(UPDATED JUNE 2020) A spring road trip brought my daughter, Taylor, and I to Macon, Georgia, to enjoy the city’s International Cherry Blossom Festival. We enjoyed the sites and tastes of Georgia’s 7th largest city while imagining the grandiose lifestyles from days gone by. This is what we thought were the best things to do in Macon, the city “where soul lives”.
Tour the Hay House
The Johnston-Felton-Hay House (Hay House), one of Macon’s most distinguished and historic homes, has been a National Historic Landmark since 1974. The first floor is elegantly displayed for visitors to admire, with fine works of art, an 80-foot dome, and early luxuries that were unheard of in the 1850s when the mansion was built. I was amazed by the beautiful chandeliers, statues, and drapes.
The Hay House’s arched doorways are reason enough to visit! Restoration is taking place throughout the rest of the house.
Visit the Georgia Sports HOF
Sports enthusiasts will appreciate this well-thought 14,000 square feet museum featuring sports legends from the Peach State, Georgia. Some of the sports represented at the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame are golf, baseball, boxing, gymnastics, and baseball. Be sure to take a picture on the Olympics platform and test your sports ability with the Hall of Fame’s interactive exhibits.
Drop by the Macon Welcome Center
Enjoy a warm Macon welcome at the Visitor’s Center. There are two locations; off of I-75 and in the middle of town. Parking is free. Colorful displays and exhibits show travelers parts of Macon’s past and present. Brochures, catalogs, maps, and magazines can help guide your trip while staff members answer any questions you may have.
Pay Respects at the Cemetery
This fascinating and sprawling cemetery, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is the final resting place for Macon locals and Civil War soldiers. The headstones at Riverside Cemetery date back to 1887. More than 18,000 bodies are buried at the beautiful grounds.
Take a Rock Candy Tour
Macon’s “Where Soul Lives” slogan comes from the number of talented and soulful musicians that are from here or chose to make Macon their home. Otis Redding, Little Richard, The Allman Brothers, and James Brown are among these musicians.
Rock Candy Tours Rock ‘n’ Roll stroll is a 2.5-hour walking tour of Downtown Macon, showing off famous hotspots and places of interest from the music world. Shuttle, bus, and trolley tours are also available. Some of the sites you will see include where Greg Allman proposed to Cher, Jason Aldean filmed his “Gonna Know We Were Here” music video and Otis Redding’s downtown Foundation location.
Explore The Big House Museum
Experience all things Allman Brothers at their one time home, The Big House, converted to a museum. Classic rock memorabilia (clothing, pictures, band instruments, gold records) decorates the house. Enjoy walking through the house, set up as it would have been when the Allman Brothers lived there. Lots of souvenirs are available in the museum store.
Visit the Tubman Museum
The Tubman Museum is the largest in the country dedicated to African American art, culture, and history. Exhibits include a room of moving photography, Otis Redding tribute complete with footage of his family, and inventions from African Americans. Photography is prohibited and it’s doubtful you will make it out of the Tubman without shedding a few tears.
Eat at The Rookery
This energetic restaurant has fun menu items, such as celebrity burgers, pub-style Fish & Chips, and Spicy Pimento Cheese Dip. Locals insist on the Gram Parson’s Cosmic Club, and MoonPie shakes.
I tried the Jimmy Carter Burger, with applewood bacon and peanut butter. It was so creamy and delicious! The Rookery offers a large selection of craft beers and Mexican Coke. In 2014, Garden and Gun magazine voted The Rookery as having one of the best burgers of the South.
The Bearfoot Tavern Gastro Pub and Beer Garden is a sports establishment with quick food service, lively crowds, and noteworthy happy hour specials. Some of the Bearfoot Tavern’s interesting eats include Pimento Bacon Fritters, Luigi’s Spring Rolls, and a Brisket Sandwich with a fried egg. Try to visit the Bearfoot Tavern for brunch, where you’ll want to try the open-faced fried chicken biscuits with sausage gravy. Bearfoot Tavern has live music, 50 beers on tap, and an adorable outdoor patio/beer garden.
Parish on Cherry Street
Parish on Cherry Street is a cajun/creole eatery in the heart of downtown with live music, a festive vibe, and famous dishes you will recognize from The Big Easy, including Gumbo and Jambalaya. Popular Appetizers are Gator Bites, Miss Susan’s Fried Green Tomatoes, and Parish Pickles (deep-fried with chipotle aioli). Bacon lovers must try the Macon’s Bacon, candied with sweet spices and caramelized just right. Yum!
Annual Cherry Blossom Festival
Created from the basic principles of love, beauty, and international friendship, the International Cherry Blossom Festival has been taking place in Macon for 35 years. With the help of 300,000 Japanese Yoshino trees, Macon is covered in pink cherry blossoms, creating the Pinkest Party on Earth. The festival takes place ten days around the typical blooming time. Activities include a Gala, parade, street party, fashion show, and plenty more.
At Macon’s Central City Park, a large carnival unfolds with rides, games, and concessions. A butterfly encounter captivated the old and young while the Atlanta Puppet Show brought smiles to children’s faces. The Cherry Blossom Festival kicks off with a Pink Pancake Breakfast, served by the Macon-Bibb Fire Department. Even the water fountains turn pink for this event!
Where to Stay in Macon
The Burke Mansion is an adorable high-end B&B offering beautifully decorated rooms, treasure-filled common rooms, and an amazing homemade breakfast served on fine china. Late-night sweets, free parking and Wifi, and likeable owners make this a perfect pick for your visit to Macon. Read more about the Burke Mansion in this post.
A second place to stay in Macon that looks and sounds appealing is the 1842 Inn, which has the modern amenities of a luxury hotel and the charm of a country inn. There are 19 guest rooms to choose from.
Macon: A Charming Southern City
The years of the downtown appeal moving to suburban malls have left its mark on Macon. However, the spirit and strength of the community have kept the city relevant. Chances are that the people you encounter will be thrilled for your business and interest in their beautiful city.
The city with soul is worth exploring, whether you choose to see the majestic mansions on College Street, or dining with friends at a local eatery. Macon has something for everyone.
We were hosted by the Macon CVB and were also special guests of the Cherry Blossom Festival Committee for this trip. We did not receive any monetary compensation for this post. As with all posts on this site, all opinions and conclusions are 100% my own and unbiased.
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