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If you’re looking for some unique things to do in Madison, Georgia, you’re in the right place.
Madison, has been recognized by Southern Living as one of the Best Small Towns in Georgia. You’ll find Madison an hour east of Atlanta and a mere half hour from neighboring Athens.
Madison’s claim to fame beyond the Southern Living designation is that it is one of the few towns to survive Sherman’s March to the Sea during the Civil War due to a gentlemen’s agreement between General Sherman and Madison Mayor Joshua Hill.
Its survival makes it an ideal place to see Antebellum, Greek Revival, and Victorian architecture.
24 Unique and Budget-Friendly Things to Do in Madison, Georgia
You don’t have to care about Civil War history or Antebellum architecture to want to visit Madison, Georgia.
The town may be small, but there’s plenty to see and do if you’re interested in a relaxing getaway in a charming town. But as a resident, it’s possible that I’m biased. You’ll have to come judge for yourself.
1. Stay at the Brady Inn – Or Another Authentic Bed and Breakfast
While there are plenty of chain hotels off the Interstate exit to Madison, I recommend staying in one of Madison’s unique inns or bed and breakfast locations for the ultimate small-town experience.
For convenience, charm, and excellent service, stay at the Brady Inn. It’s in walking distance to the downtown historic district. It also offers a full breakfast for guests.
Another popular choice is the James Madison Inn, which is located directly across from Town Park, which hosts many festivals and events.
It, too, is known for comfortable accommodations and friendly service.
If you don’t mind a short drive, I’d recommend the Farmhouse Inn or Southern Cross Ranch. Both are more rural locations with much to offer.
At the Farmhouse Inn, you can go fishing, borrow a kayak for a trip to the lake, or enjoy a hike through the woods on this hundred-acre farm.
The farm is home to horses, chickens, goats, ducks, guineas, turkeys, dogs, peacocks, and a donkey — making it a perfect location for animal lovers. Meals are locally sourced and accommodate dietary needs.
Equally bucolic Southern Cross Ranch offers a comfortable stay with several amenities including an outdoor swimming pool, mountain bike and hiking trails, and horseback riding.
This all-inclusive stay includes gourmet meals and the opportunity to explore the 225 acres of pasture and forests.
2. Start with Coffee
Once you’ve chosen a place to stay, you’ll want to start your day with a cup of coffee from family-owned Oconee Coffee Roasters. You’ll receive a friendly welcome from Jin or Tyler.
Enjoy coffee sourced from family farms around the world and roasted in-house for your enjoyment. Tea options and pastries are also available.
Oconee Coffee Roasters is located in downtown Madison across from Town Park and behind the James Madison Inn. From there, you’ll be in easy walking distance to enjoy breakfast or brunch.
3. Enjoy Breakfast or Brunch
Take a walk downtown to enjoy breakfast or brunch. For fresh bread and pastries, you’ll want to try out Patisserie on Main.
If you’re in town on a Sunday, you can stop in at the Hart & Crown Tavern to enjoy a delicious brunch.
Rumor has it, a full breakfast restaurant is coming to downtown Madison, but in the meantime, you can enjoy fresh pastries downtown to go with your excellent cup of tea or coffee.
4. Stop by the Welcome Center
Before you head out on your adventures, be sure to stop by the Welcome Center in Madison for a friendly hello. You can also pick up brochures for area attractions and get local recommendations.
While you’re there, you can get the information you’ll need for a self-guided tour of Madison.
5. Take a Self-Guided Tour
The Welcome Center and City of Madison offer a self-guided walking tour through the downtown area. Your tour starts at the Welcome Center and ends 28 stops later at Town Park.
This self-guided audio tour gives you the history of each location as well as historic photos of many of the sights. This is the perfect way to learn about Madison while seeing some of its most interesting historic sites. It also makes for a pleasant walk in any season.
If you travel with your pups, you’ll be delighted to know that Madison is a dog-friendly town. You’ll find water bowls and treats positioned conveniently around the town.
You can even take them for an off-leash adventure at the Bark Park, a dog park located in Bill Wood Park.
6. Book a Spa Treatment at Pure Bliss Spa & Shop or Zen Relaxing Wellness Center
While planning your Madison getaway, don’t forget to schedule a spa treatment for ultimate relaxation.
Both offer a variety of massages, facials, and other treatments. Zen also offers Float Therapy, a Dry Salt room, infrared sauna, cryotherapy, foot detox, and yoga classes.
Schedule your treatment in advance around your other Madison activities.
7. Attend a Festival
When planning a trip to Madison, check out the town’s website or social media channels for local festival dates. Every season of the year, Madison hosts a family-friendly festival in Town Park.
In the fall, you’ll want to check out the chili festival, which kicks off with a 5K. The festival includes a homemade chili and cornbread competition and plenty of handmade arts and crafts.
In the winter, you’ll want to make time to attend Caroling by Candlelight, which is exactly what it sounds like.
