Day Trip: Madison County
With thousands of beautiful acres of land, scenic hiking trails, unique shops, restaurants, several wineries and rich history, Madison County is truly a special place to—as the locals say—“ride, hike, taste, stay and shop.” Speaking of history, 2017 marked Madison’s 225th Birthday. Bald Top Brewing Co. (where history meets hops) opened in December, 2016 and is Virginia’s first Historic Farm Brewery. Hebron Lutheran Church, the oldest operating Lutheran Church in continuous use in the United States, celebrated its 300th in 2017.
History of Madison County
The county is named after the Madison family that owned a large territory of land along the Rapidan River. One of the descendants from this family is none other than James Madison, one of our nation’s earliest presidents, whose estate, known as Montpelier, still resides in the neighboring Orange County.
Along with President Madison, several other historical figures have spent time in Madison County, such as the Paleo-Indians, General Stonewall Jackson and the royal governor Alexander Spotswood. But that’s not all the history that occurred in the county. President Herbert Hoover once purchased land in the mountain area of Madison where he built his summer camp.
The reason so many significant people have made their mark in Madison is because of its convenient location. Trails and roads are placed throughout the Piedmont area of the county leading up to the famous Blue Ridge Mountains, which led 18th and 19th century travelers to the Shenandoah Valley. At the time, this area was known as the breadbasket of the Confederacy during the Civil War and was used as a back door for Confederate raids.
Historic Attractions in Madison County
Because so much history has taken place in Madison, there are plenty of destinations throughout the area that share, preserve and portray all that has occurred over the decades. Both walking and driving tours are offered in Madison, giving a special insight on the town and its place in history while strolling down Main Street or driving through the scenic Route 231. You will also find several historical buildings, many of which are found in Downtown, that you can journey through during a self-guided tour. Or take an afternoon to discover all there is to know about the history behind the Madison County Court House building.
Located just a few miles from Madison County is The Graves Mill Historical Park, which offers a unique glimpse into the past, commemorating the significance and history of the Village of Graves Mill. The park is home to a stone memorial and bronze plaque honoring the 40 Virginian men who served during the War Between the States. You will also find a replica of the county’s 1900s post office building and some of the earliest history of Graves Mill and its nearby areas.
Outdoor Attractions and Activities in Madison County
While in Madison County, there are plenty of outdoor activities to participate in while witnessing the breathtaking view of the surrounding mountains and foothills. From trout fishing and hunting to horseback riding and bird watching, you can always find something to do in the midst of beautiful scenery.
Explore a few of the 33,000 acres of the Shenandoah National Park in Madison, where you’ll find popular hiking trails, such as Old Rag and the gorgeous White Oak Canyon Falls. Or explore the Blue Ridge Mountains by foot or car and you will quickly become accustomed to the gorgeous culture and atmosphere of Madison County. For an up close and personal look at the Blue Ridge Mountains, take a guided hiking adventure with a local expert who knows all the ins and outs of these breathtaking mountains.
Fishing is a popular activity in Madison County due to its close proximity to multiple rivers and ponds. But that’s not the only outdoor activity that draws people to Madison. Take part in local traditions such as apple picking in the fall with over 27 different varieties of apples, or take a moonlight hayride.
Wine Tasting in Madison County
A great way to experience the outdoors is by “tasting” it, too. There are four wineries located in Madison County that produce quality wines known both nationally and internationally. Madison is host to the one of the oldest and greatest, Prince Michel; DuCard, the first solar-powered winery in Virginia; and Early Mountain Vineyards, voted the #1 Tasting Room in America by USA Today, and one of the newest, Revalation opening in March. Each winery offers exclusive tours of their facilities and will certainly be a delightful experience all the way down to the last sip.
Dining in Madison County
For more delicious beverages and eats, stop by one of the local restaurants in the area for a fine dining experience or have a casual lunch at a local hang out spot offering tasty, fresh food that will satisfy everyone’s taste buds! The county is so dedicated to staying true to the mountains that they host the annual Taste of the Mountains Festival featuring history, artwork, music and good food every Saturday before Labor Day. Taste of the Mountains will be celebrating its 26th year on Sept. 1.
Shopping in Madison County
After some delicious eats, be sure to browse the local shops where you will find handcrafted early American furniture and accessories for both indoor and outdoor living, yard and garden supplies, local goods, footwear, fashionable apparel and much more. Many new shops have opened on Main Street including She-She on Main and The Market on Main.
If you are exhausted after a day of shopping, outdoor activities or simply exploring the county, there are plenty of ways to stay overnight in Madison. Whether you make yourself at home in a cozy cabin, treat yourself at a bed and breakfast or even step outside of your comfort zone in a Yurt for the night, you won’t be disappointed with your stay in Madison County.