A Parent’s Guide to Madison, AL

I love Madison, AL. I drank the Kool-Aid and am a proud Madisonian.

Does this describe you? Or do you just want to venture over to see what this little city has to offer? Then come with me as I take you on a quick tour of my favorite places in this lovely town. If you’ve just moved to the neighborhood consider me your virtual neighbor down the street!

Outdoor Play

Playgrounds

Final kids_kingdom620.jpgKid’s Kingdom Playground at Dublin Park: In the back of Dublin Park, off of Hughes Road, lies Kid’s Kingdom. This large playground offers plenty of shade and has a pavilion with picnic tables located just outside the gate. Additional picnic tables are located around the perimeter of the playground area. There are restrooms located within the playground fence which is also a huge plus. Much of the equipment is geared towards kids 4+, but I was able to take my littles when they were younger, I just went with them on most of the equipment. View Website

Plenty of fun for little ones.
Plenty of fun for little ones.

Palmer Park Playground: In the middle of Palmer Park (keep going, it will seem near the back of the park), nestled in between the myriad baseball and soccer fields, lies a wonderful playground that is ADA friendly. The restrooms are bit of a hike (in back of the concession stands which are located on either side of the playground), so don’t wait too long to begin the journey for a potty break. There is not much shade, but there are a few covered pavilions nearby. View Website

Insanity Skate Park: Insanity Complex Skate Park is an outdoor 38,000 sq. ft. extreme skatepark for skateboarding and aggressive inline skating featuring Skatelite Pro. They host several regional and national skateboard competitions, and boast a half pipe and several vertical ramps. View Website

millcreek_park_mainNeighborhood Parks: Not a fan of the big playgrounds? Want something close to you? Many of the neighborhoods have playgrounds sprinkled in among them. The City of Madison maintains a database of those playgrounds here. On the go? All the Madison Parks can also be found in the free Rocket City Mom smartphone app. To download the free app visit iTunes or Google Play or text “FamilyFunHsv” to 44848.

Outdoor Recreation

dublinDublin Memorial Park: Before you get to Kid’s kingdom in Dublin Memorial Park, you will pass numerous soccer fields, tennis courts, and an outdoor pool. The park offers paved walking trails, a nine hole disc gold course (no, not kidding!!), seven tennis courts, and an outdoor pool with a diving well and kiddie pool. View Website

Palmer Sports Park: This is THE place to be on Saturdays during ball season. Soccer, T-ball, baseball, softball, and football will all be played in this city facility by Madison kids during their seasons. If you’re an athletic family, you might think of this as your home away from home. View Website


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Greenways

Did you know there are about 6 miles of Greenway trails in Madison? There are even more planned, but right now three greenways exist.

  • Bradford Creek Greenway – This is accessed either at Palmer Park or at Heritage Elementary School off of County Line Road. The trail is 2.75 miles long and has 12 foot wide paths. It offers nice shade and many of my friends love it. Please be careful at Mill Road as you have to navigate traffic to cross over Mill Road to continue on the path. There is a plan to build a bridge in the future to avoid this, but for now please be careful!
  • Mill Creek Greenway – Can be accessed via Mill Road between the Millstone subdivision and Mill Creek Elementary. This path is 0.5 miles long but has a playground and a dog park. Great for a quick bit of exercise and then playtime for the kiddos or the furry kiddos.
  • Rainbow Mountain Preserve – Located off of Stoneway Trail, 1.5 mile long Loop Trail follows a generally rocky path along the cliff ridge and east side of Rainbow Mountain. It features beautiful rock formations, excellent views of Madison to the west, fossils, caves, and a waterfall. Other trails along the Loop Trail include Wild Trail (0.4 miles), JaMooKo Loop Trail (0.9 miles) and Spring Trail.

Indoor Play

Dublin Memorial Park: (I know it shows up on the list three times, but bare with me… totally worth it!) While most people know Kid’s Kingdom, the playground at Dublin, or the soccer fields, there is also swimming, an indoor walking track, and basketball offered. Just go up to the main building in the center of the park. There are fees associated with these activities but they are nominal. View Website

Insanity Skate Park Complex: They just expanded in July, and in addition to their outdoor skateboard park & mini golf, Insanity now also offers indoor roller skating, rock wall climbing, an arcade, air hockey rink, and soon they’ll add laser tag to the list! View Website

Dining in Madison, AL

Date Night

Stem and Stein: Off of County Line Road, close to Palmer Road, sits this little unassuming jewel. It offers simple but delicious food (think charcuterie platters, cheese boards, paninis, etc.) and combines it with a HUGE offering of both craft beer and wine. Their mission is to offer inexpensive quality libations, and I have never been disappointed. Also, if you find a bottle or wine or a kind of beer that you like, they have a package store located on the other side where you may purchase and take home the bottle/six-pack with many delicious wines $15 and under! With wine tastings every Thursday and beer tastings the first Friday of every month, this is a great place for a date night or some quality time with the girls/guys. View Website

Blue Pants Brewery: This brewery and tap room is open six nights a week starting at 3PM. It is located off of Lanier Road (Hwy. 20—behind Wal-mart). It features 1200SF of indoor and 4000SF of outdoor space and offers live music twice a week. What’s offered on tap constantly rotates, there were 10 offerings when I checked out the place this week and ranged from light to dark, so something for every palette. Food offerings come from that of food trucks parked outside of the taproom, but that helps to keep the spontaneity alive! View Website

