Macon, GA is home to beautiful antebellum and Victorian mansions. And with close proximity to interstates 75 and 16, it is an easy detour to stop in this southern city for an afternoon or overnight to take in the sights, bites, and delights of this southern city.
I had only been to Macon once before, when we were visiting my stepdaughter in college in Milledgeville, GA. Since there’s really nowhere else to stay in the small town, we ended up staying in Macon, GA. It is really a pity we didn’t get to take in more of the beautiful homes while we were there. Macon is about a one and a half hour drive from Atlanta. But because it is in close proximity to Savannah, it is a good overnight stop.
My visit to Macon was hosted by Visit Macon, but the opinions expressed are my own.
One of the coolest things about Macon is its Architecture: there are gorgeous historic homes that luckily have been preserved and you can admire on your next visit to Macon!
Macon has been called “a textbook of historic architecture,” with 6,000 individual structures in 14 historic districts listed on the National Register of Historic Places – more acreage on the prestigious register than any other city in Georgia. The National Trust for Historic Preservation named Macon one of America’s “Dozen Distinctive Destinations.” – Visit Macon website
The Hay House in Macon
If you see and do one thing while you are in Macon, you have to visit the Hay House. I was told by numerous people that I need to go here, but it really wasn’t until I visited that I truly understood why. The house is from the 1800s and was built by a family that wanted to really flaunt their wealth. The family spent about $200,000 to build the home and another $100,000 furnishing it and that was ABOUT 200 years ago!! Let that sink in for a moment!
Where did all the cost come from? Much of the art was from Europe. But there were also things that were very modern for the time. For example, the Hay House in Macon was one of the first homes to have an indoor kitchen. This might not sound very impressive but it was very modern for the time. Most houses didn’t have indoor kitchens to avoid the heat as there was no air conditioning. Plus the home had many pocket doors and it is reportedly one of the only if not the only house in US to have curved pocket doors. Rather than have real wood on the walls much of the wood was painted on which surprisingly was more expensive than if the wood had been real.
The Burke Mansion in Macon
If you are able to stay overnight in Macon, you should absolutely try and stay at the Burke Mansion! This gorgeous home is elegantly decorated and exudes peace and tranquility. The owner tells me that they only have a handful of rooms available but stay booked up as they have loyal customers from Europe that love to stay here on their way in or out of Atlanta. They’d rather stay at the Burke Mansion in Macon and leave refreshed for their flight out of Atlanta than stay an airport hotel. Makes perfect sense to me.
Most of the rooms at the Burke Mansion have four post beds and fireplaces. Plus there’s a gourmet breakfast each morning for guests. You should try and visit one of the terrific restaurants in downtown Macon if possible as the inn doesn’t serve dinner BUT if you ask nicely they may be willing to order dinner from Natalia’s (fancy Italian restaurant) and have dinner brought to you.
A couple of other neat facts about the Burke Mansion: the owners have an exotic cat there. It doesn’t often come out, but you may get to take a picture with it when you visit. Also, there’s a historic working elevator on site. Quite rare and interesting. Note that the Burke Mansion in Macon doesn’t EVER allow children to stay here. I, for one, love it for this reason alone. I wish more hotels would adopt this policy.
The 1842 Inn in Macon
Another bed and breakfast in Macon is the 1842 Inn. I got to stay here when I visited Macon for the Cherry Blossom Festival and have to say that I truly loved this spot. And judging by the wall of celebs that have stayed at this Macon inn (Oprah, Cher, Gregg Allman, and many more), it is truly beloved.
The 1842 is just off the main drag in Macon but far enough that you will enjoy quiet evenings whether that be on their huge wrap around porch, or enjoying a glass of wine in one of their parlor rooms. And let me tell you, you really do want to carve out some time to spend here either before heading out for the evening. One of the specialties here is their terrific Mint Juleps. But on another evening I came back from an early dinner and then enjoyed a glass of wine followed by some fresh chocolate chip cookies the staff put out.
Oh and the rooms are huge and adorable. Though they were full due to it being the International Cherry Blossom festival in Macon I had peace and quiet each night while I slept. I can’t say that about a lot of the hotels I’ve stayed at in Atlanta.
While they have gorgeous homes, there’s a thriving music scene in Macon too. Macon’s Music scene is a another reason you’ll love to visit this fun southern city.
You may be surprised to know that some famous musicians hail from Macon. Little Richard, Jason Aldeen and Otis Redding are all from Macon. Plus James Brown recorded his hit Please, Please, Please in Macon.
