Things to Do in Madison NJ
When it comes to arts and culture, whether it be performing or visual, Madison may well be the biggest little town in New Jersey.
Madison is home to two of New Jersey’s five professional live theater companies designated by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts as “Major Arts Institutions.” The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, which offers its main stage productions at the Kirby Theatre on the campus of Drew University, is one of the leading Shakespeare theaters in the nation. Writers Theatre has been devoted to the development and presentation of new American plays for 25 years.
In 2003, a sparkling 431-seat, state-of-the-art concert hall opened on the campus of Drew University, presenting music events that draw on the talents within the university community and bring renowned professional musicians from around the world to Madison. The Concert Hall at Drew University is the only facility in New Jersey architecturally and acoustically designed as a single-use forum for the performance of live music.
For jazz, there is no better place on either side of the Hudson River than Shanghai Jazz, named by Downbeat magazine as one of the top 100 jazz clubs in the world. With a regular lineup of world-class jazz artists, fans enjoy the music while dining on outstanding Asian cuisine.
Madison is also home to Harmonium Choral Society, a 100-voice auditioned community choir, which performs a diverse repertoire of musical offerings throughout the year. In addition to presenting their own music programs, they often host world-renowned artists including the American Boychoir and the Harlem Gospel Choir.
The Museum of Early Trades & Crafts is a New Jersey history museum housed in a landmark historic building in downtown Madison. With education as the heart of its mission, the museum tells the stories of the people of early New Jersey, exploring their lives and technology. Drawing from a permanent collection of over 9,000 artifacts, the museum presents educational and historical programs to thousands of visitors each year. With its central location in the downtown business district, the museum is also the Madison Visitor Center and is open to the public six days a week.
Madison is also a haven for visual arts. The Korn Gallery in the Dorothy Young Center for the Arts on the campus of Drew University presents exhibitions on a regular basis. Our vibrant town is also home to many local artists and art classes are offered at Creative Hands, and Art in Progress, two studios primarily devoted to the education of young (and sometimes not so young) artists. Madison Mud is a fine art pottery studio providing classes on the pottery wheel or in hand building. Private workshops and classes offered.
Connecting the arts and culture to the community is the primary focus of The Madison Arts & Culture Alliance, a coalition of arts organizations, cultural institutions, neighbors, colleagues and friends dedicated to encouraging collaborations among the wide-ranging cultural offerings in “the Rose City.” This nonprofit group coordinates local events such as the Holiday Arts Festival, music for Bottle Hill Day, the Madison Sidewalk Gallery. Through continued collaboration, the cultural alliance is dedicated to integrating the arts into daily life and are advocates for arts education in the schools, colleges and universities.
ATTRACTIONS AND EVENTS IN MADISON NJ
The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey: One of the leading Shakespeare theaters in the nation, and New Jersey’s only professional theater company dedicated to Shakespeare’s canon and other world classics. Main Stage: F.M. Kirby Theatre, 36 Madison Ave., on the Drew University campus. (973) 408-5600,
Writers Theatre of NJ: Professional theater devoted to the development and production of new American plays, and provider of writing programs for ages 4 to adult. 28 Walnut St., (973) 514-1787, www.wtnj.org
Shanghai Jazz: Live jazz Wednesday through Sunday evenings, with gourmet Asian cuisine. 24 Main St., (973) 822-2899,
Nicole’s Broadway Dance Company: Offers all students a wide selection of performance opportunities including a competitive dance team, conventions/competitions, dance showcases, charitable promotions and events, holiday shows and year-end recitals. 32 Main St., (973) 503-9500, www.nicbdc.com
The Harmonium Choral Society: One of New Jersey’s leading choral arts organizations. Founded in 1979, the 100-member chorus and its select 20-voice Chamber Singers consist of volunteers, including many music educators, from northern New Jersey and surrounding areas. Membership by audition. Dr. Anne Matlack is artistic director. (973) 538-6969, www.harmonium.org
Grace Community Music: Dedicated to enriching the cultural life of the Madison area by presenting high-quality concerts throughout the year and related events intended to build a stronger sense of community. Tickets are available by donation at the door, or in advance for concerts sponsored by Harmonium Choral Society, Light Opera of New Jersey and Baroque Orchestra of New Jersey events. (973) 377-0106, ext. 17, www.gracemadison.org
Sidewalk Sounds: For over 20 weeks throughout the summer and early fall, local performers offer free sidewalk entertainment as you enjoy the Madison Farmers Market in the heart of downtown. Sponsored by the Downtown Development Commission. (973) 245-3493, firstname.lastname@example.org
Museum of Early Trades & Crafts: Exhibits that explore and interpret the history of the people who lived and worked in the New Jersey area from early 18th to late 19th centuries. (973) 377-2982, www.metc.org
Downtown Concert Series: Concerts cosponsored by the METC and DDC, held on Friday evening throughout the summer. Bring a blanket/chair, sit back and relax with a pleasant evening of music. Picnicking welcome. (973) 377-2982, www.metc.org
Madison Sidewalk Gallery and Art Gala: Outdoor exhibit featuring large, colorful art banners installed in and around downtown Madison, typically held in mid-autumn. Art lovers and collectors will have the opportunity to purchase one of these works of art at the Sidewalk Gallery Auction. www.madisonartsnj.org
Madison Mud Clay Studio: Madison Mud Clay Studio is a fully equipped facility offering pottery wheel classes for both teens and adults as well as handbuilding vlasses for kids age 7 and up. 6 Main St., (973) 520-8480,
Short Stories Bookshop & Community Hub: Features monthly exhibits by local crafts people and fine artists. Art gallery displays works for sale. The open community space showcases leading authors and fosters local talent through community events, music jams, open mics, classes, workshops and book clubs.
