It’s so funny—I’ve been struggling to start this post. And not because there’s nothing to write about Franklin, TN. But because there’s so much to write about it. I mean… where do I even begin? How do I even organize my thoughts? And then type them up in a coherent fashion? Ultimately, I decided an itinerary of my time there was the best place to start. Which would end up being a couple different posts.
If there’s one thing that can be said about Franklin, it’s that this little town is your quintessential all-American town. It’s exactly what you have in mind when you think of small town USA—a bustling Main Street, perky proud flags, manicured lawns, white picket fences, and strangers who randomly greet you on the street. It was so much over-the-top Americana, it actually made me chuckle to myself as I toured around. In the best way possible. Where you’re literally saying aloud to yourself, “Is this place for real?” …Yes. Yes, it is.
But your real question—the whole reason you came to this post today—is what the heck is there to do in Franklin, TN, anyway? Where the heck is it? And you know Global Debauchery got all the deets in just a couple-day visit.
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Our First Evening In Franklin, TN…
We basically did an entire Tennessee road trip. And Franklin, TN was one of a few different stops. So we arrived early afternoon and checked into our awesome hotel—the Harpeth. And—you know how it is after a day in the car—we needed a couple hours to chill, unpack, collect ourselves, clean up, etc. …before our ridiculously fantastic dinner at 1799 downstairs. And that was the start of our Franklin festivities.
Enjoy a Top-Notch Dinner at 1799 Kitchen & Cocktails in Downtown Franklin, TN
And when I say “top-notch,” I mean top. notch. Make your way into downtown Franklin, TN and find 1799 Kitchen & Cocktails attached to the Harpeth Hotel. They’ve got an absolutely gorgeous bar serving craft cocktails. I tested out the Hibiscus Mule, which was both beautiful and dangerous. …So I ordered a second one to take to dinner with me.
Choose to sit at individual tables behind closed, draped curtains and enjoy absolute privacy. Or, sit right in the middle of things in their “barrel room,” which was designed—you guessed it—to resemble the inside of a whiskey barrel. The menu was extraordinary and I enjoyed the largest pork chop I’ve ever seen with a side of lobster mac. The #AP4L had the duck and brussel sprouts. When we couldn’t decide on which dessert to share, we just ordered one each instead. No complaints here. The perfect end to a long day.
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Our Big Day In Franklin, TN…
Of course you can spend an entire day touring Franklin. You could spend an entire weekend touring downtown. Never even mind the outskirts. (Though the outskirts are great, too!) So, yeah. Our day was entirely devoted to downtown Franklin, TN. And we stayed busy as busy can be. From morning all the way through the evening.
Grab Brekkie at The Factory at Franklin
All those vacation booze are taxing when you’re over forty. The only thing that makes it better, besides time and Tylenol? Coffee. (To be clear: I regret nothing.) I strolled over to The Factory at Franklin, an old stove factory that’s been transformed into a hip, artsy little mini mall, of sorts. There was a little construction on the way, but if I hadn’t walked, I wouldn’t have stopped to admire the Harpeth River on the way.
The Factory is everything you’d expect from a warehouse renovated by creatives. Cool bakeries, artisan crafts, galleries, a taco place, a record shop, art studios, and sculptures abound. You get the idea. And it’s fun. Most notably, it’s got a Lonely Planet office.
After wandering through a few stores and checking out all the food spots, I enjoyed the morning sun on Honest Coffee Roasters’ patio with a latte and a bacon cheddar scone. Honest Coffee has been around Franklin for over 100 years at one location or another and, after my scone, I now know why.
A Franklin, TN Main Street Meander
There really are so many things to see downtown, it’s impossible to list them all in a single blog post, but I will, of course, outline a couple of my favs. If you enjoy window shopping (or just plain shopping), you’ll absolutely adore Main Street in Franklin, TN. Or if you enjoy food. Because there’s plenty of that, too. Good food.
Lots of boutique-type shops, like White’s Mercantile. Which is owned by Hank Williams Jr.’s daughter, Holly Williams. Super southern, lots of cute things. Lots of galleries, too. I found the “Trust Your Journey” light (below) at Deann Designs. It’s mounted to an abstract angel wall painting and is, really, a lovely little Insta-spot. (Should you be so inclined…)
Another one of my favs was Landmark Booksellers, a “secondhand” bookstore just down the way a little from the central hustle and bustle. I say “secondhand” specifically because I overheard the owner saying something to the effect that the term “used” was rude, and likened secondhand books to second marriages…? Whatever the full philosophy was in all its glory, it was totally in jest (obviously) and just made me laugh.
Things I love about secondhand book stores? I found this cheeky little message etched in Madame Bovary. It reads: “Barbara, Remember the time we had! Then smile. Robert A. Allison III.” Now, I have no idea who these fine people are, but… have you read Madame Bovary, y’all? I feel like I’ve just walked in on something scandalous! (And I’m not entirely sure why, but that pic makes me look like I have a fat little, sausage-roll hand.)
