The fourth largest town in Georgia, Macon is only about a 90-minute drive southeast of Fayette County and well worth a visit. Sitting regally on the banks of the Ocmulgee River, Macon got its start as U.S. Army Fort Hawkins, and as a trading post to meet and interact with Native American Indians. The town was established in 1823. Today it is a thriving city of approximately 92,000 residents.
Bring the whole family for a day trip to Macon. You will find activities to suit all interests, including music, art, African-American culture, prehistoric Native-American mounds, water activities and much more! Here are a few highlights of what you will find in Macon.
Experience the music scene vibe
Macon defines itself as “Where Soul Lives,” and can back up the boast with an impressive list of musicians who called Macon home. Last year, Macon commemorated the late Gregg Allman’s 70th birthday, the 85th birthday of Little Richard and the 50th anniversary of Otis Redding’s death in a plane crash in 1967. Who doesn’t remember Redding’s soulful hit song of the 60’s – “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay!”
Probably the best known and loved group out of Macon is the Allman Brothers Band. The Allman Brothers Band Museum at the “Big House” on Vineville Ave. is the most popular tourist destination in Macon. At the Big House, the band, families, friends and roadies lived, worked and played from 1970 – 1973. Here you can enjoy an eclectic mix of Allman Brothers’ memorabilia, tour the home and wander through the grounds.
Historic, downtown Capricorn Recording Studio, founded in 1967, is one of most significant studios to record southern rock musicians such as Allman Brothers Band, Wet Willie, Elvin Bishop, and the Marshall Tucker Band. Threatened with demolition until a “Save the Capricorn” campaign began, the studio is now being restored and re-imagined as part of downtown Macon redevelopment. Not only is the studio destined to become a thriving music center again, but the rest of the street surrounding the historic site is being developed into lofts and one- bedroom apartments –“the Lofts at Capricorn.”
The Downtown Macon Community Association sponsors a music scavenger hunt. Pick up a self-guided brochure at the Visitors Center, 450 Martin Luther King Blvd., and follow in the steps of Macon’s most celebrated musicians. Take a “selfie” at each location and post it, using #maconmusichunt.
There are more outdoor activities to choose from that you can ever experience in one day or over a weekend, but here are a few recommended stops.
- Cherry Blossom Festival
There is an on-going debate about how many cherry trees actually survive today in Macon, but most agree that over 300,000 Yoshino cherry trees have been planted since the 1970’s! In 1952, the late William A. Fickling, Sr., a local realtor, became fascinated with the Yoshino cherry tree and began propagating them and giving them away to residents of Macon. In the 1970s, a newcomer to Macon, Carolyn Crayton, became enthralled with the beauty of the trees and worked with Fickling to plant hundreds of them around Macon. The Fickling Family Foundation continues to plant new trees each year. The Cherry Blossom Festival became a signature event in 1982.
From Friday, March 16 – Sunday, March 25, you can visit Macon and be captivated by the flowering cherry trees during the ten-day festival, featuring concerts, tours, and hundreds of events. Traditionally, locals wear pink, hang pink wreaths on their doors and pink bows on their mailboxes to celebrate. Downtown Cherry Street even paints a pink stripe down the center line! For more information about the upcoming festival, go to: cherryblossom.com.
- Ocmulgee National Monument
While Georgia does not boast of any national parks, Macon is home to an important national historic site that one day may become a national park – Ocmulgee National Monument. Spanning hundreds of acres, the park features the compelling story of the prehistoric people who lived continuously in the eastern corner of Macon for nearly 17,000 years. Between 900 – 1100, a group of skilled, American Indian farmers, now known as Mississippians, lived here.
They built compact huts and a series of earth mounds that were central to their culture. You can visit these mounds, including the Earth Lodge, a burial mound, cornfield mound, temple mounds, as well as the site of their village and trading post. Start at the Visitors Center for a comprehensive look at the Mississippian culture. Kids will be captivated by the displays and the mounds. For those who have more time, enjoy the picnic areas and six miles of hiking trails. The park is located on Emery Highway and open 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. For more information, go to: nps.gov/ocmu.
