Lovely Macon, GA:
Song & Soul of the South
(The 1836-era Woodruff House, 988 Bond St., is one of the many lovely antebellum homes in Macon, GA area.*)
A Rich History, Antebellum Style, and
Music, Sports & Aviation Attractions
By Susan J. Young, Editor in Chief
For more than 17,000 years, native Americans have inhabited the area around modern-day Macon, GA. Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto traveled through the area in the 1500s.
And, in 1806, Thomas Jefferson authorized the building of Fort Benjamin Hawkins, named for an Indian scout sent to the area to set up trading.
In 1823, Macon was founded -- named in honor of Nathaniel Macon, a beloved North Carolinian and friend of Jefferson.
Union General George Stoneman passed close to Macon during the Civil War, but the city was successfully defended several times. Macon only surrendered near the end of the war.
So Macon’s lovely historic neighborhoods of classic Greek revival and Victorian style homes survived intact. Macon has 5,500 individual structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places, including 70 antebellum homes.
Today, they're resplendent and a top tourism draw for visitors traveling through north central Georgia.
Antebellum Style, Southern Spirit
A Greek Revival mansion built in 1853, the Cannonball House was the one home in Macon struck by a cannonball during Stoneman's Raid on Macon in 1864.
Today, 40-minute guided tours of the main house, the original two-story brick kitchen and servants’ quarters give visitors a brief snapshot of life in the 1800s.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Homes, the home is lovingly restored with period furnishings.
The house complex includes a Civil War military collection with officers' uniforms, company flags, swords and guns used by Georgians during the War between the States.
Outside, travelers may view a charming English garden with seasonal blooms. Tours are offered every half hour with the last tour at 4 p.m.
Another gorgeous 1800s-era home in Macon is the Hay House, a National Historic Landmark, at 934 Georgia Ave.
(One of the most popular homes for touring in Macon is the Hay House.*)
Owner William Butler Johnston was the keeper of the Confederate treasury. He and his brother jointly owned a jewelry business in Macon.
Yet, modern visitors will easily believe the mansion he built was the real treasure.
Johnston and his wife Anne spent three years on a honeymoon in Europe. It changed their perspective of life and opulence.
So upon their return home, they re-created a 18,000-square-foot Renaissance Revival mansion resembling Italy’s spectacular palazzos.
Considered one of the most advanced buildings of its generation – for its style, craftsmanship and technological innovations – the Hay House was featured on A&E’s “America’s Castles.”
Visitors who tour the home will likely “ooh” and “aah” at its 18th century furnishings, Carerra marble fireplaces, marble and tromp l’oeil finishes and exquisite plaster work with 24-karat gold leafing and stained glass.
The music room is an architectural triumph with a 30-foot clerestory ceiling.
Why is it called the Hay House? The P.L. Hay family, the last owners and residents, conveyed the property in 1977 to The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation. Today, it’s a National Historic Landmark.
The 1836-era Woodruff House, 988 Bond St., is another antebellum home with a spectacular exterior look.
Col. Joseph Bond, second owner of the home, was the South's wealthiest cotton planter. In 1864, he sold 100,000 bales of cotton for $100,000, a record for the time.
Bond was shot and killed when he confronted a neighboring plantation’s overseer about mistreatment of one of Bond’s oldest and most loyal slaves.
(The Woodruff House, a fine example of antebellum southern styling, was occupied in 1865 by Union General George Stonewall.*)
Another touring option is the charming Sidney Lanier Cottage at 935 High St. Lanier, the famed poet and musician, was born in 1842 in this antebelleum cottage.
(Visitors will view Lanier's writings, his flute and his wife's wedding gown, along with fine antiques and other family artifacts.*)
The home, which has a lovely garden, is a good spot to immerse yourself in poetry.
A pre-packaged ticket, Around Town Tours, includes all three house museums (Cannonball, Hay and Sidney Lanier houses) at a discounted rate. It's available from the Macon Convention & Visitors Bureau's downtown visitor center.
Many of the area's antebellum homes are part of Georgia's Antebellum Trail Pilgrimage, which typically takes places on several consecutive weekends each spring. Some homes are not typically open during the year; packages include multiple tickets.
