15 Things to Do in Franklin, NC

Welcome to Franklin, NC – a mountain oasis nestled in the heart of the stunning Great Smoky Mountains! With its breathtaking landscapes, rich history, and warm hospitality, Franklin beckons you to escape into nature’s embrace and immerse yourself in its captivating charm.

Home to a population of around 4,000 residents, Franklin boasts a colorful history that dates back to the 19th century when it was known for its thriving agricultural heritage. Today, it has evolved into a beloved destination, attracting travelers with its outdoor adventures and cultural treasures.

As you explore Franklin’s enchanting surroundings, prepare to be mesmerized by the beauty of the Nantahala National Forest. Discover hidden waterfalls, hike scenic trails, and witness the wonders of Mother Nature at every turn.

Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, a history buff, or simply seeking a serene mountain escape, Franklin, NC, welcomes you with open arms and a wealth of experiences to treasure!

Things to Do in Franklin, NC

1. Discover the stunning beauty of the Nantahala National Forest

Nantahala National Forest

Established in 1920, this captivating forest spans over 530,000 acres, encompassing an expanse of breathtaking landscapes and abundant biodiversity.

Its name, “Nantahala,” derives from the Cherokee language, meaning “land of the noonday sun,” a fitting homage to the deep gorges that create a unique play of light during midday.

The Nantahala National Forest boasts a rich history, dating back to the Cherokee people who once called this land their home.

2. Experience the thrill of gem mining at local mines

Local mine

Franklin, NC, a town with a glittering legacy in gemstones, beckons you to discover your very own precious treasures from the depths of the earth.

With roots tracing back to the 1800s, Franklin’s gem mining heritage is etched into the town’s identity, with generations of miners preserving and sharing their passion for these shimmering jewels.

Venturing to local mines, you’re handed a rustic wooden bucket brimming with mining rough, containing a delightful mix of gravel and gem-rich dirt.

3. Explore the fascinating exhibits at the Franklin Gem and Mineral Museum

Franklin Gem and Mineral Museum
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Prepare to be dazzled as you step into the Franklin Gem and Mineral Museum, an educational haven where history and the Earth’s geologic wonders converge in captivating exhibits.

Established in 1974, the museum is a treasure trove of rare and exquisite gemstones, minerals, and fossils that have delighted generations of visitors.

The curated collection showcases not only the local gems and minerals found in the Franklin area but also a stunning assortment from across the globe, offering a kaleidoscope of colors and shapes that would rival any artist’s palette.

4. Take a scenic drive along the breathtaking Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway

Spanning over 469 miles, the Blue Ridge Parkway winds through the Blue Ridge Mountains, connecting Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park to North Carolina’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The history of this breathtaking parkway dates back to 1935 when construction began as part of the New Deal initiative. Traveling along this picturesque route, you’ll be treated to ever-changing landscapes, from rolling hills covered in vibrant wildflowers to misty mountain peaks shrouded in ethereal beauty.

5. Visit the quaint town of Highlands

Image source: ourstate.com

Perched atop the Southern Appalachian Mountains at an elevation of over 4,000 feet, Highlands offers a delightful escape from the ordinary.

The town’s history can be traced back to the late 19th century when it emerged as a summer resort for those seeking relief from the sweltering heat.

Stroll through this charming town, where classic architecture blends with modern touches, and the serenity of the mountains envelop you in a warm embrace.

6. Enjoy a leisurely day at Franklin’s Fun Factory

Franklin's Fun Factory
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Opened in 2019, this family-friendly attraction promises a day of laughter and joy for visitors of all ages.

Challenge your friends to a round of mini-golf on whimsically themed courses or showcase your skills in the laser tag arena, a thrilling adventure that sparks camaraderie and friendly competition.

As you explore Franklin’s Fun Factory, the laughter of children and the smiles of families create an atmosphere of pure joy.

7. Attend a performance or event at the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts

Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts
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This state-of-the-art venue offers a diverse lineup of performances and events, showcasing a range of artistic talents and cultural experiences.

The center, established in 2009, has quickly become a premier destination for live entertainment in the region. From Broadway shows and musical concerts to dance performances and comedy acts, the Smoky Mountain Center provides an enriching and immersive experience for all who attend.

