By Connie Pearson
Correspondent, The Alabama Baptist
Shopping, restaurants, music, historic sites and festivals lured 1.72 million visitors to Franklin, Tennessee, in 2018 and the city continues to grow to the point that it is no longer just a “little sister” to Nashville. It is playing second fiddle to no one.
While Franklin’s neighbor city may be known for being home to the Tennessee Titans, countless country singers and contemporary Christian artists, Franklin’s appeal is growing and the accolades keep rolling in.
An impressive number of those country and Christian musicians actually choose to live in Franklin and with good reason.
Southern Living called it one of “the South’s prettiest towns” and Architectural Digest included Franklin’s Main Street as being among “the 30 most beautiful main streets across America.”
The month of December will be a particularly fun time to visit.
The first weekend in December kicks off with the First Friday Art Crawl on Main Street followed by a Christmas parade and tree lighting.
The Christmas parade in Leiper’s Fork, only eight miles from downtown Franklin, is planned for Dec. 14. Expect a folksier vibe for that one with antique tractors, goats and pigs among the entries.
The Franklin Theatre on Main Street will host the Night of Hope Tour with Christy Nockels on Dec. 8–9 and the David Archuleta Christmas Show on Dec. 11–12. The musical “Cinderella” will be performed at the Jamison Theater at The Factory on Franklin Road on Dec. 6–29.
Perhaps the most well-known Franklin holiday event is Dickens of a Christmas, which will be held Dec. 14–15. Area residents will dress as characters from a Charles Dickens novel and stroll the historic downtown while street musicians perform on every corner and craft and food vendors hawk their wares.
Arrive early to find a good parking spot. Otherwise you’ll likely have to walk for several blocks.
Places to eat, stay
Franklin is also home to a growing number of one-of-a-kind, chef-driven eateries, including Red Pony, 55 South, Cork & Cow and Gray’s on Main. Others near Main Street are Merridee’s Breadbasket and Puckett’s Grocery and Restaurant.
The Grilled Cheeserie and Ruby Sunshine are the newest additions to the downtown culinary scene.
Mafiaoza’s and Music City Seafood at The Factory get great reviews, but be sure to save room for a 100-layer donut from Five Daughters Bakery.
Dozens of chain restaurants are also available.
More than 5,000 hotel rooms welcome guests in Franklin with The Harpeth Hotel scheduled to open on Main Street soon. Magnolia House B&B and a number of Airbnb’s also will be happy to host overnight guests. Several are within easy walking distance of Main Street.
You can’t miss Drury Plaza Hotel. It’s the tall building at Exit 67. In addition to a fabulous breakfast they also offer a light supper for guests at 5:30 p.m., a welcome amenity after a day of shopping.
Place to shop
Speaking of shopping Cool Springs Galleria (at Exit 67) is likely to get the most attention, but you’ll want to check out the antique stores scattered throughout Williamson County and the boutiques on historic Main Street and at The Factory.
Leipers Fork also contains some unique shops and art galleries that are worth a visit. Only one street runs through this tiny town so they won’t be hard to find.
Franklin is home to several significant historic attractions, many of which will be decorated beautifully for the holidays.
Three historic homes, Carnton, Carter House and Lotz House, all played prominent roles during the 1864 Civil War Battle of Franklin.
Another historic home, the Corn House, is now Biscuit Love, where you can combine breakfast or lunch with a side of history. The Corn family, owners of Franklin’s Lillie Mills, occupied the home from 1920 until the 1980s.
If you find yourself in Franklin on a Sunday morning and want to attend a worship service with Alabama connections, consider The Church at West Franklin at 700 TN-96 with services at 9 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.
The pastor, Matt Pearson, was saved and baptized as a child at First Baptist Church, Hartselle, and was ordained to the ministry at Central Baptist Church, Decatur. (He’s also my son.) The music minister and the children’s minister are also products of Alabama so you’re bound to find people who speak your heart language. The church’s Christmas concert will be presented Dec. 8 at 3 and 5 p.m.
More holiday cheer
If you have a few more days to spend in the area and yearn for even more holiday cheer, Gaylord Opryland Resort has much to offer and is less than an hour’s drive from downtown Franklin.
The interior, atrium and grounds feature breathtaking lights and displays, plus several child-friendly activities such as gingerbread decorating, scavenger hunts and tubing.
Holiday shows include ICE! featuring “A Christmas Story,” “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer: The Musical” and the dinner show “The Gift of Christmas with Trace Adkins and Friends.” For more information visit tickets.gaylordopryland.com.