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This Nashville Neighbor Is Drawing Droves of Tourists

Tourism in Williamson County has become a booming business. Find out what's drawing people and events to this region just south of the Music City.

By Cary Estes on November 8, 2021

The Franklin Theatre in Franklin, TN
Jeff Adkins

While Nashville might be considered the main stage in Middle Tennessee, tourism in Williamson County is moving into the spotlight.

Thanks in part to a wide array of venues that can be used for events, conventions and sports tournaments, the community has been drawing visitors in record numbers.

Tourism in Williamson County

More than 1.8 million people visited Williamson County in 2019,
accounting for nearly $500 million in tourism spending.

Once those visitors arrived, they discovered all the things Williamson County has to offer, from music and entertainment to historic attractions and overall Southern culture.

“Williamson County has seen tremendous growth in tourism over the past five or six years,” says Lauren Ward, interim president and CEO at Visit Franklin. “People love the quaint, small-town charm that Williamson County brings. For people who come here from bigger cities, there’s just a different feeling that they really enjoy.”

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Jeff Adkins

A Great Location for Events

It certainly helps that Williamson County is centrally located for travelers. Approximately 80% of the U.S. population lives within 600 miles of the area, and for those who need to fly in, the Nashville International Airport is located about 30-45 minutes away, depending on the community.

Still, location wouldn’t matter if there weren’t activities for visitors. Williamson County gives them plenty of options. Events that locals love include Main Street Festival, Pumpkinfest and Dickens of a Christmas.

A Big Draw

For those who love attending events, Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival
is a must. The annual event generates crowds of more than 50,000
over two days each September.

“Events are definitely a big driver for visitors to Williamson County,” Ward says. “Some of the smaller festivals kind of take you back in time. There’s nothing like enjoying Main Street in Franklin at Christmastime. It’s like stepping into a Hallmark movie.”

For visitors looking to hold their own event, Williamson County provides venues for various types of conferences and meetings, along with places for weddings and parties. These range from the more traditional spaces available at the Franklin Marriott Cool Springs, which has 23 meeting rooms totaling nearly 24,000 square feet, to privately owned farms and barns where events can be held.

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Jeff Adkins

Williamson County Offers Unique Venues

Among the more interesting options is The Factory, a nearly century-old facility that was occupied by several manufacturing companies over the years before being converted into an entertainment and event complex with more than 80 tenants. Concerts, film screenings, wine tastings and even fashion shows are held regularly in one of the eight venues.

The historic Franklin Theatre is also available for functions. This 1937 art deco movie house has seating capacity for up to 312 people, a 30-by-23-foot stage and a retractable 23-foot screen.

“People come to Williamson County looking for a specific type of event experience,” Ward says. “We offer more intimate settings that are much different from what a larger city offers.”

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Nathan Lambrecht

Sports Scores Tons of Visitors, Too

Williamson County firmly believes that if you play it, they will come. As a result, sports events and tournaments – especially among youth leagues – are also key to attracting visitors.

Williamson County offers a number of standout facilities, from baseball, softball and soccer fields to a soccer complex, equestrian centers and multisport fieldhouses. The plethora of playing facilities in the area is not limited to just the big draws like baseball and soccer, but also archery, beach volleyball, hockey, skating and polo.

“Youth sports is a huge economic driver in Williamson County. That’s a big focus for us. Not only does it attract all the athletes,
but their families also come. Some families extend their trip after the tournament, or they come back another time to experience Williamson County as a whole.”

Lauren Ward | Visit Franklin

Venue highlights include the TOA Sports Performance Center. This 171,000-square-foot sportsplex has enough space for six basketball courts or 12 volleyball courts, making it ideal for tournament play. The facility also has a 22,000-square-foot area for rock climbing and obstacle training, and a 6,000-square-foot virtual-reality gaming space.

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