There are towns in the South that exemplify southern hospitality and charm. Madison, Georgia, located just an hour outside of Atlanta and 30 minutes from Athens, Georgia, is one of those towns. Spared from much of the destruction of the Civil War, Madison is a historic gem on the Antebellum Trail.
I fell in love with Madison the first time I drove through it. I actually took a wrong turn and found myself driving through the historic district. I slowed my car to look at the beautiful antebellum homes lining the street. I marveled at the graceful lines of the courthouse and the gardens bursting into bloom. Even as winter approaches, it’s not uncommon to see profusions of flowers surrounding stately homes. I knew when I saw it that I had come home.
There are so many things to do in Madison. It is a wonderful place for a romantic interlude or a family vacation. Pet owners will enjoy the pet-friendly outdoor dining options and conveniently placed bowls of water and dog biscuits around town. While there’s not much of a nightlife, Madison is perfect for daytime visits, and there are festivals year-round, including frequent musical performances well worth the visit.
Here are the top 10 things to do in Madison, Georgia.
Attend a local festival.
In Spring, enjoy MadisonFest, a free arts and crafts festival downtown perfect for the whole family.
In Summer, the Firefly Festival is a two-day event that offers a Friday Frolic for kids that includes ice cream treats, bounce houses, face painting, crafts, balloon animals, gigantic bubble makers, and more! The second night features a date night for adults with live music and dancing. Throughout the summer, the city of Madison also offers live music, outdoor films, and other events that make this an ideal destination for any traveler.
In the Fall, Madison hosts a Chili Cookoff and cornbread contest, a Firefighters 5k and 10k to raise funds for local emergency services, and a Fall Festival.
Come back in the Winter to enjoy Caroling by Candlelight, a magical evening of hot cocoa, roasted marshmallows, a holiday craft, live caroling, and a visit from Santa Claus and his wife. There’s also an annual Madison Christmas Rush Classic, a 5k and 10k race hosted downtown the weekend of the winter festival.
Address 218 W Jefferson St, Madison, GA
Tour a historic home.
Madison is on the antebellum trail and is known for its beautiful antebellum homes, kept in pristine condition by their proud owners and watched over by the local historical society. Visit Heritage Hall, Rogers House, and Rose Cottage for a guided tour and history lesson of the homes and the area. Tours are open daily. Prices for the home tour for all 3 homes is $15 for adults, $10 for students, and children under 12 are free. Docents are happy to share with you the history of these three homes, and the full tour of these homes provides a look into how the upper, middle, and lower classes lived.
In May, visit for a tour of homes and gardens that are normally closed to the public. Drop in again in December for a holiday tour of homes by day or by candlelight. This year the Morgan County Landmarks Society will also offer a special exhibit called Quilts at the Cottage, and visitors to Heritage Hall will receive free entry to this special event.
Address: 277 South Main Street Madison, Georgia 30650
Hours of Operation
Monday through Saturday 11:00am to 4:00pm
Sunday 1:30pm — 4:30pm
Tour Buses Welcome!
Enjoy art and culture.
Visit the Madison Morgan Cultural Center to learn about local history, see a show, or attend a concert. Throughout the year, the Cultural Center offers a wide variety of performances for residents and visitors alike. While touring the art and culture of Madison, be sure to take the time to stop by the Steffen Thomas Museum of Art, located only a few miles outside of the historic district. The work of Steffen Thomas is always on display, but other exhibits change throughout the year. The STMA also features readings, art classes, and other events during the year. It also offers a small gift shop where visitors can purchase souvenirs and local art.
With time on your hands to browse, peruse the stores and galleries downtown and in the art district across from Town Park at the very heart of Madison. Free live music and outdoor movies are also available at Town Park throughout the summer and offer events that are ideal for single travelers, couples, and families alike. http://www.mmcc-arts.org/ https://www.facebook.com/steffenthomasmuseumofart/ http://visitmadisonga.com/calendarofevents/
Address: 4200 Bethany Rd, Buckhead, GA 30625
Sunday and Monday: closed
Tuesday through Saturday: 11:00 am — 4:00 pm
Rent a bike.
