Located in central Maine’s Somerset County, the town of Madison has a population of just more than 4,000 residents and is equidistant from the Atlantic coast to the east and south, New Hampshire to the west and Canada to the north.
The town was founded in the early 1800s, and for generations before that, was home to the Norridgewock and Abenaki Native American groups.
Just a short drive from many of the state’s most popular historical and natural attractions, Madison is a great place to get your fill of that much-loved New England ruggedness and charm that’s a big draw to out of state visitors.
Below are 15 things to do in and around Madison.
1. Historical Societies
Unlike most cities and towns that just settle for one, Madison has two historical societies, and both maintain small museums that are open to the public.
The Madison Historical and Genealogical Society’s museum is located in the Old Point school building and includes a variety of historic items like clothes, photographs, tools and housewares that were commonly used in centuries past.
The town’s second facility is located on East Madison adjacent to the fire station.
In the past, much of the area’s economy depended on the Kennebec River, which provided a means of transportation and was an essential source of food; as such, many of the exhibits focus on towns that once thrived along the river.
2. Lakewood Golf Course
Maine’s spring and summer weather is ideal for outdoor activities, and golf is one of the major draws for those visiting from other parts of the country where the conditions can be downright sweltering, especially during June, July, and August.
Located amidst some of the state’s most beautiful scenery, Lakewood Golf Course is one of the area’s most popular courses.
Previous guests have noted that the 18-hole course is well-groomed, full of beautiful mountain views, and more than a little challenging.
It’s even got a 660-yard par six, so polish off that Big Bertha and eat a hearty breakfast.
Book tee times in advance if you plan on playing during peak times.
3. Maine’s State Theater
Established nearly 120 years ago, Maine’s State Theater in East Madison has been wowing visitors since the beginning. Though the venue has undergone more than a few renovations since then, it still maintains much of its original character and charm.
Originally called the Lakewood Theater, it is home to the longest continually running summer production program in the country.
Including live music, plays, musicals, and even kid’s performances, there’s a little something for everyone. For those who’d like to make an evening of it, the Lakewood Inn Restaurant is one of the area’s most popular restaurants.
4. Somerset Abbey
Madison’s Somerset Abbey is one of the oldest and most well-preserved structures of its kind in the state, and it’s now a popular community performing arts venue that draws crowds year-round.
Full of fantastic architecture, woodwork, and stained glass, the abbey looks much like it did originally, and is home to a massive pipe organ that’s nearly 100 years old.
The venue now hosts a variety of productions ranging from comedy and drama to live music. During the pleasant spring and summer months, there are usually one or two productions per week.
To see what’s on their calendar of events, check online or ask a local.
5. North Star Orchards
Conveniently located on Orchard Road near Route 43, North Star Orchards is the perfect destination for those interested in spending some time in the great outdoors without sitting in the car for half the day.
In addition to a working orchard where visitors can pick their own apples, the family-owned farm sports an onsite gift shop that’s open year-round and stocked with a variety of local produce, as well as some tantalizing prepared food items like cider, pie, and baked goods.
Offering sweeping views of nearby mountains and rolling hills, the orchard is particularly popular in the fall, when many varieties of apples reach optimum ripeness.
6. Colony House Inn
When it was initially built in 1929, Madison was in the heart of some of Maine’s most natural and rugged forest area.
As it is now, it was a favorite summer escape destination for those who lived in large east coast cities like Boston, New York, and Philadelphia.
The Colony House Inn is the perfect place to hang your hat while visiting the area, particularly for those tired of staying in national chain hotels without any character.
The Inn overlooks scenic Lake Wesserunsett and offers its guests a variety of recreation options, including golf, hiking, swimming, and fishing.
7. Father Rasle Monument
According to historians, the first explorers of European descent to visit the Madison area were Jesuit priests passing through on their way to establish a monastery in what is now Augusta.
At a time when the Native Americans were seen by many as a scourge that needed to be permanently removed from the land, Father Rasle befriended the Indians and encouraged them to defend their ancestral homelands, making him a traitor to most white settlers.
The monument dedicated to Father Rasle is located in Madison and is free to visit. It’s a unique slice of New England that’s not too well known outside the area, and well worth a few minutes of your time.
