Known worldwide as the home of rock ’n’ roll legend Tina Turner, Brownsville is making a name for itself with other special attractions and claims to fame. An easy day trip from Memphis and Nashville, the Haywood County seat boasts the state’s oldest synagogue (Temple Adas Israel) and tallest freestanding sculpture (Billy Tripp's “Mindfield”). Brownsville is also a spectacular wedding locale, with unique venues like White Raven Manor and the Stanton Presbyterian Church. Read on to discover even more to see, eat, and do in this hidden gem of Tennessee.
The crowning jewel of Brownsville’s natural beauty is the Hatchie National Wildlife Refuge, spanning 10,000 acres around the scenic Hatchie River. Brimming with more than 250 species of birds, the refuge is the perfect host for the annual BirdFest event, which draws hundreds of seasoned and amateur birdwatchers every spring. Year-round, enjoy the Rockin’ Roll Hatchie Trails, located along the rolling bluffs of the Sugar Creek stream. These brand-new dirt trails are designed for a variety of activities like biking, running, sightseeing and are named after local musicians like harmonica player Hammie Nixon and blues mandolin pioneer Yank Rachell.
For a longer stay, consider a glamping experience at the aptly named Serendipity Resort & Campground, where you can lounge in furnished yurts, luxury cabins and tents. (Or, roll up in your own recreational vehicle and spend a few days at the RV park.) Fill your downtime at this retreat with disc golf, fishing, kayaking, paddleboarding or adventures to the surrounding state parks.
Places to Eat in Brownsville
One of the few female pit cooks in the country, Helen Turner has been running Helen’s Bar B Q (and tending the smoke shack out back) for 25 years. Swing by her eponymous restaurant for heaping portions of smokehouse meats, traditional sides and Southern charm.
Planning to shop and stroll along the town square? Preface your outing with a down-home meal at Lilie’s on the Square or Livingston’s Soda Fountain & Grill, both located within steps of City Hall and Temple Adas Israel. A couple blocks away, Brownsville native Vetrica Taylor’s O’Taste and See serves up all things fried: catfish, pork chops, tacos, cheesecake, and – of course – green tomatoes. Non-fried menu items on Chef Taylor’s menu include burgers, wraps and salads.
Finally, less than 20 miles southwest of downtown Brownsville, Suga’s Diner in Stanton is a must-stop on your way in or out of town. Their specialty – chitterlings – is as Southern as it gets.
Must-See History Stops in Brownsville
Everywhere you turn in Brownsville, you’ll find pieces of the past. The West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center is a true cultural destination, comprising museums dedicated to hometown heroine Tina Turner, blues icon “Sleepy” John Estes, the history of cotton in West Tennessee and more. Spend an afternoon exploring the grounds (self-guided tours are free) and essentially taking a crash course on the area’s rich roots.
Anchored on the east by the farmer’s market, the Jefferson Street Historic District is home to notable attractions like the Dunbar Carver Museum and Cultural Center. Committed to chronicling Haywood County’s African American experience, the museum resides in a former segregation-era high school and shares stories of rural life in the community, as well as the history of the school.
Set in the building that previously served as Brownsville Baptist Female College and then Haywood High School, the Haywood County History Museum includes an Abraham Lincoln collection and other dusted-off treasures that history buffs will want to seek out.
Music Events and Annual Celebrations in Brownsville
No surprise here: Brownsville boasts delightful music events that you can plan your whole visit around. Every Memorial Day weekend, the Exit 56 Blues Fest celebrates the legacy of the country blues genre and the unofficial start of summer. The fun continues throughout the season with Live on the Lawn, a series of free weekly concerts put on by the Brownsville Arts Council, and Tina Turner Heritage Days in September.
For a bright idea around the winter holidays, pile into the car and gawk at the Markowski Family Lights – this sprawling demonstration of festive spirit features 750,000 Christmas lights, displays inspired by local children's drawings and occasional cameos by Santa himself. The dazzling Markowski property anchors Brownsville’s Trail of Lights, which runs annually from Dec. 1-30 and guides you to participating residences across the county.
Brownsville is home to history, outdoor activities and plenty of great music. Be sure to enjoy all that this small Tennessee town offers.
Jefferson County in East Tennessee, just 30 minutes from Knoxville, is a place to explore recreation, history and much more.