Thousands of years ago the movement glaciers and ancient rivers left a rich deposit of precious gemstones buried in the soil around Franklin. Today people come from near and far to visit the “gem mining capital of the world” and get their own ruby, sapphire or other precious stone to take home. There are at least 4 gem mining operations in the area which offer visitor the chance to have fun and find a beautiful gemstone. Other activities include visiting a few really different museums, catching a concert or show at the Smokey Mountain Center for the Performing Arts or visiting a couple of local craft breweries. Outdoor enthusiasts can pull on their hiking boots and hit the Bartram Trail or take a less strenuous walk along the Little Tennessee River Greenway. Certain attractions may be temporarily closed or require advance reservations. Some restaurants are currently offering pickup only. Hours/availability may have changed.
1.Wayah Bald Outlook Tower, Franklin, NC
Located in the Nantahala National Forest, the Wayah Bald Outlook Tower is a must-visit attraction for all nature lovers. The lookout point is reached via a short hike from the summit parking area. Here you can climb up to the top of a 1937 stone fire tower built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, which offers sweeping views of the surrounding landscape. On a clear day you should be able to see the Great Smokey Mountains in Tennessee to the north and the rolling hills of Georgia to the south. There are several other hiking trails in the area and you can bring along a picnic to enjoy at a small on-site picnic area.
Wayah Bald Outlook Tower, Nantahala National Forest, Franklin, NC 278734
2.Cherokee Ruby and Sapphire Mine, Franklin, North Carolina
© Cherokee Ruby and Sapphire Mine
The Cherokee Ruby and Sapphire Mine boasts natural mineral bearing deposits left behind by the movements of ancient glaciers and rivers. The mine offers visitors the chance to spend some fun time searching for their very own hoard of precious stones. Your visit will start with an introduction at the Mine Office, where you will be shown samples of what the gemstones look like in their raw state. Hereafter you will be issued with the necessary tools of the trade and shown how to thoroughly clean the mined ore and possibly find a precious stone or two. This is a fun (but somewhat strenuous) activity that the whole family can enjoy together.
Cherokee Ruby and Sapphire Mine, 41 Cherokee Mine Road, Franklin, NC 28734, Phone: 828-349-2941
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3.The Smokey Mountain Center for the Performing Arts
© The Smokey Mountain Center for the Performing Arts
The Smokey Mountain Center for the Performing Arts has been entertaining Franklin residents and visitors since opening in 2009. The center focuses on producing family entertainment in many genres including live performance theatre, music concerts, musicals and comedy shows. The theater can seat 1503 audience members over two tiers and has 12 VIP boxes. State-of-the-art lighting and sound facilities ensure that each and every production is a hit. Besides featuring a regular calendar of entertainment, the center also host special events like their Christmas with Family and Friends Dinner Show and their live drive-through nativity show, the Bethlehem Experience. Check their website for details of upcoming productions.
The Smokey Mountain Center for the Performing Arts, 1028 Georgia Road, Franklin, NC 28734, Phone: 828-524-1598
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4.The Lazy Hiker Brewing Company, Franklin, North Carolina
© The Lazy Hiker Brewing Company
Thirsty visitors will find the Lazy Hiker Brewing Company in the former premises of the Franklin Town Hall and Fire department, where they have been hand-crafting artisan brews since 2015. Endeavoring to create a relaxing space where the community can meet and chill, the premises include an indoor taproom, outdoor patio area, disc golf and an outdoor event space. If you happen to be hiking the famous Appalachian trail, they are just a short hike away, hence the name. Beers on tap include Trail Mate Golden Ale, Slack Pack IPA, Trail Candy and Wesser Evil Porter, to name but a few. An on-site food truck takes care of the hunger.