Macon's Haunted History
Macon has its share of ghostly tales. Ancient Native American spirits reportedly linger among the area’s riverbank mounds.
African American millionaire Charles Douglass is said to keep an eye on his 1921 theatre (shown at right*)
And Miss Elizabeth, a turn-of-the-century hostess, apparently still likes to be properly invited to parties.
To enjoy a driving tour of the haunted sites and tales from history, download Macon's Haunted History Audio Tour.
Musical Genres and Stars
Georgia Music Hall of Fame, 200 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., is a treasure trove of musical memorabilia and story telling.
With exhibits that are extremely well presented, this tourism attraction showcases Georgia’s musical legends -- from country stars to big band sounds, from crooners to southern rock musicians.
We truly loved the way this musical museum is set up.
The facility has “stations” that replicate life in a Georgia town with simulated radio shows about each type of music.
Life size buildings represent a Rhythm & Blues Revue, Jazz & Swing Club, Vintage Vinyl Record Store, a Drugstore, Country Cafe, Backstage Alley, Video Theatre and Gospel Chapel.
As you tour each of the buildings and hallways surrounding them, listen for the songs of Otis Redding, Brenda Lee, Johnny Mercer, REM, Lena Horne, the B52s and James Brown.
You'll also hear the strains of Chet Atkins, Alan Jackson, the Allman Brothers, the Reverend Dr. Thomas A. Dorsey, Tricia Yearwood and Little Richard, to name a few.
(Visitors to the Georgia Music Hall of Fame will peruse colorful costumes belonging to celebrity entertainers as well as artifacts, musical instruments, personal belongings, and music-focused artwork.*)
Bulldogs to NASCAR
Just a short distance from the Georgia Music Hall of Fame is Georgia’s Sports Hall of Fame, 301 Cherry St.
You’ll discover a festive sports aura, artifacts and interactive exhibits in this 43,000-square-foot facility, the largest for any U.S. state.
The building itself resembles a turn of the century ballpark with a red-brick exterior and green roof.
From the old style ticket booths to the brick columns in the rotunda, the museum invites visitors to experience the history of Georgia sports with more than 14,000 square feet of high-energy exhibit space.
(One of the most popular exhibits at the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame is that of the University of Georgia "Bulldogs" football team. Of course, you'll also find artifacts from the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets!*)
More than 1,000 artifacts are on display at any time; the museum’s total collection is about 3,000 artifacts.
The Hall of Fame Corridor honors more than 300 inductees – Georgia athletes who played and excelled in high school, college or professional sports.
You’ll learn about home run star Henry "Hank" Aaron and football quarterback and sports announcer Fran Tarkenton.
The Paralympic exhibit is the largest and most comprehensive collection on the 1996 Paralympic Games in the United States.
You might also peruse the sterling silver bowls awarded to the men’s and women’s champion at the annual Masters Water Ski Tournament.
Or, for something you don’t see every day, view the bow-tie worn by Savannah native Mills Lane while refereeing the Evander Holyfield vs. Mike Tyson “bite-fight.”
The most fun -- and interactive --exhibits are on the second floor.
Designed as hands-on sports fun for kids and adults alike, you might shoot hoops, kick the winning field goal or throw the last second TD pass on a football field.
(My elderly mother loved climbing into a racecar and zooming 'round a fast oval, courtesy of the NASCAR simulator.*)
And yes, you too can climb into a race car and zoom around an oval track at 140 miles per hour -- or at least think you're doing that, courtesy of an authentic NASCAR simulator.*)
From Africa to America
At the Tubman African American Museum, 340 Walnut St., visitors will marvel at a 63-foot long mural by Macon artist Wilfred Stroud.
(The mural, entitled “From Africa to America," is the centerpiece of the museum.*)
You’ll view artwork depicting African American art, history and culture, and peruse 14 exhibition galleries.
One popular draw is the "From the Minds of African Americans," an inventors' gallery. Here you'll discover everything from George Washington Carver’s peanut butter to the modern-day Super Soaker water gun!
You'll also learn about Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King Jr., Otis Redding, Ellen Craft, Minnie Smith and many more notable African-Americans.
The Tubman has outgrown its present building.
