We recently spent ten wonderful days in Franklin, Tennessee (or as we affectionately call it…our future home). This was not our first visit to the charming historical town, but it was undoubtedly the best. The food was amazing, the people were like a balm for our souls, and learning about Franklin’s role in the Civil War was sobering. To our great delight, we were perfectly content in this sweet town for all ten days and could have stayed longer, proving that Franklin is not just a stop on the way to a destination…it is a destination.
Today I’m sharing everything we did (and things we wish we had done) in Franklin, as well as a free printable that you can print out or save to your phone.
Franklin, Tennessee is about twenty minutes south of Nashville, but it feels like a world away with it’s historical homes and buildings, Civil War battle fields, and southern hospitality around every corner. I polled my Instagram audience for things we had to do while there…some we had already done on previous visits, and some we would have never known about without their suggestions. You can read through our experience of vacationing in Franklin or you can skip to the printable at the end of this post.
Where We Stayed in Franklin
The General’s Retreat – An Airbnb that sits behind a 100-year-old historical home in a neighborhood filled with amazing homes and the most hospitable people. As far as I can tell, it sleeps a maximum of five people on beds, but there is plenty of floor space if you have kiddos who don’t mind sleeping on the carpeted floor. Also, the house is divided up, so there is another Airbnb on the property called The Captain’s Quarters, and it has a queen-sized bed in it. All in all, I think you could visit this Airbnb with 8-10 people (as long as some are okay with floor pallets) if you book both quarters.
During previous visits to Franklin, Tennessee, we’ve stayed in a hotel on the outskirts of town, as well as another Airbnb in a different part of town, and we all agreed that this was the best stay yet. The property is incredible. We were surrounded by enormous trees, lush greenery, and the most beautiful homes in a historic part of Franklin. Just taking a walk in this neighborhood is an experience.
Oh, and the host has a cat named Rosa, who came to visit us every day. She is very friendly and has a great personality. We dubbed her Noelle’s “vacation kitty” since she spent so much time with her while we were there.
Where We Ate in Franklin, Tennessee
- 55 South
- Franklin Coffee House
- Biscuit Love
- Franklin Mercantile
- Cork & Cow
- Five Daughter’s Bakery
- Mojo’s Tacos
- Tiny Little Donuts
- Mellow Mushroom
- Tupelo Honey
Where didn’t we eat in Franklin is more like it. The food is a big part of the experience in this historic town, as every restaurant is in a historic house or building, and Franklin knows how to do southern food in a classy way. It’s not all fried chicken and collard greens (although there’s plenty of that too). We usually start with Puckett’s Grocery…it’s an all-time favorite for traditional southern cooking and an atmosphere that makes you feel at home.
*On the free printable at the end of this post, I included what we liked about each restaurant as well as whether or not they offer gluten-free options, as I can’t eat gluten and was still able to enjoy the local fare.
Biscuit Love is one of our favorite restaurants, for obvious reasons…the house it’s in! Okay, so maybe that’s just my favorite reason. Scroll down to see the amazing staircase and interior. Pretty sure Jeff and the girls love it because of the biscuits and the bonuts (they’re a thing and you must get them). We ate here several times during our stay.
Mojo’s Tacos is inside The Factory at Franklin (another favorite spot of ours) and is a great place for a quick lunch or dinner. We sat outside this time and it was lovely. Oh, and they have craft sodas that are delicious…we love the root beer.
The girls and I stumbled upon Tiny Little Donuts, which is a vintage Airstream trailer converted into a donut shop. I realized later that this was a reader suggestion. They do not offer gluten-free options, so Hannah and Noelle were the only ones who were able to enjoy these tiny little delights, but it was still fun to go. I just love unique eateries like this!
If you go to Franklin, you must eat at Culaccino and you must order the octopus and/or the duck. Even the girls loved the octopus, and once Jeff tasted my duck, he wished he had ordered it. It was an accident that we even ended up eating here (45-minute wait at the first restaurant we tried), but we were all thrilled to have found this place. It was recently voted Best New Restaurant in Franklin and it was clear to see and taste why.
Since we have older girls, Jeff and I were able to sneak away for a date night at Cork & Cow while the girls hung back at the Airbnb watching movies in their bedroom (a real treat since they’ve never experienced that). This place has amazing steaks and cocktails!
