More Than Meets the Eye

Brown County offers more than just colorful foliage in the fall

By Greg Seiter  // Photography by Norberto Nunes and The Democrat

Yes, it’s true. A stunning display of multi-colored foliage, stretching almost as far as the eye can see, undoubtedly draws many visitors to Brown County during each year’s seasonal transition, but the area has much more to offer beyond eye candy. In fact, while located only one hour from downtown Indianapolis, Brown County continues to captivate visitors of all ages.
Brown County State Park, Indiana’s largest park with 16,000 acres and nearly 20 miles of tree-lined roads, is filled with scenic vistas, hiking and mountain bike trails and numerous overnight options. In fact, the park’s Abe Martin Lodge features 84 rooms and an indoor water park.
Just down the road from the park, music enthusiasts can enjoy the 2,000-seat Brown County Music Center. Hosting a variety of local, regional and national performers every year, so far, 2023 has had performances by Rick Springfield, 38 Special, Here Come the Mummies and many others.
History buffs will appreciate a visit to the tiny town of Story and its multi-purpose Story Inn, which is a restaurant, hotel and historic structure all rolled into one. The village of Story was founded in 1851 and was once the largest settlement in the area. During its heyday from 1880 to 1929, Story supported two general stores, a nondenominational church, a one-room schoolhouse, a grain mill, a sawmill, a slaughterhouse, a blacksmith’s forge and a post office. Today, guests can step back in time by staying in one of several unique and original rooms or cottages that once served as places of residence and workspaces for the town’s early 19th century residents.
Brown County is home to the Bean Blossom and Ramp Creek covered bridges, the 425-seat Brown County Playhouse performing arts center and the T.C. Steele historic site where visitors can learn about noted Indiana artist Theodore Clement (T.C.) Steele and his connection to the area.
Those hoping to obtain a literal taste of Indiana should visit Bear Wallow Distillery in Gnaw Bone, a few minutes east of Brown County State Park. Recognized as one of the first craft distilleries in Indiana, Bear Wallow uses only locally grown grains to create a unique lineup of vivacious spirits for adults to enjoy.
The crown jewel of Brown County is the small town of Nashville. Nashville is rich with history and famous for its hotbed of locally owned, quaint shops, historical buildings, simple, yet appealing overnight lodging and its unique eateries. In fact, despite a population of less than 1,300, Nashville is overflowing with artesian-supported boutiques, galleries, museums and restaurants.
The Hobnob Corner Restaurant, for example, has been in business since 1979. It boasts a menu overflowing with all-American comfort food.
Another popular in-town dining spot, The Nashville House, is recognized for providing traditional country delicacies. The restaurant is housed in a building that was originally constructed in 1859 and was rebuilt in 1943 following a fire.
Other possibilities include The Bird’s Nest Inn, Brozzini’s Pizzeria and the Farmhouse Café’ and Tea Room, just to name a few.
As far as shopping, a few popular businesses include, Carmel Corn Cottage, J.B. Goods, Mulberry Cottage and Chateau Thomas Wine.
Looking for an overnight stay with a local feel? The Artists’ Colony Inn is a boutique-style facility in the heart of Nashville’s downtown area that features 20 guestrooms and three suites.
Some prefer the Brown County Inn with its 99 rooms and two suites. Conversely, on a much smaller scale, Betty Lou’s Garden is a guest suite that features a bedroom with a queen size bed and a sitting room with a pullout couch.
For accommodations just outside the Nashville area, the Robinwood Inn offers the charm and hospitality of a vintage country inn while providing guests with the privacy and amenities of a fully equipped vacation cabin.
Majestic fall colors will dominate the Brown County landscape as cooling winds reintroduce visitors and residents alike to sweater weather in south-central Indiana, but even as the brilliantly color-coated leaves fade and eventually fall to the ground, the area’s ever-growing menu of fun activities and beautiful scenery always inspire single day or weekend visits from people everywhere.