20 Best Things to Do in Madison, IN

Madison, IN
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Serving as the seat of Jefferson County, Madison, Indiana, has much to offer to the people who come by to visit.

Located along the beautiful Ohio River, breathtaking nature surrounds this charming Indiana destination.

It seems the people of Madison refuse to let go of their past, and with good reason.

Given its long history, this city has many stories to share with people who may visit.

Apart from its many well-preserved historical sites, you can find many fun opportunities and exciting destinations to visit in this city.

Here are the 15 best things to do while visiting Madison, Indiana:

Embrace Nature at Clifty Falls State Park

Aerial view of Clifty Falls State Park
Alexey Stiop / Shutterstock.com

Amazing nature blesses the city of Madison, as you can find Clifty Falls State Park just above the Ohio River.

Come here with your family to discover the awe-inspiring natural wonders surrounding the city.

You can discover many gorgeous waterfalls when you visit here.

Waterfall in Clifty Falls State Park
DnDavis / Shutterstock.com

Depending on the season, the flow of these falls may vary, from fast gushing plunges to slow and delicate drops.

Here, you can learn to appreciate nature all while having fun.

An information center where you can educate yourself about preserving nature is accessible.

A cave at Clifty Falls State Park
Kenneth Keifer / Shutterstock.com

It also features facilities for outdoor sports, as well as outdoor hiking trails.

Apart from outdoor activities, you and your companions can have fun and eat at the picnic areas found in the park.

If you want to stay for a few days, you can pitch a tent at one of its electric or non-electric campgrounds.

View from the top of Clifty Falls State Park's waterfall
Roberto Galan / Shutterstock.com

Try Out Some Local Craft Beers at Mad Paddle Brewstillery

A city rich in history, Madison also boasts a background in brewing beer.

Many know the city as one of the first places found west of the Alleghenies to brew great beer, particularly between 1823 and 1918.

Aiming to honor the tradition of distilling delicious craft beers, two brothers — the Wade brothers — launched Mad Paddle Brewery in 2018.

Here, you can try delicious craft beers and spirits partnered with sumptuous meals.

It also offers live music entertainment that you shouldn’t miss while in the area.

Do note that this place may be unsuitable for any young kids, so the establishment advises against bringing them here.

Taste Delicious Local Handmade Wine at the Lanthier Winery

If you fancy a glass of wine and want to discover the specific taste profile that Madison has to offer, then take time to visit the Lanthier Winery.

Here, you and your companions can go winetasting in this destination’s cellar tasting room.

They have competent staff members who can share information about the wine you drink.

Apart from the wine, you can also visit the in-house gallery found at the winery.

They house a collection of art one can only describe as marvelous.

It also features a garden that can become the perfect setting for a nice stroll in the afternoon.

Apart from wine tasting sessions, plan your trip ahead of time and see what events will take place at this venue.

You can even sign up for workshops and classes when you come here.

You will find yourself having many things to do to spend the day while at the Lanthier Winery.

Catch Live Music Shows Organized by the Madison Music Movement

You can also find great music in Madison.

While visiting the city, check out some fun and incredible music shows that Madison has to offer.

Organized by the Madison Music Movement, you can come across many live music stages in different venues found in the city.

Usually, popular venues around the city host these music shows, so you can enjoy them with good food and great company in spectacular settings.

Not only that, but these shows aren’t strictly happening at night!

Apart from public lunch music shows held at local parks, you can also catch performances organized by the Madison Music Movement at local hotspots, like the Madd Paddle Brewstillery and more.

Make Masterpieces at the Little Golden Fox

Get ready to let your inner artist out when you visit Madison.

With a rich history, arts, and culture scene, consider creating and sharing your creations with the help of the Little Golden Fox.

Considered the city's creative hub, this studio has all the tools you may need to create your masterpiece.

Apart from that, you can sign up for workshops, classes, or events to either learn a new creative skill or enhance your natural talents even further.

This studio also serves as a place where local businesswomen can showcase their products, so feel free to check the items out.

If you want a place where you can let your creative juices flow while on your trip to Madison, consider visiting this place.

Step Back in Time at Francis Costigan House

Designed by esteemed architect Francis Costigan, this historic house was constructed in the 1850s.

Many considered it one of the best showcases of 19th-century design, as it creatively used limited spaces.

You can find this historic two-story house featuring a Greek Revival design, situated at a lot spanning only 22 feet wide.

It showcases an interior with a posh drawing-room, two fireplaces, curved walls, and intricate, handcrafted wooden decor.

The house will let you look at how gorgeous dwellings back in the 19th century looked like.

Get to Know Historically Significant People at the Eleutherian College

You won’t find yourself short of historical sites to visit in Madison.

One of the ones you can visit is the Eleutherian College.