Amerson Water Works Park
The crown jewel of Macon’s outside scenery is the beautiful Ocmulgee River, and Amerson Water Works Park, on Riverview Rd., gives visitors the chance to enjoy the splendor of the river while picnicking, hiking, kayaking, tubing or canoeing. A portion of the Ocmulgee Heritage Trail (the River Walk) meanders through Amerson Water Works Park. The park encompasses 180 acres of forest, meadows and wetlands, overlooking the river that curves into a U-shaped oxbow. Once owned by Macon Water Works, the land was donated to the city years after the infamous 1994 flood that irreparably damaged the waterworks. You can still see the high water mark from the flood when visiting the park. The park is open from 7:30 a.m. – 8 p.m. For more information, go to: newtownmacon.com/parks-on-the-trail/#A.
Central City Park
Macon’s first and largest park, Central City Park, on Lower Walnut Street at Seventh St., hosts many of the Cherry Blossom Festival activities and is located at the southernmost end of the Ocmulgee Heritage Trail. Families will find numerous picnicking and playground areas for the kids. The park is also home to historic Luther Williams Field, a charming, throw-back minor league baseball stadium, built in 1929, and considered the second-oldest minor league ballpark in the country. The ballpark was home to various teams including the Macon Peaches and Macon Braves. It has been the site of several movies, including the Harrison Ford movie, 42, about the life of baseball superstar Jackie Robinson, and the Clint Eastwood movie, Trouble with the Curve.
In 2018, Luther Williams Field gets a facelift and becomes the home of the Macon Bacon! According to the Macon Bacon website, it is “the newest team in the Coastal Plain League, sizzling our way into the heart of Georgia!” In its 20-year history, the Coastal Plain League has had more than 1400 players drafted by Major League Baseball and is regarded as a Single-A level. What a great experience to take the kids to see the Macon Bacon this summer. Opening night with fireworks is June 1. Macon Bacon merchandise, including t-shirts and caps, are hot items in the local shops. I bought my husband a Macon Bacon t-shirt. Who doesn’t love bacon and enjoy seeing a slice of bacon swinging a baseball bat! For more information about Luther Williams Field and the Macon Bacon, go to: maconbaconbaseball.com.
Rose Hill Cemetery
It might seem odd to list a cemetery as an interesting destination on a day trip to Macon, but if you like history, natural beauty and visiting the graves of celebrities, then make Rose Hill Cemetery a priority. Situated on 65 acres of rambling ridges, high above the Ocmulgee River, Rose Hill was founded in 1840, and is the resting place of three Georgia governors, over 1,000 Confederate soldiers and Allman Brothers Band members, Duane Allman, Berry Oakley and Greg Allman. The Allman Brothers posed for the back cover of their self-titled, debut album, The Allman Brothers Band, at the Bond family memorial in Rose Hill Cemetery. Fans enjoy coming to the memorial and recreating the photo from the album. A song on another album, “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed,” was named after a headstone the song writer, Dickey Betts, saw at Rose Hill Cemetery.
Explore Eclectic Museums
Macon is home to exceptional museums for almost every interest. Besides the popular Allman Brothers Museum at the Big House, stop by the Hay House, a 7-level Italian Renaissance Revival mansion, known as “the Palace of the South.” Civil War buffs will want to see the Cannonball House, the only building damaged during the Civil War in Macon. Don’t miss the Tubman Museum, the largest museum in the South dedicated to African American culture. Sports enthusiasts will enjoy perusing the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame. My Uncle, Harley Bowers is enshrined there as the Macon Telegraph newspaper’s premier sports columnist and sports editor!
Enjoy some Good Eats!
Macon is known for an eclectic mix of good restaurants, many of which have been around for decades. When visiting with my cousins, we ate downtown on Cherry Street at The Rookery, a mainstay in Macon for almost 40 years. Menu items are named for famous local musicians and while dining, patrons can enjoy live music by up-and-coming local bands. Known for its Sunday brunch, The Rookery makes only 100 biscuits on Sunday, so those in the know, arrive early to ensure they get a biscuit with brunch!
Fish and Pig, on Moseley Dixon Rd., is situated on the banks of Lake Tobesofkee, with great views from the deck, and serves, as its name implies, seafood and pork dinners. Their Low Country Boil is particularly popular. H & H Restaurant was a favorite of the Allman Brothers during their hey-day, is filled with Allman Brothers memorabilia, and has been serving up delectable fried chicken and soul food since 1959. The Bear’s Den, on Oglethorpe St., specializes in Southern comfort food like black-eyed peas, collard greens and fried chicken. Jim Shaw’s Seafood Grill, on Vineville Ave., is considered by many locals to have the best seafood in town.
For more information about planning a day trip to Macon, go to: maconga.org.