As it is set right at the center of the state, the small city of Macon is often delightfully referred to as the ‘Heart of Georgia’. Aside from boasting a proud history and lots of amazing old antebellum-era architecture, it also has some great museums and parks for you to check out.
Located along the west bank of the Ocmulgee River, its rejuvenated downtown contains countless historic houses, churches and tree-lined avenues. This makes the city an absolute delight to visit in spring when colorful cherry blossoms paint everything a pretty shade of pink.
In addition to exploring all the ancient earthwork mounds for which it is known, other great things to do in Macon include delving you into its rich culture scene and attend some of its vibrant festivals.
12. Georgia Sports Hall of Fame
As interesting as it is entertaining, the ginormous Georgia Sports Hall of Fame lies just a short stroll from the city center. Within its huge galleries, visitors can find exciting exhibits on everything from college sports and professional teams to Olympic and Paralympic athletes.
Impressively enough, it is the largest hall of fame of its kind in the States with its colossal collection now encompassing more than 3,000 items. Besides learning all about its 400 or so inductees, guests can see shiny NASCARs, old NFL helmets and glittering trophies with paintings and portraits being dotted here and there.
While all its artifacts and informative plaques are very well-presented, the big brick building itself is just as striking as it was designed to look like a turn-of-the-century ballpark. As well as attending a concert or talk here, you can also try out its fun NASCAR simulators and basketball games.
11. Tattnall Square Park
A very peaceful and picturesque place to spend some time, Tattnall Square Park can be found right next to the Mercer University campus. Its scenic confines include not just a playground and picnic area but public tennis courts, playing fields and a pavilion where community events are held.
Thanks to its extensive array of amenities, students, locals and even some adventurous tourists flock to the gorgeous green park. While some sit on its lush lawns or beneath all its towering trees, others prefer to play tennis, soccer, touch football or frisbee. Despite all the activities taking place, there is always more than enough space to go around.
In summer, countless concerts, festivals and cultural events liven up Tattnall Square with relaxing yoga classes and vibrant farmers’ markets also being held here.
10. Grand Opera House
If you’re looking to attend a scintillating show or concert when in town, you can’t beat the incredible Grand Opera House. Located right in the heart of Macon, the historic venue’s ostentatious interior makes it a very memorable place to catch a top-class performance.
Originally an Academy of Music, the terrific theater was built back in 1884 with it then boasting the largest stage in the Southeastern United States. While live horses and chariots no longer race about before the audience, spectators can still revel in brilliant Broadway shows, concerts and community theater productions.
From its grand balconies and galleries, you can gaze out over its hallowed stage which has hosted everyone from Charlie Chaplin and Harry Houdini to Ray Charles and the Allman Brothers Band.
9. Cannonball House
Just a short walk up Mulberry Street from the opera house is yet another of the city’s most beautiful buildings. Now a National Historic Landmark, Cannonball House is so named due to the damage it sustained during the Civil War from a Union Army attack.
Sometimes also called the ‘Mansion of the Old South’, it showcases some exquisite Greek Revival architecture with the huge house dating to 1853. Built by and for Judge Asa Holt, its two floors are furnished with period pieces, artifacts and exhibits which guests can now tour around.
Particularly interesting parts are the Servants’ Quarters upstairs and the recreated meeting rooms of the world’s first sororities. Outside you can see an old Civil War-era cannon and take in all the fine features of its magnificent facade.
8. Tubman Museum
Set right next to the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame is another of the city’s unmissable attractions: the marvelous Tubman Museum. Named after the infamous American abolitionist and social activist, it shines a light on the city and state’s African American history, culture and heritage.
Established in 1981, it now occupies a massive modern building with the museum’s light and airy galleries containing all kinds of enthralling artifacts, exhibits and artworks. While some sections are on contemporary artists, culture and ingenious inventions, others look at the sad legacy of slavery and segregation.
Aside from perusing all its fabulous folk art and in-depth historic displays, residents can take dance, drumming and drama classes that offer up even more insight into African American culture.
7. Museum of Arts and Sciences
Although it lies a bit further away than most of the city’s other main sights, it is well worth checking out the Museum of Arts and Sciences if you have the chance. A firm family favorite, its extensive exhibits, mini-zoo and planetarium are nestled away on the northwestern outskirts of town.
First opened to the public back in 1956, the hugely influential institute now covers everything from the fine arts and local literary figures to science, space and endemic species to the state. As it is full of interactive exhibits and has lots of fun hands-on activities to try, you’ll never get bored exploring all its endless galleries.
