text by Sean Johnson
On a recent visit to New Albany, it didnt take long before Janice Magruder of Collierville found the great deal she was looking for – a Duncan Phyfe drop-leaf table for $325. “It’s definitely a bargain price on this piece…that’s why I try to make it down here every month or so…you never know what you’ll find.”
New Albany, Mississippi (located just 70 miles southeast of Memphis on Hwy 78), is quickly becoming known as the go-to destination for antiques. Its picturesque downtown, rising from the banks of the famed Tallahatchie River is home to no less than a dozen antique stores, a number of restaurants, clothing stores, galleries and more.
“One of the things that I really enjoy about shopping here is that everything is so close together,” Magruder continues, “I can walk to a number of antique shops, have lunch, pick up a cake at Sugaree’s Bakery and just park once. Plus, I’ve found some really good deals here.”
But antiques aren’t the only reason people are coming to New Albany; downtown boasts a number of higher-end retailers including clothing shops like Runway Boutique, T. Sappington’s Dry Goods and Barbara Tyre, as well as other well-known shops like Van Atkins Jewelers and Sugaree’s Bakery.
In 2013, New Albany became the northernmost gateway to the new Tanglefoot Trail – a 44-mile paved, non-motorized stretch from New Albany to Houston, Mississippi. The path follows along an abandoned rail line that was built by the grandfather of New Albany’s most famous native, Nobel Prize winning author William Faulkner. Because of its length, relatively flat terrain and the beauty of the surroundings it winds though, the trail is quickly becoming a favorite destination for bikers, runners and hikers.
The trailhead’s location in the middle of downtown New Albany has sparked a number of renovations. Trails & Treads, an outdoor store specializing in running, biking, hiking and backpacking equipment, will be opening this month. Across the street a former drug store is undergoing remodeling and will likely be turned into a restaurant. The Art of Dixie, a gallery and antique shop is renovating space off the trail in order to sell coffee, sandwiches, ice cream, fresh juices and teas. Other improvements are also planned, including landscaped city parking areas, a trailhead pavilion, crosswalks and bike trails through the city.
While the trail and the downtown shops are big draws for the city, New Albany boasts a number of other unique attractions and events.
The Union County Heritage Museum is a wonderful attraction that not only showcases the history of Union County, but the region as well. Inside, visitors learn the history of the region from its first inhabitants to the settlers who began to arrive en masse in the 1800s. Exhibits show how they lived and worked through the different eras of our nation’s history and feature people from the region who made a difference. Musical performances, live and traveling exhibits from the Smithsonian and other national galleries fill the museum’s schedule. The facility is also home to the Faulkner Garden which features plants native to the region. Located in the Historic Northside neighborhood, the site is next door to the spot
where Faulkner was born.
For those interested in the pre-Columbian history, the Ingomar Mounds are just outside of town in the hamlet of Ingomar. The mounds are believed to have been built roughly 2,000 years ago by people who traveled hundreds of miles to trade with other societies. The height of one particular mound makes it one of, if not the largest, Indian mound in the Southeastern United States. The mounds can be accessed by a short drive on Hwy. 15 or on a six-mile bike trip down the Tanglefoot Trail.
Another unique attraction that is somewhat new to New Albany is the Wolf Howl Wolf Preserve where visitors can view wolves and wolf pups. Tours inform guests about the animals’ habitat, behaviors and more. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to witness scent rolling and howling demonstrations (the wolves are not trained, so they may not always perform). Nevertheless, it is an interesting way to spend the afternoon.
If you get hungry between shopping and taking in the attractions, New Albany is home to a number of independent restaurants. Mexican, Asian, Italian, New Orleans cooking and, of course, good Southern fare fill the bill. One restaurant of particular interest is Latham’s Hamburger Inn. Tucked away in a little enclave on Main Street, this quaint diner harkens back to the Great Depression, serving up tasty doughburgers and similar fare best washed down with a cold bottled Coke pulled from the chest cooler.
Coffee? Who doesn’t like it? To see how it is made, stop at High Point Coffee Roasters to watch them roast beans. Then sample a cup and maybe take a bag home. High Point’s coffee is served in shops from New Jersey to New Orleans and is enjoyed by the likes of Bill Cosby, John Grisham and the Baltimore Ravens.
Speaking of sports, New Albany is home to a USTA award-winning tennis facility. Connected to downtown via the Park along the River, the New Albany Tennis Complex has a number of state-of-the-art courts and one of the largest pro shops in the region. A short walk from the tennis complex is the New Albany Spray Park where kids can get cool in the summer and parents can relax in the shade. The BNA Sportsplex adjacent to the spray park consists of numerous new fields for softball, baseball and soccer and is home to the Cotton States League.
Clearly, there’s too much to do in one day in New Albany. Luckily there are a number of name-brand hotels in the city, plus a beautiful bed and breakfast, Miss Sarah’s Inn, located just steps from downtown and the Tanglefoot Trail.
The also hosts a number of signature events. Coming up in April is the New Albany Home and Garden Show, a must-see for Master Gardeners and horticulture enthusiasts. In May, the city comes alive with the sound of bluegrass music during the Down from the Hills Bluegrass Festival and State Fiddling Championship. New Albany hosts the Tallahatchie Riverfest in September which features regional arts and music in a beautiful setting along the banks of the river. Check the city’s website, www.visitnewalbany.com for more information on restaurants, attractions, lodging options and, of course, antique stores.
After a visit New Albany you’ll agree with Janice Magruder, “I love it here. I absolutely love this cute little town.”
New Albany Tourist Information: www.visitnewalbany.com
Union County Heritage Museum: www.ucheritagemuseum.com
The Tanglefoot Trail: www.tanglefoottrail.com
Wolf Howl Wolf Preserve: www.everythingwolf.com
High Point Coffee: www.highpointroasters.com
Sugaree’s Bakery: www.sugarees.com
Van Atkins Jewelers: www.vanatkins.com
Art of Dixie Gallery: www.theartofdixie.com