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If I’m honest, I don’t think I ever gave Macon, Georgia, much of a chance. I dated someone from Macon after my divorce, and it ended with me being ghosted. I can hardly blame the city for that. Later, an abusive ex took me on a drive out to Macon and spent that drive berating me.
Again, Macon isn’t at fault for any of that. Yet, I developed a reluctance to truly explore a city that I associated with negative memories. But on a beautiful fall day, I decided to give Macon the chance I never had before. (Spoiler Alert: I’m glad I did!)
18 Unique Things to Do in Macon
Macon is about an hour and 20 minutes outside of Atlanta. I had looked up popular points of interest but made room in the schedule for exploring sites that appealed to me along the way. Here are 18 unique things to do in Macon. You’ll need at least an entire day to see all these sites, but I recommend taking more than a single day in Macon if possible.
1. Have a Picnic at Amerson River Park
We’ll start with Amerson River Park. It’s a great spot for individuals, couples, and families to explore. There’s plenty of hiking to do in the park, and you’ll find many picnic areas as well as a state-of-the-art accessible playground. There are 180 acres of forests, meadows, and wetlands in the park. During the warmer months, you can enjoy tubing, canoeing, kayaking, or paddleboarding the river at the park.
It’s the perfect spot for a family picnic and daytime outing. Nearby Washington Park is another great picnic option.
Address: 2551 Pierce Dr. N.
2. Visit the Ocmulgee Mounds National Historic Park
My first stop in my day trip to Macon was to Ocmulgee Mounds National Historic Park. I’ve heard of it for years, but this was my first visit. The National Park Service has a well-curated exhibit along with a small gift shop and restrooms in the visitor’s center.
From there, you can walk to the Earth Lodge, the Great Temple Mound, the Funeral Mound, and the Ocmulgee Rive. You can also take part of the Heritage Trail inside the park.
What’s interesting about this park is that it preserves a prehistoric indigenous site. American Indians came here during the Ice Age during the Paleo-Indian Period over 12,000 years ago. The Paleo Indians were followed by the Archaic and Woodland Indians. Around 900 CE, the Mississippian Period began, which is when the mounds in the park were built. The Lamar Culture followed this period, and the Muscogee Creek Indians would come to settle here and consider Macon their ancestral lands.
You can actually enter the Earth Lodge if small spaces don’t bother you. Once you get through the cave-like entrance, it does open to allow standing room. It’s small, but it’s a fascinating look at the preserved indigenous culture here. Along the way, you’ll read historic markers about how the railroad eventually came through the settlement, and then you can climb to the top of the Great Temple Mound with views of downtown Macon and the river.
This park is completely free, but you’ll want to keep a few things in mind. Bring water and sunscreen. You can drive to many of the sites, but if you choose to walk between them, you’ll want to make sure you’re hydrated and protected from sun exposure.
Also, keep in mind that this park is home to alligators. While I didn’t see any on my trip, friends have attempted to scare me (and have succeeded) by assuring me that the alligators saw me. Take precautions.
Address: 1207 Emery Highway
3. Explore the Ocmulgee Heritage Trail
This is one of the best things to do in Macon, GA. I only got to see the Ocmulgee Heritage Trail within Ocmulgee Mounds National Historic Park, but this trail runs through several parks. The trail includes Amerson River Park, Jackson Springs Park, Dr. William G. Lee Camellia Gardens, Spring Street Park, Otis Redding Memorial Bridge, Carolyn Crayton Park, Charles H. Jones Gateway Park, Rotary Park, and Riverside Cemetery.
You could spend an entire day just exploring the many parks along the trail. Just remember to bring sunscreen, water, and perhaps a picnic lunch.
Address: 555 Poplar Street (or at any of the aforementioned parks)
4. Pay Your Respects at Rose Hill Cemetery
Historic Rose Hill Cemetery might not seem like a cheery destination for a day trip or vacation to Macon, but it has some interesting points of interests. One of the most popular gravesites is for the Allman Brothers Band. Bandmates Gregg Allman, Duane Allman, and Berry Oakley are buried together in a fenced-in section of Rose Hill Cemetery.
