When planning to take your students out for a field trip, there are several boxes you want to check: How can you make it educational? Fun? Impactful and meaningful? Picking an activity or location can be difficult, which is why we’re here to help.
Whatever your goals, Franklin has plenty of field trip destinations to choose from—so what are you in the market for?
For outdoor exploration: The Little Tennessee River Greenway
The Greenway is perfect for younger children who want to get outside without leaving the beaten trail too far behind. With paved sidewalks wide enough for a group, the Greenway is a great location for a smooth tour of the local flora and fauna.
Kick it back at picnic shelters, climb on the playground at Wesley Park, challenge the students at the disc golf course, and trot across historic bridges together for a pleasant trip in the great outdoors!
For a show: The Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts
Getting whisked away to watch a show in a 1,500-seat state-of-the-art facility is a rare and breathtaking experience, which makes visiting the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts (SMCPA) an awesome opportunity for your students—especially if they’re interested in the arts.
The SMCPA has school-day performances in the fall and spring every year with plays geared toward younger audiences, so each is family friendly and value oriented. It’s a perfect half-day trip that’s fun for the children and teachers alike!
For a historical experience: Historical Downtown
There’s plenty to see when you walk down the sidewalks of Franklin’s Main Street area. Count on hitting several museums in a day, like the Gem and Mineral Museum (which used to be a jailhouse!), Scottish Tartans Museum, and the Macon County Historical Museum.
Your children will learn all about our pocket of Western North Carolina, who lived here hundreds of years ago, and what brought our own ancestors to the valley. You might be surprised at the amazing stories hidden away in our small town!
For a reward: The Factory in Franklin
Good behavior is something to be celebrated, and there’s nowhere better to throw a party than the Factory. From arcade games to laser tag and bumper cars, the fun starts when you walk in the doors. The wide range of entertainment makes the Factory ideal for multiple grade levels, since there’s something for children of every age.
Plus, planning their meals is easy when you have restaurants in the same building, so stick around for some great food while you’re there! Enjoy pizza, burgers, and tacos at the Pizza Factory and the Taco Factory.
Explore Franklin together!
With so many different field trip opportunities in Franklin, the only hard part of planning your trip will be choosing where to go. No matter what you decide, you’re sure to have a great time with your students here in the mountains.
Whether you live a couple hours or a couple layovers from the mountains, this is the place to come when the holidays roll around. So what makes it worth the trek? Why pack up the family and meet in Franklin, North Carolina for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s?
Views that stop you in your tracks
Just like first-time stargazing or watching a meteor shoot across the sky, the stunning views remind us just how small our problems are. Everywhere you look, the sheer enormity of the mountains calls you to stop and take a deep breath.
And after all, isn’t that what the holidays are about? It’s a time of memory and reflection before the start of a fresh new year. As you look back on the past twelve months or twelve years, the mountains help hush the come and go of everyday life.
Festivals that ring in the season
Not everything is somber here in the valley, though! The holidays are also about celebrating, and Franklin knows how to throw a party. Whether you drop in for Winter Wonderland, PumpkinFest, or the Ruby Drop at New Year’s, you’ll be right in the heartbeat of the town.
Join us for live music, art shows, and some great food and drinks whenever you jump in the fun!
Postcard-perfect photo ops
Scenic overlooks are scattered all over the area, and you’ll have the perfect family memory with a fantastic backdrop for your Christmas cards. Come get pictures during October and November for those incredible autumn leaves, or pick any number of our local scenic parkways for a breathtaking portrait.
Plenty for everyone to explore
If you get a little cabin fever, why not do a little wandering? Adventure awaits around every corner, whether you try hiking in the forests or exploring our wild and mysterious town history. There’s something here for the whole family, no matter how old you are.
Our little town may seem quiet, but there’s still plenty to do if you know where to look!
It’s always homecoming, even on your first time
Have you ever looked at a picture of rolling green hills or mountains of richly colored leaves and felt homesick? A part of you feels like it’s been here before and desperately wants to come back, even if you’ve never visited.
That mysterious feeling makes the holidays even richer when you share it with family and friends. As you gather around good food and old stories, you can look out in wonder at this place that feels just as much like home as the people you love.
