For such a small town (relatively speaking), there is an awful lot to do in Nashville, Indiana. I daresay it’s one of the most efficiently packed towns in the entire state. And there’s something for everyone to do there. There’s a burgeoning arts scene with more artists per capita than any other tourist town (take THAT, Nantucket!). There’s plenty of music, whether it’s musical theatre, live music, or even just singer-songwriters who are looking for a place to play. There are plenty of excellent restaurants with great food. And, if you’re an outdoorsy type, there are hiking trails, horse stables, and even zip lines in and around Brown County State Park.
It was Friday, December 16th, and my wife, Toni, and I were in town to celebrate our 18 year anniversary, courtesy of the Brown County Visitors Center. It was a light schedule with plenty of time between activities, but there was something to do all day.
2:00pm – Horseback Riding at Rawhide Ranch
I haven’t been horseback riding in a few years, but I always enjoy it. It’s one of the only outdoor activities I can do sitting down, which is a great pleasure to a desk jockey like me. Dusty, our guide and professional buckaroo, guided us around the Rawhide Ranch property, which butts right up to the Brown County State Park.
Dusty, who has been buckarooing all his life (and yes, that’s a real word. He says it is, and he’s got a cool cowboy hat, so it must be true), reminded us that the horses know what they’re doing, and could probably make the entire trip without a single piece of guidance or steering from us. This means for new riders, the horses will be calm, safe, and gentle. If you’ve never ridden, or you’re nervous about riding, then Rawhide Ranch will be a safe bet.
“These horses may wander over to the edge of a trail,” said Dusty, “but don’t worry. They don’t want to fall over any more than you do, so they’ll keep it safe.”
While Rawhide Ranch isn’t huge, there’s enough going on in there that you’ll spend quite a bit of time out with nature riding on the back of a horse. And this day was such an awesome fall day — a slightly overcast day, a little cool, but still pleasant enough; my favorite weather — so our trip around the ranch was probably the highlight of my day.
5:00 – Dinner at Big Woods Brewing Company
Big Woods Brewing Company is a new micro-brewery and restaurant (at least new to me; I was last there a couple years ago). They also own the Big Woods Pizza Company just a few yards away on the same block.
Toni and I tried a couple sandwiches and their Belgian-style wit beers, as well as the Beer Cheese dip for an appetizer. It was a different style and consistency than other beer cheeses we’ve had — it was hot and more like a dip than a spreadable cheese — and was really good. We also enjoyed the sandwiches — not too filling, not too small. Overall, the food here is worth the visit, and the atmosphere is pleasant.
We were also serenaded by some community singers who came into the restaurant singing Christmas carols. We saw them around town a few times that day and the next (one of the singers even remembered seeing me here when we saw them the following day). But what was especially cool is that we saw two of the singers at. . .
7:30pm – “Believe: A Brown County Christmas” at the Palace Theatre of Brown County in Coachlight Square
The Palace Theatre is a little theatre on the south end of Nashville, right where the downtown “ends.” It holds a few hundred people, and they have shows every Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. If you like musical theatre, and you have some time one evening — and you will, because Nashville is not known for its raving night life — you should check out the Palace Theatre.
“Believe: A Brown County Christmas” was a show written, adapted, and arranged specifically for the Palace Theatre. It was more of a Christmas music review, with songs from the traditional to the modern, with several twists that made them specifically Brown County’s. With a cast of only five, and a myriad of costumes, I got to hear several of my Christmas favorites, and was impressed by the quality and range of these performers. And two of the women who performed here were also the Christmas carolers we had just seen two hours before. Now that’s dedication!
Overnight: Artists Colony Inn
I’ve wanted to stay in the Artists Colony Inn for several years. I figured that, as a writer, I could be inspired by the past ghosts of writers and artists who have called Nashville home over the years. (Although, to be fair, I don’t want to actually be visited by any of these ghosts. Just inspired by them. From afar. Very afar.) I never had a chance to be inspired, since we were out more than we were in — in the Inn. Get it? Yeah, I don’t blame you. — but still, it was exactly what I hoped and expected it to be. A warm, cozy place that was perfect for a crisp fall day.
The staff at the Artists Colony Inn was good enough to put us in the T.C. Steele room, which was right in the northwest corner of the Inn, overlooking Van Buren and Franklin. The room is furnished in traditional Shaker style, with a small sitting room, a little outside veranda you could step onto, and even a second single bed for anyone traveling with a child (or a couple of very small children). And since T.C. Steele is one of the most important and famous Indiana artists, I have a feeling it was also the best room in the house. At least that’s what I’m telling myself to make myself feel important.
While it’s not a wide-open spacious room, it’s not supposed to be. If you’re spending a lot of time in there, you’re missing out on all the fun. A room in Nashville is for keeping your stuff in until it’s time for bed, not for spending hours and hours in.
We woke up in time for the breakfast buffet the following morning, something I highly recommend if you’re a bacon fan. None of this namby-pamby three strips of bacon for three bucks nonsense. You could load up on bacon, go back for seconds, and then fashion a tie out of bacon until your wife scolds you for playing with your food. Or so I’ve imagined.
Day 2 of our Nashville, Indiana stay saw us visit a raku pottery gallery, a coffee shop, a Christmas Carol from a different point of view, and a great dinner at a haunted Inn. I’ll have more on that in another blog post.
Photo credit: Erik Deckers