be fun for other travelers. The Giving Garden is simply that! We spent the morning among the many FFUMC’s 5 acres of fields, flower beds, and greenhouses, studying from their grasp gardeners and chatting with the locals as we boxed up freshly harvested produce for these in want. The farm produces 30,000 kilos of meals a 12 months and rescues 15,000 kilos extra from the farmers market to distribute wholesome meals to Middle Tennessee’s underserved communities, plus flowers to the aged. Anyone can volunteer (their kids’s backyard is lovable!) and you may simply present up any Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday from 8am-11am April-October. We had been so impressed by the work on the Giving Garden that we donated $150 and determined to maintain the giving practice going with one other $150 donation to the Harpeth River Conservancy for conserving this ecosystem thriving for the flora, fauna, group, and guests like us.
An enormous thanks to Visit Franklin for inviting us to their inspiring group and for supporting our content material creation.