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Cork and Crust: Also located off of County Line Road, in the forward portion of the strip center that houses Publix, it is an experience not to be missed. While I am including this in the date night section, I can certainly take my kiddos (on a good day) when we want a nice family dinner out. The food here is great. It mainly offers Italian fare with delicious pizza, but don’t ignore the non-pizza offerings. The risotto is my favorite, and the burratta—completely decadent. On a bad day, they offer take-out. What’s not to love about that! View Website

Family-Friendly Dining

Greenbrier RestaurantGreenbrier Restaurant: Known by the locals as “the old Greenbrier”, it is located off of old Hwy 20 in Madison, I can’t say enough good things about this place. I love taking my family here, especially when we have visitors who want a taste of what this area is known for. This place has good bbq including ribs, pork (including ham slice), and chicken, but my favorite is the fried catfish (I get the filet, but my dad LOVES the whole catfish), and the hushpuppies that you nibble on while you wait for your food. This is one of those places that invoke memories of times gone by and there is even a cotton gin across the street. The staff is wonderful and friendly, but don’t expect to find anything harder to drink than soft drinks and the house wine of the South, iced tea. Kiddos have a good menu to pick from including grilled cheese and chicken fingers. View Website

Bento Box: Located in a strip center off of Hughes Road, right before U.S. Hwy 72, is a great Asian fusion eatery called Bento Box. This wonderful place offers an asian version of “meat and three” which is basically what a bento box is. They have rotating meats and delicious veggie sides. I love their tofu and potatoes which I ask for as a main, and their kimchi is delectable. The lily flower salad is also to die for. They offer delicious Korean, Japanse, and Chinese dishses. You can dine in or carry out – my husband and I will get this to go when we have had a long day and are craving something yummy! Their Yelp Reviews

Sady's Bistro

 

Main Street Café: This little restaurant is open Monday-Saturday for lunch only 11AM-2PM. To me, although only opened in 2000, it feels like a part of the tapestry of this town. Located in the city’s third town hall (you can eat in two of the old jail cells if you want), this lovely restaurant offers a varied menu, but I recommend the Southern offerings – the punch tea, crunchy chicken casserole, chicken poulet, and strawberry pretzel salad for dessert. I mean, I always feel a connection to my Southern roots when I am here, and I love reconnecting to it. The food kind of invokes the feeling of a famly reunion or church “dinner on the ground” you know? Just be forewarned about the trains – it sits RIGHT NEXT to the train tracks and the train whistle can be defeaning, especially if you are sitting on the patio. It has never stopped me from enjoying a lunch here with my girlfriends! View Website

Birthday Party Ideas

Insanity Skate Park: In truth, I haven’t had a chance to visit the indoor portion of this venue yet as it just recently had its grand opening. We have been taking the kiddos to mini-golf and the batting cages here for a few years, and they are now offering birthday party packages. Something I am definitely considering for my boys!


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Kid’s Kingdom: Some of the best birthday parties I have been to have been at Kid’s Kingdom. The picnic tables/pavilion are first come, first serve so you will need to get there early to grab your spot, but it is a lovely location for a birthday party. From a 4-year-old’s party which included a piñata to a Minecraft-themed bash for a 9-year-old, this is a great place to host a party – and you can’t beat the price – FREE! View Website

Miscellaneous Tips

Sweet Tooth

Whistle Stop Sweets: Located on Main Street, this wonderful sweet shop offers a throwback to a simpler time. Whether you grab an ice cream and eat it outside at the bistro tables and people/train watch or select something decadent from the candy counter – think different types of fudge, chocolate dipped strawberries, chocolate turtles – or let the kiddos get a mixed assortment of candy from the jars. Their assortment includes super sour things, gummy everything, giant jawbreakers, Pez, and more. I love this place and really enjoy taking my boys here – it can make for a lovely end to a day. View Website

Whistle Stop Sweet Shop

Shopping

If you want that perfect gift, I can recommend two places: Doodles, off of County Line Road and Gillespie, and Daisy Lane Gifts, also off County Line Road and Mill Road. These two shops are close together but surprisingly offer very different items. I love to go to Daisy Lane for the perfect baby gift. They will monogram anything, they did a stocking for me that I got off of eBay, or you can buy one of their precious items and have it monogrammed. For that special older girl in your life, head to Doodles. They had great backpacks and lunch boxes in the windows if you are back-to-school shopping and want that “little extra something” and also offered a few clothing items. I love these two shops – check them out!

Fresh Produce: Madison Farmer’s Market is a great way to get super fresh produce and flowers along with homemade yumminess like cakes, cookies, jams, jellies, and local honey. It is every Saturday until November 11th from 8-noon (but go early for the good stuff) and is being held in the parking lot of Trinity Baptist Church off of Hughes Road. Sprouts grocery store also just opened on Highway 72 and it also offers great produce specials – try to shop on Wednesdays and you’ll get the double sale prices!

Thinking of moving to North Alabama? Check out our North AL/Huntsville Neighborhood Guide with reviews like this of several area neighborhoods .