The Lazy Hiker Brewing Company, 188 W. Main Street, Franklin, NC 28734, Phone: 828-349-2337
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5.Mason’s Ruby and Sapphire Mine, Franklin, North Carolina
© Mason’s Ruby and Sapphire Mine
Mason’s Ruby and Sapphire Mine has offered visitors the chance to dig for their own gemstones since 1950. For a modest fee, visitors can spend a few hours finding out just how challenging it is to harvest precious gemstones. You will be instructed on the basics of gemstone mining during an orientation session before setting off with a spade and a bucket to find your own precious stones in a designated area. Once you have dug up a bucket of ore you will need to spend some time rinsing and separating the rocks from the gems. Whatever you find at the end of the session is yours to take home.
Mason’s Ruby and Sapphire Mine, 6961 Upper Burningtown Rd, Franklin, NC 28734, Phone: 828-369-9742
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6.Old Cardinal Gem Mine, Franklin, North Carolina
© Björn Wylezich/stock.adobe.com
One of several gem mining operations in Franklin, the Old Cardinal Gem Mine has been producing rubies, amethyst, moonstones and garnet for the last 40 years. The mine is a popular attraction for families, where children can have hours of fun playing in the dirt and possibly finding some precious gems. If you don’t feel like digging you can purchase a bucket of ore and spend your time productively separating the dirt from the gems at the rinsing flume. Whatever is left in your bucket after the cleaning is yours to take home with you. Mining can be a messy business and visitors are advised to dress accordingly and bring along a sunhat and sunscreen.
Old Cardinal Gem Mine, 71 Rockhaven Drive, Franklin, NC 28734, Phone: 828-524-7306
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7.Franklin Gem and Mineral Museum, Franklin, North Carolina
Located in what used to be the Macon County jail, the Franklin Gem and Mineral Museum is a good place to learn all about minerals and gemstones before you visit one of the local gemstone mining operations. The museum showcases a large collection of minerals and gemstones from all over the world, including historical pieces, fossils and more. Here you can learn about the natural processes responsible for the creation of precious stones and how to identify gemstones in their raw state. Visitors can marvel at the transformation which occurs when precious stones are cut, polished and turned into stunning pieces of jewelry.
The Franklin Gem and Mineral Museum, Old Macon County Jail, 25 Phillips Street, Franklin, NC 28734, Phone: 828-369-7831
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8.The Scottish Tartans Museum, Franklin, North Carolina
© The Scottish Tartans Museum
The Scottish Tartans Museum was established by the Scottish Tartans Society (in Scotland) to research and showcase the history of Scottish Highland Dress in all parts of the world. This unusual and interesting museum is essential viewing for anyone with family links to Scotland or for those interested in learning about Scottish heritage and traditions. Amazingly, there are over 600 different tartan samples on display and kilts which date back to 1800. In addition, the museum’s computer database has over 11,000 tartan samples on record for researchers to admire. The museum attends many Scottish Festival and Highland Games each year to provide tartan info to visitors.
The Scottish Tartans Museum, 86 E. Main Street, Franklin, NC 28734, Phone: 828-524-7472
9.Currahee Brewing Company, Franklin, North Carolina
© Currahee Brewing Company
Scenically located along the edge of the Tennessee River, the Currahee Brewing Company encompasses a brew room production facility, a tap room and Beer Garden overlooking the river. There is also an outdoor music stage, a food truck and a canoe and kayak launch area. The name of the brewery comes from the Cherokee Indian word for “stand alone”, which is exactly what the brewers expect their fine craft beers to do. The brewery produces a range of European-inspired canned and on-tap brews including the Garand IPA, der Betrunken (Pilsner), Mountain Blonde and the Blush Creek. Food is available from the neighboring Smokejack BBQ restaurant.
