Top Ten Ways to Visit & Vacation Like a Local

By Viki Kolyvas

Fact: Madison is a year-‘round vibrant, active community. Yes, Madison is known as a beach town for several months of the year, but make no mistake about it, whatever the season, it’s never boring here! There is a steady underlying heartbeat that makes no demands on you but, rather, invites you to come and enjoy life in the slow lane.

Come experience Madison from the inside out. This is for you who are curious, love meeting new people, will embrace new experiences, and intentionally seek to truly get to know about the people and the places that you visit.

Here are 10 ways we say, “Go Local:”

  1. Local Flavors – From the roadside clam shack to our many fine dining restaurants, Madison is a heavenly playground for Foodies. Read about our wonderful restaurants in “The Madison Foodie” shortcut.But, these are not the only way to satisfy your quest for culinary adventure. We also have many residents who are phenomenal enthusiastic cooks and chefs. Taste their local flavors at:
    • Church suppers such as Harvest Dinners (November), Lenten Luncheons (Winter), Strawberry festivals (June), Pancake suppers and more
    • Fire House breakfasts and dinners
    • American Legion and VFW dinners (corned beef and cabbage in March)
    • Senior Center luncheons (Men over 60 Luncheons)
    • Knights of Columbus Friday Fish Fry
    • Community events and charity fundraisers such as Lobsterfests, Chili Cookoffs, Soup and Chowder competitions like January’s “SOUPER BOWL” – taste and cast your vote for your favorites
    • Farm to Table dinners at local farms (Field House Farm, Barberry Hill Farm)
    • Maple Sugaring events (February & March, Bauer Park & more)
    • An overnight stay at one of our B&B’s for breakfasts worth waking up for
  1. Local Lore – For the curious and for the history buff, learn about local involvement in US history, explore genealogy, peek inside Madison-style historic homes, learn about how regional theater began in Madison, and hear about other accomplishments and eccentricities of Madison’s residents.
      • Historical Society Lecture Series: (Madison’s Connection to the Sea: Ship Building and the Coastal Schooner Trade – select Sunday afternoons); topics of historical interest related to Madison offered at various times and places
    • Library guest speaker programs: lecture series and programs feature as many different topics as you will find in any library
    • Charlotte L. Evarts Memorial Archives (CLEMA): limited hours, and staffed by passionate volunteers, stop in to chat, ask questions, trace genealogy
    • House Tours (Historical Society annual Tour of Remarkable Homes, in June, and occasionally others) give you a glimpse at Madison Style
  1. Local Nature – For you who love to be outdoors and to commune with nature, get to know the local flora, feather and fauna together with others who share your interests and curiosities
    • Bird walks: Given by the Audubon Shop, Bauer Park, & local clubs. Join a scheduled walk or drop in the Audubon Shop and arrange for a private guided birding adventure with a local guide.
    • Hikes and walks: Led by local guides from the Madison Land Trust , Friends of Hammonasset, and Meigs Point Nature Center. More than just exercise, guides will point out what to see and what and why it’s special, season by season.
    • Visit the Mercy Center for a moonlit Labyrinth Walk.
    • Nature talks: If you are more of a spectator than an adventurer, enjoy nature talks, workshops and presentations at the Library, at Bauer park farm, and at the Meigs Point Nature Center. (Samplings include “Learn to recognize animal tracks” or join in a “Groundhog Hike.”)
    • Garden Tours: Get the inside look at beautiful seaside gardens at one of these biennial events (June).
    • Farm Tours: You’ll be surprised at how many farms are here in Madison, and three within a stone’s throw from downtown! If you don’t see a farm tour event listed feel free to contact the farms directly.
    • Geocaching: With dozens, perhaps hundreds, of sites to seek and find, you’ll enjoy nature and are sure to meet some new folks along the way.

Learn even more about enjoying local nature and the great outdoors in the Madison Shortcut “Mad-venture.”