Your children can get photos with Mr. and Mrs. Claus (psst — it’s free!), make a holiday craft, and roast s’mores while local individuals and groups delight you by singing carols.
Come in the spring for an arts festival downtown. This festival features local arts, crafts, and plenty of food trucks. There are also activities for children — and usually a petting zoo!
Summer’s Firefly Festival is a two-night event featuring a kid-friendly event on Friday followed by a Motown date night complete with picnics and dancing.
8. Tour Heritage Hall and Other Historic Homes
While you’re in Madison, make sure to tour some of the Historic Homes. You can purchase tickets to Heritage Hall, Rogers House, and Rose Cottage.
These homes offer docent-led tours year-round. If you attend during one of the home tour weekends hosted in the winter and spring, you can tour many of the private homes around Madison.
If you live nearby, I’d recommend seeing both home tours to enjoy holiday decorations in December and the lush spring gardens in May.
9. Visit Local Parks
If you’re traveling with children, be sure to check out the local parks. There are pickleball courts, tennis courts, and playgrounds around town to enjoy.
The city has also announced their intention to add splash pads to the parks in the future. Find playgrounds at Hill Park, Bill Wood Park, Gilbert Park, Wellington Park, the Martin Tot Lot, and Lambert Park.
You’ll also find a frisbee golf course and batting cages at Bill Wood Park.
It’s important to note here that Madison is located about 15 minutes away from Hard Labor Creek State Park. While this park is outside city limits, it’s nearby location makes it a must-see for nature enthusiasts.
Fish, kayak, or paddle board at the lake, visit the lakeside beach for a swim, or rent a pedal boat to leisurely tour the area. There’s also camping available, mini and regular golf courses, a playground, and plenty of hiking and riding trails.
10. Stop in for a Refreshing Beverage at Madison Square Nutrition
While you’re walking downtown, you might want to stop in for a refreshing beverage at woman-owned Madison Square Nutrition.
This is one of my favorite things to do in Madison.
Pick up a loaded tea or nutrition shake on your way to exploring the downtown area. Follow the Instagram page for daily specials and to get a glimpse of the “secret” menu. There are even beverages available for children.
11. Visit a Farmer’s Market
Enjoy local agriculture by visiting a farmer’s market. Conveniently located in the downtown area, Community Roots Market and Madison Produce both offer locally sourced produce and other handmade items.
If you don’t mind a short drive, you can visit the farmer’s market hosted at Farmview Market just across the Interstate. These farmer’s markets are held seasonally on Saturday mornings.
12. Shop Local
Don’t forget to shop local while you’re here! Whether you are looking for souvenirs for family or shopping for the pleasure of it, look no further than the downtown area.
You can find everything from shoe shops, antique stores, clothing boutiques, jewelry stores, florists, and home decorating shops.
My personal favorite is the Madison Artists Guild. You can find handmade pottery, jewelry, and art for a one-of-a-kind gift or souvenir. You’ll also find a diverse section of books by local authors.
13. Lunch Locally
When it’s time to stop for lunch, consider some local options. You’ll find a variety of fast-food locations near the Interstate, but the downtown area offers several delicious local options you won’t find anywhere else. Let’s talk about some of my personal favorites.
Check out Mad Taco, Tequila’s, or Dos Amigos. Mad Taco has street-style tacos and is my personal favorite. Both Tequila’s and Dos Amigos are more of your traditional Mexican American restaurant.
For soul food
Madison has several soul food locations. R&B Cafe, Benny Paul’s Soul Food, and Martha’s Favorites are the top choices for your meat and veggies meal. All three are conveniently located downtown. Expect delicious, fresh food and friendly service.
Check out Crowe’s Open-Air Bar-B-Que, my personal favorite downtown. It’s within walking distance to the historic district, but it’s best to take a car.
They have a pickup window, indoor dining, and limited outdoor covered dining. You can also check out Tickled Pig BBQ for a variety of BBQ options, including a loaded baked potato.
For pizza, pasta, and wings
Check out Amici Madison for pizza, wings, and pasta options. For pizza delivery, you’ll need to call Marco’s as Amici doesn’t deliver. However, you can also order a pie for curbside pickup at either location. Ricardo’s Kouzzina is my top choice for pasta — serving Greek and Italian food.
For wings, you’ll find that Wing Nights @ Benny Paul’s has great wings in an interesting location. Don’t forget to check out the vintage cinema in the back.
Your farm-to-table dining options include Farmview Cafe, which offers a variety of sandwiches, burgers, salads, and more.
It’s a short drive from the downtown area but has plenty of parking, seating, and a variety of menu options. For a downtown experience, stop by Madison Produce for soups, salads, sandwiches, and more.
For upscale dining
You’ll find that Hart & Crown Tavern offers a British pub feel with an upscale menu. Town 220 is my other preferred option with a varied menu and a sophisticated atmosphere.
For vegan options
You’ll find some vegan menu choices at Mad Taco, but otherwise, you’ll need to go further afield.
