There is one certainty when it comes to spending 24 hours in any one city and that is you will only scratch the surface. The nuance and much of the real character will be missed, unless you lace up your walking shoes and explore.
New Albany, Ind. was a city asleep. Buildings were vacant in the heart of the city and those that weren’t were occupied by a smattering of attorneys, jewelers and bakeries. Not much else happened in New Albany. In 1990, a few local businesses and residents decided this needed to change. The formation of Develop New Albany was the beginning of this renewal. Needless to say, in a town the size of New Albany, this has been a slow almost 30-year process.
At one time, New Albany was a bustling place. There were bourgeoning industries and, for slaves escaping to the North, New Albany offered them a chance at freedom. There were many safe havens in the city. To be fair, there were equally as many dangers. This historical legacy was falling to pieces and slowly being forgotten.
However, within the last five years, the occupancy of the buildings downtown has skyrocketed, thanks to a combination of new tax incentives and unique new businesses being actively courted. Those buildings with historical significance are being preserved and protected; some, such as Second Baptist Church (also called the Town Clock Church), offer the occasional tour.
Twenty-four hours in New Albany might surprise even longtime residents of the city, which is why Louisville Distilled wants to illuminate some of the cities hidden and not-so-hidden gems
8 AM- Wake Up in Style
Using VRBO.com, you will find a scant collection of rentals in Southern Indiana; but, owned by Matt and Jessica Bergman, a nearly 6000 sq. foot loft is the perfect choice for a group or family getaway. The property has four bedrooms and a sleeper sofa for a total sleeping capacity of 14 persons. The owners decided just over a year ago to open the rental despite having owned it for 10 years.
The renaissance of downtown New Albany encouraged them to hold on to the property and the city growth inspired them to explore the business of peer-to-peer rental. “We were unsure how long we would stay but now we love the community, what it’s become and have no plans to leave,” says Jessica.
9 AM-Coqui’s Cafe 147 E Market St.
Solid breakfast places in New Albany are growing numerous and more diverse. A recent favorite for many locals is Coqui’s Café. Owned by husband and wife team Elvin and Stephanie Torres, Coqui’s offers traditional breakfast fare and an exciting menu of Latin/Caribbean style dishes that include empanadas and flan. Opened in 2013, Coqui’s Café is housed in the modern-style building that used to be the Little Chef diner, a place that has mythic resonance in the hearts of New Albanians.
10 AM-Carnegie Center for Art and History 201 E Spring St.
After breakfast and within a block’s walk, you will find local museum and art gallery, the Carnegie Center for Art and History. The center is housed in the former New Albany Public Library and operates as an extension of the library’s educational resources. The old library was in use for 65 years until moving in 1969 to its brutalist-style structure just a few blocks west.
At the center, exhibits range from historical accounts of the city’s contribution to the Underground Railroad to fabric arts and paintings. In addition to its exhibits, the museum offers family days, lunch and learn sessions and tours.
12 PM-Adrienne and Company 133 E. Market St.
Adrienne & Company located on Market St., serves salad, sandwiches, breakfast items and desserts to satisfy most palates. Adrienne’s has its roots in Niagara Falls, N.Y., when the mother of founder Adrienne Holland made cakes for the people of her town. As Adrienne grew around her mother’s business, she learned valuable skills that she brought to Jeffersonville, Ind., to open the first Adrienne and Company location. With partners, Bernie Pasquantino and Lizzy Martino, Adrienne & Co. has grown into two successful full-service restaurants and one doughnut shop located in Floyds Knobs.
1 PM-Take a Walk (free and open anytime)
The beauty of a small town is often in its architecture and hominess. New Albany is quaint, in the Mayberry sense, but it is also full of unique architectural features and businesses. Taking a walk might seem too simple of an adventure for so limited a visit to the town but much of the town’s charm would be missed if not for a self-guided walking tour.
The mix of modernist, art deco, brutalist, federalist and Italianate structures is one of the great treasures of the city. These are best appreciated outside of a car.
3 PM-Rookie’s Cookies and Cake 310 Pearl St.
New Albany is flush with bakeries, but since 1939 with the simplicity of a butter cookie known as the “Little Flower Butter Wafer,” Rookie’s has been a consistent part of the local landscape and the wafer is known as Rookie’s cookie. It is still being made to this day. In addition to cookies and cakes, there are delicious pastries.
4 PM- True North 137 E Market St. Suite #1
An endearing conversation between father and daughter gave storeowner Michelle Ryan the exact direction she needed to follow her dreams. As her website says, the conversation with her late father inspired her to find her True North and the store, of the same name filled with artisan goods and clothing, was just that.
“My experience running a boutique in New Albany has been such an amazing one,” says Ryan. “Over the last year, the community has really embraced us, and word of mouth is spreading to help our exposure. It’s been so exciting to gain regular customers and build those relationships.”
5 PM-Regalo 234 Pearl St.
Going on three years of operation amidst the renaissance of downtown New Albany, Regalo, another store with Louisville roots, offers downtown shoppers creative gifts and quality handmade treasures. The owners, Jon Freels, JD Dotson and Laura Applegate opened their first location in 2002 on Barrett Avenue and saw opportunity in the blossoming of downtown New Albany. Many of their goods are created and handcrafted by local artisans.
About New Albany, Dotson says, “What I love about New Albany is that it’s on this constant upward climb; from growing up over there and having this downtown that was stagnant to every week we hear of something new opening up. We love being there. We love being on the forefront of that because we were there at the beginning of it.”
5:30 PM-Grinny Possum 310 Bank St.
Selling fine yarns and fibers, Grinny Possum is a good bet for the knitter or crochet enthusiast. The store offers many choices in knitting or crochet implements and materials but also has a list of classes including learning how to spin yarn at a spinning wheel.
6 PM-Brooklyn and the Butcher 148 E. Market St.
Brooklyn and the Butcher, the latest meal concept by The Exchange Pub and Kitchen owner Ian Hall promises diners a bit of yin and yang in their meal. In the upscale steakhouse, each room is designed to suit the tastes of both male and female customers. The front of the house is a bit New York City swank and the back a bit New York City stark. The speakeasy located below the restaurant boasts bare brick walls and cozy furniture and is also available for small event/party rentals.
8 PM-River City Winery 321 Pearl St.
After dinner, take a short walk to the River City Winery. Serving wine made from owner Gary Humphrey’s own grapes in Indiana, the winery offers inexpensive tastings for only five dollars. The winery also has a dinner menu or one could stop in simply to sample the wines and perhaps, afterwards, catch an outdoor concertat the Bicentennial Park next door.
After 10 PM-Pride Bar
When asked about opening New Albany’s first bar for the LGBTQ Community, Don Hanlon co-owner of Pride Bar says, “I truly thought that it would be tougher than it was, however the community has been warm and welcoming. We have quite a loyal group of customers that come to us weekly.”
New Albany’s only LGBTQ bar is open to any visitor looking for a fun evening with a cheerful crowd. The bar offers good libations, nibbles, a great patio, and an overall relaxed atmosphere. Every second Tuesday of the month, Pride hosts Big Hair Bingo with Vivika Hart and on the first Friday, they host Beareokee, a karaoke night with the Derby City Bears.
New Albany isn’t the big city, nor is it trying to be. It is a city that has staked its claim on hard work and economic innovation in a community dedicated to making small dreams into big realities.