The best way to see Madison is on foot or by bicycle. While visiting, give Alan Ludlow of the home-based business MADcycles a call to arrange for bikes to be delivered to your hotel or bed and breakfast and see the town from a whole new perspective! Rent a bike for $15 for half a day (4 hours) or $35 for a full day (24 hours). Make your reservation by calling 678–778–3587 or by emailing MADcycles at email@example.com. Alan is happy to drop off and pick up the bicycles for your rental, and this convenient service ranks high on my list of things to do in town.
Be sure to ride through the historic district to see the lovely antebellum homes or take a ride through the town’s historic cemetery to view the Civil War era markers and formerly segregated graveyards. Stop along your tour of Madison to read the signposts advising of the town’s rich and eclectic history.
Take a self-guided walking tour of the historic downtown.
Stop by the Welcome Center downtown to pick up brochures from sights around town. The brochure about Madison provides helpful information for downloading the Madison Tour on your smartphone. The app is free, and it includes an audio and visual guide to downtown Madison. Download this self-guided walking tour on your phone to learn about local history, architecture, and how the town has changed since it was founded.
There are also brochures available to take a self-guided tour of the historic cemetery, which features graves from the Civil War and World Wars. Learn about the rich history of this town and the people who once populated it.
Explore your creative side.
Visit Board and Brush next to Perk Avenue to participate in a hands-on art class. This business is located in historic Madison, and it offers a variety of events and classes for all ages. Create a work of art for your home or to give as a gift.
Check out their schedule online at https://boardandbrush.com/.
Visit Perk Avenue Café and Coffeehouse, a delightful coffee shop in the historic district that offers live music, free Wi-fi, and a relaxing atmosphere. This wonderful shop has been the site of several recent television and movie filming in the past few years, including an upcoming sitcom pilot featuring Reba McIntyre. In addition to serving the best coffee in town (I recommend the Cinn and Tell, a cinnamon Nutella coffee drink with a saucy name), they also serve breakfast, lunch, and ice cream. During live music events, dinner and drinks are also served, but reservations are often recommended or required. http://perkave.com/
Have a picnic at Town Park.
Grab lunch from one of my favorite local spots: Madison Produce, Perk Avenue, or Crowe’s BBQ (just outside the historic district and open select lunch hours) and enjoy the picturesque setting. If you’re up for a drive outside the historic district, Farmhouse Market Café offers a wonderful array of farm to table dining choices.
Don’t forget to include dessert in your picnic plans! Antique Sweets is my top local option for a delicious dessert. They offer a variety of homemade ice cream flavors like bulldog bites (think chocolate, caramel, and pecans), maple, and peanut butter. They also make handmade chocolates and candy. Try one of their praline pecans or be sure to try a Bulldog Bite, a local specialty of this establishment.
Take lunch and dessert to Town Park to enjoy the sights, sounds, and free WIFI in Madison. Town Park has several porch swings, picnic tables, and benches for your picnic lunch, or you can bring a blanket to spread it on the grass near the fountain in the center of the park. Public restrooms are also available at Town Park, which can be convenient when taking a walking tour, shopping, or biking in the historic district.
Shop for antiques in, and around, the historic district.
Madison offers a variety of antique stores for the antique enthusiast. From Flea Antiques to the Junque Korner, there are so many wonderful treasures just waiting to be discovered in downtown Madison. Make the time to explore each store in turn to see what the town of Madison has to offer.
Don’t forget to go a little outside the district to check out my personal favorite, Madison Flea Market, near the Ingles market. Look for the red building just outside the historic district. The Madison Flea Market is spacious and has a variety of treasures for the antique store enthusiast! It has the advantage of a more spacious setting than some of the downtown locations, and there’s a little something for everyone inside.
Visit a farmer’s market for fresh produce or to have lunch.
Visit the farmer’s market at Farmview Market, just across the interstate in the commercial district of Madison, Georgia. Farmview offers locally sourced produce and goods, a butcher shop, an open air market, a dessert and ice cream counter, gourmet local coffee, and a café serving farm-to-table breakfast and lunch. Farmview Market also offers local classes and events including culinary classes, meal planning workshops, and various crafts.
2610 Eatonton Hwy Madison, GA 30650 (844)210–7030
Madison, Georgia, is a destination that is pet-friendly, family-friendly and also has a lot to offer couples looking for a romantic getaway, individuals interested in history and culture, or groups who want to explore a historic destination. Located only a short drive from Athens, Georgia, and the capital city of Atlanta, Madison is a perfect day trip destination filled with Southern charm.