Highlights include its forty-million-year-old whale fossil and some of its imaginative visual art that really pushes back boundaries. Afterwards, visitors can see monkeys, snakes and an alligator in its mini-zoo or watch a superb science show at the museum’s planetarium.
6. Amerson River Park
Home to loads of lovely woods, wetlands, meadows and waterways, the Amerson River Park offers up a whole host of exciting outdoor activities. Despite its close proximity to the city center, its lush green spaces feel a world away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Macon.
Once part of a water treatment plant, its sprawling confines were finally turned into a public park in 2015 with playgrounds and pavilions now lying besides all its pristine wild areas. As it is encircled by a u-shaped section of the Ocmulgee River, outdoor aficionados can swim and splash about in its waters or kayak and tube here and there.
In addition to all this, there are also more than seven miles of nature trails for you to hike along that take you by scenic bluffs, through forests and alongside the winding river.
5. St. Joseph’s Catholic Church
Certainly one of the most important and impressive buildings in town, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church rises up dramatically above the rest of downtown. While its tall twin towers already make for quite the sight, its ornate facade and elegant interior are just as appealing.
Erected in 1889, it exhibits some extraordinary Neo-Gothic architecture with a refined rose window being perched atop of three pretty portals. Inside is just as stunning as sixty stained-glass windows line its walls decorated with white marble carvings, giant columns and statues of religious figures. A huge altar also features as does an enormous organ with over a thousand pipes.
Besides snapping some photos of the church and taking in all its amazing art, you can always attend a daily mass or just sit and contemplate life on one of its plentiful pews.
4. Rose Hill Cemetery
As it is full of majestic marble statues, tombstones and monuments, the Rose Hill Cemetery really is a wonderful place to wander around. Set on the banks of the Ocmulgee River, its grand grounds and shady paths lie just a short walk north of downtown.
As Rose Hill was originally intended to be a garden cemetery, many of its weathered old graves are located in breathtaking spots on hillsides, besides bushes or under magnolias. Since 1840, thousands of people have been buried here with prominent Macon families lying next to Confederate soldiers, Jewish lots and an unknown number of unfortunate slaves.
Many of its tombs and monuments exhibit fine architectural flourishes with splendid sculptures and engravings also featuring. The National Historic Landmark is particularly known for being the final resting place of several members of the Allman Brothers Band and numerous Georgian politicians.
3. Hay House
Not too far from the ‘Garden of Graves’ is another of the city’s most arresting edifices: the historical Hay House. Thanks to its exquisite Italian Renaissance Revival architecture, it is often referred to as the ‘Palace of the South’ with tours now taking you all around its extravagant interior.
Built between 1855 and 1859, the massive mansion is perched atop of the prominent Coleman Hill with immaculate lawns and gardens lying all around it. While a charming cupola peeks out from its roof, a superb staircase and portico lead up to the entrance.
Inside, however, is the real treat as every inch is delightfully decorated with fine furnishings, period pieces and expensive artworks. On tours of its more than twenty enormous and ornate rooms, your expert guide will point out state-of-the-art innovations for the time like central heating, an elevator and an intercom system.
2. Allman Brothers Band Museum
Packed with their original instruments, art and personal mementos, the outstanding Allman Brothers Band Museum lies just outside of the center, alongside Vineville Avenue. Arguably Macon’s most famous sons, they put the city on the map at the end of the sixties with some of their most popular songs having been composed in town.
From 1970 to 1973, the band members, their families, friends and roadies lived all together in ‘The Big House’ which now houses the museum’s large collection. In the ginormous mock-Tudor house, you can explore their old rooms and see authentic artifacts with interactive exhibits also looking at their lives, lyrics and legacy.
After having explored the atmospheric old house and learnt all about the band, you can always stop by the gift shop and pick up some CDs, souvenirs or some merch.
1. Ocmulgee Mounds
Just across the river from downtown is one of the state’s most striking archaeological sites: the awe-inspiring Ocmulgee Mounds. Often considered one of the nation’s best-preserved Native American settlements, its major earthworks, trenches and burial mounds are now fascinating to amble around.
While the magnificent mounds have been known to travelers for centuries, excavations only began in earnest in the 1930s. Remarkably enough, archaeologists uncovered conclusive evidence of more than 17,000 years of continuous human habitation at the sprawling site.
Besides clambering up the side of the ceremonial mounds and marveling at their hulking great size, visitors can hike about the national historical park and enjoy its sublime scenery and nature. There is also an excellent archaeology museum that displays finds from the digs and teaches you all about the prehistoric indigenous peoples who settled the site.