(A new 49,000-square-foot facility is under construction; it won't open for a few years, though.*)
Show Time in Macon
Built in 1921 by black entrepreneur Charles Douglass, the restored Douglass Theatre, 355 Martin Luther King Blvd., has hosted greats like Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Ida Cox and Cab Calloway.
Macon’s Otis Redding of “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” fame was discovered here too.
(Music fans may want to head out to see a life-sized bronze statue of Otis Redding; it's overlooking the Ocmulgee River at Gateway Park.*)
Another Macon attraction is the 1916-era Capitol Theatre. From silent movies to talkies, the theatre entertained generations of Macon residents before closing its doors in 1976.
After $1.2 million in restoration work including the addition of a new high definition sound system, this classic venue reopened its doors in 2006.
Today, visitors might enjoy new movies, classic films and live entertainment from comfortable seating while feasting on hot pizza, super subs and cold beer. Check both theaters’ Web sites for schedules during your visit.
At Rose Hill Cemetery, Duane Allmann and Berry Oakley of the Allman Brothers Band are buried side-by-side.
Touring 'Round Town
If you want to see a lot in Macon, why not combine the sights – purchasing one ticket that encompasses discounts for multiple sites.
You might buy the “Downtown” ticket, or the “Intown” ticket. Or, an “Around Town” ticket includes admission to the attractions of both including:
• Cannonball House
• Hay House
• Sidney Lanier Cottage
• Georgia Music Hall of Fame (with displays like this one at right.*)
• Georgia Sports Hall of Fame
• Tubman African American Museum
Adult combination tickets are $32, children’s tickets are $16.50. You may purchase them at the visitor’s center in downtown Macon.
Best of all, individual attractions may be seen on different days as needed for up to one year from the ticket purchase date.
So if you buy the ticket for a weekend visit, but don’t see it all, you may come back again to catch the rest of Macon!
The Historic Macon Convention & Visitors Bureau has a series of suggested themed itineraries for visitors.
Probably the most popular is “In Oprah’s Footsteps” as people continue visiting Macon after seeing Oprah's popular “Favorite Things” holiday show during which she gives everyone in the audience the things she’s discovered and enjoyed all year long.
The episode, as well as an entire “Behind the Scenes” episode, was shot in Macon during November 2008.
Other themed itineraries? Visitors might opt for a vacation that focuses on Girlfriends’ Getaways, Music, Architecture, Nature, Children’s activities, African American Heritage, Churches, Civil War, Golf, Theatre, Art Gallery, Antiques, and Evening Entertainment.
(One of the options on a children's themed itinerary might include Macon's Children's Museum.*)
Visitors may pick up details on these itineraries at the visitor centers. In addition, a three-day itinerary is available in the official visitors guide, available at both centers, by mail or online.
Or, if you want to get out and hoof it in historic downtown Macon, ask the CVB for a copy of the Macon Walking Tour brochure.
From the State Fair to Aviation History
Other diversions? From amusement rides to agricultural exhibits, the annual Georgia State Fair is the longest such fair in the southeastern U.S.
Located at One Riverside Drive in Macon, the fair has been operating for 160 years.
A gorgeous event each March is Macon's Cherry Blossom Festival, with 10 days of special events, tours, exhibits and southern hospitality.
The festivities get under way against a backdrop of 350,000 Yoshino cherry trees.
On Macon's eastern side, the Ocmulgee National Monument, administered by the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, is a memorial to the antiquity of people in North America.
From Ice Age big game hunters to the Muscogee (Creek) Indians, from the War between the States to the Great Depression, the site at 1207 Emery Highway, preserves a 12,000-year history of human life within the southeastern U.S.
(Visitors will see native American burial grounds.*)
The visitor center houses an archaeological museum interpreting the cultures of native Americans who inhabited the site.
The park has 5 1/2 miles of walking trails, meandering through open fields, wooded hills and swampy lowlands along a creek.
Located at 382 Cherry St., the Georgia Children's Museum, opened in 2005, includes an Arts Hall, Young Learner's Exhibition, Black Box Theater and Around the World Cafe.
In North Macon, the Museum of Arts and Sciences features four galleries, a planetarium, a live animal exhibit and Ziggy, a 40-million-year-old whale fossil discovered outside Macon.