8. Discover the beauty of Cullasaja Falls

Cullasaja Falls

Prepare to be mesmerized by the sheer splendor of Cullasaja Falls, a breathtaking cascade located along the picturesque Highway 64. Accessible from a scenic overlook, the falls offer a captivating display of nature’s majesty as the water plunges down the rugged rock face, creating a magnificent sight to behold.

The history of Cullasaja Falls is steeped in Native American legends, adding to its allure and mystique. The name “Cullasaja” is said to mean “honey locust place” in the Cherokee language, a testament to the reverence and admiration the falls have inspired for centuries.

9. Learn about the Appalachian culture at the Cowee Mountain Ruby Mine

Cowee Mountain Ruby Mine
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Cowee Mountain Ruby Mine, situated in the Cowee Valley near Franklin, boasts a rich history of gem mining dating back to the 1800s. Once known as “The Land of the Noonday Sun,” the area’s abundance of gems, including rubies and sapphires, sparked a gem rush that brought fortune seekers from near and far.

At the mine, you’ll embark on a gem mining adventure, sifting through the mining rough to reveal nature’s hidden treasures. The experience not only provides the thrill of discovering gemstones but also offers insights into the Appalachian culture and the historical significance of gem mining in the region.

10. Savor local flavors at Franklin’s many restaurants

After a day filled with adventure and exploration, treat yourself to a delightful culinary journey through Franklin’s diverse dining scene. The town’s restaurants are a celebration of local flavors and hospitality, offering a delightful array of dishes that cater to every palate.

Franklin’s restaurants pride themselves on incorporating fresh, locally sourced ingredients to create delectable farm-to-table delights.

11. Experience the thrill of white-water rafting on the Nantahala River

Nantahala River rafting

For adrenaline seekers, an exhilarating adventure awaits on the renowned Nantahala River.

Set in the heart of the Nantahala National Forest, this river is the perfect playground for white-water rafting enthusiasts of all levels.

12. Visit the Macon County Historical Museum

Housed in a charming historic building, the museum showcases a remarkable collection of artifacts, photographs, and exhibits that document the area’s cultural heritage and evolution over the years.

The museum’s exhibits are meticulously curated, providing an immersive and enlightening experience that connects you to the rich tapestry of Macon County’s past.

13. Take a relaxing stroll through the Franklin Greenway

Franklin Greenway
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This idyllic green space offers a sanctuary for nature lovers, joggers, and families seeking a peaceful escape.

Lush greenery surrounds you as you meander along the tranquil riverbanks, and the gentle rustle of leaves creates a soothing soundtrack to your walk. The Franklin Greenway also features picnic areas and benches, inviting you to pause, breathe in the fresh mountain air, and savor the beauty of the great outdoors.

14. Attend the annual Franklin Folk Festival

Held in the heart of downtown Franklin, this lively festival brings together artisans, musicians, and performers to showcase their talents and share their passion for the region’s folk traditions.

This festival celebrates the cultural traditions of the Appalachian region at the annual Franklin Folk Festival, a celebration that pays homage to the area’s music, crafts, and heritage.

15. Explore the Franklin Trolley Museum

Franklin Trolley Museum

Housed in a historic trolley car, the museum offers a captivating glimpse into the town’s transportation legacy.

Step aboard the vintage trolley car and imagine what life was like during the trolley’s heyday when it was a vital mode of transport for the community. Learn about the development of the trolley system and the role it played in shaping the town’s growth and prosperity.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Franklin NC worth visiting?

Franklin, NC, is worth visiting for its scenic beauty, outdoor adventures, gem mining, and proximity to the Great Smoky Mountains.

What is Franklin County NC known for?

Franklin County, NC, is known for its agricultural heritage, including tobacco and farming.

Does Franklin NC have a downtown?

Yes, Franklin, NC, has a charming downtown area with shops, restaurants, and cultural attractions.

What to do in Franklin NC when it rains?

In Franklin, NC, when it rains, you can explore indoor attractions like the Franklin Gem and Mineral Museum, visit local art galleries, or enjoy a meal at one of the downtown restaurants.

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