Nashville needs no introduction. The Music City is now a cultural mecca, the epitome of vintage style and all-around coolness. Go there to be inspired, electrified, and entertained. But if you’re craving a place close to the action yet away from it all, Franklin, Tennessee, is the ticket—and where many of Nashville’s music glitterati make their homes. Named for Benjamin Franklin, the city, founded in 1799, came to prominence before the Civil War. During the war, Union troops occupied it for three years—and it took the city more than a century to reestablish its thriving economy.
If Nashville is hipness, Franklin is heart. Think farmer’s markets, antique shops, and a local bookstore; decades-old restaurants turning out fried chicken and all the fixin’s; a corner coffee shop in a Victorian house complete with a porch swing. And, yet, the spillover from Nashville’s legendary boutique and artisan scene is apparent. Franklin’s Main Street is lined with the artsy, refined, and one-of-a-kind, and The Factory at Franklin, a renovated stove factory, now houses art studios, shops, and a food hall (including Five Daughters Bakery, which practically reinvented the doughnut).
I’d heard of Franklin on previous trips to Nashville, but I didn’t make it outside of the city proper until this fall when I stayed at Franklin’s brand-new hotel The Harpeth—named for the Harpeth River that flows next to the property into town, past Civil War sites and historic homes.
Traveling during this time isn’t without concern, but The Harpeth’s focus on safety is paramount. The hotel is under the umbrella of Hilton and part of its Curio Collection, marrying the brand’s elite reputation and style with local character and approachability. The staff is keen to show their appreciation and take care of any request. I felt pampered in my modern suite, with a floor-to-ceiling walk-in glass shower and sizable balcony. The hotel has taken extra precautions, such as removing traditional items from rooms like a mini refrigerator. When I needed the fridge to hold leftovers from the hotel’s restaurant, it was delivered in no time.
Dinner at The Harpeth’s 1799 was a highlight of my trip. Named for the year that Franklin was founded, the restaurant’s interior is decidedly more modern, with a dramatic wood spiral in the center and chairs in Kelly green. Along the periphery are private banquettes with curtains to enjoy a more intimate experience. The chef focuses on American cuisine, with hints of the South, such as an inspired small plate featuring fried quail and dollar-size pancakes. Other standout dishes during my meal included the Caesar salad, with kale instead of romaine, and a tuna ceviche that I was happy not to miss.
The restaurant’s cocktails are popular, but I opted to cap off the night with bourbon. Though the bartender had just locked away his finest bottles, I asked if he had my favorite brand, Weller. He gave me a knowing nod and an eye-crinkle suggesting a smile, and set a gorgeous tumbler in front of me. The whiskey lit me with a tingling warmth while I enjoyed it under the stars.
Nashville may top the charts, but Franklin is the songwriter—or, to continue the metaphor, side B of the record. And, like side B, Franklin has memorable and moving tunes that you can’t stop playing.
STAY & PLAY
/// The Harpeth Hotel While in Franklin, stay at The Harpeth Hotel, a refined and relaxed new part of Hilton’s Curio Collection. Don’t miss dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, 1799, or coffee and fresh pastries from its café, McGavock’s.
130 2nd Ave N, Franklin, TN. (615) 206-7510, harpethhotel.com
/// Leiper’s Fork For a jaunt farther afield, head to the rural village of Leiper’s Fork, about 8.5 miles southwest of Franklin. The picturesque drive delivers you to art studios, restaurants, and off-the-charts coffee served up in a tiny home. If you have an afternoon, grab lunch at Puckett’s, then head over to Leiper’s Fork Distillery for a whiskey tasting. visitfranklin.com/see-and-do/leipers-fork