With more than 5,500 Antebellum and Victorian buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, Macon, Georgia resonates with the charm of a bygone era. Nature accentuates the beauty of these stately homes each spring, when the city’s cherry trees burst into full bloom.
Macon’s 300,000 cherry trees, about 100 times the number in Washington, D.C., take center stage during the annual Cherry Blossom Festival. This 10-day event is packed with activities, from the normal to the slightly bizarre. Among the highlights are a golf tournament, a car show, a parade, an upscale gala and a fireworks finale. But that’s not all. Macon firefighters host two pink pancake breakfasts in the park, the Humane Society sponsors a pet fashion show and hot air balloons take to the skies.
About a mile east of downtown is Ocmulgee National Monument, one of the more popular Macon tourist spots. More than a thousand years ago, Native Americans built flat-topped mounds and earthen walls here. Visitors to the monument can enter an earthen lodge, the only known structure of its type in the Southeastern U.S. Each September, the 702-acre grounds come to life with the Ocmulgee Indian Celebration, in which Native Americans perform time-honored dances and music and share their history through storytelling and art.
Dedicated to teaching guests about the African American experience through art as well as cultural and historical exhibits, the Tubman African American Museum is a major draw for travelers visiting Macon. Since its beginnings in 1981, the Tubman has grown to become the Southeast’s largest African American museum. Today, it houses exhibits ranging from African American art to inventions. The museum also hosts the Tubman Pan African Festival in April. At this annual event, the distinctive sounds of Caribbean steel drums and the primitive energy of African tribal music fill the air. Colorful costumes, lively dances and the aromas of ethnic cuisine also vie for attention at this celebration dedicated to promoting “love, peace, unity and hope.”
Just to the south, visitors will find another one of the top tourist spots in Macon. The Museum of Aviation at Robins AFB, 20 miles south of the city, boasts an amazing collection of vintage aircraft and missiles. World War II fighters, such as a P-51 Mustang, share floor space with a Korean War F-86H Sabre jet and the Vietnam-era Bell UH-1P Iroquois helicopter.
Visiting Macon would not be complete without touring at least one of its Antebellum homes. The seven-level, 18,000-square-foot Hay House is an excellent choice. This Italian Renaissance Revival home features fireplaces constructed of Italian Carerra marble, stained glass and 24-karat gold leaf on the plaster walls. Another home on the must-see list is the Cannonball House, so named because a Union cannonball damaged the home in 1864. When visiting this splendid example of Greek Revival architecture, guests should follow the cannonball path from the repaired column on the front porch to the dented hall floor.