I didn’t even take pictures of our two favorite places to eat…The Franklin Coffee House and 55 South. That usually means I was too busy enjoying the food, the company, and the ambiance. I woke up every morning excited to get an Americano from The Franklin Coffee House, along with an amazing breakfast that included gluten-free toast. This is the only picture I took of my favorite breakfast and coffee spot…the incredible worn wood floors that inspired the final decision for our biggest project to date.
Also, we fell in love with the food and atmosphere at 55 South after trying it for the first time on this visit. If you go, get the “bag o’ shrimp”, and if you’re gluten-free, the chocolate cake they offer for dessert is gluten-free, even though they don’t advertise it as such. I asked our server three times to confirm that it was in fact gluten-free, and then on the way out, I asked the manager. It was so good I had a hard time believing I could eat it!
What We Did in and Around Franklin
Okay, now that we’ve talked about where to stay and eat, let’s get to the important stuff…what to do! The great thing about Franklin, Tennessee is that you could go sans kids and enjoy the antique shops, historic homes, Civil War sites, and amazing eateries OR you could vacation with little or older kids and let them run around at the parks, skip rocks in the creeks, roam the streets of Franklin with an ice cream cone from Kilwin’s and learn about the importance of the Civil War (depending on the age). It’s really a town that can be enjoyed by adults only or as a family.
Hannah and Noelle are old enough to really enjoy things like walking through antique shops (I trained ’em young), going on a historic home tour, and enjoying live music while eating amazing food. But, in past visits when they were younger, their favorite things to do were fishing in the creek, catching lightning bugs, and going to Kilwin’s for candy and ice cream. We aren’t a big adventure/outdoors family though, so Franklin is just our speed.
This historic church in the middle of town is always a favorite spot to visit.
We put “watch a movie in the Franklin Theatre” on our list of things to do during this visit, but we were enjoying other activities so much that we didn’t squeeze it in. We know we’ll be back though, so we fully intend to go watch a movie in this cute theatre at some point. They were playing Aristocats and The Goonies while we were there…so adorable!
Shopping is always fun in Franklin, especially with tween and teenage daughters. Jeff had fun clothes shopping with the girls (he has surprisingly good taste in fashion), and I found a few goodies as well. There are soooooooo many shops on Main Street, including White’s Mercantile, Oak, and Finnley’s.
The Factory at Franklin is a must-visit. It oftentimes feels pretty empty, but we kind of like that. It’s away from the hustle and bustle of Main Street, but has great little shops, things to do, and a unique history.
We had never heard of the Natchez Trace Bridge before this trip, and I’m so glad my readers made us aware of it. I mean, it’s just a bridge, but it’s beautiful when you’re up there, and the drive to it is pretty incredible too…so much history. This is one of the views as you’re crossing the bridge. We also stopped and walked along the Natchez Trace Bridge path where we found honeysuckle and incorrectly sucked the nectar out (my Instagram audience and my sister kindly let me know that). But hey, it was something Hannah and Noelle had never experienced, so it was still fun and they have a new memory from Franklin, Tennessee.
Okay, now we’re getting to my favorite activity…antiquing. The first shop we went into was an antique-lover’s dream. It’s called Winchester Antiques, and it’s so beautifully curated that I kept coming back for the experience. The antique and vintage art in this shop was unlike anything I’ve ever seen, and the furniture pieces were to die for. This beautiful chest of drawers had my heart!
This was my favorite piece of art in the shop, and I’m still kicking myself for not purchasing it. I’m seriously considering calling the store and having it shipped to me…it’s that good.
This larger-than-life cabinet, shipped over from England, was the showstopper. I even brought Jeff back just to see this piece and stand in front of it for reference. He’s 6’3″ if that tells you anything about the scale of this beauty. It was truly a sight to behold, and I’m so glad I got to see it in person.
One of my favorite activities when traveling is visiting different art museums. Gallery 202 in Franklin did not disappoint! This museum is in the most beautiful historic home and is curated with several different styles and mediums of art. The owner has incorporated gorgeous antique pieces of furniture, making a visit to this gallery a rich experience.
One particularly hot day during our visit, I stepped into City Farmhouse to cool off and look around. I was not prepared for the awesomeness inside. Kim Leggett has created the most incredible collection of European and farmhouse antiques, and this shop is a must for anyone who loves old, beautiful things without having to sift through a ton of superfluous stuff.
Pretty sad I didn’t grab these. I did bring home a 19th century, hand-painted, Hungarian vessel, which is special because Jeff is Hungarian (hence our last name: Udvarhelyi).
I also popped into Franklin Antique Mall and found a few sweet items for myself and Wildflower Home Shoppe. This aged wooden goose came home with me.
