Whether you want to stroll and shop, bike the town’s meandering greenway along the Little Tennessee River, explore local history or head into the wilderness for some hiking, this town has it all.
The community is home to three museums, coffee shops and restaurants, a bakery, boutique stores, a bike shop, an outfitter’s store, antique shops and more. Galleries include North Carolina Mountain Made, featuring the work of 200 mountain craftspeople and artisans on Main Street. The town is also home to the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts, where regional and national music acts and theatre productions take the stage.
In the middle of downtown Franklin stands the ancient Cherokee mound of Nikwasi, marking its location as one of the largest of the ancient middle towns of the Cherokee along the Little Tennessee River that served as a canoe highway through the region during ancient times.
The town of Franklin was recently designated an Appalachian Trail Community, and holds a series of events each year honoring the nearby AT and its hikers. Stop into Outdoor 76 for trail maps, hiking suggestions and any recreational gear needs.
• The Scottish Tartans Museum — The only American extension of the Scottish Tartans Society, this museum explores the Scottish heritage of the region, replete with kilts, weaponry, and Scottish history. Not only can visitors pick up a can a haggis to go, but also they can learn more about the hearty settlers that helped lend Western North Carolina its grit. Located at 86 East Main St. in downtown. 828.524.7472.
• The Gem and Mineral Museum — This little museum exhibits local gemstones, minerals and Indian artifacts. The museum is located in the town’s old jail, used from 1896 to 1971. One of the jail’s cells is open to visitors. Located at 25 Phillips St. in downtown. 828.369.7831.
• Macon County Historical Museum — In the old Pendergrass Store, the building was the first department store in downtown. It features old typewriters, locally made quilts, wooden nickels and other items that have been collected over the years. Located at 36 West Main St. in downtown. 828.524.9758.
• Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts — This 1,500 seat state-of-the-art facility presents the finest in performing arts. Performances include passion plays, musical productions, professional drama troupes, dance and choral festivals, recitals, and various genres including country, bluegrass, gospel, pop, contemporary Christian and more. Located at 1028 Georgia Rd. 828.524.1598.
• T.M. Rickman General Store — In the Cowee West’s Mill Historic District, the store was a mainstay in the Cowee Community for many years and is filled with many of the goods one would find in a general store from the days of yore, plus regional guidebooks, local crafts and handmade items. Located on Cowee Creek Road just off of Highway 28 (Bryson City Road) about six miles north of Franklin. 828.524.2711.
• Gem mines — Gem mining has a rich history in Franklin, which attracted attention from Tiffany and Co. and the jeweler’s famed gemologist George Kunz. The company purchased 1,500 acres surrounding the old Mason Ranch and unearthed many precious stones. Try your hand at gem mining at one of eight gem mines in the area, where you get a bucket of sand and enriched with stones from around the world for guaranteed finds as you sit in front of a plume of water to sift for treasure. For a complete list, go to www.franklin-chamber.com.
• Little Tennessee River Greenway — The greenway has several picnic shelters, signage identifying native plants, grassy play areas and beautiful bridges crossing the river. There’s also a native marsh area. There are several access areas for the greenway. A playground is at the Big Bear Shelter off Main Street. 828.369.8488.
• Visitor Center — The Franklin Chamber of Commerce is located at 425 Porter St. 828.524.3161 or www.franklin-chamber.com.