Choosing Macon GA for an intentional family vacation or an adult getaway, might once have surprised even southerners. Not now! Let Macon choose you on a road trip through middle Georgia to deliver a great big agenda of fun things to do. And to eat. Listening is part of it all because Macon’s a music town.
Wondering if it’s possible to take a city vacation with interesting things to do and eat all within two miles of each other? Including the hotel?
Turns out to be true in middle Georgia. Macon is the mid-size city, with exits directly off Interstate 75. That means a half day’s drive to Orlando or two hours max to Atlanta. Savannah and the Georgia coast are in reach too via I-16 with Macon exits.
A bit beyond those two walkable miles are even more music and history and culinary things to do in Macon.
1. Capricorn Sound Studios and Museum
Capricorn Sound Studios is a place to play, and to remember. And to sing along, out loud and in your mind. Here’s why.
Names you know recorded here since the 1960s. Think Otis Redding and Little Richard. The Allman Brothers and Percy Sledge. Sam and Dave plus Wilson Pickett.
Marshall Tucker Band and Wet Willie. Bonnie Bramlett and the Charlie Daniels Band. Sea Level, Cowboy, Livingston Taylor, Kitty Wells. Endless list.
“Music created in the South is the way to think about Capricorn from those early years, and it still is,” says Bob Konrad who manages the museum and knows the depth of Capricorn’s robust schedule.
“Musicians come to record here most every day, to record where their heroes did!”
SheBuysTravel Tip: Pop into the museum for music and history any day (closed Monday and Tuesday) but do schedule a studio tour Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Sublime experience to be still in the original 1972 Studio A and just breathe, knowing the legends you adore sang right here.
Listen to the Capricorn Catalog
Upstairs, the actual museum is small but limitless. Put on headphones and flip albums as if in a record store decades ago.
Every single person who recorded at Capricorn is available. That’s much southern rock, and so much more.
With six touchscreens, it’s not always possible to stay all day. Might have to share.
Lingering in the Capricorn lobby is a good idea too. As Konrad notes, “Musicians with stories are always coming in.” Maybe they tell tall tales but one fact for sure is that singer, songwriter, keyboard artist Chuck Leavell shows up a lot.
He’s a Macon resident, often at a Capricorn keyboard, and his wife Rose Lane White Leavell holds copious music history. She worked with Capricorn founder Phil Walden in the beginning.
Mercer University, also, is tightly woven into the Capricorn fabric.
2. Tubman Museum
Walk a couple of blocks north of Capricorn Studios to explore the art, history and culture of African Americans in the Tubman Museum.
All ages can learn more about “the Moses of her people,” Harriet Tubman, and see artifacts showing the contributions of African American inventors — not previously well known.
A 55-foot mural celebrates the faces and feats of African Americans.
Macon’s music heritage is a recurring theme through the city, and the Tubman Museum does its part to show how local and nationally known musicians were nurtured by historic venues and then propelled into international fame.
The spacious light-filled museum is the setting for contemporary African American paintings, sculpture and mixed media works. Special exhibitions change throughout the year.
3. Otis Redding Foundation
Not every music legend has a museum and a camp, an after school program and a life-sized sculpture, but Otis Redding does.
At the moment that sculpture is in safe storage awaiting the development of an amphitheater to expand those camps and after school opportunities.
“Otis always gave back,” says his daughter Karla Redding-Andrews. She’s vice president and executive director of the Otis Redding Foundation in downtown Macon. “He was already giving funds for art and music education for children.”
That’s among the reasons, she says, the family through its foundation provides scholarships today.
“More than 3,000 kids have come through our programs and more will be able to when the Center for the Creative Arts with its amphitheater is completed.”
Look for this at the confluence of Second and Cherry streets, across from the Hotel Forty Five.
SheBuysTravel Tip: Day camps might sound like local affairs but Karla Redding-Andrews meets many families choosing a June vacation in Macon so their kids can attend an Otis Redding camp.
All the time the small museum in the foundation office on Cotton Avenue offers a look at personal and historic items from the collection of Zelma Redding. She was 24 when he died in a plane crash in 1967 at age 26.
Today her grandson Justin Andrews not only serves the foundation as director of special projects and outreach, he also heads the board of Macon’s Film Festival.
DREAM is the title of some of the camps, one of many philosophies Karla says undergird the family’s reasons for enriching education through arts and music. That means technical, non-performing aspects of art and music too.