Autumn looks good on the Appalachian Mountains. When the rolling hills and bouldering peaks unfurl their spatters of reds, yellows, and fiery oranges, there’s nothing better than wrapping up in your favorite fall clothes and setting out on a leaf-looking adventure.
The colorful views abound almost everywhere you turn in Franklin, so where do you go for the optimal landscape overlook?
For the hikers
For anyone who likes to venture out into the mountains themselves, Wayah Bald Tower is a can’t-miss during the fall. The old stone fire tower is perched at 5,342 feet elevation with a massive 180-degree overlook, and you can see how Autumn paints the landscape as far as the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee and all the way to the Georgia foothills.
If you want to feel more perched on the edge of the mountain, check out Pickens Nose! Yes, that’s actually it’s name, and it really will take your breath away. After a short half-mile hike—just enough to make you feel like a mountain explorer without having to break out the boots—the view is absolutely stunning.
Looking for a challenge? Hike the Bartram Trail to William’s pulpit, and you truly feel like you’re clinging to the edge of the mountain. The gorgeous rising-and-falling trail dotted with waterfalls leads to a bare rock where you can lay back and soak in the cool breeze and riot of color.
For the drivers
Maybe you’d like to be in the middle of it all while staying in your AC and reclining car seats. No judgement here! If that’s the case, so the Mountain Waters Scenic Byway is a must see. While it checks in at 61 miles, you can wind through some of the most spectacular country in the Nantahala National Forest, including multiple waterfalls, a roaring whitewater river, and tremendous mountaintop views, without getting too far from Franklin itself.
Keeping it even closer to home is feasible, too! If you’d rather shoot for the road less traveled by with a much shorter distance, the views from Onion Mountain are exactly what you need. Checking in at only 25 minutes from Main Street, the scenic overlook and trail are perched above a stunning view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The road itself winds through residential areas, so traffic is low and the solitude is sweet at the overview itself.
For the strolling wanderers
Some of us simply want to enjoy the comforts of civilization and the rugged beauty of the mountains at the same time, and to that we say “yes, please!” Downtown Franklin sits on a hill in the valley, so you can enjoy an elevated view of the basin itself from either end of Main Street as you shop, dine, and play.
For those who want to dive deeper into the valley, check out Parker Meadows Complex! The park has several baseball and softball fields, a playground, and a walking trail that flirts with the tree line. There’s even creek access if you’d like to dip your toes in and wade through a mountain stream!
Wrap yourself in Autumn beauty!
No matter how you prefer to enjoy the colors of fall in the mountains, you’ll never forget a trip to Franklin, North Carolina when the leaves are out in full array—and we hope to see you again next year!
Family is a beautiful thing, but raising one isn’t always a peace and quiet sort of thing. Now that your kids have flown the nest and are off to make their own way, you can take a deep breath and enjoy your own glorious freedom.
It’s high time for a laid-back, ambling, refreshing vacation to ring in this new stage of life, and we believe the mountains of Franklin, North Carolina have just the thing.
Get cozy in an old-fashioned bed and breakfast
Once you’ve decided to get away, choosing the right home base is absolutely key to a first-time empty nest vacation. Franklin has so many to choose from, whether you want the historical richness of the Franklin Terrace or the roomy remoteness of Cat Creek Lodge.
Natural views without the hike
While many North Carolina visitors don’t count a vacation complete until they check out the hiking trails, you may want to take a more laid-back approach. Stops like Dry Falls and Bridal Veil Falls are visible from the road and have convenient parking access for one-stop waterfall chasing.
Wine, beer, and whiskey
Sure, the kids are grown and might be old enough to join you, but why not pamper yourself and your spouse with a vineyard or distillery tour? Savor the local wines within an hour’s drive of Franklin at Biltmore Winery, 12 Spies Vineyards and Farms, Deep Creek Winery, or Hightower Creek Vineyards.
If beer is more your speed, look no further than our very own breweries a stone’s throw from Main Street! The Lazy Hiker is just down the hill from the shops and gazebo, and Currahee Brewery is a short drive down to the base of town hill where the Little Tennessee flows.
