We were lucky enough to take a four week road trip exploring five cities in Tennessee. The charm the entire state has is unmatched but Franklin definitely took the cake. It may be small but it’s mighty and filled with beauty and history. Here are all the things to do in Franklin, TN to plan the perfect weekend trip like we had! We did visit Franklin in October 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic so I’ll also cover safety precautions and you’ll notice lots of food in to go containers because we felt more comfortable dining that way.
How to Get to Franklin, TN
As mentioned we were on a road trip so we drove into Franklin from Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge, TN (read that itinerary here) which took us four hours. However, if you’re flying the nearest airport is Nashville International Airport, just 30 minutes Northeast of Franklin. While downtown Franklin is walkable you’ll need a car to explore the rest of the city so be sure to rent a car when flying in. We’re a part of the Alamo Insiders rewards program and have rented from Alamo for years, we love the savings.
Things to Do in Franklin, TN Year Round
Some people take a day trip to Franklin, spend a weekend like we did or spend a week. No matter the length of your stay there are plenty of things to do in Franklin, TN to fill up your time.
Explore Downtown Franklin
Midnight Sun Scavenger Hunt
A scavenger hunt is the perfect way to get to know a city. While we were visiting Franklin, TN with kids us adults had a great time doing this activity and would do it without the excuse of having children. We learned so much about the town through this 10 riddle hunt. There are 10 statues around town representing the legendary Tennessee Walking Horse, Midnight Sun, which you’ll head off to find after stopping by the visitors center to get the brochure with the scavenger hunt. If you answer all 10 riddles correctly you’ll get a prize when you return the brochure to the visitors center.
The Franklin theatre was built in 1937 operating as a classic movie house until 2007 when it was renovated. Post renovation it’s the top 300-seat music venue in the world. When in town be sure to schedule a tour of the theater so you can learn more about this historical venue. Unfortunately we weren’t able to see inside since it was closed during our Covid-19 visit but that just gives us another reason to re-visit.
The Fuller Story
Franklin has a long history, one that isn’t the most positive. The public square on the roundabout in Downtown served as a market house used for the purchasing and selling of human beings. While a confederate statue remains, the square now also has five Fuller Story markers commemorating local African American history added in 2019.
Learn About the Civil War at Carnton
Franklin has a lot of Civil War history and the Battle of Franklin is infamous for being a short five hours but leading to 9,500 deaths. The home ended up serving as the largest field hospital for Confederate soldiers. You can now tour it and learn more about the battle, including seeing blood stains left in the building.
About 20 minutes from downtown Franklin, TN is Leiper’s Fork. An unwritten rule of the village is that each place has a porch to sit and gather with or without a fire pit. The village is all about community so it’s a way for both residents and visitors to get to know each other. While in town you can eat at the village favorite Puckett’s Grocery. The locations stage has been blessed with performances by Winona Judd, Tanya Tucker, Rodney Crowell, Keb Mo, Jill Sobule, Phil Everly (The Everly Brothers), Don Schlitz, Casey Beathard, Phil O’Donnell and many more, you just never know who will be there!
You can also walk through the many shops, some which blend into the residential homes like Serenite Maison, Leiper’s Creek Gallery and David Arms Gallery.
Natchez Trace Parkway
If you didn’t explore Natchez Trace on your way into Leipers Fork from downtown Franklin be sure to take this scenic route on the way back. This historic forest trail covers 444 miles of road from Nashville, Tennessee to Natchez, Mississippi. The infamous bridge on the parkway is located in Franklin.
If you have time for pitstops check out Garrison Creek or hike the Highland Rim Trail by milepost 427. If horseback riding is more your speed there are plenty of stables in the area that will take you on trails like the Natchez Trace Scenic Trail starting at milepost 418. There are also picnic areas at Burns Branch at milepost 425.
If you’re like me you may not have known Tennessee had vineyards. Open Monday-Saturday 11am-8pm and Sunday 12pm-6pm, Arrington Vineyards, a bring your own food winery will have you feeling as if you’re in wine country. We secured a picnic table and then ordered our tasting flights along with one of their seasonal Frose’s.
If you visit between May and October every Friday from 5-8pm (weather permitting) is Food Truck Fridays where there is live music plus multiple food trucks to get dinner from! Even if it’s not Food Truck Friday the vineyard offers cheese plates, sandwiches and desserts.
Visiting Mistletoe Farm and getting a chance to interact with the alpacas was something we really wanted to do during our visit but unfortunately they were booked all the way up. During Covid they are only offering private visits with one group at a time, which is a great way to keep the community safe. It’s something we will definitely have to return to Franklin for!
Things to Do In Franklin, TN on Halloween
Franklin celebrates Halloween like no other place we’ve ever been. While I know West Main Street is shut down every year for trick or treating I’m not 100% sure on whether or not these other special Halloween events are yearly occurrences or were just for 2020. Either way each year the city goes all out and there are bound to be tons of activities in addition to trick or treating.