4. 7th Street Salvage for Shopping and Art
Just a few steps from Fall Line Brewing Co. on Plum Street is another of Macon’s interesting buildings on an angle.
7th Street Salvage Downtown has two personalities: first floor delectable baked goods, note cards with scenes to want to frame and all sorts of items you didn’t know you needed but will enjoy having.
Upstairs is a maker’s market and sometimes the artists are there too. This space flows, from one distinctive set of talents to another.
These are Macon or nearby artists who also engage in the world outside their art: psychotherapist and band director, teacher of the blind and a legally blind carver, art therapist and foster mother.
5. Art Both Large and Small
Salvage is the name because the original and partner business on 7th Street is a warehouse where big, heavy artistry takes place.
Salvage also means reusing, recycling and making/doing things sustainably to the owners, Brent and Catherine Meyer.
Candles for instance. Theirs are a blend of special scents and waxes. Labels are small since they end up as trash. The lids are recycled, crafted wood to use later as a coaster. The jar is a glass for later functions.
6. Live Music Within Macon’s Two-Miles
Grant’s Lounge on Poplar Street is one of many highlights easily discovered walking about Macon’s well landscaped city streets.
$5 is the cover charge to an intimate space bursting with music and side-by-side photos of Macon music history. Capricorn artists were always a part of Grant’s, which opened in 1971.
SheBuysTravel Tip: Check out Grant’s Lounge for something new—jazz and funk with an organ trio. Seems Hammond Organ Societies were quite the things around the nation in the 1970s.
A Brook Haven Lounge on Cherry Street features the spoken word as well as live jazz, soul and Latin combos. New and diverse talent, say owners Darrin, Alicia and Lessette Ford, is always on their radar.
7. More Best Things To Do in Macon A Little Further Out
The Macon Visitor Center is more than an info-gathering stop with easy parking. It’s a festive visual museum with a video and an old-fashioned record player you can actually use.
Pick an album by Capricorn-recorded musicians and experience the way people listened to music before streaming.
8. Houses That Used To Be Private
Houses can be a visit Macon organizing tool! Some are on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Big House, home of the Allman Brothers band, feels like a must-do. And it tells a music story differently from the Capricorn Studios visit.
The Hay House is a fancy, beautiful place, sharing 1850s Italian Renaissance revival styles. A National Historic Landmark, the 18,000 square foot home is alluring from the road below as it stands on one of Macon’s many hills.
The Cannonball House on Mulberry Street gets it name from receiving the brunt of an attack by the U. S. Army July 30, 1864. Greek Revival is its architecture.
9. Ocmulgee River Activities
The Ocmulgee River flows near downtown, with hiking trails, public art, a dog park and peaceful boating launch spots for canoes and kayaks.
The outdoor activities throughout this 13-mile Ocmulgee Heritage Trail, including Amerson River Park, are the result of public/private partnerships.
Soon the Ocmulgee name, the Muscogee Creek Nation and its earth lodge will become national focus as a new National Park.
10. Final Resting Places Call for Visitors Too
The 50 acres of Rose Hill Cemetery work for walking tourists, and bike riders too, as well as drive-through visitors. With history starting from 1840, the markers and monuments are varied, and the views on the banks of the Ocmulgee River quite handsome.
A much-visited area is the burial site of three members of the Allman Brothers band: Duane Allman, Berry Oakley and Gregg Allman.
SheBuysTravel Tip: Check the cemetery website and Historic Macon Foundation because you might get lucky to find a Ramble of walk-about information sharing.
11. More Around Macon Activities
Mulberry Market moves in to Tattnall Square Park on Wednesday afternoons with fresh and local foods, plus arts and crafts and even library books.
The Grand Opera House, Douglass Theater, Museum of Arts and Sciences and St. Joseph’s Catholic Church also hold stories to tell and to experience.
Ingleside is a neighborhood and an arts and eating district. Picture a walkable street with interesting, personal-size shops and restaurants filling both sides.
Plus a beer garden with live music called Society Garden.
SheBuysTravel Tip: Take the kids or your gift-giving lists to Williams Fun Smart Toys in Ingleside Village not just to shop but to learn. Owner Florence Allen knows lots about which toys develop what skills and she’s always ready to help kids trigger their imagination.
12. Industry Turned Art
Triangle Arts is an up and coming visionary experience. Drive away from the lush downtown and into harsher industrial spaces.
Here, long emptied buildings are filling with murals on the outside and artist studio spaces on the inside.