Hilly Brown County (east of Bloomington, 40 mi/65 km south of Indianapolis and just north of the Hoosier National Forest boundary) is a pretty area that's a popular weekend sightseeing destination. That's especially true in autumn, when thousands of Indianapolis residents take to its rural roads to see the fall colors.
Nashville, a somewhat touristy artist colony, is the hub of Brown County. Nearly 150 artists make their home there, but a good number of the shops in town are tourist traps. But don't miss the fried biscuits at the Nashville House restaurant and pick up freshly baked bread, just-cooked nuts or homemade jams, jellies and preserves.
Consider taking in a performance at the Brown County Playhouse, a cozy theater operated by the Indiana University Theatre Department, or attend a concert at the Little Nashville Opry. Or expand your theatrical experiences at Little Nashville's Coachlight Theatre, the Melchior Marionette Show or enjoy the Handbell Choir.
Brown County State Park (outside Nashville) is Indiana's largest state park. It features a lodge and a host of family cabins. The park has a swimming pool as well as hiking trails, lake fishing, camping and a naturalist program. It also offers horseback riding.
West of town, the T.C. Steele State Historic Site preserves the home of impressionist painter Steele, Indiana's most revered artist. After he moved to Brown County in 1907, Steele's presence attracted other painters and made south-central Indiana the most important artist colony between Taos, New Mexico, and the Delaware Valley. Visitors can see the house (Steele named it House of the Singing Wind), which is filled with artifacts and looks much as it did when the artist was alive. Steele's giant barn studio is now a gallery of his works and also houses changing exhibits. The property has acres of beautiful flora, and it's particularly lovely in the spring (daffodils cascade over the hillsides) and fall (trees are splashed with color). For more information, visit http://www.tcsteele.org.
Just north of Nashville is the tiny town of Bean Blossom, where Bill Monroe, "the Father of Bluegrass Music," made his home for several years (he died in 1996). Monroe's legacy is the subject of Bean Blossom's Bill Monroe Museum and Bluegrass Hall of Fame. A festival honoring the legend draws performers and fans from around the country every June. http://www.beanblossom.com.
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