5 Reasons to Visit Madison, New Jersey

by Helen Navas Carrera
madison new jersey

Home to Fairleigh Dickinson and Drew University, Madison, New Jersey is consistently ranked one of the country’s safest college towns. Although, this New Jersey suburb is more than just a hub for students. With numerous quaint shops, fine dining restaurants, and scenic architecture, a stroll through Main St. feels like you’re the main protagonist of the Hallmark rom-com of your dreams.

With so many things to do in Madison, this Morris County town is worthy of a stop on your next day trip outing. Read on for our top five reasons to visit “The Rose City.”

The Dining Locales

Madison, New Jersey has a robust dining scene with restaurants that offer just about every cuisine. If you’re looking for a laidback Indian eatery, Begum Palace in Madison Plaza is a must-visit. Begum Palace offers authentic fare, order the tandoori rack of lamb for a finger-licking experience. If their extensive menu seems daunting, try the buffet option. Looking for phenomenal BBQ? Visit Daddy Matty’s BBQ on Elmer St.

Another low-key destination is one of Madison’s newest restaurants, Delikositas. This locale specializes in Colombian cuisine and offers the best empanadas in town. But if you’re looking for something more filling, you must try the bandeja paisa. Then, finish your meal with a pandebono—traditional Colombian bread made of cassava starch, eggs, and cheese—dipped in coffee or hot chocolate for a sweet and savory dessert.

Visit Shanghai Jazz Restaurant & Bar on Main St. for a more upscale experience. Shanghai Jazz specializes in Asian fare, entertains eaters with the smooth tunes of jazz, and often hosts live performers. This Madison, New Jersey locale also houses a speakeasy below the restaurant. We recommend booking a reservation ahead of your visit so you don’t miss out on the fine fare and entertainment. If authentic Italian cuisine is more your taste, head to Osteria Trevi. Madison’s destination for a taste of Italy uses the simplest ingredients to elevate old recipes with new traditions.

The Scenery

Madison, New Jersey gained its nickname—The Rose City—from its production of roses. For over a century, the town flourished as one of the nation’s prime producers of the flower. This booming industry supported hundreds of workers from all backgrounds, leading to the growth of varying cultures in the community. As a result, the town became a hub for high society. In the 19th century, wealthy owners established houses along Madison Avenue between Madison and Morristown. Known as Millionaire’s Row, some of these Victorian, Georgian, and Edwardian homes are available for tours or rentable for special occasions. With a rich architectural history, this suburb recently made headlines when Mowery Marsh Architects developed a passive house in town.

Madison Mead Hall at Drew University

If you’re up for a stroll, Drew University is worth a visit. Known as the “University in the Forest,” Drew’s campus sits on nearly 200 wooded acres. We recommend you view the S.W. Bowne Great Hall (which students have dubbed “the Harry Potter building”) and marvel at Mead Hall—the perfect example of the Greek revival style of architecture. If architecture is less your style, the campus is still worth a visit. Here, you can see where some of your favorite movies and shows were filmed. Jersey favorite “The Sopranos,” Woody Allen’s “A Rainy Day in New York”, and rom-com “The Family Stone” were all filmed (at least partially) on Drew’s campus.

Unique Shops

While visiting a restaurant is an obvious must-do while in Madison, the unique shops are really what makes a trip to the area worthwhile.

If you’re a bookworm, The Chatham Bookseller is your one-stop shop for scholarly books, art, literature, and rare finds like first editions and ephemera. Looking to acquire one-of-a-kind finds? The Chatham Bookseller has four volumes of Eugène-François Vidocq memoirs and Edgar Allan Poe’s complete works. If you’ve been searching for a book but can’t find it, ask owner Richard Chalfin for help—he wants to send everyone home with their perfect find. However, if you can’t find your book, Chalfin will rummage through the store’s two basements of books for you.

New Leaf Consignment opened its doors in Madison nearly 30 years ago. Owner Arleen J. Gaetani founded the store in an effort to be more conscious of the environment. Her mission is to recycle new and gently used merchandise to let that piece “turn over a new leaf.” If you’re looking for a new statement piece without breaking the bank, and want to engage in sustainable practices, New Leaf Consignment is your go-to shop for eco-friendly finds.

Are you a quirky spirit with an eye for distinctive pieces? If so, look no further than Hat Shop Madison. Monika Stebbins is a milliner and owner of this hat shop that offers headwear for people of all ages and tastes. Stebbins stocks and handmakes all kinds of hats ranging from the typical sunhat to more fanciful fascinators.

One-of-a-Kind Experiences

If you’re looking for a classic pastime, visit the STRYXE bowling alley in the Madison Plaza. Want more brain exercise? Head to the Escape Room on Waverly Pl. and choose from three rooms to see if you can find all the clues and escape within 60 minutes. For a more hands-on activity, stop by Mud Clay Studio to practice your skills on the pottery wheel. Or book a “claydate” for a private BYOB experience to see if that erotic pottery scene in “Ghost” is truly as romantic as it seems.

If you’re less of an artsy-type, try your hand at making some delicious meals from scratch with a cooking class at Healthy Italia. Cooking classes include family-friendly and BYOB options. For those in need of some rest and relaxation, we suggest you book a session at Beneath The Surface Spa in Madison. Enjoy a massage or facial to leave Madison on cloud nine.

Madison’s Arts & Culture Scene

If you would like to learn more about New Jersey’s history, culture, trades, and crafts, the Museum of Early Trades & Crafts is a must-visit. The museum’s building is a prime example of Richardsonian Romanesque Revival architecture, and its collection focuses on the life of 18th and 19th-century craftsmen and artisans. The museum displays over 8,000 objects and previous special events include a woodworking workshop, art auction, Lenape life exhibit, and pandemic historical exhibition.

For those interested in entertainment, the Shakespeare Theatre of NJ is located on the Drew University campus. Shakespeare’s most renowned plays are frequently on show. However, plays by Charles Dickens, Richard Nash, and Ken Ludwig, among others, also take the stage. In the summer, performances are held on the outdoor stage in the grass-and-stone amphitheater of the St. Elizabeth University campus.

How do you spend a day in Madison, New Jersey? Did we miss any of your must-visit stops? Let us know in the comments below.

Main image by Wirestock Creators

About the Author/s

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Helen is an editorial intern at The Digest. A senior at Drew University, she enjoys cooking and listening to music. When she's not working in the kitchen, she's typically catching up on pop culture news.

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