23 Main St., (973) 845-6086, www.shortstoriesnj.com
Creative Hands Art Studio and Atelier Gallery: Art exhibits and professional instruction in drawing, painting, sculpture, ceramics and pottery wheel for students from ages three to adult. 14 Kings Rd., (973) 377-2848
Step Right Up Studio: A creative arts studio for special needs kids offering classes in standup comedy, voiceovers, creative writing, creative movement and improvisation. 29 Main St. , www.steprightupstudio.com,
Art in Progress: Children’s art studio. 2 Green Village Rd., 3rd Fl., (973) 660-1122
The Arts at Drew University: Gallery exhibitions, music and theatre performances. (973) 408-3000,
Fairleigh Dickinson University: There are varieties of initiatives proven to be valuable to the community in the arts and beyond. fdu.edu/community-programs
The Arts at College of Saint Elizabeth: Whether it’s the latest art show in the Maloney Art Gallery, or a musical or theatrical performance in Dolan Performance Hall or the Greek Theatre, the arts at CSE bring students, their families and the community together. www.cse.edu/about-cse/the-arts
Madison Public Library: Concerts, art exhibits, lectures. (973) 377-0722
Visual & Performing Arts Department, Madison Public Schools: A comprehensive curriculum from grades K-12 with offerings in music, theater and the visual arts. Exhibits and productions of student and faculty work presented throughout the year. (973) 593-3117, ext. 8954, www.madisonpublicschools.org
Madison Arts and Culture Alliance: Coordinates many programs in Madison that promote cultural events in town.
Top 10 Fun Things to Do
Load the gang into the minivan and drive downtown. Better yet, strap on your helmets and take a ride on one of our expansive bike trails. There is so much to do. Here are our Top 10 ideas for a day together:
1. Be Crafty! Right in the heart of downtown Madison are several kid-centered stores ready to release the artists in everyone. Try visiting Doodlebugzs, Madison Mud or Short Stories for family fun you can take home.
2. Strike it Lucky! Plaza Lanes Bowling is perfect for some activity, some pizza, and a lot of fun. Eat at the bowling alley or walk to one of the five eateries right next door.
3. Hit the Trails! The newly completed MRC Trails are the pride of Madison. Nestled behind the Madison Recreation fields are beautiful trails.
4. Have a Ball! Dodge Field and Playground is one of the most popular and family-friendly parks in the area. The ample fields are used for soccer, football and baseball. On the west side of the fields is a large playground and beautifully maintained basketball courts.
5. Time Travel! The Museum of Early Trades and Crafts (METC) is housed in the Historic James Library, decorated with intricate stain glass windows, stenciled walls and detailed woodwork. Exhibits at the METC invite curious visitors to play games, use tools and learn about pre-industrialized New Jersey.
6. Roll with It! the Morris County Traction Line runs parallel to the NJ Transit train line extending from Danforth Road, near Fairleigh Dickinson, to Morristown. This abandoned trolley line was converted in the 1990s to a walking, running, rollerblading and biking facility and includes historical interpretative signage along its route.
7. Work Out! The Madison Area YMCA offers programming for all ages. Littlest ones can play at “Kid’s Central” in the indoor playground, while teens socialize at Teen Scene. This newly renovated facility also includes a spacious workout room, gym and indoor pool.
8. Dive In! The Madison Pool boasts a drop slide, loop slide, diving boards, kiddie pool, snack bar, basketball hoops, swim lessons, swim team and lots of shady places to sit and relax. Live bands entertain the crowds on various weekends throughout the season.
9. Be a History Buff! Visit Hartley Dodge Memorial (Borough Hall) for a Historic Audio Tour of this breathtaking building. Also available are historic walking tours of the Downtown Madison Landmarks and of the Historic Bottle Hill District.
10. Catch a Flick! Madison’s newly renovated Cinema is located in the beautiful 1930s Art Deco building right across from the train station on Lincoln Place. Enjoy some fresh popcorn, an icy cold drink and first run feature films. Bring the family for special admission prices on Tuesdays!