What do Miley Cyrus, Brad Paisley, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Justin Timberlake, Chris Stapleton, Keith Urban, Carrie Underwood, and Dolly Parton have in common? Apart from the obvious musical talent and superstardom, you might guess they all live in Nashville – at least part of the time.
But you’d be a few miles off from the reported home of these and many other country music superstars. They actually find themselves — now or at least recently — living in and around Williamson County, just south of Nashville.
From Franklin to Brentwood and Leipers Fork, the smaller towns with quaint Hallmark-esque downtowns and live music on every corner have long been a slight respite for the celebrities and musicians of Nashville. And visitors are following suit. While Nashville is a lively and increasingly urban city with a honky-tonk edge, Franklin and its neighbors are eclectic, friendly, luxurious, and definitely worth a visit.
I spent a long weekend recently based in Franklin – just over 20 miles from Nashville – and here are my recommendations.
WHERE TO STAY:
The Harpeth Hotel
When visiting Franklin, there is no better place to stay than The Harpeth Hotel. Situated just a block off Main Street and within walking distance of nearly everything in town, it is a gem in the heart of the city. From check-in to check-out, I was blown away by the level of service from everyone at The Harpeth. My room was stylish and clean, with a large, beautiful balcony overlooking the city.
The hotel bar at The Harpeth was lively each night, with several areas to enjoy a cocktail, and the courtyard was unique and beautiful – the perfect spot for events or catching up with friends. I especially loved the library room off the bar, where I enjoyed a nightcap and local tomes. The intentionality is evident in this space, with local touches and nods to history.
The Harpeth boasts 119 pet-friendly guest rooms and suites luxuriously appointed with Frette robes, slippers, flexible workspaces, and turndown service. Be sure to taste some whiskey during your stay – the hotel has over 110 small-batch offerings.
WHERE TO EAT:
1799 Kitchen and Cocktails
The on-site fine dining restaurant at the Harpeth Hotel, 1799 Kitchen and Cocktails, was a surprising favorite of mine during this trip. It was much more a local haunt than a hotel lobby restaurant; the vibes were dark and moody, with intentional touches. I sat at a semi-private table with curtains that could be drawn to enjoy the perfectly prepared Bison Strip Steak. The dining room is designed circularly to evoke a whiskey barrel, with a carpet that mirrors a rock glass. The restaurant is known for its extensive whiskey list, offering over 110 small-batch and single-barrel spirits from all over the world.
McGavock’s Coffee Bar & Provisions
I started each morning in Franklin at McGavock’s Coffee & Provisions, a sleek coffee shop and restaurant in The Harpeth downtown. The vibe was always electric, with a full house of primarily locals (the biggest green flag in a coffee house) enjoying coffee with friends or working in the bright space. The lavender honey latte was perfect, the staff was the sort of Southern friendly that brings a smile to even the most curmudgeonly patron’s face, and the avocado toast was somehow different than any I’ve had prior.
Grays On Main
A staple in downtown Franklin since 2013, Gray’s On Main serves elevated Southern fare in a historic building that housed Gray Drug Co. for nearly a century. The second-floor bar and music hall is a popular spot for live music and a bar celebrating Tennessee brandy culture with epicurean cocktails. I fully leaned into the Southern hospitality during my late dinner visit, starting with Crispy Pimento Cheese with Moonshine Pepper Jelly and followed by Heritage Buttermilk Fried Chicken with garlic mashed potatoes, green beans, and a bourbon mustard pan sauce that was to die for.
It wouldn’t be a visit to the Nashville area without a stop for a meal at Puckett’s. What started as a grocery in nearby Leiper’s Fork in the 1950s has evolved throughout the year to a thriving Southern restaurant and live music venue with six locations. Known for Southern staples like the meat and three, Puckett’s brings the atmosphere and Southern charm to any meal. I stopped by the Franklin location, just off Main St., for breakfast at the bar, filling up on Bubba’s Egg Benedict, a split biscuit topped with bacon or sausage, two fried eggs, and white pepper gravy on a bed of home fries.