8. Waterville Opera House
For nearly 120 years, the Waterville Opera House has been one of the region’s premier destinations for a variety of performing arts.
Housed in an 800-seat auditorium that’s much like it was in the past, the venue has been updated over the years and now includes state of the art lighting and sound equipment, making it the perfect melding of the traditional and contemporary.
The Waterville Opera House’s events include a number of educational and instructional programs throughout the year as well.
Known for its charming setting, reasonable prices, and exceptional productions, the Waterville Opera house is the perfect place to spend a few evening hours.
9. Colby College Museum of Art
Though many small liberal arts colleges have museums and galleries, the Colby College Museum of Art is a standout.
In addition to its role as a traditional museum, it offers a variety of instructional and educational events throughout the year; many of them are free and open to the public.
The museum’s programs and exhibits are always expanding, and they often host temporary exhibitions from other institutions as well, so you may see something a little different each time you visit.
The museum is always free to visit, and you may want to take a stroll around Colby’s beautiful campus while you’re there.
10. Maine Film Center
Though often overlooked as an art form, film is one of the most popular contemporary mediums for artistic expression, and the Maine Film Center dedicated to preserving and promoting it.
Part of their focus is to involve children in the wonders of filmmaking; to that end, they host a variety of educational and instructional programs, many of which are led by world-renowned artists and teachers.
Their Railroad Square Cinema is one of the nation’s most well-respected independent theaters, and one of the oldest as well.
Check out the calendar of events on their website to see what’s on the horizon for when you’ll be in the area.
11. Maine International Film Festival
For two decades, the Maine Film Center has been hosting the Maine International Film Festival.
Taking place each year over ten days in mid-July, it is one of the area’s most popular artistic events, drawing visitors from all over the country.
Each year more than 100 films are debuted and include productions from all over the world.
Unlike many independent film festivals, the Maine International Film Festival provides a variety of opportunities to mingle with actors, producers, and performers to get a uniquely personal insight into the industry, and just how much is involved in producing a movie.
12. Bates Dance Festival
No matter when you visit beautiful central Maine, you’ll probably have a variety of annual festivals available to choose from; the Bates Dance Festival in Lewiston is one of the most popular.
It all takes place in Pettigrew Hall on the campus of Bates College in Lewiston at the end of spring.
The event is comprised of a variety of programs which range from amateur to professional and cover a number of distinct age groups as well.
In addition to dance, there will be a variety of other visual and performing arts represented, so check out their website for specifics.
13. Lewiston-Auburn Greek Festival
Taking place over the first weekend in September, the Lewiston-Auburn Greek Festival is hosted by Lewiston’s Greek Orthodox Church, which was founded more than a century ago.
Back in the old days, a number of the area’s mills employed immigrant laborers, many of whom came from Greece. Though many of their descendants have moved on to large cities like Boston, some of their traditions remained in the community.
The Greek Festival is a celebration of all things Greek and includes music, games, religious, and historic exhibits, as well as a wonderful variety of Greek food that is often the star of the event.
14. Great Falls Brew Fest
There’s something about New England that makes it the perfect place for producing great beer.
In recent years, tastes have turned away from the largely tasteless products churned out by the national mega breweries, and many beer enthusiasts have turned to small local and regional breweries to get the products they want.
Since 2014, Lewiston-Auburn has been hosting the Great Falls Brew Fest. Though it started small, it has blossomed into one of the region’s largest and most popular events of its kind.
Now it features products from 50 breweries and a variety of food, games and live entertainment.
15. Kennebec River
Lakes and rivers have always played significant roles in the lives of Maine’s residents, and the Kennebec River runs through many of its oldest towns.
Over the years, it has provided transportation, power for mills, commercial fishing, and a variety of recreational activities.
Featuring some of the state’s best fishing, the Kennebec River and its tributaries offer whitewater rafting, kayaking, canoeing, and camping opportunities to locals and visitors for much of the year.
A variety of guided tour options are available, many of which are in the Madison area. For those who’d rather explore on their own, it’s still possible to find relatively remote stretches of river.