By Celeste M. Smucker –
While perhaps best known for its spectacular scenery, Madison County also attracts tourists coming for special events like the upcoming Hops Festival, or passing through on their way to Charlottesville and points south who decide to stop for a meal or enjoy a night in one of the county’s gracious B & Bs.
Others are vacationers wanting a place to unwind and enjoy a leisurely week away from the stress of urban life, in some cases buying a second home in Madison so they can enjoy these benefits more often. The county’s website reports that it is home to over 13,000 permanent residents and 1,000 part time, or “recreational” residents.
Regardless of their reason for visiting Madison, these travelers have a lot to choose from. Here are just a few of the highlights of what you can expect when you join them.
The Great Outdoors
Outdoor enthusiasts from hikers to birdwatchers to those who love hunting, fishing and camping look forward to a stay in Madison County.
Over 32,000 of Shenandoah National Park’s acres are in Madison County, which is also home to Old Rag Mountain offering one of the area’s most popular and demanding hikes. The 250 space parking lot available to Old Rag climbers is owned by Montague Miller and Co. agent, Patti Lillard and her husband who just signed a new lease with the National Park making it available to hikers for another ten years. During the season the lot is full of cars bearing license plates from all over Virginia as well as many other states.
Another popular attraction is White Oak Canyon, best known for its spectacular waterfalls and old growth forest.
Madison County is also a good choice for people who love to fish. Every year three trout streams are stocked by the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, and there are also plenty of smaller streams with native trout. One of the county’s most famous visitors, President Herbert Hoover, described the joy of fishing there as an “opportunity for refreshment of one’s soul and clarification of one’s thoughts by solitude.”
Camping is available in the national park as is lodging for those who prefer sleeping indoors. Another popular choice is Graves Mountain Lodge, a privately owned facility that packs lunches for hikers and picnickers to enjoy while they are out on the trail. If you are planning a fall trip to admire the leaves, come enjoy the annual Graves Apple Harvest Festival the first three weekends in October. Take home some hand-picked apples and enjoy cloggers, blue grass music and local arts and crafts.
Visitors can also stay in one of Madison’s B & B’s some with interesting histories such as Ebenezer House that was built in Culpeper in 1901 as a church, and dismantled and moved to Madison in 1984.
Wineries and A New Brewery
Another high point on any Madison visit is the award-winning wineries that offer tours and wine tastings as well as venues for special events such as weddings, music by local bands and seasonal festivals. One of them, DuCard Vineyards, has been recognized as the greenest winery in Virginia in part for its use of sustainable practices and solar power, while in 2016, Madison’s Early Mountain Vineyards was voted #1 in a USA Today contest for America’s Best Tasting Room .
There is a lot of excitement as well about Madison’s new Bald Top Brewery, explained Tracey Gardner, Madison’s Economic Development and Tourism Director. This family owned business described as Virginia’s First Historic Farm Brewery is open weekends, Friday through Monday and features food trucks and live music. Memberships are available and only members are eligible to take home a growler.
Beer lovers are also looking forward to Madison’s first ever Hoover Ridge Hops Festival this Sunday, May 28 from 2:00 to 7:30 p.m. at Hoover Ridge Park featuring food trucks and craft brews from a variety of local breweries such as Devil’s Backbone, Starr Hill, Blue Mountain, Three Notch’d and many others, plus Bold Rock Hard Cider.
Furniture, Antiques and Other Shopping
When you want to take a break from hiking and sightseeing, Madison is a great place to shop. “We have lots of antique stores here,” Gardner said. In addition she happily reported that fine furniture maker E.A. Clore Sons, a family-owned business started 187 years and six generations ago, was still in business. After announcing in 2016 that it would be closing, so many orders came in that the company decided to stay open.
Bargain hunters can check out the Plow and Hearth Outlet and Country Store as well as the Lighthouse Thrift Shop, while hungry visitors may find some great snacks at Yoders Country Market featuring delicious pastries, sandwiches, soups and bulk foods. Yoders also has a petting zoo to entertain children. Visit madisonva.com for details.
Other Madison Highlights
Madison’s farmers’ market featuring produce from local farmers and growers is a regular summer event as well as “a place for the community to come together and enjoy some camaraderie,” Gardner said.
For visitors who love festivals, Madison’s Taste of the Mountains Main Street Festival is back this year on Saturday, September 2, Labor Day Weekend. The festival features Madison businesses and food vendors, live music, wine tasting and living history exhibits with lots of family friendly activities as well as crafters from near and far. This year is the 25th anniversary of this popular event, sponsored by the Madison County Chamber of Commerce.
Whatever your interests, you will find something to love about Madison County. Take time to explore the county’s website and check out all the options. And after a few visits, you may join the many others who decide to make Madison County their home. Start with a call to one of the knowledgeable, local real estate agents who can help you find the perfect place to live.
Celeste Smucker is a writer and blogger who lives near Charlottesville.