WHERE TO DRINK:
Visitors may be surprised that Nashville has a “wine country,” but according to the massive popularity of Arrington Vineyards just outside town, not only does it exist – it’s thriving. The vineyard, which opened in 2007, is partially owned by Kix Brooks of Brooks and Dunn (you’ll quickly find that many establishments in the Franklin area are owned at least in part by famous musicians) and is always full of locals and visitors alike. The 95-acre property (including 16 acres of vineyards) is bucolic, with rolling hills, a grand barn, a pavilion, and picnic tables. Guests can bring in a picnic and spend a day enjoying the wines, views, and often live music on the premises.
I bought myself a bottle of rose on this trip, enjoying the peaceful weekday vibes before Ubering back to Franklin.
Leiper’s Fork Distillery
If you visit Tennessee but don’t visit a distillery, were you really even there? It is a question for the ages and one I, fortunately, will never know the answer to. When in the Nashville or Franklin areas, there is one distillery that is a must-visit: Leiper’s Fork Distillery. The distillery is known for producing high-quality, small-batch whiskies using age-old traditions and local ingredients. I enjoyed a whiskey cocktail in the ample outdoor space where there is often live music.
Next time, I’ll opt for the tour. I recommend you do the same.
When I walked into Stable Reserve, the sleek coffee shop/distillery on Main Street in downtown Franklin, well before noon and asked if it was “too early for a tasting,” I was met with kind Southern laughter and a chorus of “of course not” that sold me on the place before taking a sip. Luckily, the drinks were also impressive. The local family-owned and operated distillery, set in an original livery stable, recently opened but feels like it’s been there for years. The crowd was lively, the staff was attentive and friendly, and the spirits were smooth.
I especially loved the Stable Reserve Gin and Stable Reserve Coffee Cream Liqueur.
Wines In The Fork
While exploring the arts community of Leiper’s Fork, I was pleasantly surprised to find Wines In The Fork, a rustic tasting room on Leiper’s Creek. An outpost of Farmstead Roots, a local, sustainable farm, award-winning wine producer, and market, the Leiper’s Fork location is chock full of charm – and delicious wine. I opted for a tasting in the tasting room (although creekside wine tastings are available, along with the enormously popular Creek Dinner Series in the summer) and was impressed with each wine I tasted.
I especially enjoyed the Farmstead Sparkling and Farmstead Honeysuckle Vine.
Amendment 18 Cocktail Club
I was visiting Franklin during the soft opening of Amendment 18 Cocktail Club, a cocktail bar and speakeasy located downtown – so, of course, I had to check it out. Visitors enter the bar through the back entrance of a pizza place, flipping a hidden light switch to alert the hostesses of their arrival. The decor was perfect for the prohibition-era vibes, the drink was tasty, and the service was top-notch – even on its first night.
I’ll be interested to visit again once word has gotten out.
WHERE TO EXPLORE AND SEE LIVE MUSIC:
Main Street in downtown Franklin is not just quaint and charming but also bustling. The street, designated as a “Great American Main Street” and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was full of people whenever I ventured out. With nearly all shops independently owned and operated, with every type of customer finding something for them, it is a place where you could spend an entire day. I recommend stopping at The Green Room for earth-friendly and sustainable gifts, Citizen for high-end sneakers and elevated clothing, and Rooted from Yarrow Acres – the plant shop of my dreams – before grabbing an espresso martini at Stable Reserve.
The village of Leiper’s Fork has a population of just 650 people, but its influence on music is of legends. With plenty of artists getting their start at open mic nights in the city, recording studios dotting the landscape, and the famous Lawnchair Theater – it is an unexpected cultural hub. Visit the upscale art galleries, shops, restaurants, and winery on the creek – and keep your eyes peeled for the country music stars who call this tiny town home.
Fox and Locke
The original Puckett’s Grocery in Leipers Fork is the location of the legendary Fox and Locke restaurant and music venue. The enormously popular spot for locals and visitors alike, it’s known for its Southern comfort food, live music, and open-mic nights. Many successful artists will hop on the stage at Fox and Locke, including Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, and Carrie Underwood – who surprised patrons with an unscheduled performance during a visit.
Located in a former stove factory, The Factory at Franklin has been renovated and reimagined to house multiple restaurants, shops, bars, a theater, event space, and art galleries. The one-stop shop is a great place to try something new and local during your trip to Franklin.