For the record, they also have new books, some of which are beautifully packaged hardbound classics with gold leaf, etc. The whole nine.
Stuff Your Face At Gray’s On Main & Triple Crown Bakery
Now, we had lunch at Gray’s On Main, but the marquee at night was so awesome, I just had to include it! Gray’s On Main is a furniture store turned pharmacy turned restaurant and bar in downtown Franklin, TN. Great menu, friendly people, and an incredible space.
Cool things about this joint? The bar and dining benches are old doors and wood found in the basement from the original spaces. There’s a big wheel above the stage that used to be how they lifted furniture to the second level. The hallway wallpaper is legit old pharmacy scripts collages on the wall (i.e., HIPAA violation).
And my personal favorite—a handwritten chronicle scrolling down a wall. That’s right—a decades-long employee scribbled all their major life events on the wall by a spiral staircase. And it’s still there. Last entry? “Gone fishing.”
We also hit up the Triple Crown Bakery for pistachio macarons. Which were delicious. The bakery is just a delightful little house with English tea settings all over the place. Really quaint. We were attempting to tackle Franklin’s “Sweet Treats Trail,” but then we realized we’d misunderstood the whole premise of the trail.
Basically, you download a digital passport and go around town collecting stamps from bakeries. Once you get X number of stamps, you can get some kind of fun prize from the Franklin Visitor’s Center. I was thinking the places offered samples and there were a total of like seven, but… no.
There are 13 and you have to buy something at each of them. So, that didn’t end up happening. But you only have to get five stamps to get your gift. Either way, more of a whole summer project, rather than a “weekend thing.” (I mean… you could do it in one weekend. I’d be impressed.)
A Haunted Tour with Franklin On Foot & “The Best House Party Imaginable”
You would totally think we’d be in a food coma by now, but we still had a whole evening of touring ahead of us. That’s right—we met Robert from Franklin On Foot for a haunted ghost tour of downtown Franklin, TN. And it started right in the main town circle, where people have reportedly seen apparitions standing on the courthouse balcony.
An interesting thing about Franklin—it was actively occupied by Union troops during the Civil War, so it was never burned and pillaged, as many southern towns were during that time. Lots and lots of the original structures are still in tact. Many of them would become hospitals that housed both Union and Confederate troops.
What does all of this mean? Well, besides the fact that Franklin touts oodles and oodles of cool history, it also supposedly touts oodles and oodles of ghosts! Anyhow, the tour was great fun. Both historically and spiritually. And Robert was great.
As luck would have it, it ended right around the corner from the famous Kimbro’s Pickin’ Parlor. So… it was mandatory that we went. …Right? Kimbro’s is two houses turned music venue and, on any given night, just anyone might be there and take the stage. The “best house party imaginable,” we were told.
On this particular night, a small band called Applegate Nance graced the stage. We enjoyed beers and whiskey watching them play and, eventually, Dick Aven would join them on the sax. I had no idea who he was at first, but he’s a famous saxophonist who lives in the area. He’s played with Peabo Bryson, has been on Jay Leno, and currently tours with Jamey Johnson. (Who knew?)
Everything You Could Possibly Want Is In Franklin, TN
We stopped in Franklin, TN as part of a larger trip. But, in all honesty, it sort of stole the show. I personally preferred it over its cosmopolitan neighbor Nashville, and I’m very much a city girl. I think it had an authenticity to it that just permeated everything there. And it truly offers something for everyone—history, food, booze, music, shopping, nature… So, if you’re looking for the ultimate American small town, Franklin is the place for you. You won’t be disappointed.
Have you been to Franklin? What would you recommend? Add a comment or reach out via my Contact page.
Where To Stay: The Harpeth Franklin Downtown, Curio Collection by Hilton
When we visited, we were fortunate enough to be able to stay the Harpeth Hotel, a Hilton Curio, right in the middle of downtown. A block from the main circle and just off Main Street, it was the perfect location. It had a ton of super classy common areas where you could just relax or set up shop if you had a little work you wanted to get done. The reading room and patio were a couple of my personal favs. Not to mention the restaurant and café attached. 1799 Kitchen & Cocktails was simply incredible, and it’s always nice to have a full coffee joint at your hotel.
I have this thing lately where I’m judging hotels based on their hallways. (Something about your first impressions behind the lobby… I dunno.) But Harpeth had nice hallways. Which—to me—is an indicator that awesomeness awaits. The rooms were spacious, clean, and updated. We even had a small sitting area and a balcony. And the service was all-around excellent, too. The Adventure Partner For Life and I make good use of valet these days.
I’d definitely recommend the Harpeth Hotel when you visit Franklin. Two enthusiastic thumbs up from Global Debauchery.
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