Long overshadowed by its well-known neighbor to the north, Nashville, it’s clear that there’s something special about Franklin, Tennessee. With its vibrant food and drink scene, a funky village enclave, Civil War history and its country music offerings, this small southern city has enough to keep foodies, beverage connoisseurs, history buffs, and music lovers happy. Travelers to this bustling, charming destination will be pleasantly surprised – Franklin has a vibe like few other places.

A shot down a row of vines in a very green vineyard
Arrington Vineyard in Tennessee, USA © Globe Guide Media Inc / Shutterstock

Southern comfort food and whiskey

Exploring local cuisine is one of the best ways to get to know a new destination and embrace its culture. Franklin is no different, with a large and varied community of eateries and beverage purveyors. Country music fans will love a stop at Arrington Vineyards, as its co-owner is none other than Kix Brooks of the famous duo Brooks & Dunn. Be sure to sample the inventive antebellum offerings, which use old whiskey barrels to age the wine. 

Delicious area restaurants also deserve some attention, like 55 South and Gray’s on Main – a former pharmacy turned elevated southern comfort food spot. Other favorites include Merridee’s for breakfast and fresh-baked bread, Biscuit Love for Southern-style brunch, the upscale Cork & Cow steakhouse, and the whiskey and burger bar O’ Be Joyful.

A plate full of food including hot chicken on bread with gherkins on top, and an orange-colored smoothie
A hot chicken biscuit and a paloma from Biscuit Love in Franklin, Tennessee © Meghan O'Dea / Lonely Planet

Just a short walk from downtown, The Factory is full of shops and restaurants including Mojo's Tacos and Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams, as well as the Luna Record Shop and the Made In TN gift shop.

Of course, no trip to Tennessee could be complete without trying some of its famous whiskey. Williamson County boasts two distilleries on the state’s Whiskey Trail, Leiper’s Fork and H. Clark (for those who don’t love whiskey, fear not, as the gin at H. Clark is a winner as well!). There’s even a Masters & Makers tourist trail that winds through the area, showcasing additional beverage talent. 

Civil war cannon and monument on the Memorial Square in Franklin, Tennessee
Civil war cannon and monument on the Memorial Square in Franklin, Tennessee. © Jorge Villalba / Getty Images

Local history

Franklin, Tennessee, is also home to three well-known Civil War historical sites. These include Lotz House, Carnton House, and the Carter House, which are all associated with the Battle of Franklin, also called the “five bloodiest hours of the Civil War.”

With the abundance of antebellum sites and plantations in the area, Franklin has made some effort to communicate the African American experience here throughout the town's history. The Fuller Story campaign includes five plaques downtown marking sites from the Franklin slave market to a statue honoring the Black soldiers who served in the US Colored Troops of the Union Army. 

Rural street with wooden boarded properties selling goods
Leiper's Fork is classic rural charm, full of antique stores and eateries like Puckett's Grocery © 4k-Clips / Alamy Stock Photo

Easy access to Leiper’s Fork 

Less than ten miles west of Franklin lies the quirky enclave of Leiper’s Fork, Tennessee. This artistic haven is a must-visit on any trip to the area, as it’s home to a renowned open mic night (Thursdays at Pucketts), a Lawnchair Theater community gathering space, and tons of cool shops and restaurants.

Some favorites include the European antiques at Serenite Maison, art from the Copper Fox and David Arms, and the old house turned restaurant, 1892. Pro tip: ask for Pops to be your tour guide if you get the chance to visit the aforementioned Leiper’s Fork Distillery. 

Jackson Falls at Natchez Trace Parkway
Jackson Falls on the Natchez Trace Parkway © marekuliasz / Getty Images

The Natchez Trace

This area's history goes back long before the days of Franklin's mid-century main street and its antebellum plantations. The Natchez Trace was first blazed by the indigenous peoples who lived here thousands of years ago, including the Choctaw and Chickasaw. Eventually it was used by European settlers, too, and developed into a major trade route by the early 19th century. Today it's a popular place for Sunday drives, epic cycling excursions, and hikes, running 444 miles from Nashville through Franklin and Leiper's Fork through north Alabama, and on across Mississippi.

Two men perform on stage; the one on the left is patting the other man on the shoulder while he plays guitar
Musicians Justin Timberlake, left, and Chris Stapleton perform at the 2017 Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival in Franklin, Tennessee © John Shearer / Getty Images

Country music and celebrity spotting

Franklin, and the rest of greater Williamson County, is where a number of the celebrities closely associated with Music City actually call home. From Chris Stapleton to Kristin Cavallari, Justin Timberlake to Garth Brooks, you never know who you might see out and about in Franklin, Tennessee, and Leiper's Fork.

For something closer to a sure thing, of course, head to Kimbro's Pickin' Parlor, where you can have the classic juke joint experience seeing live music from local up-and-comers – as well as the occasional legend. John Prine, Emmylou Harris, Wynonna Judd, and Ween have all graced Kimbro's stage before.

The Bunkhouse at the Dark Horse Recording Estate is like a boutique hostel on the same property where Taylor Swift and Neil Diamond have laid down tracks © courtesy of Vrbo

A variety of lodging

The upscale Curio by Hilton collection has recently opened a new property right in historic downtown Franklin. The Harpeth Hotel, aptly named for the river that winds through Middle Tennessee, is a luxe yet approachable paradise. With a bar design inspired by a whiskey barrel, its own signature vanilla bourbon scent, and a whiskey keep for regular patrons, the Harpeth is not your average luxury accommodation.

For those who prefer vacation rental style lodging, there are a variety of options near downtown Franklin, from the Franklin Farmhouse to the Sugar Shack. There are also plenty of cute cabins and hip recording studio hideouts along the stretch of Old Hillsboro Road near Leiper's Fork that's popular with country stars. 

(Full disclosure: The writer of this article independently selected these properties to help you plan an amazing travel experience. If you purchase through links on this site, Lonely Planet may earn a commission from the retailer.)

Two white women laugh together as they walk down a street
People walk between shops and restaurants in downtown Franklin, Tennessee © Brett Carlsen / Getty Images

Getting there: the short drive from Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville International Airport, one of the fastest growing in North America, is located roughly 25 miles from downtown Franklin. This makes it a very accessible destination – it's just a 30 minute or so drive, depending on local traffic. The airport has nonstop flights from London as well as 74 other nonstop destinations, and serves over 500 flights each day. And if you want to spend time in Nashville first, Music City itself is just a short drive away.


You might also like:

The best Nashville hotels for every travel style  
The 8 best day trips from Nashville  
I’ve been everywhere (at least in Arkansas and Tennessee): A Johnny Cash road trip  

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