By Celeste M. Smucker –
Planning a vacation trip? Madison County has it all: spectacular scenery, terrific food, outdoor activities for everyone and special events like the upcoming Hoover Ridge Hops Festival on August 18 and the Taste of the Mountains Main Street Festival on September 1.
If you are on your way somewhere else, stop in the town of Madison as you pass through the County and learn why it is gaining a reputation as “a little foodie town with some very unique shopping,” said Tracey Gardner, Madison’s Economic Development and Tourism Director.
Or stay a little longer, take a hike, sip some wine at one of Madison’s well known and highly regarded vineyards and stay overnight at one of its quaint B & Bs.
The County also attracts vacationers who come for longer stays so they can unwind and have a leisurely time enjoying the scenery, hiking in the mountains, fishing and generally de-stressing from urban life.
Sometimes vacationers browse the Madison area homes for sale and see something interesting. Before they know it, they talk to a local REALTOR®, buy a second home and become one of the county’s 1,000 part time or “recreational,” residents. Some eventually decide to stay for good, working from home or choosing Madison for its laid-back country lifestyle.
Whatever the reason for their visit, travelers have a lot to choose from. Here are just a few of the highlights.
The Great Outdoors
Outdoor enthusiasts from hikers to birdwatchers to those who love to hunt, fish and camp, look forward to visiting Madison County.
Over 32,000 of Shenandoah National Park’s acres are within Madison’s borders attracting visitors who love the challenge of hikes like Old Rag Mountain with one of the area’s most popular and demanding climbs.
Whiteoak Canyon is another spot loved by Madison visitors. This area is best known for it old growth forests and its six spectacular waterfalls ranging from 35 to 86 feet in height, with swimming holes at the base of each and hiking trails from easy to strenuous.
Madison County is also popular among people who love to fish. Every year three trout streams are stocked by the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, and for the more adventurous, there are many smaller streams with native trout.
Fishing was a favorite pastime of President Herbert Hoover who had a summer home in Madison. He described the joy of fishing as an “opportunity for refreshment of one’s soul and clarification of one’s thoughts by solitude.”
If you love to camp, you will find many spots in the National Park and if you prefer to sleep indoors, lodging is available as well. Or book a stay at Graves Mountain Lodge, a nearby privately owned facility that packs lunches for hikers and picnickers to enjoy on the trail.
Fall with its beautiful leaves is a great time to visit Madison. While you are there take advantage of the annual Graves Apple Harvest Festival the first three weekends in October, and bring home some hand-picked apples. Cloggers, blue grass music and local arts and crafts will also be there to entertain you.
Many visitors stay in one of Madison’s choice B & B’s, including Ebenezer House, built as a Culpeper church in 1901, and dismantled and moved to its present location in 1984. Or check out Brightwood Vineyard and Farm, which is also a “working family farm with diversified, sustainably raised crops and livestock—berries, wine grapes, herbs, cut flowers, meat goats, laying hens and more.”
Wineries and A Brewery
Madison County is home to award-winning wineries that offer tours and wine tastings as well as venues for special events such as weddings and seasonal festivals.
The latest addition is Revalation Vineyard with “a beautifully crafted cabin, wonderful wine and panoramic views,” Gardner said.
Family-owned Bald Top Brewing Co., described as Virginia’s First Historic Farm Brewery, features festivals and events throughout the year with food trucks and live music. Paid memberships are available and include Bald Top T-shirts and hats as well as invitations to members-only tasting events and discounted growler fills.
Beer lovers can also look forward to Madison’s second annual Hoover Ridge Hops Fest, Saturday August 18 from 2 to 7 p.m. at Hoover Ridge Park. Look for food trucks and craft brews plus music by Brian Grilli.
Shopping and Food
When you want a break from hiking and sightseeing, Madison is a great place to shop. “We have lots of antique stores here,” Gardner said, and she is also excited about a new high-end consignment shop called She-She on Main.
More shopping is available at the Market on Main that offers affordable space to small business owners ready to move into a retail location. Visit to see a variety of different businesses from a bakery and custom crafts, to a spa and more, Gardner said.
Feeling hungry? Yoders Country Market features pastries, sandwiches and soup along with bulk food items. Or try Burrito Baby, the new Mexican restaurant in town. Or check out Bonannos Madison Inn Restaurant open for lunch and dinner with brunch on Sunday.
Visitors will find much more to love about Madison at the County’s website. And after they visit a few times, they may just decide to join the many others who make Madison County their home. If this is you, start with a call to one of the knowledgeable local REALTORS® who will help you find the perfect house or a spacious, private building lot.
Celeste Smucker is a writer and blogger who lives near Charlottesville.