If it seems like we spend a lot of time in Franklin, well, that’s because we do. I’ve been going there often since I was a little girl, back before I fully understood the area’s ties to the Civil War and well before Franklin’s Main Street exploded as one of the best-preserved downtowns in America. And now you can stay in downtown Franklin at the gorgeous Harpeth Hotel.
This post was last updated in January 2022.
It’s an area of Middle Tennessee that already has a robust tourism scene thanks to visionaries with the foresight to think decades out and the rare follow-through to execute such a long-term plan. But the big problem in making it a popular full-blown weekend getaway was that there was nowhere to stay in downtown Franklin—until now.
Staying in Downtown Franklin
The Harpeth Hotel is both the first place to stay in downtown Franklin, as well as the city’s premier boutique hotel option. With 119 guest rooms spread throughout the four-story hotel, it embodies the look and feel of Williamson County, which is to say: upscale, yet approachable; historic in honoring Franklin’s roots while simultaneously contemporary in design and offerings.
Check prices at the Harpeth Hotel here
But first, if you’re new to this area of the South, you need to know a bit about Franklin’s backstory. Fiercely fought over throughout its history as a Western settlement, Franklin and the surrounding counties suffered losses of American life that are gut-wrenching to contemplate. The steamrollers of war spared quite a few architectural treasures in this part of the world that you can tour and a network of interlinked cultural sites illustrate with excruciating detail how the thousands of acres of graveyards scattered on the countryside were populated with the bodies of men. Some of the most pivotal battles of the Civil War happened in this delightfully preserved Tennessee town, a fact that’s easy to forget unless you visit the battlefields and museums, which we must insist you do.
The hotel is part of a greater development project that eventually will fuse 150 residential spaces with commercial concepts—a variety of retail vendors and there’s even talk of a day spa—and short-term lodging. Named after the river that snakes its way through town, the Harpeth Hotel is part of the Curio Collection by Hilton, so it meets the brand’s standards while still being completely unique. This means that you can accrue Hilton Honors points if you’re a member and also use the Hilton Keyless App if you prefer.
The Harpeth has a couple of different lodging options, including standard and accessible rooms, as well as various suites: junior, king and presidential. Many rooms have balconies with seating areas, a definite plus in warmer months.
Oh, and did I mention that the Harpeth Hotel is pet-friendly, too? This seamlessly ties into Franklin’s downtown pet-friendly approach of allowing dogs in most of the shops, attractions and patios.
The hotel also boasts some really gorgeous event spaces; if you have a group of 250 or less, the Harpeth is the perfect place in Franklin in which to host your meeting, conference or other event.
Drinking and dining at the Harpeth Hotel
Perhaps what I love the most about the Harpeth Hotel is that it truly lives up to its motto of being “Franklin’s living room.” When I’m staying in a plush boutique like this one, I prefer to spend time physically in the hotel, but not necessarily inside the confines of my room, which is why it’s the perfect compromise for a Millennial traveler like me. There are nooks and vignettes all over the hotel that lend themselves well to grabbing a cup of coffee (or if you’re us, a cocktail) and settling in for a long chat with a friend or an afternoon with your laptop if you’re always working on the road.
There’s a courtyard right smack in the middle of the hotel that connects to the lobby bar and the Riverside Ballroom with staircases leading up to the second level of the hotel, in addition to ample seating for those who prefer to lounge in the open air.
The centerpiece of the hotel’s lobby is the chef-driven 1799 Kitchen and Cocktails. Built around the abstract deconstruction of the inside of a whiskey barrel, with large, circular nook booths infilling the very well lit restaurant, this corner of the hotel is incredibly pleasing to the eye with all of its lines and symmetry.
We appreciate the homage to the colors and texture of whiskey beer mash inside of the oak stave baffles, and surprisingly the design limitations of working in the round appear to have only enhanced the experience of dining with companions because we could actually hear each other speak, which is unfortunately an essential quality that has been forgotten all too often if you’re breaking bread with others.
The menu trends to high-end French and Italian, with locally sourced ingredients for menu items like the trout, pork roast, leg of lamb and steak. Brunch is also spun up as an option and includes all the usual suspects like crab Benedict, chicken and waffles, and flank steak, among other choices for a lazy weekend meal.
There’s also a bar in the central lobby area that carries local spirits like Leiper’s Fork Distillery, as well as craft beer from Jackalope, Wiseacre and other Tennessee breweries. No big surprise that this is where we made our base during the length of our stay!
And if you’re looking for a more casual grab-and-go option, McGavock’s Coffee Bar & Provisions is the place for you. Tucked in the corner of the building right along Main Street, this bistro has specialty coffee drinks, beer, cocktails, fresh pastries, handmade ice cream and a selection of lunch items. We loved it so much, we’ve now been for lunch at McGavock’s three times in less than two weeks; SVV always gets the bahn mi, while the roast beef sandwich is my go-to.
Whether you are staying in downtown Franklin or are just passing through, lunch at McGavock’s and/or a meal at 1799 should definitely be on your to-eat list in a city crowded with culinary delights.
Near the Harpeth Hotel
Of course, the hotel is right on Main Street, meaning there’s plenty to do, see and eat beyond its walls. A few of my favorite independent shops are located within blocks’ of the Harpeth, including Emmaline, Tin Cottage, Hester & Cook and White’s Mercantile.
If you’ve already eaten at 1799, you must check out Gray’s on Main, OBJ, 55 South and Biscuit Love. And while McGavock’s is divine for a cup of joe, downtown Franklin also houses an outpost of one of my favorite regional coffee brands: Frothy Monkey. So many options, so little time! You can also walk to the Factory at Franklin, a beloved spot of both SVV’s and mine thanks to the artisan-backed shops and eateries that populate this old textile mill just outside of downtown.
I suggest staying in downtown Franklin a three-day weekend so you can make the most of the area’s Civil War history, as well as hitting up the Masters & Makers trail, Leiper’s Fork and the Tennessee Whiskey Trail. Franklin is also a great base for exploring the Natchez Trace Parkway, which travels right through the heart of the county.
When to visit Franklin
Like most of Tennessee, Franklin’s most popular months are often April and May and September and October, though the height of summer promises greenery in spade. That said, it depends on the year, as our winters are getting shorter, meaning it’s warmer through late November and starts to thaw by March. That also means you shouldn’t discount the holiday season, though. In fact, at the moment, it’s mid-60s and prices are lower, but yuletide spirit is high!
Franklin has a few banner events, my go-tos being Pilgrimage Music Festival every September and Dickens of a Christmas in mid-December. Both are located in or adjacent to downtown Franklin and walkable from the hotel.
Currently, Franklin’s whole downtown is alive with Christmas cheer and decorations, so if you’re game for a last-minute holiday getaway, you couldn’t pick a better spot than the Harpeth Hotel for a weekend away.
Looking for more Franklin travel tips? Start here:
- Exploring Franklin’s Civil War History
- How to Do Downtown Franklin with Your Dog in Tow
- On the Whiskey-Fueled Tennessee Backroads
- Summer Fun in Franklin, Tennessee
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