  1. Local Arts & Crafts – Exercise your creativity. This is your opportunity to let go and release your inner artist or art critic. Meet artists and view their works in progress and complete at their studios. Learn to paint or create or hone your skills under the care of an artist at a single class or a semester’s series.
    • Art classes: Guilford Art Center, Killingworth Art Center
    • Paint and Sip events & Paint Nights for Grownups: An abbreviated art class, meant for fun and fellowship, these often include locally crafted wine or a microbrew as a local artist helps you to create art, paint a painting, decorate glassware, and more. You’ll take home your evening’s masterpiece as a memento.
    • “Creations & Libations:” Craft night for grownups at a pub or restaurant – can be found at as well as directly to pub or restaurant web sites
    • Artist’s Studio Tours: Organized weekends or individual openings or by appointment – ask questions and hope they’ll share about their passion and inspiration with you
    • Artist demonstrations at libraries, outdoor art shows, churches, and wherever else they might be happening when you’re in town
  1. Local Sounds – Talented and gifted local musicians of all ages are performing in all seasons. Catch a performance and perhaps you’ll see and hear a future star. Find them here:
    • High school plays and concerts
    • Community music concerts: Seasonal community chorus and orchestral concerts are performed at school auditoriums and churches
    • Fair-weather outdoor evening concerts featuring popular local groups, invite you to bring a picnic and a blanket to our beaches, town green, and the occasional private property
    • Church music series: North Madison Congregational Church “Fire in the Kitchen” series, First Congregational Church music series, and others, feature local church musicians and visiting performers
    • Library music series host local and visiting musicians, including instrumentalists, vocalists, and singer-song writers
    • School of Rock invites you to enjoy student and faculty concerts and recitals, as well as performances at community events
    • Opera Theater of CT presents the finest quality live, affordable opera in an intimate setting
    • Madison Lyric Stage and the Ivoryton Playhouse offer live performing arts, presenting finest quality opera, chamber music, theater and dance.
  1. Local Motion – For you who like to be in motion, seek interesting activities to help you to reach your daily 10,000 steps, or hope to find a new active lifestyle, join us locals in places like:
    • Yoga classes
    • Cycling events at local clubs or charity fund raisers (VISTA Tour-de-Shore, Cycle Against Cancer)
    • Fun-runs, walks, and marathons: holiday themes (Leprechaun 5-Miler, Turkey trot)
    • Contra dances, Open dance parties, Ballroom Line Dancing
    • Tai Chi for Seniors
    • Penguin Plunge – for the brave swimmer
  1. Local Games – For the sports enthusiast or for the gamester, join in or be a spectator and fan at:
    • High School Athletic events: Football, Baseball, Soccer, Track Meets, etc. – see future Olympians and famous athletes where it all begins
    • Bingo nights at churches
    • Charity game nights
  1. Local Brain Teasers – Are you looking for intellectual stimulation? Learn something new or contribute to the conversation at one of these activities:
    • Trivia Nights at libraries, Chamard Vineyard, bistros, wine bars, breweries, churches
    • Author events and book signings at R.J. Bookstore and other venues
    • Library book sales
  1. Local Hearts – So much of local life revolves around caring and sharing. Dozens of charities and organizations offer opportunities to give back, pay it forward, and put action to hopes of making things better for others. Meet others with caring hearts at events and activities like these:
    • Madison Happiness Club: monthly meetings and speakers promote being happy – a good way for those who do so much for people all around them to ”become happy within themselves so they can continue to give to others.”
    • Wear your finest and fanciest duds and join others to dine and dance the night away at theme parties (Oscars), galas (Starlight Gala) and benefits (Vista)
    • Charity “Fun-d” raisers: Movie nights, Pasta and Karaoke, chocolate to the rescue, Cheers for Charity Beer Fest
    • Touch-a-Truck events for kids
    • Culinary arts events (Exchange Club), wine tastings, beer tastings
    • Tavern nights & paint Nights at pubs – raise a glass and a paint brush to help others
    • Comedy for Cancer – because laughter is a great medicine
    • Fashion shows – support a local cause while you get a peek at what’s new in unique boutiques
  1. Local Hobbies – Have you brought your hobby with you and want to meet and mingle with others who share your passion and perhaps learn something new? Are you thinking about a hobby and want some hands on experience and to find out more to see if it’s something you really want to pursue? Here some activities to get you started:
    • Coastal Camera Club
    • Special cinema screenings – library, Madison Art Cinemas, [e.g.- Golden Age of Italian Cinema)
    • Gardening Classes [Bringing Birds and Pollinators to Our Backyards and Gardens]
    • Poets groups, book clubs
    • Knitting groups, other fiber arts
    • Quilters groups, other fabric arts
    • Treasure hunting (tag sales and charity thrift shops)

RESOURCES: Churches, Schools, Library, Senior Center, Artist Studios and Art Centers, Philanthropic Organizations, Chamber of Commerce, Vineyards & Wineries, Specialty Shops, Restaurants, “The Source” weekly newspaper,, (search for Madison CT events),, bulletin boards.