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16 Top-Rated Things to Do in Franklin, TN

Written by Catherine Hawkins
Dec 3, 2021

Franklin is a small city whose present-day popularity is often tied to its past. From Civil War battlegrounds occupied by historic buildings to antique shops and a renovated factory, there are constant reminders of the value in preservation. Franklin's past is highly visible and accessible, through the tour of a plantation, a walk across a battlefield, and a ramble down Main Street.

History is just one component that puts this charming area on the tourist map. Within a 30-minute drive of Nashville, Franklin is close to the beat of the urban drum but far enough away to offer a quieter rhythm. Here in this Music City suburb, there's more country around whatever country music you might hear. Maybe that's one reason why celebrities make their home here or in nearby Leiper's Fork.

Challenge yourself at SOAR Adventure Tower, get the big picture from a hot air balloon ride or a hike to the top of Winstead Hill, and go deep into the war-torn cellar of a plantation home. You'll be up, down, and whirling around, pursuing our list of attractions and things to do in Franklin.

Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.

1. Take a Tour at Lotz House

Lotz House
Lotz House | Photo Copyright: Colin J. McMechan

The Lotz House, built in the middle of the 19th century, is where the Battle of Franklin took place. More than a collection of beautiful furniture created by German woodworker and piano maker Johann Lotz, it's a Civil War museum.

Tour the home to learn about the Lotz family who resided here. Tour the property to learn about the five-hour battle that engulfed Franklin on the last day of November 1864. It was one of the bloodiest of the war, with 10,000 soldiers killed or wounded.

Go on a tour, choosing from the Walking Battlefield Tour or the Lotz House Cellar Tour. Ghost tours are scheduled in the old mansion.

You can also combine a tour of Lotz House with another historic site such as Carnton Plantation and Carter House.

Address: 1111 Columbia Avenue, Franklin Tennessee

Official site: www.lotzhouse.com

2. Tour Carnton, a Plantation Home from the Civil War

Carnton Plantation
Carnton Plantation | Photo Copyright: Colin J. McMechan

Carnton Plantation has had many incarnations since it was built in 1826. In its early days, the Carnton mansion was built by slaves, and the success of the farm was due to slave labor. During the Battle of Franklin (last day of November 1864), one of the bloodiest in the Civil War, mistress of the mansion Carrie McGavock transformed her home into the main field hospital for Confederate soldiers.

Take a deep dive into Civil War history by visiting the cellar of Carnton and viewing bloodstains on the porch. Pick from the following tours: Classic House, Battlefield, Behind the Scenes, and Slavery and the Enslaved. It takes one hour to tour the house and grounds. Visitors are encouraged to pause and be respectful, given that human beings were enslaved here.

Address: 1345 Eastern Flank Circle, Franklin, Tennessee

Official site: https://boft.org/carnton

3. Ramble along Main Street in Franklin's Historic Downtown

Historic Franklin
Historic Franklin | Photo Copyright: Colin J. McMechan

Apart from visiting Civil War mansions and museums, ramble down Main Street, the origins of which date back to 1799. Catch the artistic flair and chic vibe, from bakeries to boutiques, antique shops to hair salons. Browse bookstores, admire art in galleries, ogle Victorian architecture, splurge on vintage fashion, catch a show at the Franklin Theatre, and savor a pint of artisanal espresso gelato. If the timing is right, participate in a Franklin festival.

The magic of Franklin's Main Street will reveal itself during your stroll past old buildings that have been renovated and repurposed. Let the magic come to you while sitting on a bench and watching the world walk by. You might see cool hipsters in cowboy boots, possibly famous. It might seem like an incongruous pairing, yet yesteryear seamlessly merges with modern times on Main Street.

Official site: https://downtownfranklintn.com/

4. Imagine Hiding in the Basement of Carter House

Carter House
Carter House | Photo Copyright: Colin J. McMechan

At Carter House, about a mile from the Carnton mansion, a once-in-a-lifetime event unfolded on November 30, 1864. While bullets and cannonballs pummeled their home, the Carter family hid in the cellar waiting for the gunfire to stop.

If it's hard to imagine what this was like for Fountain Branch Carter, the businessman who owned the home; his wife; and their 12 children, all is revealed during a tour of the Carter House State Historic Site. The bullet holes are still here, along with open spaces pierced by cannonballs. The battle was short, but the casualties were significant, numbering 10,000 dead and wounded. One of the Carter boys was a soldier who succumbed to his injuries in the house where he grew up.

Bullet holes at Carter House
Bullet holes at Carter House | Photo Copyright: Colin J. McMechan

Sightseeing tours 60 to 90 minutes long showcase the house, garden, outbuildings (including a one-room slave cabin and smokehouse). Explore the issues of slavery. Time at the battlefield underscores the contrast between five hours of face-to-face combat and quiet time to ponder the saga of that momentous day.

Address: 1140 Columbia Avenue, Franklin Tennessee

Official site: www.boft.org

5. Admire the Scenery on a Side Trip to Leiper's Fork

Leiper’s Fork
Leiper's Fork | Photo Copyright: Colin J. McMechan

The road to Leiper's Fork, a rural hamlet less than 20 minutes from Franklin, is a scenic drive dotted by country estates and grazing horses. Celebrities are rumored to live in some of these homes, so don't be surprised if you see a country music star during your visit.

