This quaint Georgia town dons her showiest attire in the spring.

madison flag
For the Madison experience, get out and stroll the streets. Find free, self-guided walking maps at the welcome center.
| Credit: Joseph de Sciose

Blossoming trees and shrubs line the historic streets, their colorful petals speckling the sidewalks. Unique shops, restaurants, and inns revolve around the downtown square―a real-life version of a movie set. You will adore Madison. We do, and we're happy to share our recommendations.

Neighborhood Strolls
The antebellum homes and picturesque atmosphere draw travelers from all over the country. You'll spy horse-drawn carriage tours (Double C Carriages, for example). But we prefer to just park and walk. The Madison Welcome Center, at Main and Jefferson, offers free, self-guided walking tour maps. Editor's tip: If you're pressed for time, at least visit Main Street, Academy Street, and Old Post Road.

Dine and Doze
For a quick bite and cup of joe, stop into Perk Avenue Café, a coffeehouse with a penchant for panini, especially the Mediterranean Chicken. Stick around and dine at Town 220 Restaurant, where the straightforward menu reveals Italian and French influences. Ask about the special, because that's where chef Fransisco de la Torre really gets creative. With a lively ambience, forego plans for a quiet, romantic dinner.
For an overnight stay, try one of the town's newest properties, The James Madison Inn. Starting at $195, the inn features elegant rooms with tall beds and puffy comforters that sufficiently cocoon. You'll enjoy lounging in the comfortable common areas. Be sure to check out the original artwork, all created by local artists. As an alternative, stay at the more modest and affordable Brady Inn (starting at $125), a seven-bedroom bed-and-breakfast. Editor's note: Madison sits just 90 minutes from Augusta, so consider making it your home base during the Masters golf tournament next month, April 6-12. Reserve early.

Stop To Shop
Become an instant fan of House of Ice Fine Fashion Jewelry, where owners Ron Paras and Carl Stewart design their jewelry in the styles of major designers, but at a fraction of the cost. For bedding (especially the Pine Cone Hill line) and table linens, stop by Godfrey Cox Co. on Main Street. Nearby, duck into Dog Ear Books to peruse the impressive collection of local and regional authors. Next door, browse the Oriental rugs, architectural pieces, and American and European antiques at the 75-dealer Madison Markets. Our flat-out favorite Madison shop, Attic Treasures, exists more as a quirky museum than just another tired antiques shop. Where else can you find a petrified gator skull, a $50,000 prehistoric effigy from India, or a stuffed turtle from adjacent Greene County?

Getting Here
From Atlanta, take I-20 east to Exit 114 (U.S. 441), and turn north. Follow road to Madison. Travel time: one hour