Get Out of Nashville: A Tennessee Day Trip to Franklin

Get Out of Nashville and Explore Franklin’s Civil War History

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Now that SVV and I run a business together from home, we’ve vowed to utilize that flexibility to take more day trips to towns and state parks around Tennessee, the first of which was to one of my childhood favorites, Franklin.

Get Out of Nashville: A Tennessee Day Trip to Franklin

As a kid, if we were leaving Tullahoma, it was likely to go to Franklin. Many of my big soccer and tennis tournaments were held there. At the time, it also boasted the best mall, Cool Springs Galleria, in the area, so all back-to-school and holiday shopping took place in Franklin. And many of our class field trips in elementary and middle school were, in fact, to Carnton Plantation and Carter House.

Get Out of Nashville: A Tennessee Day Trip to Franklin

But we’ve spent surprisingly little time there since moving back to Tennessee five years ago, despite it being just 30 minutes (or 14 miles) from Nashville. I attribute this to the fact that if we’re traveling, it’s usually out of state by plane or car, but rarely locally. Which is why we’re changing that, starting now.

Get Out of Nashville: A Tennessee Day Trip to Franklin

On the last gorgeous fall day we had—80 degrees and pure perfection—just before Thanksgiving, we took a Friday off to head to Williamson County and see what all is happening.

Get Out of Nashville: A Tennessee Day Trip to Franklin

We started our morning the way I always begin any day in Franklin: with a lazy wander around Main Street and the Square.

Get Out of Nashville: A Tennessee Day Trip to Franklin

The city itself was founded in 1799, but the Downtown Franklin Association didn’t come along until 1984, spearheading the revitalization of the city’s historic downtown core. And what a beauty it has become, too.

Get Out of Nashville: A Tennessee Day Trip to Franklin

It’s really just been the last decade or so that Main Street has seen such a boom of activity; every time I drop by, a handful of new businesses have cropped up since my last visit, occupying the historic buildings flanking the square.

Get Out of Nashville: A Tennessee Day Trip to Franklin

One of the most iconic landmarks downtown still stands, weathering the test of time: the Franklin Theatre, which has been Main Street’s beating heart since it was built in 1937.
Get Out of Nashville: A Tennessee Day Trip to Franklin

While Franklin is a great spot for a weekend getaway with plenty of fun food and drink offerings—and a few new distilleries in the works—it’s also an easy place to kill a day while visiting Nashville.

Get Out of Nashville: A Tennessee Day Trip to Franklin

The shopping, for one, is booming with a number of indie shops like a second outpost of White’s Mercantile now inhabiting the downtown.

Get Out of Nashville: A Tennessee Day Trip to Franklin

There are also a number of restaurants, bars and antique shops worth perusing.

Get Out of Nashville: A Tennessee Day Trip to Franklin
Get Out of Nashville: A Tennessee Day Trip to Franklin
Get Out of Nashville: A Tennessee Day Trip to Franklin

Get Out of Nashville: A Tennessee Day Trip to Franklin

The town visitor center on Fourth Street just off Main is a great place to start, to pick up maps, brochures, and locally-made merch and get your lay of the land before continuing on with your day.

Get Out of Nashville: A Tennessee Day Trip to Franklin

Even the chains like Starbucks and Chico’s mimic the style of the old-fashioned Main Street. I love that every business stays in character!

Get Out of Nashville: A Tennessee Day Trip to Franklin

For lunch, we stopped in at Gray’s on Main, which has been my favorite stop in Franklin since it opened in 2013.

Get Out of Nashville: A Tennessee Day Trip to Franklin
Get Out of Nashville: A Tennessee Day Trip to Franklin

Occupying an old drugstore in a 19th century building, this Southern-inspired restaurant has become a downtown mainstay and one of the best spots in town for a meal (or cocktail) no matter the hour of day.

Get Out of Nashville: A Tennessee Day Trip to Franklin

I had the hot chicken and waffles with a whipped maple butter and bourbon syrup (oh, and a cocktail, too, natch), and while I was stuffed the rest of the day, I don’t regret that decision one bit.

Get Out of Nashville: A Tennessee Day Trip to Franklin

Get Out of Nashville: A Tennessee Day Trip to Franklin

The square is also home to a number of festivals that take place throughout the year, my favorite of which is (of course) Dickens of a Christmas, which takes place the second weekend in December each year and where locals don Victorian garb and the streets come alive with vendors of all kinds.

Get Out of Nashville: A Tennessee Day Trip to Franklin

For those who are more inclined to learn by tour, Franklin On Foot offers a handful of different history-focused walking itineraries such as Civil War in Franklin, Ghosts of the Battlefield and Murder & Mayhem on Main Street, plus the Classic Franklin tours.

