Historic districts, art studios, river views and opulent mansions await groups as some of the best things to do in southern Indiana
Formed over centuries by the currents of the Ohio River, the dramatic cliffs and winding roadways of southern Indiana are populated by welcoming towns. For arts & eats, it features historical sites, art studios and interactive restaurants that groups should include in their next trip.
Madison’s Charming Downtown is Must-See
Madison, one of the Midwest’s prettiest and best-preserved towns, claims the country’s largest contiguous National Historic District. A virtual museum covering 133 blocks counts more than 1,500 buildings listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Many of the landmarks date to the early and mid-1800s when Madison was a big Ohio River port during the steamboat era.
Vibrant Main Street, resembling a movie set, is a page out of yesteryear with original storefronts housing locally-owned businesses. Visitors will love shopping for crafts, antiques and collectibles, home decor, books, sweets, toys, and fashions and accessories. There are art galleries, coffee houses, cafes and ice cream parlors. Moreover, tree-shaded streets in Madison’s downtown area are lined with fine examples of Federal, Classical Revival and Italianate architecture. The crown jewel is Lanier Mansion State Historic Site, the 1844 Greek Revival home of wealthy financier James F.D. Lanier.
Historic Madison, Inc., the force behind the town’s preservation efforts, operates several of the buildings regularly open for tours. Also, the Schroeder Saddletree Factory Museum is a premier industrial heritage site and the only attraction of its kind. It shows how the Schroeder family made wooden frames for saddle makers (the “skeleton” under the padding and leather), clothespins and other products between 1878 and 1972.
The Dr. William Hutchings Office & Museum, filled with surgical tools, early electrical healing devices and other artifacts, is one of the most authentic 19th-century medical history restorations in the U.S. Madison Trolley Tours offers one-hour narrated tours of the town. Moreover, visit Madison’s group services manager can arrange step-on guides for motorcoaches. Also, groups who enjoy crafting should stop at Little Golden Fox. Past their antique sales floor is a vast studio space that groups can rent for an evening of wine and craft in Madison. In addition, visitors can create acrylic paintings, hanging signs, and ceramics with the guidance of a local artist while sipping on local Jefferson County wines.
New Albany Features a Diverse Array of Things to do in Southern Indiana
Continue upstream to the town of New Albany. Located across from Louisville on the Ohio River, this city boasts plentiful gallery space at the Carnegie Center for Art & History. Also great for budding artists in southern Indiana is New Albany’s Viva Art—a paint-and-sip art studio that accommodates up to 60 visitors. Check Uptown’s calendar to select your painting of choice and then treat your group to an interactive evening that can include catered meals and cocktails. Groups craving a more intimate evening of food and friends will want to make a reservation at MESA: A Collaborative Kitchen.
Located in historic downtown New Albany, this state-of-the-art kitchen invites chefs from southern Indiana and Louisville. They break free from their regular menus, creating a customized menu for your group. Moreover, chefs share stories, provide cooking tips and entertain your group over three to five courses and cocktails.
History buffs will want to tour Culbertson Mansion, a Gilded Age gem in the Mansion Row Historic District of New Albany. The French Second Empire home, an imposing vision in deep yellow, was built for $120,000 from 1867-1869 by William Culbertson. At the time of his death in 1892, he was considered the wealthiest man in Indiana. A masterpiece of Victorian artistry, the three-story mansion dazzles visitors with its intricate stenciling.