The Madison exits on Interstate Highway 10 do not hint at it. Neither does the five-mile drive from the interstate. However, for those with enough faith to see their journey through, downtown Madison presents itself as though it was straight out of Harper Lee's novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. It isn't of course, but it is one of the cutest downtowns in Florida. Madison has a historic district comprised of restored homes and also includes the downtown. A walking tour guide to the historic district can be downloaded here.
Madison is named after former U.S. president James Madison. With a population 3,000, it is the county seat of Madison County.
The downtown is vibrant and lined with antique shops, locally-owned eateries and two museums. Madison also has a downtown community playhouse which regularly hosts plays, events and movies. Madison is home to North Florida College. The college features events and activities which help enliven the community cultural scene.
The town hosts an annual Downhome Days Festival and parade in mid-April which features music, crafts and a street dance. Madison also hosts a Christmas parade and tree lighting event in late November. The event also includes a variety of activities, entertainment and, of course, Mr. and Mrs. Claus.
Accommodations include the Unity House Bed and Breakfast, located downtown, as well as the nearby Best Western Plus and Days Inn, and the Super 8. Campers and those with recreational vehicles will find pleasing accommodations at nearby Yogi Bear Jellystone Park Camp/Resort.
Bicyclists will like Madison. The 25-mile out-and-back Four Freedoms Trail, a paved, grade-separated multi-use path allows visitors to walk or bicycle from town to the Withlacoochee River at the Florida-Georgia line. Madison also features a marked 100-mile loop bicycle ride. The “Loop” is an on-road route which has been in existence for over 25 years. Many bicycling groups have held organized rides of the Loop over the years.
Madison Blue Spring State Park is located 10 miles to the east of town adjacent to the Withlacoochee River. The spring was voted the best swimming hole in the United States by the USA Today’s Reader’s Choice Awards.
The town of Greenville, located 14 miles to the west of Madison, is the birthplace of Ray Charles, the world-famous singer and composer. A statue has been erected in the town park in his honor and his birth home has been turned into a museum.
Madison is just the kind of town to spend a day or two. It is just the kind of town in which to stay forever.