One of my favorite attractions in the Macon area is the excellent Museum of Aviation, at Highway 247 and Russell Parkway.
It's adjacent to Warner Robins Air Force Base, south of the city.
(The Museum of Aviation is comprised of several hangars including the Century of Flight Hangar, shown above.*)
In several buildings, you'll eyeball everything from a SR-71 Blackbird to an airplane flown by the Tuskegee Airmen in World War II.
(The galleries are well-designed with dramatic displays that allow visitors to get up close to aircraft, artifacts and exhibitry.*)
The Macon area has approximately 5,500 accommodations of all types – from modern hotel rooms to charming B&B rooms.
During our stay, we opted for the 1842 Inn, a lovely four-star property with Greek Revival architecture.
I felt in good company during my stay. Oprah Winfrey and her staff also stayed here during the Oprah Show's tapings in Macon during 2008.
Nestled amid statuesque trees at 323 College St., the inn combines the aura of a four-star hotel with the amenities and aura of a bed and breakfast.
The home was built in 1842 by John Gresham, former mayor of Macon, attorney, judge and cotton merchant.
He lived in the house until 1900 when it was purchased by the B. F. Adams family.
The Adams family extended the front porch, erected the columns and installed parquet floor and Victorian tile insets on the fireplaces.
Today, the 1842 Inn boasts a wrap-around verandah with 17 white stately columns and good “curb appeal.”
In 1983, a Victorian Cottage, a historic property in its own right, was moved onto the nearly two-acre property to supplement the main house accommodations.
The cottage contains nine fully furnished guest rooms with 12-foot ceilings, pine flooring and a large front porch overlooking the courtyard.
(Guests in the 1842 Inn might have breakfast in this lovely courtyard.*)
Many of the 19 guest rooms in both the main house and the cottage feature fireplaces and whirlpools.
Between the two structures is a lovely outdoor garden with chairs, tables, benches and flowering plants.
From the moment we arrived in early evening, we felt as though this inn was “home.”
After parking our car in the adjacent lot (parking is free), we checked in at the main house and deposited our luggage in the Jefferson Davis room (shown at right*) in the Victorian Cottage.
Then we returned to the main house for a glass of wine and complimentary evening hors d’ouevres.
We nestled into period furniture in the cozy parlor room; with its period antiques, tapestries and fine paintings and decorative goods.
Savoring the treats -- served on silver dishes and displayed on a round table with a white linen tablecloth -- we chatted with the inn’s staff.
When asked if we wanted chocolate chip cookies, we said "yes." Soon, we could smell them baking in the oven.
With an aura that's straight out of "Gone With the Wind," the 1842 Inn has plenty of modern conveniences, including 24-hour concierge service, WiFi, a morning newspaper, and nightly turn-down and shoe shine service.
It's located within a historic neighborhood, so it's a good base for strolling to some of the many antebellum homes in the downtown area.
(Many guests simply enjoy relaxing on the inn's inviting front porch.*)
But if guests wish to work out, they'll receive a complimentary pass to Macon Health Club, a few blocks away.
The concierge will also arrange for guests to visit Healy Point Country Club for a swim, a round of golf or a game of tennis.
All guests enjoy a complimentary cooked American-style breakfast in the main dining room, outside at one of the tables, or in their bedroom.
We opted for the Southern Breakfast of two scrambled eggs, bacon, cheese grits and toast.
Alternatively, guests might select a Plantation Casserole, an egg, bacon and cheese souffle seasoned with herbs, or the French Toast du Jour.
Juice, including orange, apple or tomato juice, is also served, as is coffee and tea.
If you want to dine lighter, the 1842 Inn offers a complimentary continental breakfast; you may choose a croissant, English scone, muffin, bran flakes or shredded wheat.
Your biggest problem in staying at the 1842 Inn will likely be that you'll never want to leave.
Before You Go
For more detail about Macon, contact the Macon Convention & Visitors Bureau. (Its downtown visitor center is easy to find -- just look for the piano keyboard decor.*)
*Photos are owned, copyrighted and used courtesy of Susan J. Young or the Macon Convention & Visitors Bureau. All rights reserved. Please do not link to nor copy these photos. Thank you.