By coming here, you can know more about the people who shaped this city’s history.

The Neil’s Creek Anti-Slavery Society founded the said institution back in 1848, but the building itself was built in the 1850s.

Today, you can find this landmark telling the story of the courageous people who established it.

If you want to add this to your Madison itinerary, do note that you can only visit the college by appointment.

Check Out the Madison Railroad Station Museum

Another historical site popular among tourists is the Madison Railroad Station Museum.

Located within Madison’s History Center Campus, spend time with your travel buddies here to learn more about the city’s exciting history.

Here, you can find most of the original equipment used in the station.

It also features displays showcasing what it looked like during the construction of the railroad.

You can also learn about the importance of the railroad system to the history and growth of the city.

Apart from this museum, the city’s History Center campus also features a local history museum, where you can find out more about Madison’s past.

Bring your family and friends here to get to know Madison a little better.

Discover Madison’s Rich History at the Lanier Mansion Historic Site

Daytime view of Lanier Mansion Historic Site
Wjlackner William J. Lackner, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Many 19th-century mansions still stand within the city, many of which you can still visit today.

Another building designed by famed architect Francis Costigan, many consider this mansion the “crown jewel” among Madison’s Historic District houses.

Featuring Greek Revival architecture and completed in 1844, a banker and railroad developer named F.D. Lanier owned this majestic home.

The said building still showcases some pieces of the original furniture and a marvelous three-story spiral staircase.

Spiral staircase in Lanier Mansion Historic Site
Prianka040, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Here, you can also find paintings and late-1800s landscaping styles at the property’s formal garden.

If you want to get an idea of how people in Madison lived back in the 1800s while appreciating the charm of Greek Revival architecture, head over to this historic mansion.

You can book guided tours for the mansion if you are interested in more details about this gorgeous mansion.

The garden of Lanier Mansion Historic Site
Wjlackner William J. Lackner, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Be in Awe of Beautiful Architecture at the Sullivan House

Exterior of Sullivan House
Warren LeMay from Cullowhee, NC, United States, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

One of the city’s oldest mansions, Sullivan House was the home of Judge Jeremiah Sullivan, who served as a justice of the state’s Supreme Court back in the early 19th century.

Here’s a fun fact about Sullivan: People credit him for naming the city of Indianapolis!

This historic home features a design made with Federal-style architecture in mind.

You can find many historical things to learn about while in Madison.

The many mansion museums serve as the home to memorabilia that shares the stories of these amazing people who are part of Madison’s history.

Learn About Saddletree-Making at the Shroeder Saddletree Factory Museum

Have you ever wondered what goes into the production of saddles?

A saddletree serves as a substantial part of a saddle as it frames the entire structure.

In Madison, a historical, well-known company has produced this crucial component since 1878.

Founded by a German immigrant, the Schroeder Saddletree Factory has been standing along the Ohio River since the 1800s.

If you visit the museum, you can find that it still houses a woodworking shop, sawmill, and assembly room, all perfectly preserved and showcased for people to learn more about the art of saddletree-making.

The museum also provides demos, showing visitors how workers would’ve used the antique equipment and how they would’ve made the saddle frames.

While you can look around the museum on your own, you can also opt for a guided tour that explains the significance of each exhibit here.

Have Some Family Fun at Crystal Beach Pool

Signage of Crystal Beach Pool
Chris Light, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The entire city takes importance in its roots that even the local swimming pool is considered historical.

However, that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun while you’re here.

Built in 1938, the Crystal Beach Pool facilities remain open to the public, providing hours of fun in the water.

Many know the public pool for having a unique, semi-circle design, with a pool slope gradually going from having ankle-deep waters to eight feet.

House of Crystal Beach Pool
Chris Light, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It also features a waterslide and can contain more than 20,000 gallons of water at a time.

Apart from the pool, the facility also has a bathhouse constructed out of rough stone, and it has retained its original historic design.

Go here with your family and make a splash at the waters of this interesting public swimming pool.

Pick Out Herbs at the Stream Cliff Farms

Try going on a trip to Stram Cliff Farms, one of the oldest herb farms in the area.  

This charming destination has been owned and run by the same family for six generations.

Here, apart from their beautiful gardens, you can find many historic buildings that have withstood the test of time.

You can also find a winery here and try out some of their handcrafted wines.

Feeling hungry?

Head over to their in-house restaurant for some delicious meals.

Apart from these, if you like learning something new, they offer classes about gardening, cooking, arts, and other crafts.

You can also catch some of the events they hold at the farm, including a Barn Market held three times a year.

Take your family here and spend quality time doing fun activities at this charming farm.

Taste Artisanal Treats at Cocoa Safari Chocolates

Exterior of Cocoa Safari Chocolates
Warren LeMay from Cullowhee, NC, United States, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

While you have many options to choose from when it comes to food places in Madison, do check out Cocoa Safari Chocolates.