Halloween Story time at the Landmark Booksellers
Stop by for a special Halloween story time with sessions for kids 3-6 years old as well as a session for older kids. Check directly with the store for specific hours.
InstaBurst Photo Booth
Located in front of the Visitor Center from 10-5pm the operators were dressed up in costumes and giving away candy in addition to the cute Halloween photo props.
Trick or Treating on Main Street
One of the things to do in Franklin, TN the city is most well known for is Trick or Treating. The town and homes on Main Street go absolutely insane. We went to a home who turned their entire garage into a walk through Halloween house, homes that were shooting candy off the roof and more. I have no idea how we’ll ever top this experience, it was truly one for the books.
Where to Eat in Franklin, TN
One of my favorite parts of traveling through Tennessee is the food! We ate good in Franklin and I highly recommend checking out these restaurants when visiting Franklin.
Original Martin’s BBQ Joint
When you choose to eat somewhere more than once on a short visit you know the food is good. We had quite a few members of our community on Instagram recommend Martin’s and oh were they right! With locations now in Nashville, Virginia and more we were excited to be visiting the original location. Whether you get ribs or chicken from here you won’t be disappointed and the sides are just as good. They have two outdoor seating areas, one in the front of the restaurant and one in the back that is covered but open-air.
The Factory at Franklin
While the Factory at Franklin isn’t a restaurant itself it is a space with multiple food options. It’s a great place to go if everyone you’re with wants something different to eat. If you’re in the mood for tacos you can grab food from Mojo’s Tacos which has both indoor and outdoor seating.
We decided to eat at Pinchy’s Lobster which had recently opened when we visited. They offer hot and cold lobster rolls and some with a Southern twist. Since they did not have outdoor seating we took our food to go but it was still good!
If you want something to satisfy your sweet tooth while here, you’ll be pleased to know the original Five Daughters Bakery is also located in The Factory at Franklin. They are famous for their 100-layer donut and yes it tastes as good as it sounds. They often sell out long before their official closing time so be sure to get here early!
You cannot visit Franklin and not experience Biscuit Love. Like many of the restaurants here it started as a food truck and moved its way up to a brick and mortar location. It’s been featured on the Food Network so don’t miss your opportunity to dine here! Everyone recommends the BoNuts and while they are good my personal favorite is the Lily, their french toast made from their famous biscuits. I’m pretty sure my mouth is still watering and it’s probably best I don’t have access to them everyday or I’d be in trouble! If you’re looking for a healthier option the winter veggie bowl is excellent!
Looking for a unique take on Southern Food? Then 55 South, owned by chef Jason McConnel, is the place to eat. He owns a few restaurants in Franklin and 55 South did not disappoint. They typically offer outdoor dining but since we ate here on Halloween their outdoor section was closed so we ordered our food to go.
Tiny Little Donuts
When you arrive at an establishment 10 minutes before opening on a Sunday morning when it’s chilly outside and the parking lot is full with a line already formed you know you’re in for a treat. Tiny Little Donuts is run by a husband and wife in the cutest Airstream Trailer and well worth the wait. They sell donuts in “generous dozen” sizes meaning your box will have roughly 14-15 donuts with no specific amount guaranteed except it will definitely be more than 12. Only open until 1pm except for Monday’s when they’re closed you have to hurry to get these little pieces of heaven. Flavors offered include Classic Cinnamon Sugar, Timeless Glazed, Old School Powdered Sugar, Fresh Lemon Glaze, Special Dark Chocolate, Maple Glaze along with special seasonal options. Out of the three flavors we tried the classic cinnamon sugar was my favorite.
Where to Stay in Franklin, TN
If you want to be close to the action, I recommend staying on Main Street like we did. You’ll be able to walk to everything in Downtown Franklin including multiple restaurants! For this trip we stayed in this Airbnb and you can check out the other listings available. If you’ve never signed up for Airbnb you can save $40 on your first booking by signing up here. Nervous about Airbnb? Read my tips to guarantee a great Airbnb experience.
While we enjoy the benefits of a vacation home for more space when traveling with the whole family we love Hilton. They recently opened the Harpeth Downtown Franklin, a part of Hilton’s Curio Collection in 2020. As Diamond members of the hotel brand we get a lot of perks like free upgrades, free breakfast and lounge access with lunch depending on the hotel along with free stays. We reached Diamond status with the help of our no-annual fee Hilton Honors American Express credit card. You can earn 80,000 points for signing up with my referral link which is enough points for 2-3 nights free depending on the Hilton hotel you book.
There are so many things to do in Franklin, TN. Whether you’re visiting on a day trip or staying for multiple days you’ll fall in love with this town. If you found this article please share it! Visiting other cities in Tennessee? Check out our itineraries for Nashville, a weekend in Memphis, Memphis with Kids, Chattanooga, and Gatlinburg.