Allman Brother’s Museum (also known as the Big House Museum) -The house is where band members, roadies, friends and family lived from 1970 to 1973. Though the home was vacant for several decades, some band members moved back in to the house in 1994. Though there are some concerts at the Allman Brother’s museum, if you are a fan or just interested in music, the museum is worth a visit. The museum is open Thursdays through Sundays only. https://www.thebighousemuseum.com/
Little Carnegie of the South – A Juilliard trained musician finds her home in Macon? Yep. This is a true under the radar spot if there ever was one! It is the brainchild of Louise Barfield, who is a graduate of the Juilliard School in New York City. Ms. Barfield also toured all over Europe, before returning to her home in Macon. She still has students that she mentors. One past student is Chuck Leavell, pianist for The Rolling Stones. Little Carnegie takes place in the home of Ms. Barfield. If you are lucky you can catch her performance, but an advocate of up and coming musicians, there are other performances at Little Carnegie in Macon as well. http://www.littlecarnegie.com
Culture in Macon:
Tubman Museum in Macon – this museum is dedicated to the arts and history of African American culture. It is located in the heart of downtown and admission is just $10. The museum is closed on Sundays and Mondays. Tip: On the second Saturday of each month from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM there’s an African Drumming Session with Brother Kwame which is free of charge. Learn more about the museum here: https://www.tubmanmuseum.com
Georgia Sports Hall of Fame
This is the largest sports hall in the state, so sports fans will definitely want to make a stop here. There are educational and interactive exhibits and memorabilia from sports legends like Henry “Hank” Aaron, Bobby Jones, & Herschel Walker, and more. When planning your visit to this Macon spot, you should allow yourself at least one hour to look around. http://www.gshf.org/
Here are some of the best Festivals in Macon:
Macon’s International Cherry Blossom Festival (Late March)
The Cherry Blossom Festival features more than 350,000 Yoshino cherry trees in full bloom; the most in the world! “Think Pink” and enjoy the events, concerts, exhibits, outdoor fair, arts and crafts, food and more. Did you know they dye the water pink in honor of the festival?
Macon’s Just Tap’d Craft Beer Festival (April)
Sample a variety of craft beers while enjoying live music.
Tubman Pan African Festival (April)
The Tubman Museum hosts this two-day festival centered on the themes of love, peace, unity and hope. There are presentations of music, dance, food, film, art, and spoken word, highlighting the diverse cultures created from the African Americans.
Spring Stroll of Macon’s Houses & Gardens (May)
Explore historic homes in Macon’s loveliest neighborhoods. Proceeds benefit one of Macon’s National Historic Landmarks, the Hay House.
Ocmulgee Indian Celebration (September)
The third weekend in September is the largest Native American festival in the Southeast as more than 200 craftsmen, dancers, storytellers, living history demonstrators and others with ties to the region return to Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park in Macon, Georgia.
Main Street Christmas Light Show Extravaganza (December)
See a light show unlike any other in historic downtown Macon! Thousands of lights adorn the trees and you’ll definitely be feeling the Christmas cheer!
Dining in Macon: Here are some fantastic restaurants to visit when you are in Macon
Dovetail in Macon was the first restaurant I visited in Macon and I was really impressed. The decor is shabby chic and modern. Inventive drinks and fancy cuisine are perfect for a night on the town. Although I was there with family it is perfect for a date night too. I love the different levels to the restaurant as well. My favorite dish of the evening at this Macon, GA spot was the rabbit pasta.
Downtown Grill and Society Garden are also quite fun spots to visit. At the Downtown Grill in Macon this upscale steakhouse has delicious cocktails and a French onion soup you’ve got to try. I LOVED my NY Strip as well. If you are visiting for several nights, it is a nice contrast to Dovetail which has more eclectic cuisine as this is more traditional.
The Society Garden, an outdoor venue in Ingleside Village. It’s lovey in the summer and fall with the Beer Garden with craft and domestic bottles and wine. A dog friendly space, it also has a “secret garden” with stage, ping-pong tables, horseshoes, sandbox and more.
Some other popular questions about Macon answered:
Is it safe to live in Macon, GA?
What I can say is that I walked back to the 1842 Inn where I was staying, which is nearly a mile from downtown and the walk back takes you along many deserted roads. I felt safe the entire time. Of course, I wasn’t playing on my phone and was alert and vigilant about my surroundings the entire time. So, I felt safe to walk around Macon alone at night.
What restaurants in Macon, GA are good for kids?
There are plenty of restaurants that are good to try if you are traveling with kids. The Rookery with burgers and great share plates is a popular spot for families. Although it sounds strange, the Ocmulgee Brewpub had a lot of kids there when I visited it. While I think it is a bit pricey (I paid $25 for a burger and beer), families didn’t seem to be bothered by the cost.