Get Out of Nashville: A Tennessee Day Trip to Franklin

Get Out of Nashville: A Tennessee Day Trip to Franklin
Get Out of Nashville: A Tennessee Day Trip to Franklin

After we left downtown, we paid a little visit to the Factory at Franklin, an old 1929 manufacturing warehouse that once was the headquarters for stove and bedding companies and has, in recent years, morphed into a collective of shops, food companies and other small artisan businesses.

Get Out of Nashville: A Tennessee Day Trip to Franklin

Get Out of Nashville: A Tennessee Day Trip to Franklin
Get Out of Nashville: A Tennessee Day Trip to Franklin

Get Out of Nashville: A Tennessee Day Trip to Franklin

Its theater is also the site of many CMT Crossroads tapings I’ve attended in the past. It also plays host to many of Studio Tenn’s plays and special performances.
Get Out of Nashville: A Tennessee Day Trip to Franklin

Since my last time at the Factory, even more new establishments had opened, such as Franklin Juice Company and a lovely little cafe, Honest Coffee Roasters.

Get Out of Nashville: A Tennessee Day Trip to Franklin

The Factory is, without a doubt, one of my favorite spots in all of Franklin (and not because there’s a store named after me either!).

Get Out of Nashville: A Tennessee Day Trip to Franklin

Then, it was onto the Civil War lesson part of our day. Many parts of Tennessee attract tourists from all over the world due to their Civil War battlefields, but few have quite the storied legacy of Franklin’s.

Get Out of Nashville: A Tennessee Day Trip to Franklin

The Battle of Franklin in 1864 was one of the bloodiest of the Civil War, with 30,000 Confederates arriving to the outskirts of Franklin on the morning of Nov. 30. This battle claimed the lives of 6,000 of those Confederate troops, including six generals, for a total of 10,000 fatalities.

Get Out of Nashville: A Tennessee Day Trip to Franklin
Get Out of Nashville: A Tennessee Day Trip to Franklin

Every November 30, there’s a special event to honor the brutal fall of so many soldiers. The illumination honors the 10,000 killed in the battle with a luminary for each, plus a reading of all the names. It’s normally held at Carnton Plantation, but took place at the Carter House this year in the newly expanded Battlefield Park.

The Anniversary of the Battle at Franklin

photo courtesy of Visit Franklin

While we were there just two weeks prior to the illumination, we still paid a visit to the trio of sites that anchor Franklin’s Civil War history starting with the Lotz House.

Civil War History in Franklin, Tennessee

This home, listed on the National Historic Register, was integral to the storyline of the Battle of Franklin as it’s located at what they refer to as “ground zero”—it was sobering to see how a family was in the direct line of fire, how they survived and how they rebuilt the home in the years after. The only way to visit the Lotz House is on an hour-long tour, and you can’t take photos inside the home.

Get Out of Nashville: A Tennessee Day Trip to Franklin

Then, we wandered across the street to the Carter House, an eponymous memorial to the Carter family and the many heroes of the famed battle that’s just 100 feet from the Lotz House. During the war, the brick edifice was used as the federal command post while the Carter family took refuge in the cellar; visible evidence still lingers, including 1,000 bullet holes errantly scattered about, making it the most bullet-riddled building still standing from the Civil War.

Get Out of Nashville: A Tennessee Day Trip to Franklin

We didn’t take the tour but read all the markers in the museum and wandered around Carter Hill and Battlefield Park. From there, we drove down to Carnton Plantation for our final stop of the day.

Get Out of Nashville: A Tennessee Day Trip to Franklin

For those who want to visit the Lotz House, Carnton Plantation and Carter House, there’s a value ticket option that gets you admission to all three for just $30.

Get Out of Nashville: A Tennessee Day Trip to Franklin
Get Out of Nashville: A Tennessee Day Trip to Franklin

During the Civil War, this 1,400-acre plantation that was built on slave labor became the largest of the 44 local field hospitals due to its proximity to the battle. After the war ended, it was turned into a burial place for the many Confederate soldiers who had died there.

Explore Civil War History in Franklin, Tennessee

Get Out of Nashville: A Tennessee Day Trip to Franklin

The house remained in the McGavock family’s possession until 1911, when it was sold. In 1977, the house and ten acres were donated to the Carnton Association, and over the years it’s seen plenty of renovation and is now on the National Register of Historic Places.
Get Out of Nashville: A Tennessee Day Trip to Franklin

As the sun set, we took a stroll and paid our respects, then went on our way home. Our day in Franklin was the perfect way to say good-bye to this everlasting summer and also learn a bit—not to mention, eating some good food and enjoying some even better scenery—while we were at it.

