Finding a vacation spot that can satisfy Mom’s shopping interests, Dad’s love of history and food, while keeping kids of varying ages off their screens and interested in real life for a minute can be challenging if not impossible. But Franklin, Tennessee, is a town that genuinely has something for everyone — by design. Ellie Westman Chin is the president and CEO of the Williamson County Convention and Visitors Bureau, and she says the city of Franklin has created a very family-friendly atmosphere that makes restaurants, events and festivals fun for the whole family. “Our restaurants and shops in Franklin create unique, family-friendly atmospheres with well-curated kids’ menus and offer a variety of fun ways for the kids to shop alongside you, no matter their age,” Ellie shares. “And places like Carnton make history fun for kids who may not be old enough for Civil War lessons yet through the scavenger hunts they offer.”
We compiled a list of some of our favorite family-friendly events, activities, restaurants and destinations In and around Franklin.
Let’s start with a few must-dos for the ladies. If you have an American Girl fan in your family, your first stop needs to be at the American Girl store in the CoolSprings Galleria. Many a family trip has been planned around an American Girl adventure and Franklin is no exception. Complete with a hair salon, café and full-sized retail area, this store will meet, if not exceed, your AG expectations.
And Dad, never fear, located conveniently right across the hall at the Galleria is Rock Creek Outfitters outdoors store. So, while the ladies buy doll clothes, you can check out hiking boots, tents and all sorts of manly stuff.
Next up is a shopping stop in historic downtown Franklin. There are several free parking garages located just off Main Street, so drop the car and enjoy a family stroll down this bustling thoroughfare. You’ll find a little something for everyone on Main Street, including the Iron Gate for home décor; Jondie, Avec Moi, Philanthropy and Gin-O for ladies’ apparel; and Franklin Road Apparel Company, White’s Mercantile and Bink’s Outfitters for the guys. The tween girls also have their very own shop, Magpies Girl.
After a day of shopping, treat the kids to some much-needed outdoor adventure at SOAR Adventure Tower. The four-level tower features more than 100 climbing elements that are challenging for kids (and adults!) of all ages. Separated by age levels, even the smaller kiddos can enjoy age-appropriate challenges separate from the big kids. SOAR also offers an 18-hole mini golf course.
Pinkerton Park is another great outdoor option for the family. There is an amazing playground space, as well as walking trails and a nice little hike up to Fort Granger.
Depending on the time of year you visit Franklin, Gentry’s Farm is a local treasure that has been a family favorite for more than 25 years. Every fall, the working farm is open on weekends to visitors for tours and pumpkin picking. During the summer, the farm turns into summer camp for hundreds of lucky kids.
Every Saturday the Thoroughbred 20 theater parking lot turns into a spectacular interactive, pop-up car show. Cars ‘N’ Coffee is definitely worth a stop for any of the family’s car enthusiasts. The first Saturday of each month is where you will catch the most exotic car sightings. Recently the extremely rare Enzo Ferrari made an appearance!
If the weather doesn’t cooperate for your outdoor adventures, head over to The Factory at Franklin and create some hand-made masterpieces at Third Coast Clay. This paint-it-yourself pottery studio provides fun and creativity while also fostering some great family time. Choose from hundreds of pottery pieces and myriad glaze colors, and set your inner artist on fire. After you are done creating works of art, a visit to Five Daughters Bakery, also at The Factory, for some of the world’s best donuts is a must.
Franklin is chock full of fun historical activities. Carnton, Carter House and the Lotz House all offer tours of key Civil War homes that played integral roles in the Battle of Franklin. Guests can enjoy house tours, battlefield tours, behind-the-scenes tours and extended tours. Franklin on Foot also offers fabulous ghost tours of portions of downtown Franklin’s most haunted homes and battlefields if your family likes a good fright.
Downtown Franklin is also home to multiple seasonal festivals that are a perfect way for a family to spend the day together. The Main Street Festival kicks things off each year the last weekend in April and offers festival food, activities for the kids, booths featuring the works of regional artisans and craftspeople, and live music.
Come October, Main Street turns into a full-blown fall festival with Pumpkinfest. Kiddos, dogs and even some adults arrive in costume and nosh on festive seasonal foods and shop, play and enjoy live music. The 2018 Pumpkinfest is slated for Saturday, October 28.
In December, Main Street transforms once again for its Dickens of a Christmas celebration. A recreation of the Charles Dickens era, expect to see many of his famous characters like Ebenezer Scrooge and Tiny Tim, as well as Santa and Mrs. Claus. Also in December, the Franklin Theatre shows children’s holiday movies, and the Convention and Visitors Bureau brings in special guests. Santa Claus and the Sugar Plum Fairy have made appearances in the past.
“The city as a whole during the holiday season really embraces so many family activities,” Ellie adds. “We do holidays really, really well here in Franklin.”
The Park at Harlinsdale Farm is a hub of activity in late summer and early fall. In August, it turns into the town’s biggest barbecue pit during the Great Americana Barbecue Festival, which features fabulous food, live music and a barbecue judging competition. And September brings the Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival, when the property is transformed into Franklin’s own little Bonnaroo, but with a family-friendly twist. Headliners for the 2018 festival, which is September 22-23, include Jack White, Chris Stapleton, Lionel Richie, and Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds. The beauty of this festival, with its multiple music stages and delicious food, is its kids’ area, dubbed the Lil’ Pilgrims Family Stage and Mare Barn Theater. This area features a stage for children’s musicians and all sorts of activities for the little ones. The festival also houses the MADE SOUTH Makers Village, which consists of everything from henna artists to hand made jewelry, clothing and all kinds of vintage accessories. “The founders of Pilgrimage wanted to create an environment that could introduce kids to the music and festival scene,” Ellie explains. “So, by design, families can come out and spend the day together. The festival even starts and ends at a reasonable hour so it doesn’t run too late for the kids.”
If you’re ready to plan your next family adventure, load up your crew and head to Franklin. Start your planning at VisitFranklin.com.
This article is sponsored by VisitFranklin.com.