Okay, so the next few activities are not in Franklin…they’re in Nashville and Pigeon Forge. But I wanted to put them into the post in case you’re looking for things to do outside of Franklin. We visited The Parthenon, which is a replica of the original in Rome, and I was shocked to learn this one was constructed in 1897! It was pretty interesting to learn several things about this replica, but we weren’t able to go inside and get the full experience.
While we were in Nashville, we stopped into Antique Archaeology simply because we watch American Pickers all the time and felt we had to see their store. It was cool to see some of the things picked on episodes we’ve seen, but all in all, it was mostly Antique Archaeology merchandise, which is kind of what we expected. It was still cool to go there, so if you’re a fan of the show, you should stop into the Nashville storefront.
We also drove four hours East to Pigeon Forge to take the girls to Dollywood with some California friends who moved to Tennessee three years ago. Jeff and I aren’t fans of amusement parks, but by the end of the day, both Hannah and Noelle had ridden roller coasters for the first time in their lives, so it was worth it. They had so much fun! This park is gorgeous, well laid out, peaceful, and the people are all so nice. And the city of Pigeon Forge was a big surprise…like Las Vegas for families. If you have active kiddos, this place might be just the ticket for you.
Back in Franklin, we visited a few more historic sites before our trip was over. If you look closely at this arched window, you can see the original wavy glass. So charming!
We also got to visit a blogger friend who has a gorgeous 8-acre farm with a mini cow named Buttercup. It was so fun to see her little slice of heaven with the mini cow, ducks, chickens, dogs and cats…Noelle (our animal lover) was in heaven.
Our friends who live part-time in TN and part-time in CA drove us around to see all the surrounding areas of Franklin, and along the way, we saw the Rippavilla Plantation. This whole area is steeped in Civil War history, and it’s important to learn about places like this for a well-rounded understanding of America’s history and how not to repeat some parts of it. The property is beautiful and surrounded by tons of magnolia trees. We didn’t get to tour it, but loved looking at it from the outside.
I would say the highlight of our trip was our tour of The Carter House. It’s right in the heart of Franklin, and the things you learn about the Civil War during the tour are just so eye opening. I mean, I was learning just as much as Hannah and Noelle because I don’t ever remember learning this stuff. After discovering how critical the Battle of Franklin was the fall of the Confederacy, I’m planning to teach the girls more about it at home.
Below is the smokehouse on the Carter House property. I love the moss-covered roof.
While we were inside, we weren’t allowed to take pictures, but I had to document this paint and wallpaper combo. The oval portraits are the three sons of Carter who were alive during the Civil War. The one on the lower left (Tod) died during the battle that took place on this property.
This was Carter’s detached farm office, and it is one of the most bullet-damaged properties from the Civil War still standing. Seeing this was sobering and humbling. The Battle of Franklin was hand-to-hand combat from beginning to end, and left in it’s wake 8,500 dead soldiers. It’s clear to see how intense the battle was by looking at this wall, but it’s hard to imagine what the soldiers experienced that day, along with the families that had to hide in the basement during the entire ordeal.
This cute little building was the Carters’ summer kitchen, where they would cook when the weather was too hot to be inside. I’m always amazed at how everything used to be functional and beautiful…that was the standard. Now it seems like a luxury to have both at the same time.
After our tour of The Carter House, we strolled down my favorite street again, and I snapped a picture of my favorite stone cottage. And then we did it again after dinner that night because I had to see my favorite house one more time for inspiration.
Everything about this house is dreamy and exactly how I would design my dream home. I’m studying the landscaping and pathway as inspiration for our own home. It’s just so good!
We’re at the end of my pictures of our time in Franklin, so I thought I’d let you see a few snaps I took around town that capture the beauty and history of this charming little town.
Here’s the Franklin, Tennessee printable I promised. I hope you find it helpful if you’re planning a visit to this charming town.
Funny story: right after I returned from Franklin, a local follower had to fly out to drive her daughter back from the East Coast, and she wanted to know if I thought they should stop into Nashville or Franklin. Of course, I said Franklin (and I may have asked her to pick up a certain painting I regretted not buying). She texted me while she was there to let me know she was in love with Tennessee…specifically Franklin…and even more specifically my favorite antique shop.
I’m telling you, everyone who goes there falls in love with it. So, if you’re thinking of visiting Tennessee, put Franklin on your itinerary and be sure to have my list of must-dos with you so you can get the full experience of our favorite place on earth.
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