Tree-lined streets with stately antebellum and Victorian mansions. A historic downtown that evokes images of ye Olde South still unblemished by sprawl. And a cultural center and gallery space that recently featured an exhibition of Andy Warhol prints. Yes, it's a good thing – as the local chamber of commerce claims – that Sherman "refused to burn" Madison.
To reach the bucolic northeast Georgia city that's more Norman Rockwell than Andy Griffith, travel east from Atlanta on I-20 for 60 miles. Take exit 114, turn left, and in two miles you'll find yourself driving into the city's historic downtown district. The area's filled with antique shops and places to dine. Make sure you pop into J&K Fleas An'Tiques (184 S. Main St., 706-342-3009, www.j-and-k-enterprises.com), a 12,000-square-foot showroom with everything from 18th-century furniture to folk art. Perk Avenue (111 W. Jefferson St., 706-342-2562, www.perkave.com) offers fresh-roasted coffee to sip while you shop.
If you're looking for culture without making the drive to nearby Athens, the Madison-Morgan Cultural Center (434 S. Main St., 706-342-4743, www.mmcc-arts.org) offers films, concerts and art exhibits. Located in the city's majestic, Romanesque Revival-style former school house, its well-preserved auditorium was reportedly the set of R.E.M. and Of Montreal music videos.
Ye Olde Colonial Restaurant (108 E. Washington St., 706-342-2211) is a down-home meat-and-three located in a former county bank. (Eat your meal in the old vault for extra ambiance.) Also worth a visit: the Madison Drug Company (213 N. Main St., 706-342-1722), an old-fashioned pharmacy with counter service where you can feast on hot dogs, burgers and sandwiches. If you're looking for a sit-down meal after a day spent moseying through Madison, steak-and-seafood eatery Town 220 (220 W. Washington St., 706-752-1445, www.town220.com) offers a full list of entrées in a relaxed setting (and a commendable wine list). Just be safe driving home.