If you don’t mind a short drive, visit nearby Hard Labor Creek State Park to stop in at Ruby’s of Rutledge, which offers a full plant-based menu.
Her grilled cheese is so good you won’t believe it’s not real cheese! Whether or not you’re vegan or vegetarian, you’ll fall in love with Ruby’s.
14. Stop for Ice Cream at Scoops
When you’re finished with lunch, you can take a walk downtown for a scoop of ice cream at Scoops.
Another dessert option is to stop into the Patisserie on Main, which is near enough to Scoops that you can always choose both options. You can take your scoop or dessert down to Town Park to relax on a swing while you enjoy the day.
15. Visit Town Park
A visit to Madison is not complete without a visit to Town Park. This isn’t just where the local festivals are held.
It’s a relaxing place to have a picnic lunch or to enjoy the fine weather. Enjoy the bench swings, sit in the gazebo overlooking the park, or sit at a bistro table outside to enjoy the view.
There’s free Wi-Fi offered by the city and a relaxing atmosphere to rest during your trip.
16. Take a Bike Ride
Cycling fans will love the many routes you can take in Madison. Madison is a frequent stop for cyclists. Enjoy the beauty of Morgan County with a leisurely bike tour.
17. Check for Events at the Local Library
While you’re in town, check out the free events at the local library. If you have kids, you’ll want to take them to visit the Maker’s Space to play.
There’s also chair yoga offered weekly that accessible for all ages and abilities. Check out the library’s Facebook page or website for a full list of activities and events.
Check out the sculptures located at the library and garden. You’ll find The Traveling Musicians in the nearby garden and Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox, and Brer Bear in front of the library.
18. Tour the Cultural Center
Another not-to-be-missed vacation destination is the Madison-Morgan Cultural Center. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, $3 for students, and admission is free for children ages 6 and under.
You can stop in to see an 1895 schoolroom, an arts and crafts gallery, architectural drawings, and more. The theatre often hosts musical performances and shows.
19. Take a Trail Ride or Hike
While you’re in Madison, feel free to book a trail ride at Southern Cross Ranch even if you choose to stay at another location.
You can also take a short hike along the cross-country trail at Bill Wood Park, which is only a mile long.
For more outdoor options for hiking, you can visit nearby Rutledge, Georgia, and hike, bike, or enjoy lake activities at Hard Labor Creek State Park.
You can also visit The River Trail at Hundred Acre Farm for the first Certified Forest Therapy Trail in the United States.
20. Support Agritourism
While you’re in Morgan County, you’ll want to visit the Rock House Creamery for a tour. This 100-acre dairy farm offers a tour of the creamery and garden and allows you to sample their products.
You can book a private tour or check out their website for scheduled tour dates.
21. Visit the Local Morgan County African-American Museum and the Steffen Thomas Museum of Art
While you’re in town, you don’t want to miss the museums Madison has to offer.
Stop in at the Morgan County African-American Museum to learn more about the history and art of African-American culture in the area.
It’s conveniently located in downtown Madison and is a short walk up from Oconee Coffee Roasters and Town Park.
You can also take time out of your schedule to visit the Steffen Thomas Museum of Art. While the location isn’t in walking distance, it’s only a short drive from the historic district.
This beautifully curated museum features the work of Steffen Thomas as well as other art exhibits.
22. Have a Pre-Dinner Cocktail or Mocktail at The Sinclair
Whether you love a cocktail or a mocktail, visit The Sinclair in the downtown historic district for a drink before dinner. With outdoor or indoor seating, The Sinclair offers coffee, cocktails, and a limited selection of sandwiches and pastries for visitors.
The pastries offered at The Sinclair are sourced from the Patisserie on Main. You can also get a drink at the Hart & Crown, Mad Taco, Ricardo’s Kouzzina, or Town 220.
After drinks, you can dine at one of the local restaurants.
From The Sinclair, you can walk over to Wing Nights @ Benny Paul’s, the Hart & Crown Tavern, Mad Taco, Madison Produce, Amici Madison, Town 220, or Ricardo’s Kouzzina.
You’ll find many of the other lunch options closed for dinnertime. Consider selecting a lunch location that doesn’t offer dinner hours to enjoy the most variety during your stay.
24. Listen to Live Music
While you’re in town, check out Amici Madison’s calendar for when they’ll be hosting live music. You can also check out the Madison-Morgan Cultural Center for events.
Visit the official webpage of Madison for the full schedule of local events, including concerts, outdoor movies, and more. Plan your visit around one of these events to get the full Madison experience.
A Visit to Madison, Georgia
Madison isn’t a hot spot of nightclubs. You won’t come here for a big city adventure. However, it’s a charming spot for a girlfriend getaway, romantic weekend, or family vacation.
The town is accessible, dog-friendly, and welcoming to all. When you want to get away from the hustle and bustle for a slower pace, visit Madison for a relaxing getaway, outdoor adventure, or cozy retreat.
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Featured Image: Town Park Gazebo — Madison, GA — Photo by Crystal Jackson