Macon might be best known as the home of Southern rock and soul – after all, it’s where Otis Redding, the Allman Brothers, and Little Richard launched their illustrious careers – but there’s far more to the central Georgia city than deep musical roots.
Thanks to the revitalization of Macon’s historic downtown, which kicked off about a decade ago, there’s been a steady uptick in new and notable restaurants, bars, shops, and cultural venues. And no matter where you find yourself – whether it’s the Tubman Museum to brush up on your history or Macon Bagels to start your morning off right – you’ll discover a community that’s warm and eager to share everything they love about their city. No wonder Macon’s referred to as “Where Soul Lives.”
Here, a weekend guide on where to stay, what to eat and drink, and what to do in Macon.
Macon’s Best Hotel
When Hotel Forty Five opened earlier this year, Macon finally got the hip hotel it deserved. Situated at the unique 45-degree angle where Cherry and First Streets meet Cotton Avenue (hence, the name), the 94-room boutique property occupying the historic Willie C. Hill Annex building feels fresh and modern while nodding to the past. Many of the structure’s original details like the terrazzo tiling on the first and second floors were thoughtfully preserved, while a palette of ivy green, cherry, and ivory and a mix of woods, stone, and copper subtly bridge the old and new.
The accommodations are stylish with throughtful accents such as mini Smeg refrigerators and peach blossom-scented bathroom amenities, and with three options, eating and drinking well come easily at the hotel, too. Reckon Coffee and Wine Bar is a cheery cafe by day and wine bar by night. Open for supper, the signature restaurant Loom specializes in locally-sourced Southern comforts with a twist (think Fried Green Tomato Napoleons, Pimento Cheese & Mac, and Smoked Chicken Chowder). And Hightales, the hotel’s rooftop bar, marries unbeatable views of the city with imagnative libations like Laid Back, a fizzy refresher made with Ketel One Peach and Orange Blossom, fresh peach, and club soda.
Macon’s Best Restaurants and Bars
When it comes dining around town, it’s the independently-owned newcomers that shine especially bright. Owned by Chelsea Hughes, Asian-inspired Kinjo pairs smoked prime rib Bibimbap, Tonkatsu with blackberry BBQ sauce, and brown sugar-crusted hamachi with a well-curated sake list in a welcoming, inclusive setting. (Plus, the kitchen is open late and offers lots of wallet-friendly food and drink specials.) At Macon Bagels on Third Street, couple Lauren Bone and Patrick Rademaker hand roll, boil, and bake the area’s best bagels, while Kimchi Factory by Miyang Kim cooks up homestyle Korean cuisine from Kimchi Jeon (savory pancakes) to Yukgaejang (spicy beef soup) in the space that institution Len Berg’s called home for nearly a century.
Macon’s classic spots shouldn’t be missed, either. Started in 1916, Nu-Way Weiners (not a typo) has since expanded to nine locations but still doles out its famous red hot dogs – best done up “all the way” with mustard, onions, and homemade chili sauce – and sodas with flaky ice. For another unique taste of Macon, head to Tina Dickson’s Ingleside Village Pizza. Open for 30 years, the specialty of the house is hearty pizzas with delightfully puffy, subtly-sweet crusts.
At 543 Cherry Street in downtown, discover not one, but two beloved spots. On the ground floor, The Rookery has been flipping the city’s most creative burgers like the peanut butter-topped Jimmy Carter since 1976, while Dovetail upstairs is the area’s go-to spot for refined Southern fare and cocktails with zero pretense. To eat in a bit of musical lore, check out the historic steakhouse and cigar bar Downtown Grill, where Gregg Allman famously proposed to Cher in 1973.
Best Things to Do in Macon
Moving and breathtaking, Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park spans 701 acres and over 12,000 years of continuous human history, from the Paleo Indians to most recently, the Muscogee Nation. Though the seven Mississippian-era mounds are the biggest draw, the tranquil grounds also are home to eight miles of trails, diverse wildlife, and over 400 plant species. And with the acqusition of more than 900 surrounding acres earlier this year, along with ongoing efforts to preserve and promote Native American history and culture, the park is well on it way to being designated as a National Park.
An easy thirty minute drive from Macon will lead you to Lane Southern Orchards. Founded in 1908 and open all year long, this family-owned business is renowned for producing Georgia’s best peaches and pecans – which are featured in fresh peach ice cream, cinnamon pecan bread, and other scrumptious treats at the bustling roadside market. For a more intimate shopping experience, drop by Mulberry Market. Held on Wednesdays from 3:30pm to 6:00pm in Tattnall Square Park, this charming outdoor market expressly works with local artisans and vendors like natural jam maker Rosa Ray’s Market Fresh.
For your culture fix, there’s plenty of options. Music buffs will flip for the tiny-but-mighty Otis Redding Museum – it’s part of the Otis Redding Foundation, a nonprofit managed by Otis’ widow Zelma Redding that empowers children through music – Allman Brothers Band Museum at The Big House, and Mercer Music at Capricorn, where luminaries like the Allman Brothers and Percy Sledge recorded in the studio’s heydey.
Opened last winter, Triangle Arts is a creative hub like no other. Spread across four acres in the Tybee neighborhood, this visionary multi-use complex champions diversity with the largest display of street art in Middle Georgia. Downtown, Macon Arts Alliance Gallery supports local artists representing disciplines from painting to pottery, with every item on display available for purchase. Another can’t-miss institution, the Tubman Museum traces the stirring and deeply important legacy of African American art, history, and culture with permanent and visiting exhibitions, and educational opportunities.