Currahee Brewing Company, 100 Lakeside Drive, Franklin, NC 28734, Phone: 828-634-0078
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10.Sheffield Mine, Franklin, North Carolina
© Sheffield Mine
Once owned by Tiffany’s, the Sheffield Mine is one of the oldest Franklin mines still in operation. There are still plenty of rubies and sapphires to be found by avid gemologists who take the time to carefully separate the gems from the centuries-old clay in which they are buried. Visitors will be briefed on how to recognize a gemstone – many of which are caked with clay and granite and unremarkable to the un-trained eye. Each “prospector” gets a bucket of gem-bearing clay which has been excavated from the mine and then it is up to you to get on with the job of cleaning and sorting the stones. Everything you find in your bucket is yours to take home with you.
Sheffield Mine, 385 Sheffield Farms Road, Franklin, NC 28734, Phone: 828-369-8383
11.Bartram Trail, Franklin, North Carolina
© Shannon Dunaway/stock.adobe.com
The Bartram Trail follows in the footsteps of the 18thcentury naturalist William Bartram who set off on an epic 4-year journey of exploration in 1773. The most popular part of the trail runs along 115 miles from the North Georgia Mountains to North Carolina. Should you decide to undertake the full length of this designated National Recreation Trail you will find yourself hiking through wonderfully scenic parts of North and South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. You can access the trail from Franklin, making your way through the Nantahala National Forest to the highest point on the trail at Wayah Bald, where the Bartram Trail crosses the epic Appalachian Trail.
Bartram Trail, Franklin, NC 28734
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12.The Little Tennessee River Greenway
© Nongnuch Leelaphasuk/stock.adobe.com
Meandering for 5 miles through some of the most beautiful natural landscape in Franklin, the Little Tennessee River Greenway is an enviable community recreational green space. A long stretch of uninhabited land along the river has been beautifully utilized to provide a scenic walkway through several natural habitats including wetlands, pastures and upland woods. The greenway provides nature lovers with paved and un-paved hiking trails, bike trails, exercise stations and a nine-hole disc golf course. In addition there is a Butterfly Garden, a delightful children’s playground and a splash pad at Big Bear Park. Picnic shelters and launch areas for canoes and kayaks are also available to the public.
The Little Tennessee River Greenway, 573 E Main Street, Franklin, NC 28734, Phone: 828-369-8488
13.Artisan Jewelers, Franklin, North Carolina
In a town that is famous for its gemstones it is good to know there is an artisan jeweler on hand to transform your mined gemstones into beautiful pieces of jewelry. The family-owned business has over 30 years experience creating fine pieces of jewelry using gold, platinum and Sterling Silver. They also stock a comprehensive selection of gemstones for those who would prefer to leave the mining to someone else. Their collection of mineral and healing crystals are sourced from all over the world, as well as from the local mines. Visitors are invited to come and admire their modern and innovative pieces and choose a really authentic reminder of your visit to the Gem Capital of the World.
Artisan Jewelers, 3348 Georgia Rd, Franklin, NC 28734, Phone: 828-524-9193
14.Macon County Historical Society and Museum
© Macon County Historical Society and Museum
Macon County was formed in 1828 from land which was acquired from the Cherokee Nation in the Treaty of 1819. Such a long history deserves to be celebrated and showcased and to this end the Macon County Museum was established in a beautiful historic dry-goods store (the Pendergrass Building) which was built in 1904. A tour of the museum will take visitors back in time to learn about various stages in the history of the county. These include the life and times of the earliest pioneer settlers, the Civil War era and the subsequent establishment of schools, the arrival of electricity and automobiles and much more.
Macon County Museum, 36 W. Main Street, Franklin, NC 28734, Phone: 828-524-9758
15.Things to Do in Franklin, NC: Rathskeller Coffee Haus and Pub
© Rathskeller Coffee Haus and Pub
The Rathskeller Coffee Haus and Pub is a popular meeting place for Franklin locals and visitors. The arty and eclectic décor of the interior features exposed brickwork and a ceiling covered in flags from all over the world, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere. The coffee house/pub is rumored to serve the best coffee in Franklin and if you are feeling hungry you can tuck in to a delicious baked pastry or other light snacks. They also serve delicious milkshakes and floats as well as a variety of beers and other alcoholic drinks and there is live music after 8pm on Saturdays.