Normally what you'll experience here is Southern charm and Southern cookin', antique stores and art galleries, and whatever entertainment is happening. Special events include: Hillbilly Half-Marathon and Little Billy 5K in June, model airplane competitions in September, turkey shoots in November, and the "almost famous" Christmas parade in December.

On the National Register of Historic Places, Leiper's Fork is bounded by Joseph Street, Old TN 96, Old Hillsboro Road, and Sycamore Street.

6. McGavock Confederacy Cemetery

McGavock Confederacy Cemetery
McGavock Confederacy Cemetery | Photo Copyright: Colin J. McMechan

Adjacent to Carnton House is the remains of the day following the bloody Battle of Franklin, less than two miles away. The two-acre McGavock Confederacy Cemetery, named for the family that resided here for generations, is the final resting place of nearly 1,500 soldiers.

The cemetery, located off Lewisburg Pike in Franklin, is organized according to states represented by the Confederate soldiers who lost their lives on the last day of November 1864. In addition to graves of 225 unidentified soldiers, Mississippi has the largest number of dead (more than 400) followed by Tennessee. Other states represented are Missouri, Alabama, Arkansas, Texas, Georgia, South Carolina, Kentucky, Louisiana, Florida, and North Carolina.

Address: 1345 Eastern Flank Circle, Franklin Tennessee

Official site: www.mcgavockcemetery.org

7. Drive the Natchez Trace Parkway Bridge

Natchez Trace Parkway Bridge
Natchez Trace Parkway Bridge | Photo Copyright: Colin J. McMechan

The historic Natchez Trace Parkway "traces" the route of early travelers (Native Americans, settlers, soldiers, slave traders) heading north from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee. Access this famous byway at the award-winning Natchez Trace Parkway Bridge, a concrete double arch that is 1,572 feet long. One year following its opening in 1994, the bridge was awarded the Presidential Award for Design Excellence.

Natchez Trace Parkway Bridge is 10 miles from downtown Franklin and within nine miles of the northern end-of-the-line near Nashville. The bridge crosses a wooded valley and features impressive views.

Timberland Park
Timberland Park | Photo Copyright: Colin J. McMechan

Close to the bridge, you can stretch your legs on 3.5 miles of hiking trails at Timberland Park. Located at mile 437.2 on the Natchez Trace Parkway, Timberland Park is just minutes from the bridge. The 72-acre nature park is home to deer, foxes, raccoons, and wild turkeys.

Address: Natchez Trace Pkwy, Franklin, Tennessee

Official site: https://www.nps.gov/natr/index.htm

8. Shop and Catch a Show at The Factory

The Factory
The Factory | Photo Copyright: Colin J. McMechan

The Factory started out as an actual stove factory in 1928, then became an outlet for Magic Chef appliances, before it morphed into the Jamison Bedding Company. Today, through creative renovation and preservation, the 310,000-square-foot industrial and commercial complex known as The Factory has undergone the architectural version of a facelift. In 1997, it secured its place on the National Register of Historic Places while launching itself as a premier retail, commercial, and entertainment space.

Its 80-plus tenants represent a grand mix of boutiques, galleries, studios, cafés, concert halls, live theater venues, antique shops, and offices. Historic venues within The Factory include: Liberty Hall, the largest event rental space, often combined with the Heritage Room; the Jamison Theatre; and the Little Theatre, an intimate space fashioned out of a boiler room.

Franklin Farmers Market, open on Saturday mornings, is located behind The Factory, at the corner of Franklin Road and Liberty Pike.

Address: 230 Franklin Road, Franklin, Tennessee

Official site: www.factoryatfranklin.com

9. Reflect among the Memorials at Winstead Hill Park

Winstead Hill Park
Winstead Hill Park | Photo Copyright: Colin J. McMechan

Winstead Hill Park, located two miles south of Franklin, is a 61-acre historic battle site that commemorates the Battle of Franklin. More than a century ago, 23,000 Confederate soldiers gathered here under the banner of the Army of Tennessee. Learn more about the Civil War battle from the hilltop map, memorials to states that lost Confederate soldiers, and tributes to six generals who were killed.

Beyond its significance as a national historic landmark, Winstead Hill Park provides a tranquil place where visitors can enjoy a walk on a wide paved trail. Wildlife viewing and bird-watching are among the things you can do while strolling and reflecting on your visit to Winstead Hill.

Address: 4023 Columbia Avenue, Franklin, Tennessee

Official site: https://www.franklintn.gov/government/departments-k-z/parks/park-locations/winstead-hill

10. Take a Balloon Ride over Lakes and Hollers

Balloons flying over Tennessee
Balloons flying over Tennessee

Whenever the temperature and wind conditions are right, a popular thing to do in Franklin for tourists is a balloon ride. West Tennessee Hot Air Adventures specializes in flying over the hollers (valleys) and hidden lakes of middle Tennessee. The company is a family-run business outside of Leiper's Fork, which is a cool place to visit while you're on the ground.

