Live where you love, and love where you live…it’s the proverbial mantra of anyone you meet here in Franklin, Tennessee. A quaint small-town, complete with a picturesque, historic downtown epicenter. Visitors are enchanted to find that this town offers way more than anyone expects.
Franklin has been my home for five years, and I still don’t feel as if I have begun to scratch the surface of all it has to offer.
When you first drive down Franklin Road, which heads straight into the center of town, over the Harpeth River, past Puckett’s Boat House, and the iconic Landmark Booksellers with it’s four stately white columns, you can’t help but feel that you’ve discovered a treasure and you may never want to leave. As much as this scenario seems like a unique experience, pretty much every Franklin resident you chat with has a similar story of when they decided to set down roots in the town that has repeatedly been voted Best Southern Town, Most Romantic Main Street, Best Places to Live, Top 10 Places to Retire, and the list goes on and on.
Quaint town fact put aside, Franklin is quite a musical mecca. In 2020, Franklin will host its 6th annual Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival at Harlinsdale Farm. Local resident, Justin Timberlake joined the team a few years ago to help produce the festival, and it was a phenomenal hit, loaded with tons of local talent and headliners like Chris Stapleton, Jack White, Beck, Hall and Oats, Violent Femmes, Dave Matthews, and Steven Tyler. Since Franklin is the ultimate family/kid-friendly community, young kids can be seen rocking out alongside their hipster parents, it is genuinely a fun-for-all event.
Every night of the week, there are always a few spots you can hit in town to hear amazingly talented musical artists; after all, being only 20 minutes from Music City (Nashville) will have its effect on the area. The eclectic and quirky, Kimbros Pickin’ Parlor is known to be the stomping grounds for some of Nashville’s top musicians. After all, it was voted as runner up for “Best Live Music Venue” by the Tennessean, first place was The Ryman Auditorium! Coming up behind The Bluebird Cafe, Kimbros was also voted “Best Open Mic” in the whole Nashville area, and that speaks volumes.
The Factory which is home to great shopping, restaurants, and locally run businesses is also host to Studio Tenn which is the area’s premier theater organization, putting on Broadway-caliber shows that will leave you speechless. I’ve seen almost everything they have produced, and I am a fan forever. Throw in Puckett’s Grocery of Leiper’s Fork, with nightly talent served up alongside consistently classic Southern plates of goodness to locals, tourists, farmers and musicians, and thy cup runneth over with options!
Food for the Soul
Speaking of food, should you be hungry when in town (Gasp! We shun the thought), Franklin has offerings for whatever mood you are in; after all, we must feed all those hungry musicians right? Beginning with our Southern roots, turn any corner in Franklin and you will find any number of establishments cooking up biscuits, grits, and barbecue—it would be a sin not to. Head to Grey’s On Main for dinner in the old historic pharmacy. Don’t order until you have heard about its history as told by the staff, and I recommended you taste their award-winning, rye whiskey cocktail, the Anthem Spirit. Share an order of their fried pimento cheeseballs with moonshine pepper jelly. Cork and Cow has a beautiful chic ambiance and a refined menu, but also has one of the best hamburgers, and don’t miss their desserts or friendly bartenders, you will be sorry if you do. If it’s Sunday, you should be having brunch at any of the eateries around town, it’s what one does in the South. Head to The Factory for a flaky layered doughnut from Five Daughters Bakery; their signature doughnuts take 3 days to make, and are worth every calorie! (They also have fantastic vegan and paleo doughnuts) New to Franklin is Franklin Soul, this family-run spot has a chef that will feed you as only a dad knows how. Everything on the menu is sumptuous, it’s like having Sunday dinner every day of the week! My fav is the pot roast and hatch chili grits.
For the Kiddies
Franklin embraces families unlike any place I have ever seen. Fine establishments, restaurants, and businesses don’t even blink an eye when the babysitter cancels and you must have Jr. in tow. For us parents who shiver at the thought of taking the kids out in public, and apologize emphatically to servers before what might ensue at our table of three kids, Franklin just finds it normal to have your kids by your side, and what a relief it is! The many annual festivals always make plans to include the town’s youth and are super kid-friendly. Williamson County Schools and the Franklin Special School District (FSSD) are rated top in the state. During the summer months, there are literally hundreds of summer camps, programs, classes and events organized to keep the kids thriving while school is out.
Any time of the year, head downtown and the family can enjoy the vibrant Franklin art scene at First Fridays each month, you can meander through all the merchants and antique shops, sip some wine and snack while enjoying local artwork. In April, the family will enjoy the Main Street Festival when the whole downtown is blocked off for a massive day of art, food, and fun. The Pumpkin Fest in October and the Dickens Christmas in December are not to be missed, they are classic hometown events that keep families appreciating how wholesome Franklin truly is.
Remains of History
History buffs and Civil War enthusiasts converge on Franklin year-round. Franklin was founded in 1799 and was named after Benjamin Franklin. For most of its first 180 years, Franklin was tranquil. In the years before the Civil War, Williamson County was one of the wealthiest counties in Tennessee and Franklin was the center of the plantation economy. However, the Civil War devastated the economy. Union troops occupied the area for nearly three years. The Battle of Franklin was fought on November 30, 1864, and was one of the war's bloodiest battles, costing more than 8,000 casualties and turning every home and building in town into a hospital.
Visitors can take in-depth tours of the Lotz House, Carnton Plantation, or my personal favorite, the Carter House. The Carter House is only a short walk from the center of town. It was a modest family home that just happened to be situated on the epicenter for The Battle of Franklin. Although it is a smaller home, the guided tours through the house, basement, and grounds are intense as the story is set for the bloody battle by introducing you to the family and what their daily lives were like before that fateful day. It is a thrilling tour and is also located right across the street from their neighbors the Lotz House, where some good ghost stories can be told. As you can imagine, Franklin has a top-notch Ghost Tour organized by Franklin on Foot, and it is fascinating. Many of the downtown shop owners and residents, also have ghost encounter stories they will happily share with anyone who is interested, just ask around.
Many family and friends from other parts of the country think we are living in the sticks until they visit. There is a moment when you are driving around town with all the trendy shops and antique stores and then seconds later come across historic farms and rolling hills, there is that “now I get it” moment. Franklin has the perfect mixture of modern sensibility set on a beautifully historic stage. For those of us who love living here in Franklin, we hope you will visit us soon and enjoy everything that our hometown has to offer.
Have you been to Franklin yet?
What is your favorite thing about our town?
Leave a comment below pretty please!
This story was originally published in a 2017 issue of Southern Travel + Lifestyles magazine by Erin Mataj. Since then the author has updated and edited her original editorial.