Fifteen miles south of Nashville, Franklin, Tennessee, is a thriving suburb of the music-centered town. Although Franklin boasts plenty of its own country superstars and many Nashville commuters among its residents, the little city named after Benjamin Franklin has a history and charm all its own.
The city was founded in 1799 and was settled by Scottish immigrants, whose descendants still reside nearby. In 1864 the Battle of Franklin was fought here, and a Civil War memorial in the center of town today pays homage to the nearly 10,000 casualties. Many homes and buildings from that era—dozens of which became field hospitals during the war—still stand, giving Franklin a rich history.
When looking for things to do in Franklin, begin a history exploration south of downtown at the Carter House, a 19th-century home where family members took shelter in their basement during the Battle of Franklin. Lovingly restored and preserved, the landmark is considered a victim of the Civil War, as the walls show over a thousand bullet holes.
About a mile south of the Carter House is another historic home, Carnton Plantation, which retains some of the bloodstains of soldiers who were treated there after the battle. Adjacent land serves as a cemetery for nearly 1,500 Confederate soldiers. The home, restored to its former glory, is considered an antebellum treasure.
Visitors may be pleasantly surprised to find that Franklin strategically combines history with shopping—the latter being one of the top things to do in Franklin these days. Downtown is best known for its antique shops and art galleries, as well as numerous restaurants, all housed in historic buildings. Franklin Glassblowing Studio features artistic works and daily lessons in glassblowing. Scarlett Scales, which sells creations made with antiques, is another top shopping choice in Franklin.
To further blend retro and retail, visit the Factory at Franklin, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The brick complex just north of downtown was once a stoveworks that now boasts locally owned boutiques, a weekly farmers market and Artisan Guitars, a purveyor of hand-made guitars and mandolins.
Franklin shopping continues at the city's three major annual festivals. Pumpkinfest, held every year on the Saturday before Halloween, boasts an array of children's activities and also local artworks for sale. At Wine Down Main Street, a popular charitable benefit in November, grape lovers can taste American wines and discover which bottles to buy. Beer lovers can flock to Main Street Brew Fest, a tasting of over 50 craft beers held annually near St. Patrick's Day. The year’s biggest draw, though, is the Main Street Festival in April, bringing together over 200 artists and craftspeople selling their wares downtown. The event's large food courts, four stages for live music and carnival rides often attract over 100,000 visitors.
Although the suburb is close enough to Nashville for a quick jaunt into the city, Franklin's emphasis on history in both its businesses and its buildings provide the town with enough activity for more than a day trip.