Forget the cliched image of a sleepy small town – Brownsville buzzes with creative and forward-thinking energy, making it a perfect spot to dive into the best of West Tennessee. From music history to outdoor adventure to mouthwatering eats, the Blue Oval City offers a multifaceted experience for visitors and locals alike.

Come with a hungry belly and a clear agenda – here’s our guide to an exciting weekend in Brownsville.


Visit Tina Turner’s stomping grounds

The Queen of Rock n’ Roll’s hit “Nutbush City Limits” memorialized her roots in the small township just outside of Brownsville, and her connection to Haywood County continues to be a big inspiration for its residents. Head to the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center and check out the official Tina Turner Museum, a collection of costumes, awards and other important memorabilia from Turner’s illustrious career housed in her old one-room schoolhouse, Flagg Grove School. Learn about the many high points of Turner’s life, as well as the education system for Haywood County’s Black residents in the 1940s and 50s.

Once you’ve finished at Flagg Grove, head next door to explore the home of Sleepy John Estes, whose pioneering work refining the “country blues” sound influenced the entire genre of rock and roll. Inside the West Delta Heritage Center you’ll find yet another exhibit on the music history of West Tennessee, which features the likes of Koko Taylor, Big Maybelle, Hank Williams and more.

Learn about Black history at the Dunbar-Carver Museum

Brownsville’s Dunbar Carver High School originally opened in 1890 as the Dunbar School, a public school for Haywood County’s Black residents – the original building burned in 1919, and a new school was built in the same spot in 1922, first named the Brownsville Training School and then renamed Carver High School. The school operated until it was integrated in 1970, and almost 40 years later, it reopened as a museum exploring the town’s rich African American heritage.

Take a tour with curator and historian Carrie Parker to learn about the history of Brownsville’s Black Wall Street (Jefferson Street, where the school is located), and the many contributions and achievements of Carver High School Alumni.


Feel the beat of Brownsville

With music luminaries like Turner and Estes – plus Hammie Nixon and Yank Rachel – calling Haywood County home, Brownsville’s musical roots are well established and thriving. Luckily for visitors, the town offers ample opportunities to tap into the rhythm of West Tennessee. Don’t miss these events:

Live on the Lawn

Within Brownsville’s compact central square, visitors will find the city’s amphitheater, a cozy wooden structure overlooking a neat lawn that plays host to events year round. The town hosts Live on the Lawn every Thursday night throughout the summer starting at 7pm.

Exit 56 Blues Fest

Every May, Brownsville pays homage to its blues greats and their continuing legacy with the Exit 56 Blues Fest. This music extravaganza features local blues artists, tons of vendors and even a car show.

Go for a paddle at the Hatchie River Wildlife Refuge

Brownsville sits a stone’s throw from the Hatchie River Wildlife Refuge, a 23-mile-long protected area encompassing bottomland hardwood and upland forests, grassland, open water, swamps, and, of course, its namesake river. The refuge is an essential resting spot for many migratory birds and a must-visit stop for anglers interested in discovering the underwater magic of this fascinating part of the Lower Mississippi River Ecosystem. Other available activities include hiking trails, an auto tour, and ranger-led wildlife programs.

Our favorite place in the refuge? Studded with cypress trees and patches of platter-sized lily pads, O’Neal Lake offers a serene day on the water. Grab your fishing pole and try your luck at landing a catfish or largemouth bass.


Wrangle some ribs from Helen’s Bar-BQ

When it comes to barbecue, Memphis and West Tennessee take the crown for the most tender, flavorful creations in the state, if not the entire country. Internationally recognized for her work, Helen Turner is Brownsville’s barbecue ambassador, and her restaurant on North Washington Avenue stands as a beacon of impeccable cooking. She skips the smoker and prepares her barbecue the old fashioned way – in a brick pit designed to create unbelievable flavor from thin air. Enjoy the smell of hickory and caramelized goodness while you wait for a taste of Helen’s handiwork; trust us, you won’t be disappointed.

The menu keeps things short and to the point – pulled pork, pork shoulder, ribs, polish sausage and bologna, plus a smattering of staple sides. Helen’s sauce is the perfect tangy-sweet accompaniment to any of her dishes, but we especially love it drizzled all over her fall-off-the-bone ribs.

Order a Stacmot at Livington’s

Inspired by the soda fountains of their youth, Dr. Jack and Glenda Pettigrew opened Livington’s in 2022, a jazzy teal-and-chrome eatery that’s come to represent a new era of creative hospitality in Brownsville. Housed in the town’s historic post office (built in 1935), the restaurant serves up classic diner fare with sleek modern touches – don’t miss the decadent Livingston Burger topped with pimento cheese and candied bacon, or the Mindfield Wrap, a legacy dish carried on from the now-closed Mindfield Grill.

But Livingston’s biggest draw is undoubtedly the sumptuous shakes the baristas whip up behind the fountain counter. Try the Nutbush City Limits, a vanilla shake topped with caramel and chocolate, pretzel rods and pecans; the Delta Dawn, a vanilla shake capped with fruity pebbles and sour candies; or the restaurant’s ode to the Haywood High School Tomcats, the Stacmot, a strawberry/blueberry shake (with real fruit!) glamorously encrusted in sparkling purple sprinkles and classic sugar candy sticks.