Monday, August 24, 2009

Make it to Macon

Cannonball House is one of many historic homes in Macon.

For years I and too many others have traveled by Macon en route to Atlanta via I-75, never taking the time to stop. It won't happen again.

Macon is well worth a two-or three-day stay.

The city is large enough to offer a lively downtown yet small enough that you can still find a parking place.

The first thing you notice is its beauty. Macon wasn't on Sherman's route through Georgia so it wasn't burned down which means 70 of those elegant antebellum homes are still being lived in. Newer additions have been blended in and the city is an architecture lover's dream.

Warning: The Macon Plateau is where Georgia starts getting hilly but you don't have to navigate them by foot if you don't want to. Just park nearby.

A lot of history has occurred in Macon. People have been living here since the Ice Age. Towns of giant earth lodges and burial grounds can be explored at Ocmulgee National Monument. When the first Europeans arrived, beginning with Hernando de Soto in 1540, this was a thriving area with planted fields, stockaded villages and impressive earthen structures.

Tip: Stop by the attractive Visitor's Center  downtown to get an overview of what the city has to offer. While there, pick up a Self-Guided Tour Map and tickets for the Historic Homes Tour and/or the Museum District Tour.

Macon soon became an inland trade center with all the advantage wealth brings, from architecture to the arts. This is where the genius poet-musician Sidney Lanier was born and developed his remarkable talents. The Sidney Lanier Cottage has triple landmark status - it is on the National Register of Historic Places, a Landmark of American Music an a National Poetry Landmark.

Tip: Schedule your visit when Marty Willett is on duty; he's a one-man show with encyclopedic knowledge and fun anecdotes about Lanier and Macon.

What Lanier began, the likes of Graham Jackson, Jessye Norman, Gladys Knight, Little Richard, Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, Ray Eberle, Harry James, Travis Tritt, Trisha Yearwood, Otis Redding and the Allman Brothers continued, as you can learn at the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, if state budget cuts don't close it (

Tip: By all means catch lunch at the H & H , the landmark soul food restaurant where "Mama Louise" Hudson kept the Allman Brothers fed during their early "poor" days.

African American culture is celebrated at the Tubman African American Museum which was named in her honor even though that revered woman had no Macon connections. With its collection of art, history and culture it's definitely worth a visit. Regardless of your skin tone, you'll be amazed at the inventions and products - fire extinguisher, push lawnmower, collapsible ironing board - developed by African Americans. Currently in modest and cramped quarters, a new building is under construction in the Museum District.

Tip: The elegant 1842 Inn, a four-diamond, four-star property built - you guessed it - in 1842, is the place to stay. You'll love breakfast, cocktails and canapes and a mint julep nightcap served in front of the cozy fireplace. Be sure to ask for a first floor room because there is no elevator.

Come spring, you'll know why several of Macon's streets have pink cherry blossoms on them and a pink line between the yellow stripes. With 300,000 - those zeroes are no mistake - cherry trees, Macon is the cherry blossom capital of the world!

Can't wait to travel back there to see them.

Charming to look at, engaging to visit, by all means travel to and stop in Macon. You'll be glad you did.


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