Surrounded by roses, this is a beautiful place for fans to come and pay their respects, and you’ll also find many other interesting stones, monuments, and statues within the cemetery grounds. Throughout the year, you can find historic tours of the grounds.
Address: 1071 Riverside Drive
5. The Big House Museum
To learn more about the Allman Brothers Band, you can visit The Big House Museum. Unfortunately, I ran out of hours in the day before I could visit. However, from my research, I know that the museum features band memorabilia as well as extensive history of the band’s origins and work.
You can take a tour through the place the Allman Brothers once called home and see where the music was born.
Address: 2321 Vineville Avenue
Cost: $20 regular, $15 senior/military/student, $10 children 10 and under
6. Stop by Wesleyan College
While you’re visiting Macon, stop by Wesleyan College to see the home of the Georgia Female College, which was chartered in 1836 and opened in 1839. The college continues to offer college degrees to women in a variety of professions.
You can schedule a tour of the college grounds to visit the Willet Memorial Library, the Porter Family Memorial Fine Arts Building with year-round art exhibits, athletic facilities, the Valeria McCullough Murphey Art Building, the Munroe Science Center, and Taylor Falls’s LEED-certified green building.
Address: 4760 Forsyth Road
7. Visit the Tubman Museum
The Tubman Museum of African American Art, History, and Culture is certainly one of the more unique destinations in Macon. The museum focuses on the contributions of African Americans on social, technological, commercial, and artistic development in the United States. The Untold Stories exhibits also features documents the African American experience.
The museum also features Macon’s influence on R&B, Soul, Southern Rock, and pop music by exploring the legacy of artists like Pearly Brown, Johnny Jenkins, James Brown, Otis Redding, the Allman Brothers Band, and many more. You can also check out the current exhibits on display. At present, Reparative Justice: Hidden Histories will be available from August 27th to December 2023.
Address: 310 Cherry Street
Cost: $10 adults, $8 adult group rate (18+), $6 children/teens age 3–17, $9 AAA/AARP members/seniors/college students/educators/military
8. Take a Tour of the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame
You’ll find the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame directly across the street from the Tubman Museum, making these two ideal companions for your trip to Macon. Although I didn’t have time on my trip to tour them, they are both impressive museums that are worth a return visit.
This 43,000 square foot museum is one of the largest sports museums in the United States. Sports enthusiasts won’t want to miss the historic memorabilia housed in this notable collection.
Address: 301 Cherry Street
Cost: $8 adults, $6 seniors/college/military, $3.50 children 16 and younger
9. Sit, Stay, and Drink at Barks N Brews
Barks N Brews wasn’t on my original list for my day trip to Macon, but when I saw it, I had to turn around and check it out. Although I didn’t have my Welsh Terrier with me, the friendly staff was happy to welcome me and to share the story of single mom, dog owner, and Macon native Kate Lambert Barnes who started Barks N Brews to help socialize both pets and people.
The park offers day passes as well as monthly and annual memberships for its guests. Dogs must be up-to-date on vaccinations (and show proof) and if over a year old, they must be spayed or neutered. Puppies must be at least 4 months of age to enter, and all pups must be non-aggressive. The park requests that no outside food, toys, or drinks be brought into the park, and smoking is prohibited.
Not only is this a very cool business idea, but it hosts some pretty special monthly events including dog yoga (Doga), a Habitat 4 Hounds PJ Party, a golden retriever meetup, and a rescue dog social that helps dogs find their fur-ever homes. Plus, it’s a great place to socialize with other dog owners while the pups get some much-needed playtime.
I fully intend to bring my pup, Sully, back to the park to play as soon as possible. I love to support women-owned businesses, and I appreciated the friendliness of the staff.