Get Out of Nashville: A Tennessee Day Trip to Franklin


 

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24 Hours in Franklin: What to See, Eat and Do in the Tennessee Town
24 Hours in Franklin: What to See, Eat and Do in the Tennessee Town
24 Hours in Franklin: What to See, Eat and Do in the Tennessee Town
COMMENTS
  • December 2, 2016

    There are so many new restaurants coming soon to The Factory, too! I love living in Franklin.

    • December 12, 2016

      Oooh, which ones? I can’t wait! Love that cute coffee shop, and I’ve long been a fan of Saffire.

      • December 12, 2016

        Mafiaozsa’s (been under construction a while), The Pharmacy and Funk Seoul Brother! 🙂 And there’s a Five Daughters Bakery already on top of Saffire… I love Saffire.

        • December 12, 2016

          We did try the new Five Daughters (I’m not a fan—I think their doughnuts are pretty bad…) BUT I’m excited for the other three. Love all of those original outposts, and Saffire is always a win.

  • December 3, 2016
    Schuyler

    I visited those three sites when I visited Nashville a couple years ago. I especially liked Lotz House. I didn’t get a chance to visit the rest of Franklin, but I’ll be doing so on my next trip to the city!

    • December 12, 2016

      Great to hear! I liked Lotz House, too, as that was the only one I hadn’t visited as a child (at least as I recall).

  • December 4, 2016

    Thanks to your site I learn so much about American towns I had never heard of! These tours sound great: Ghosts of the Battlefield and Murder & Mayhem on Main Street!

    • December 12, 2016

      Well, I’ll just have to accompany you on one of those when you come to visit Tennessee! =)

  • December 5, 2016

    The place brings many memories. You must also get to travel once in a while and this place is perfect.

  • December 5, 2016

    The mirrors in the restaurant are spectacular! I’m obsessed with mirror gallery walls. Before I sold all my stuff, I had an awesome one above my vanity. It’s something I will totally redo whenever I decide to stop being a drifter lol.

    • December 12, 2016

      Me, too, Stephanie! I wish I could paper my walls with mirrors =) We’ve been toying with the idea of how to do just that but have a tricky house since it’s so old and has all these weird angles and minimal wall space.

  • December 7, 2016

    What an amazing pics. Thank you for sharing such a nice article.

  • December 7, 2016
    Tim

    I’ve heard a lot about Nashville, but I never saw photos before. It looks like a very peaceful town to relax 🙂

    • December 12, 2016

      It is! Hard to believe it’s just 14 miles from the bustle of Nashville, huh?

  • December 11, 2016

    What a fun day trip with a little bit of everything–the architecture (love how they’ve maintained the old details like that ceiling!), good food and coffee, and especially the history. Your posts kinda make me want to move out there!

    • December 12, 2016

      Well, you should start by coming to visit me first 😉

  • December 12, 2016

    Franklin is one of my favorite spots in all of Tennessee and my favorite new shop to look for one of a kind finds for Augustine is right there in that main square. I can’t leave TN without shopping there! 🙂

    • December 12, 2016

      Well, then we have a date there next time you two(/three) are in town!

  • December 14, 2016
    Lindsay

    I think a day in Franklin is a must for any Nashville itinerary! I live just a few minutes away and am discovering new things there all the time. ? (Fun fact: The owner of the Lotz House hired me at Channel 4 and is the reason I now live in Nashville!)

    • January 1, 2017

      That’s such a fun nugget of information! Next time we’re out that way, I’ll let you know and we can meet up for lunch =)

  • January 28, 2017
    Ray

    I really admire and respect how Star Bucks and Chico’s respect the local architecture by not installing the big box franchises that they normally do across America. That is good Corporate citizenship at its finest. I grew up in a small historic town just outside of Niagara Falls, Canada. Our tourism centers around our history as the first Capital of Upper Canada and playing a major role in the War of 1812. So I can totally relate to the concerns of the fine folks of Franklin!

    • January 28, 2017

      I totally agree, Ray! It’s always nice, particularly in a historic district like this, when everyone sticks to the architectural codes. Makes for a much prettier downtown! I always loved that about many ski towns in the western U.S., as well.

  • February 12, 2019
    Christine

    Enjoyed reading all you comments. My husband and I are coming to Franklin this weekend. I love little towns, and we both love history and the civil war. I can not believe we have never been before. We have been to Nashville , but never Franklin we are SO looking forward to our visit.
    Thanks again !
    Christine

    • February 12, 2019

      Yay, Christine! You’re going to have such a good time. Try OBJ, a cute little bourbon bar next to Gray’s. Have an awesome weekend!

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