The Biltmore Estate
America’s very own castle, the Biltmore Estate’s rolling grounds and lush gardens are prime spots to soak up any season. The Biltmore Winery is open for tasting, and be sure to tour the inside of the Vanderbilt’s breathtaking home! The Estate is just over an hour away from Franklin by car, and you can even catch a bit of the Blue Ridge Parkway while you drive!
Antiquing and local history
With all that time saved from doing kid-centric activities, it’s time to dive in to the sort of treasure-hunting that can only be found when you go antiquing. Franklin has many different stores and specialties to offer, and you never know what sort of unique finds are in store.
Be sure to explore our many historical sites, too! Franklin has a wild and wonderful history that you certainly wouldn’t expect from a seemingly quiet and demure mountain town—let us surprise you!
Need help planning your trip?
Look no further than our 3-day Franklin getaway, also on the blog! We can’t wait to have you, and we hope it will be a memorable first-time empty nesting experience!
Heading to the mountains during summer means it’s time for trails galore, and Franklin delivers! Whether you’re looking for a fun family outing that’s easy on the kids or a truly challenging trek with backpacks and tents, you’re sure to find exactly what you’re looking for around these parts.
Here are 9 trails in a 45-minute drive or less from downtown Franklin! Difficulty level is ranked by AllTrails.com, and all distance measurements are round-trip.
Little Tennessee Greenway
Easy | 6.4 miles | 4 min drive
If you’re looking for the absolute best place to take the kids, check out the Little Tennessee Greenway. There are several entry points scattered throughout town, so if the six-and-a-half miles are too much, you can always pick a spot and walk as far as you like. Bring the bikes, the pets (on leashes), or a picnic—and be sure to check out the Wesley Park playground!
Easy | 1.4 miles | 44 min drive
Pickens nose is well worth the extra drive time, and not just because of the silly name that will keep your kids giggling for the whole trip. The view is absolutely stunning after a half-mile hike uphill, which is just enough to make you feel like a mountain explorer without having to break out the boots.
Wayah Bald Tower
Easy | 4 miles | 46 min drive
The kids are going to love this one; the Wayah Bald Tower is an old stone fire tower perched at 5,342 feet elevation with a massive 180-degree overlook. You can see as far as the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee all the way to the foothills in Georgia!
Rufus Morgan Trail
Medium | 1 mile | 28 min drive
The terrain is a bit more challenging, but for explorers who love chasing waterfalls, this trail is for you! The Rufus Morgan trail is also prime bird-watching territory, so be sure to grab a camera and a sketchbook. Leashed dogs are also welcome!
Medium | 4.1 miles | 9 min drive
Trail runners, get excited! The Bartram trail is a gorgeous rising-and-falling trail dotted with waterfalls that runners seek out. Climb all the way to the summit for a glorious view at William’s Pulpit. It’s also great for more adventurous kids and leashed pups, too!
Medium | 10.1 miles | 23 min drive
Get ready to feel delightfully lost in a forest wonderland. The trek is a bit longer than most we’ve covered so far, but you’ll truly feel like you’ve wandered into a fairy realm. Ready your backpack and your camera—and maybe even some camping gear—for a truly nature-rooted experience.
Expert | 4.9 miles | 42 min drive
Deep Gap is a great catch-all trail. Whether you want to spot wildlife, set up camp, or get some trail running in with your dog, the 5-mile round trip is a great balance between being challenging and also accessible for different goals.
Winding Stair Gap
Expert | 9.4 miles | 15 min drive
Want to conquer a section of the Appalachian Trail without getting whisked away to Maine? Winding Stair Gap is just the thing. The entry point is right on US 64 with convenient parking at the base. Take your pups on a leash and get ready to take plenty of floral photos!
Wayah Bald to Tellico Gap
Expert | 13.8 round trip | 42 min drive
Start at Wayah Bald Tower and prepare for an expedition! Hikers who want to backpack and camp along the trail are in for a treat between Wayay Bald and Tellico Gap. You can even bring Fido on your journey! For adventurers who want to undertake the almost-14-mile round trip in one go, we salute you—that’s an undertaking!