Rathskeller Coffee Haus and Pub, 58 Stewart Street, Franklin, NC 28734, Phone: 828-369-6796
16.Things to Do in Franklin, North Carolina: Lucio’s Restaurant
© Piotr Krzeslak/stock.adobe.com
Family owned and operated, Lucio’s has been a popular eatery in Franklin since 1984. The restaurant prides itself on serving mouth-watering traditional Italian cuisine using recipes which have been handed down from one generation to the next. They also source as many of their fresh ingredients as possible from local providers so that everything on the menu is freshly prepared every day. Appetizers include Eggplant Parmigiana, Fried Zucchini and Steamed Mussels. There is a large selection of pasta dishes as well as a long list of chicken, veal and seafood entrees and a few grilled steak options. However, they are also known for their legendary garlic rolls and their house-made dressings.
Highlands Rd. Franklin
Lucio’s Restaurant, 313 Highlands Road, Franklin, NC 28734, Phone: 828-369-6670
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17.Things to Do in Franklin, North Carolina: Pappa’s Pizza to Go
© Pappa’s Pizza to Go
The Pappa’s Pizza to Go chain started off in a tiny mobile unit in McCaysville in 1986. Their idea was to establish reliably good eateries in small towns and to build a reputation for delicious pizzas and other reasonably priced fresh foods. Today there are branches of Pappa’s Pizza to Go dotted all across Georgia, North Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee. The Franklin branch is located in the Holly Springs Plaza, where they offer mainly take-away but also have a few tables. The pizzas are legendary and you can build your own meal using your favorite toppings. All their pizza dough and the sauces are house made on the premises each day to ensure freshness and flavor.
Pappa’s Pizza to Go, 263 Holly Springs Plaza, Franklin, NC 28734, Phone: 828-369-9999
17 Best Things to Do in Franklin, North Carolina
- Wayah Bald Outlook Tower, Franklin, NC, Photo: tanawat/stock.adobe.com
- Cherokee Ruby and Sapphire Mine, Franklin, North Carolina, Photo: Cherokee Ruby and Sapphire Mine
- The Smokey Mountain Center for the Performing Arts, Photo: The Smokey Mountain Center for the Performing Arts
- The Lazy Hiker Brewing Company, Franklin, North Carolina, Photo: The Lazy Hiker Brewing Company
- Mason’s Ruby and Sapphire Mine, Franklin, North Carolina, Photo: Mason’s Ruby and Sapphire Mine
- Old Cardinal Gem Mine, Franklin, North Carolina, Photo: Björn Wylezich/stock.adobe.com
- Franklin Gem and Mineral Museum, Franklin, North Carolina, Photo: assistant/stock.adobe.com
- The Scottish Tartans Museum, Franklin, North Carolina, Photo: The Scottish Tartans Museum
- Currahee Brewing Company, Franklin, North Carolina, Photo: Currahee Brewing Company
- Sheffield Mine, Franklin, North Carolina, Photo: Sheffield Mine
- Bartram Trail, Franklin, North Carolina, Photo: Shannon Dunaway/stock.adobe.com
- The Little Tennessee River Greenway, Photo: Nongnuch Leelaphasuk/stock.adobe.com
- Artisan Jewelers, Franklin, North Carolina, Photo: marbenzu/stock.adobe.com
- Macon County Historical Society and Museum, Photo: Macon County Historical Society and Museum
- Things to Do in Franklin, NC: Rathskeller Coffee Haus and Pub, Photo: Rathskeller Coffee Haus and Pub
- Things to Do in Franklin, North Carolina: Lucio’s Restaurant, Photo: Piotr Krzeslak/stock.adobe.com
- Things to Do in Franklin, North Carolina: Pappa’s Pizza to Go, Photo: Pappa’s Pizza to Go
- Cover Photo: Discover Franklin NC
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