Catch a sunrise or sunset to celebrate a special occasion during your visit to Franklin. Unlike most other things you can do, you cannot stand in line for your ride in the big basket. Given the demand, you'll need a reservation to get up and away into the great blue yonder.

Address: 5623 Pinewood Road, Franklin, Tennessee

Official site: https://www.tnballoon.com/

11. SOAR Adventure Tower

SOAR Adventure Tower
SOAR Adventure Tower | Photo Copyright: Colin J. McMechan

SOAR Adventure Tower is an amusement park featuring four levels with more than 100 climbing elements. The bottom level can be played by toddlers. With each level escalating in degree of difficulty, parents can help young children have fun while overcoming obstacles. At the top level, you'll need skill and concentration to nail mental and physical feats on barrels, swings, rings, tightropes, and cliff simulations.

Day and twilight passes are available. An 18-hole mini-golf course can be worked into your admission charge.

Address: 3794 Carothers Pkwy, Franklin, Tennessee

Official site: www.soaradventuretowerfranklin.com

12. Make the Scene at the Franklin Theatre

Franklin Theatre
Franklin Theatre | Photo Copyright: Colin J. McMechan

The Franklin Theatre made its debut in the summer of 1937 and had a 70-year-run before closing in 2007. After a multi-million dollar renovation by a non-profit preservation company, the landmark Art Deco theater re-opened its doors in 2011.

The 300-seat venue showcases all kinds of entertainment, including classic and current movies, community and private events, and live concerts. Among the artists who have performed here: the Glenn Miller Orchestra, Art Garfunkel, and Sheryl Crow. With a musical repertoire ranging from classical to country, and blues to bluegrass, be sure to reserve a memorable night out on Main Street by making the scene at the Franklin Theatre.

Address: 419 Main Street, Franklin, Tennessee

Official site: https://www.franklintheatre.com/

13. Go for a Hike at the Park at Harlinsdale Farm

Harlinsdale Farm
Harlinsdale Farm | Photo Copyright: Colin J. McMechan

One of the largest of Franklin's many parks is The Park at Harlinsdale Farm, comprising 200 acres. This historic horse farm was the old stomping grounds for Midnight Sun, a prized stallion that was a World Grand Champion. The farm features a three-acre pond, four-acre dog park, three miles of turf track trails for walking and running, and an equestrian sports arena.

Less than three miles away is Aspen Grove Park. This 14-acre property features a paved trail (almost one mile long) beside Spencer Creek. Kids will flock to the playground while grownups set up a picnic in the sheltered area.

Address for the Park at Harlinsdale Farm: 239 Franklin Road, Franklin, Tennessee

Official site: https://www.franklintn.gov/government/departments-k-z/parks/park-locations/the-park-at-harlinsdale-farm

14. Meet Artists at Gallery 202

Gallery 202
Gallery 202 | Photo Copyright: Colin J. McMechan

Gallery 202, Franklin's most famous art gallery, has lived and served many lives. Built 200 years ago for the Clouston family, it was an elegant residence known as Clouston Hall. During the Civil War, it was one of 44 hospitals that ministered to injured and dying soldiers. It also had a prestigious role serving three visiting American presidents.

Gallery 202 is still a home–to more than 20 painters, potters, sculptors, glass designers, and jewelry makers. Meet the artists, learn about their creations, and feel welcome to browse and talk shop. Antiques and fine art are housed on two floors of the gallery, which is sometimes used as a venue for live performance.

Address: 202 2nd Avenue South, Franklin, Tennessee

Official site: https://gallery202art.com

15. Visit McLemore House

McLemore House, the Oldest African American-Owned Home in Franklin
McLemore House, the Oldest African American-Owned Home in Franklin | Photo Copyright: Colin J. McMechan

McLemore House is significant as a home and museum because it was bought by a former slave. In 1880, Harvey McLemore bought property from his former owner, a Confederate officer. In a neighborhood known as "Hard Bargain," the corner house with the white picket fence was home to Harvey's descendants for 117 years.

Now a museum, it tells the story of the McLemore family, and that of other freed slaves during the 1870s and 1880s. These people faced many challenges as they established their place in local society. Their "Journey from Slavery to Freedom" is told through panels and artifacts of African Americans who lived and fought to be free.

Address: 446 11th Avenue North, Franklin, Tennessee

Official site: https://boft.org/mclemore-house

16. Pet the Goats at Noble Springs Dairy

Noble Springs Dairy
Noble Springs Dairy | Photo Copyright: Colin J. McMechan

Learn about making goat cheese while your kids pat the goats at Noble Springs Dairy. Located six miles from Franklin on the way to Leiper's Fork, the dairy farm makes artisanal goat cheese and soap, as well as feta cheese and yogurt. Every goat on the Noble family farm has a name and forages on 230 delectable acres–more than the goats can manage!

The goat dairy and creamery has been operating since 2009 and sells products all over Tennessee. If you're visiting Franklin during the summer, educational tours are offered.

Address: 3144 Blazer Road, Franklin, Tennessee

Official site: https://noble-springs.com

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