Spend even one weekend in New Harmony, Indiana, and you’ll feel what some might say is a slightly irrational tug. Laura Foster Nicholson, a textile designer from Chicago, did. So did Jim and Stephanie Spann, when they visited during Stephanie’s recovery from breast cancer. So did Amy Wimmer Schwarb, who’d thought for years about writing a play but never wrote a word until she visited this hamlet 25 miles northwest of Evansville.
All four had perfectly fine lives in big cities. But one visit here was all it took to make them pull up stakes and feed their creative spirits full time. Today, Jim and Stephanie own New Harmony Soap; Laura sells her work in local galleries. “I felt that many like-minded people lived here—people who were very artistic and intellectual,” Laura says.
Nearly 900 people call New Harmony home, and they are eager to share their town, including the two labyrinths, little shops, Harmonie Society beer, regionally famous restaurant, plein air art festival and impressive concert series in a granary, for starters.
The Rev. George Rapp founded New Harmony in 1814 with dreams of building a utopian community. In just 10 years, his Harmonie Society erected 180 buildings on 20,000 acres along the Wabash River. The town boasted a thriving cloth trade, a bank and the first commercial brewery in Indiana.
Those first residents thought they were coming into the wilderness to fulfill a prophecy from Revelation, but the influx of other settlers from Germany never materialized. So in 1824, they returned to Pennsylvania, selling the town to Welsh industrialist Robert Owen. His own utopian vision for the town, which emphasized education and equality, collapsed in just two years.
Visitors learn about that hopeful spirit on two-hour Historic New Harmony walking tours, which wind through a Harmonist home, a cemetery and a brick-and-stone granary. The tours start at the modern Atheneum visitors center and end downtown, which holds a number of high-quality galleries and boutiques, including the New Harmony Gallery for Contemporary Art and Harmony Pottery. (Bee Tree Pottery, a gem located about 20 minutes southeast of town, showcases styles from the 18th and 19th centuries, including Sgraffito platters, with clay scratched away in patterns to reveal the surface beneath.)
Click ahead to learn more about our spring getaway to New Harmony, including a detailed Trip Guide.
That creativity spreads from the shops through town. Under the broad, leafy branches of Bradford pear trees in Murphy Park—and around the community—artists set up easels to paint spring flowers at an annual plein air art festival called the First Brush of Spring (April 18–20 this year).
Even if you’re not an artist, pockets of spring’s lime-green beauty near the two-block downtown beg for attention. New Harmony has not one but two walking labyrinths, one with a stone grotto at its center and one modeled after a 12th-century original outside Paris. The Roofless Church, an open-air domed sculpture with no seating, and nearby Harmonie State Park also encourage quiet communion with nature.
With balconies and patios overlooking a lake and lush parkland, the New Harmony Inn conveys that same feeling of escape, even though it has 90 rooms in several buildings and a popular restaurant. Another eatery, cozy Sara’s Harmony Way brims with mismatched furniture, antiques and local artwork. The menu isn’t long—cheese and sausage platters, dips and spreads, and sweet treats such as the aromatic lavender cookies. The biggest draw is Harmonie Bier, brewed regionally according to the original Harmonist recipe.
Any springtime visit here really ought to include a performance that’s part of the annual Under the Beams concert series at the restored Rapp-Owen Granary, now a stunning venue with thick wood beams and iron chandeliers. Everyone in town seems to pack the shows (this year’s lineup includes saxophonist Tia Fuller on March 9 and Malian singer-songwriter Fatoumata Diawara April 6). Haven’t heard of them? That’s OK. New Harmony is just the place to relax and look at all kinds of art with a fresh perspective.
For more information or to plan your trip: New Harmony Business Associates newharmony.biz 
What to do
Antique Showrooms in the Mews The epicenter of New Harmony shopping, the Mews combines four Victorian storefronts into a distinct boutique selling designer clothes, contemporary home decor, gourmet foods and high-end antiques. See Midwest Living’s review.  (812) 682-3490
Harmony Pottery Buy wood furniture, sun hats, glass bird feeders and more at a reasonably priced shop in a picturesque house. See Midwest Living’s review. (812) 682-3901
New Harmony Gallery of Contemporary Art Showcasing vibrant, modern art, this boutique also highlights jewelry, functional pottery and wall hangings. See Midwest Living’s review.  (812) 682-3156; usi.edu/nhgallery 
New Harmony Soap All-natural skin-care products with scents like lemongrass and mojito line the shelves of this new shop on Main Street. See Midwest Living’s review.  (812) 682-0515; newharmonysoap.com 
Under the Beams at the Rapp-Owen Granary Built by Harmonist settlers in 1818, the beautiful, rustic space hosts high-profile performing artists. Slated concerts in spring 2013 include jazz musician Tia Fuller on March 9 and Malian singer Fatoumata Diawara on April 6. Admission charged. See Midwest Living’s  review. (812) 682-3128; underthebeams.org 
Where to eat
Pop’s Grill and Ice Cream Shop Top-notch burgers warrant a trip to this family-oriented diner decked out with Route 66 memorabilia and vintage license plates. Hours vary, so call before you go. See Midwest Living’s review.  812) 682-3880; www.popsgrill.biz 
Red Geranium Restaurant The namesake flower covers the walls at this upscale establishment drawing diners from across the region. Specialties include the tilapia fillet sauteed in brown butter. See Midwest Living’s review.  (812) 682-4431; newharmonyinn.com/dining.php 
Where to stay
Cook’s on Brewery Bed and Breakfast Top-of-the-line amenities, including luxurious linens, fast Wi-Fi and gourmet breakfasts, ensure a pleasant stay in each of the three guest rooms. From $135. See Midwest Living’s review.  (812) 682-3646; cooksonbrewery.com 
New Harmony Inn The inn encompasses several blocks, but simple furnishings in the guest rooms and a peaceful atmosphere blend well with the town’s tranquility. Rates include free Wi-Fi and Continental breakfast. From $135. See Midwest Living’s review.  (812) 682-4431; newharmonyinn.com 
(A version of this story appeared in Midwest Living® March/April 2013. Prices, dates, and other details are subject to change, so please check specifics before making travel plans.)