Address: 695 Riverside Drive
Cost: $10 day pass per pup, $30 monthly membership, $265 annual membership
10. Take a Selfie at Macon Memories Photo Spots
Downtown Macon offers several Instagram-worthy photo spots. They only ask that you share and tag #VisitMacon and #MaconMemories to spread the love.
Download the “Tour Macon” app for the full list, but some of the highlights include the H&H mural, Triangle Arts Macon, The Big House gates, Tattnall Square Park, and more. I found this one in front of The Redding Center for the Arts in downtown Macon. You could easily spend the day seeing the sites and taking selfies around town.
Address: 73.3 miles
Cost: 1h 20
11. Find New Tunes at Fresh Produce Records
Record stores call to me. I love to find record shops and bookstores in any city. While I wasn’t able to find a bookstore that I wanted to feature in Macon, I did find this incredible record store. You’ll find a variety of albums in the store, including new arrivals, autographed vinyl, and used or reduced titles.
You’ll even find a limited selection of CDs and cassette tapes. And you’ll also find all the vinyl accessories and supplies you need. The store has a very cool vibe you’ll want to check out if you love music and vinyl records.
Address: 567 Cherry Street
Cost: 1h 20
12. Play the Day Away at Reboot Retrocade & Bar
Reboot Retrocade & Bar proudly proclaims itself as the Nerdiest Bar in Town. If you like vintage arcade games, you’ll love this bar. While children are allowed in Reboot, all children must be accompanied by an adult, and there cannot be more than 2 children to any 1 adult. If you enter after 6pm and are between the ages of 18 and 20, there is a minimum game token purchase.
Google reviews of the location also state that there’s a $10 cover for children after 6pm but that it includes $10 in game tokens, and most machines only take 1 token per game. This old-school gaming location is a perfect stop for your trip to Macon. It can be a fun place to take your kids or go for a retro date night.
Address: 566 Cherry Street
Cost: $5 minimum purchase on weekdays, $10 minimum purchase on weekends
13. Check Out Cannonball House
Cannonball House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was built in 1853. It got its name from cannon damaged that took place during the Civil War in the Battle of Dunlap Hill in 1864. You can tour the home 6 days a week and see artifacts from the antebellum and reconstruction eras.
While you’re in the area, check out The Grand Opera House at 651 Mulberry Street. Regular events at The Grand include Broadway shows, concerts, comedians, and films. When planning your trip, consider adding a show nearby to your agenda.
Address: 865 Mulberry Street
Cost: $12 adults, $10 senior/military, $5 students K5-college, FREE under age 4
14. Marvel at the Grandeur of Hay House Museum
The Hay House Museum is a National Historic Landmark and contains 18,000 square feet of historic exhibits. You’ll learn about the Johns. Tons, Feltons, and Hays families and the rich history of their home. Fans of Downton Abbey will enjoy the upstairs/downstairs quality of the tour as you’ll be able to view the basement where the servants worked in the scullery, kitchen, and larder.
You can even take a behind-the-scenes tour for $35. The museum contains portraits, statues, stained glass, and other art. It’s the perfect destination for history buffs, art enthusiasts, and fans of architecture.
Tip: If you like historic homes, you might also want to include a visit to the The Burke Mansion on your trip. It’s another location listed on the National Register of Historic Places and now operates as a bed and breakfast establishment. It’s approximately $200/night to stay in this B&B, but it will allow you to experience its history and grandeur on your visit; it’s located at 1085 Georgia Avenue.
Address: 934 Georgia Avenue
Cost: $20 adults, $18 seniors/military, $12 students, $10 school groups with reservations, FREE for under 5 and members of the Georgia Trust, $5 per person Top of the House Tour (offered seasonally)
15. See a Macon Bacon Baseball Game
You’ll find the Macon Bacon minor league baseball team playing at Luther Williams Field. During the season, you can get tickets for a home game while visiting Macon. The 2024 season schedule goes on sale in May.
