Located in the beautiful mountains of Western North Carolina with the scenic French Broad River running through it, Madison County offers countless ways to enjoy the experience of visiting our area. Whether your interest is in the outdoors, visual or performing arts, traditional music, history, architecture, or agri-tourism, we have something that will make your visit a memorable one.
Summer in Madison County, NC, kicks off the SART play schedule in Mars Hill as well as fun Fridays in Marshall. Hot Springs, NC, hosts the Bluff Mountain Festival of traditional music which is known to attract premier musicians and festival goers from miles around.
Madison County has many places of architectural interest that you might want to visit either in one of the towns or out in the rural areas. Several that are on the National Historic Register are included in self-guided walking or driving tours and there are a few that were designed by the same architect of the Biltmore House in Asheville–including the County Courthouse in Marshall. The town of Mars Hill has several historic buildings on the Mars Hill University Campus and the town of Hot Spring has many historic houses that were associated with the Dorland-Bell Institute.
You might think about spending some time taking a class to learn a new skill. With the talented artists in the county, there are opportunities to make a ceramic pot or a rustic chair. Or, how about trying out a new application of that GPS? Geocaching sites can be found throughout the county–either within one of the towns or out in a rural area. Madison County is home to a disc golf course, too. And, if you want to do some family research, the library has a history room to learn about your ancestors.
With the backdrop of the beautiful fall colors, Madison County has one of the premier festivals in western North Carolina–the Bascom Lamar Lunsford Music Festival. On that same day, the town of Mars Hill is transformed during the day celebrating the Heritage Festival with arts and crafts and old-time craft demonstrations on the campus of Mars Hill University and spreading out onto Main Street.
These western North Carolina mountains are full of talented artists and craftspeople and there are many ways to see the results of their work. Some of the artists open their studios for visitors in their homes or in the renovated Marshall High School on Blannahassett Island while others set up booths at the festivals throughout the warm months and still others offer their work for sale in one of the shops or galleries in the towns.
The geographic and cultural makeup of Madison County, NC, provides a mixture of annual events. Because the French Broad River and the Appalachian Trail are part of our county, there are two festivals which celebrate that aspect which are held on the main street in Hot Springs, NC–Trailfest and the French Broad River Festival.
Madison County is full of historical sites to explore which are marked by Civil War Trails or state historic signs. These range from pre-colonial times of the Cherokee petroglyphs to locations of Civil War events to significant spots in our traditional music or traditional craft history. If you want to discover history indoors, Mars Hill College has some interesting artifacts from the Cherokee artifacts to moonshine history to Bascom Lamar Lunsford documents.
If you are looking for a place to get away from city noise and enjoy a peaceful day or vacation, there are plenty of places scattered throughout the county to do just that. One of the favorites is a soak in the natural hot mineral springs at Hot Springs. Or, how about a picnic at the top of a ridge along the Appalachian Trail on Max Patch Bald. If your tastes run to sitting back and being entertained as a way of relaxing, take in a play at SART combined with a meal of southern comfort food.
A visit to Madison County is not complete without a drive through the mountains and along the French Broad River to enjoy the beautiful scenery afforded in the Blue Ridge Mountains. You can choose to take a driving loop through the county or just pick one of the state scenic byways. In addition to beautiful views, there are also some interesting sites to stop along the way.
In these scenic mountains, it’s all about the outdoors no matter what the season. We have the French Broad River for whitewater rafting, the Appalachian Trail and other trails for hiking, and the elevation in the mountains for skiing. The river can also offer opportunities to kayak or fish. Or try a horseback ride through the mountains or a bike ride on mountain roads. We have a few unique ways to enjoy the outdoors including playing disc golf or shooting sporting clays, too.
Festivals seem to be a way of life beginning in April in the western North Carolina mountains. Whether celebrating the French Broad River, the Appalachian Trail, the blackberry crop or our traditional music heritage, there is a festival for everyone. In addition to festivals, there are events for other diversions such as rodeos and a good old county fair.
Traditional music is at the heart of our heritage and there are many ways to listen to this music throughout the year. Every week on Thursday and Friday nights, you can hear the music FREE. And, like everywhere throughout these mountains, there are annual festivals featuring music in June and October. But, if you just want to learn about our music heritage, you can check out the historic markers which highlight our history.