Franklin, Columbia, & Scenic U.S. 31

Franklin is 20 miles south of Nashville; Stones River National Battlefield is 32 miles from Franklin. Columbia is 46 miles south of Nashville.

South of Nashville, U.S. 31 will lead you through the rolling Tennessee hills to the historic town of Franklin where historical homes abound. You’ll pass by more than a dozen plantation homes on the way.


GETTING THERE—The start of the scenic section of U.S. 31 is in Brentwood, at exit 74 off I-65. Alternatively, you can take I-65 straight to Franklin (exit 65) and then take U.S. 31 back north to Nashville. 

VISITOR INFORMATION—In Franklin, stop in at the Williamson County Visitor Information Center, 400 Main St. (tel. 615/591-8514), open Monday through Saturday 9am to 6pm, and Sunday noon to 5pm.

Exploring Historic Franklin

At the visitor center—housed in a former doctor’s office built in 1839—you can pick up information about various historic sites, including a map to the historic homes along U.S. 31 and a self-guided walking-tour map. A 15-block area of downtown is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and nearly the entire town has been restored—both commercial buildings on the square and residential buildings in surrounding blocks—so the town has a charming 19th-century air. The best thing to do in Franklin is just stroll around.

Stop in at any of downtown Franklin’s charming restaurants. Favorites serving traditional stick-to-your-ribs fare include 55South (403 Main St.; tel. 615/538-6001), Puckett’s Grocery & Restaurant (120 4th Ave. S.; tel. 615/794-5527), or Merridee’s Breadbasket (110 4th Ave. S.; tel. 615/790-3755). For dinner, tuck into the Red Pony (408 Main St.; tel 615/595-7669), which serves sophisticated, updated Southern classics against the backdrop of dramatic decor.

If you’re in the mood for shopping, check out the stores on and right off the square or walk the .75 mile to the Factory at Franklin. Incredibly also listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Factory it hosts outposts of local favorites like Edley’s Bar-B-Que, Greys Fine Cheese and Entertaining, and Otaku Ramen.

Near Franklin, a top sightseeing stop is the Carnton Plantation and battle site. Click here for our full review.

Heading south from Franklin on U.S. 31 for about 26 miles will bring you to the town of Columbia. Along the way, you'll see a dozen or so historic antebellum homes, and in Columbia itself, more old homes and three districts listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

If the Lane Motor Museum in Nashville whets your appetite for more auto-centric sightseeing, head north on I-65 toward Bowling Green, Kentucky. Less than an hour's drive from Music City is the National Corvette Museum (tel. 800/53-VETTE [538-3883] or 270/781-7973), devoted entirely to the car model that was first launched in 1953. With its distinctive red-and-yellow spiral tower, the museum is an eye-catching oddity within clear view of the interstate. Inside, the museum's 110,000 square feet of displays, videos, photos, and memorabilia are enough to keep speed-enthusiasts salivating. Of course, the real showstoppers are the dozens of Corvette models and concept cars. Across the street is the Corvette Assembly Plant, which also offers tours.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.