Here, you can find decadent, handcrafted chocolate treats that can make your tastebuds water just by looking at them.

The folks at Cocoa Safari Chocolate treat chocolate-making as an art and a state of mind, and it reflects well on the products they sell.

They aim to make the best-tasting chocolate, and you can try what they’ve been working on when you visit Madison.

So, pay them a visit, try out some of the best artisanal chocolate treats around, and buy some to take home with you.

A single bite is worth the trip.

Shop for Locally Made Goods at Madison Made by Euclid and Woodland

Do you like shopping for items that would commemorate your trip to a particular place?

During your trip to this lovely city, stop by Madison Made by Euclid and Woodland.

Here, you can find 100% locally made products.

From shirts to home decor, you can pick up some souvenirs from here while supporting the local artisans and entrepreneurs of the region.

So, before leaving Madison, make sure to look for some amazing products from Madison Made.

Visit the Broadway Fountain

View of the beautiful Broadway Fountain at night
brianasiracuse / Shutterstock.com

One of Madison’s gems, the Broadway Fountain is one attraction you shouldn’t miss when you’re in the city.

This landmark is a bronze replica of a 19th-century iron fountain that was part of the  1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition.

It was acquired by the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, donated to the city of Madison in 1886 and was rededicated in 1980.

Daytime view of Broadway Fountain
Warren LeMay from Cullowhee, NC, United States, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

It has several other replicas located in Poughkeepsie in New York, Cusco, Peru, and Forsyth Park, Georgia but this fountain in Madison is the closest in the James Kirtland Company Catalog by design.

If you love classic architectural designs and structures, you’ll get to appreciate this iconic landmark.

Take pictures of the Broadway Fountain for a keepsake of your visit.

Drop by the Madison Chautauqua Festival of Art

If you happen to visit the city on the last weekend of September, you’ll get to catch the Madison Chautauqua Festival of Art.

The festival is southern Indiana’s premier fine arts and crafts show attended by thousands of visitors yearly.

Stroll along Madison’s National Landmark Historic District and see original art creations and handcrafted works featured by over a hundred exhibitors.

The arts and crafts festival is also free to the public so you’ll have the whole day to enjoy and appreciate different art pieces.

You’ll also enjoy live music entertainment, rows of delicious food at the riverfront food fest, and local craft beers and drinks at the entertainment garden.

Likewise, little ones will have loads of fun with plenty of activities to enjoy at the event.

Enjoy the attractions at Madison Chautauqua Festival of Art.

Enjoy Camping at the City of Madison Campground

Park your RV and camp out at the City of Madison Campground.

The two-acre site is located on East Vaughn Drive right along the Ohio River with plenty of class AA RV sites.

From the river walkway, you can easily access the historic downtown district.

Amenities include water and electricity, a dump station, a restroom, and showers.

You also have options for daily, weekly and seasonal rates.

Enjoy the river view, lines of shady trees, and tranquil natural surroundings at the City of Madison Campground.

Get Fresh Farm Produce at Madison Farmers Market

Shop for fresh farm-to-market goods at Madison Farmers Market.

The year-round market is the oldest in Indiana, dating back to 1809.

Drop by the Broadway Fountain every Saturday from morning until noon and catch rows of vendors selling their products.

Local shoppers can find almost everything they need from seasonal fruits and vegetables, fresh meat and eggs, and local honey.

You’ll also find homemade baked goods, essentials like goat milk soaps and beard oils, and craft items like jewelry and handmade fiber arts; likewise, check out some herbs, plants, and fresh and dried flowers.

The summer market runs from the first weekend of May until the last weekend of September while the Winter Market begins on the first weekend of October and ends on the last week of April.

During summer, Madison Farmers Market also hosts live music every other week.

Tour the Old Shrewsbury-Windle Home

The Shrewsbury-Windle Home is one of Madison’s historic sites you can tour on West First Street.

It was the residential home of Captain Charles L. Shrewsbury and his family built in 1846.

Architect and master builder Francis Costigan designed the house, which has now become one of the most important historic homes in the country.

It was also recognized as a National Historic Landmark in 1994.

Step inside and feel nostalgic at the sight of the 53-step spiral staircase, the high ceilings, tall entry doors, classic gas chandeliers, and the Greek Revival-themed drawing rooms.

You’ll be fascinated with the well-preserved decor and furnishings inside the Shrewsbury-Windle Home.

Final Thoughts

Madison’s identity as a city remains rooted in its long history, and its community recognizes this.

They work hard to preserve their amazing heritage, and it’s definitely worth seeing.

For lovers of history or those who want their curiosity sated, spend your next holiday in Madison, Indiana, to have a wonderful time.

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