Thousands make their way to Franklin, Tennessee located 30 minutes south of Nashville, for Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival, an annual music festival that happens every September. While the festival is a great way to spend the weekend, Franklin should be on your travel list before and after the huge music festival. Full of history, makers and culinary experiences, this town is a must-visit. Check out this itinerary for a great weekend stay - before, during or after Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival.
One of the finest hotels in Tennessee, The Harpeth Hotel rolls out the red carpet for each guest with their signature hospitality and dreamy accommodations. The hotel has 119 rooms and suites, each designed to celebrate the craftsmanship you can find in Franklin. Conveniently located a short walk from Franklin's Main Street, the hotel also has the 1799 Kitchen & Cocktails with an extensive food and spirits menu and McGavock's Coffee Bar & Provisions, locally roasted coffee and house baked pastries.
If you want a quiet escape from the hustle and bustle, lay your head in one of the adorable cottages by Pot N' Kettle Cottages in Leiper's Fork. Choose from five cottages, each decorated with a different theme. The Coda Cottage, the smallest of the five properties, sleeps six while the Leiper's Fork Inn sleeps 11. Each is conveniently close to the downtown area of Leiper's Fork, full of artistry and creativity, while also being a short drive to Franklin.
SOAR Adventure Tower
Kick off your first day in Franklin by experiencing some of Middle Tennessee’s gorgeous views. Start off with SOAR Adventure Tower. With four levels and more than 110 climbing elements, you’ll be challenged to overcome limitations both physically and mentally. Each platform offers three different features so you can change your course whenever you want and create your own experience. Music-themed elements can be found throughout the courses, giving a nod to the rich music found throughout Tennessee. If climbing it’s your thing, they also have mini-golf.
Bowie Nature Park
After your morning activity, head to Bowie Nature Park. With more than 17 miles of trails and more than 700 acres, the park is a great outdoor escape for hiking, fishing, and biking. Seasonal events like star parties, movies in the park and a spring arts and crafts festival is hosted at the park each year.
Jim Warren Park
Jim Warren Park offers two and a half-mile walking trails, a catch and release fishing pond and an outdoor basketball court for additional outdoor fun while kids can play on the two playgrounds. There is also a 16,000 square-foot skate park open to in-line skaters and skate boarders.
Red Pony Restaurant
Keep the outdoor theme of the day by galloping to Red Pony Restaurant, where you’ll find a seasonally-sourced menu that’ll quickly become the meal you dream about for years to come. Try the beef tenderloin with blue cheese-butternut squash risotto, asparagus and lemon butter or the scallops in a spring pea puree with shallots, pancetta, wild mushrooms and artichoke black rice.
Spend a full day learning about the town’s deep history as it was on the frontlines for the Civil War’s Battle of Franklin, considered one of the bloodiest. Carnton was turned into the largest field hospital in the area during the battle that left 9,500 soldiers killed, wounded, captured or missing, with 7,000 of those Confederate troops. You can still see the bloodstains of the soldiers who were treated there.
The Carter House served as Federal Brig. Gen. Jacob D Cox’s headquarters when he took possession of it before daybreak. As the battle brought its carnage, the Carter family hid in the north room of the basement.
The front yard of the Lotz House saw the Battle of Franklin as well. The house served as a hospital while the Lotz family sought refuge in the basement of the Carter House with the Carter family. Some of the battle scars can be seen: like the patchwork Mr. Lotz had to do because a cannon ball crashed through the roof, the upstairs bedroom floor to the first floor. Bloodstains can be seen in every room. You can even purchase a value ticket to see all three homes and hear their stories.
Gray's on Main
Dine in an 1876 building at Gray's on Main located on Franklin’s Main Street. A former pharmacy, Gray’s now houses delicious locally-sourced dishes, crafted cocktails and music. Try the Franklin Burger – meat from Southern Natural Farms, pickles, lettuce, tomato, onions, Grays sauce and Sweetwater Farm cheddar cheese, or the Farmer’s Daughter – a sandwich made with bacon, fried eggs, ham, Swiss cheese on toasted Tuscan bread and hollandaise. For dinner, go with the shrimp and grits, salmon, snapper or fried chicken - the ultimate Southern comfort food.
Taste the spirits that are coming out of Williamson County by filling your tank and traversing the 70-mile Masters & Makers Trail to experience the culture and flavors of the area. Pick up your passport at any location and, once you have your passport fully stamped, stop by the visitor center in downtown Franklin for a free t-shirt. Sip award-winning wines while drinking in the views at Arrington Vineyards; try small batch spirits at H Clark Distillery; and try craft beers at Mantra Artisan Ales and Mill Creek Brewing Co.
Cork & Cow
After all that drinking, you’ll want a hearty dinner; and Cork & Cow in downtown Franklin delivers with shrimp and scallop gnocchi, steaks, burgers, halibut and trout. Start your meal with the street corn fritter or the tomato tart. After your filling dinner, make room for the espresso coconut cake or the chocolate cheesecake.
Franklin Main Street
Poke around all the local shops that call Franklin’s Main Street home. Free parking garages are located around the main strip, making it convenient to park your car and walk the downtown area. Check out boutiques like Jondie, Habit and Philanthropy. You could easily spend hours looking at the goods available at White’s Mercantile, Holly Williams’ store, as it offers everything from clothing to cologne, homeware and mementos. Browse the endless shelves of books at Landmark Booksellers, which was the inspiration behind the Karen Kingsbury book, “The Bridge,” which later became a Hallmark movie. See the famous bookstore housed in a circa 1808 building.
Relax and enjoy lunch or dinner (served Thursdays-Saturdays) at Merridee’s Breadbasket for Paninis, melts, soups and salads. Try the chicken salad (the most popular choice among diners) or the spinach & feta sandwich that’s wrapped in homemade bread and baked fresh. The chicken quesadilla and the Monte Cristo can’t be beat, either.
Take a slower pace with a day trip to Leiper’s Fork. Amongst the rolling Middle Tennessee hills, this tiny village has shops, Fox & Locke that serves up delicious breakfast, lunch and dinner, and art galleries. Gather around a fire pit and roast marshmallows while talking to locals. Take a tour and sip through Leiper’s Fork Distillery (also on the Masters & Makers Trail and the statewide Tennessee Whiskey Trail).
Day 6 & 7
Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival is Sept. 23-24, 2023 at Harlinsdale Farm. Spend your weekend listening to a whole range of genres and artists. Six stages along with artisans, craftsmen, local and regional wine, beer and spirits and food, antique and art vendors will keep you entertained from morning to night.