You could combine this event with a stop at the Sports Hall of Fame to make it a sports-themed day trip. I visited out of season and did not get to attend a game, but it would be a fun thing to do on a future visit.
Address: Willie Smoke Glover Drive
Cost: ticket prices vary
16. Visit the Redding Center for the Arts and Statue of Otis Redding
Otis Ray Redding, Jr. was an American soul and R&B singer/songwriter who grew up in Macon, Georgia. The Otis Redding Foundation and Center for the Arts operates Monday through Saturday with an affordable admission cost of $5 per person.
The Museum includes history, memorabilia, and merchandise, and the proceeds of any sales go to the programs offered by the Otis Redding Foundation. Programs include private music lessons, camps, and music and arts education.
Address: 339 Cotton Avenue
17. Take a Trip Back in Time at Fort Hawkins
Fort Hawkins is another unique Macon location you can find on the National Register of Historic Places. It was constructed in 1806 as a trading center for the colonizers to trade with the Creek Indians. This became the start of the settlement that would one day become the city of Macon. The fort was used during the War of 1812 and the American Revolutionary War.
Later, the state would force out the indigenous settlers it once needed for trading. While I did not have the time to stop by the fort, I can nearly guarantee that this aspect of the fort will be whitewashed on your visit based on the accounts of the Creeks’ relocation recounted online from the colonizers.
This is a worthwhile stop to learn more about the historical significance and how it influenced the development of the city of Macon.
Address: 736 Emery Highway
18. Have Cocktails and Queso at Yollah Social Kitchen + Garden
Fortunately, I have friends in the Macon area, so I called one up and asked for restaurant recommendations. We ended up meeting at Yollah, his personal favorite, for cocktails and queso. If the weather is good, you’ll want to sit out in the garden.
It’s filled with plants, and the centerpiece of our table was fragrant rosemary. We shared chips and the dip trio, which included queso, salsa verde, and fire-roasted jalapeno salsa. There’s a variety of wine, beer, and cocktails available, and it’s the perfect place to stop for appetizers and a drink or to meet friends for brunch, lunch, or dinner.
Address: 84 College Street
What Is Macon Known For?
Macon’s claim to fame is not just one thing. First of all, it’s considered the “birthplace of Southern Rock,” and its musical legacy includes the likes of the Allman Brothers Band and Otis Redding. Macon is also known as the “Cherry Blossom Capital of the World” with over 300,000 Yoshino cherry trees in bloom each year.
It’s also home to the International Cherry Blossom Festival. Macon is also the location of the world’s first women’s college granting undergraduate degrees to female students. Those are three big legacies for one small city.
Macon is directly in the heart of Georgia, and it has so much to see and do that you’ll likely have to narrow your itinerary if you’re only visiting for a day. You could easily take a full week simply exploring the history and culture of the area.
Whether you come for a day or stay longer, you’ll want to give Macon more of a shot than I originally did. Yes, there’s a homelessness problem in the city, and if you wander off the beaten path, you might find yourself in a neighborhood that doesn’t feel quite as safe as others.
The city does have a higher than average crime rate, but I did not feel unsafe during my visit. However, it does pay to take the normal safety precautions when visiting any new area.
Despite the safety issues and some of the admittedly seedy parts of the city, much of Macon is beautiful.
It’s rich in art, culture, and history, and even though colonizers took land that didn’t belong to them, they at least preserved the remains of it so that we can pay our respects to the original indigenous people who called Macon home. I’d recommend Macon for a day trip to anyone who chooses to visit the state of Georgia.
Spend a day wandering through Georgia’s musical history and indigenous lands. Learn about African American history and marvel at the accomplishments of Georgia athletes. Walk around and enjoy the art and architecture of the city. Look for murals and graffiti, and don’t forget to be open to experiences you didn’t read about in an article or guidebook. Arrive as a curious traveler and leave all the better for it.