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An easy drive from Atlanta, Macon is a quick weekend road trip steeped in history and oozing with charm. Home to five colleges and more than 6,000 historic homes, the architecture is second to none, as are the culinary institutions, and musical influences. A town with a little something for everyone, here are a few things in particular to seek out when you’re perusing the Peach State.
Eating well seems to be a staple of the South, and Macon is no exception. From mouthwatering burgers and shakes at the Rookery to upscale comfort food at Dovetail, there are plenty of options to satisfy any palate.
For a little slice of Nola in Georgia, Parish on Cherry is a fun Mardi Gras themed spot with live music. They have Creole favorites like gumbo and jambalaya, but I went with the server’s recommendation of the mouthwatering shrimp and grits, which was pure creamy, cheesy goodness.
For a quick bite, H&H is a Georgia institution founded by Mama Louise Hudson and her friend Inez Hill way back in 1959. After making a habit of feeding the starving local artists (literally), Mama’s food became so popular she was actually brought on tour with the Allman brothers to sustain the musicians. Whether you go for a hearty breakfast of biscuits and s’more waffles, or opt the fried chicken and sweet tea for lunch, you won’t leave disappointed – or hungry.
Jim Shaw’s restaurant boasts affordable seafood with mix and match combos of fresh catches and savory meats. Blackened alligator is one of their specialties, marinated in a creole remoulade of red wine vinegar and horseradish. The oysters are as big as my head, and the crab soup was rich and satisfying, but it was the spinach salad that is worth writing home about. It looks pretty basic dressed in a sweet house tomato vinaigrette, but there might’ve been crack in there because yes, the salad was the standout.
For a unique spot to get some fresh air, Ocmulgee National Monument is the largest archaeological site in the U.S. and home to more than 16-miles of trails. Three million artifacts have been found spanning 17,000 years of continuous habitation, which proved humans inhabited the area much earlier than scientists originally thought. On display are hunting weapons, pottery, fishing rods, huts, and agricultural tools from the Georgia Ice Age through the settler period.
You can actually go inside the oldest reconstructed earth lodge in the U.S., which was used for community gatherings, religion, and government. There are a number of other earth mounds spread throughout the area that was used for a variety of purposes by the chief and his elite. Make it a scavenger hunt to find them all as you take in the picturesque bridges and watery backdrop.
One simply needs to drive down Georgia Avenue to mansion hop in Macon, taking in the enormous antebellum compounds that constitute serious #housegoals. When you’re done gawking from the outside, pop inside to explore a few.
The crème de la crème is the Hay House; a National Historic Landmark that was once was the shining star of the south, built about 30 years before the Biltmore mansion. The home was crazy innovative for its time with indoor plumbing before even the White House. It was cooled by a curved wind tunnel, which doubled as a wine cellar, and has a secret room hidden in the linen closet. Pantry shelves were suspended from the ceiling to keep the mice away, while harmonic tubes were used as a retro communication system. The Georgia Historical Society maintains the massive property and performs ongoing restoration efforts to ensure it looks as magnificent as it did in its heyday (and goes all out during the Christmas season).
The neighboring Cannonball house is also on the Registry of Historic Places and a unique slice of early Americana. A former retirement home for Judge Asa Holt, it is now a military museum with quite a few secrets and stories stashed in those walls. During an unsuccessful attempt by the Union Army to capture Macon, a cannonball went careened through the front of the home, taking down one of the pillars in its path. The parlor furnishings are from the first ever sorority at Wesleyan College, which was also the first college to give diplomas to females. You can see uniforms, artillery, and memorabilia from the Confederate period and beyond in the eclectic model home.
The Rock & Roll Soul
For all the rambling men and women out there, Macon is a rock and roll mecca thanks to the Allman Brothers Museum aka the Big House. Named one of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time” by Rolling Stone, the self-guided tour is organized by year and band member with display cases overflowing with outfits, instruments, and memorabilia from the time. You’ll find everything from records to journals, letters, and lyrics downstairs, while upstairs are actually their bedrooms with clothes and more collectibles, photos, handwritten letters, hookahs, and a dizzying array of magazine covers they graced. While in the area, you’ll also want to pay tribute to soulful crooners Otis Redding and Little Richard, who also called the Macon area home.
The Southern Charm
It’s the people that really make a place and nowhere is more warm and welcoming than Macon. You’re immediately part of the family with every server and docent casually referring to you as, “love,” “doll,” “hon,” and any other term of endearment generally reserved for significant others or relatives. The Southern drawls are intoxicating, and you might even pick up a few “y’alls” on your way out of town.
Plan Your Trip: Where to Stay in Macon
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