Tuesday, September 9, 2014

How To Spend A Day In Macon

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Remember our South GA Adventure a couple months ago? Well I still have a couple more things to share with you from our trip.

Macon, GA was the first stop during our adventure, but it won't be our last.This magnificent city has been on our list of places to explore for quite awhile and we are so glad we included it in our trip. This historic Southern city offers a lot of charm and something for every family

The history of Macon starts 17,000 years ago, but the city is most known for its musical heritage. Famous musicians including Otis Redding, Little Richard, the Allman Brothers Band, Joey Stuckey, Bo Ponder, Eddie Kirkland and Johnny Jenkins all called Macon home and helped make Macon the "Song and Soul of the South." Macon is the perfect place to spend a day or a week.

Macon History:
Macon's history begins over 17,000 years ago. Creek Indians inhabited Macon in the 18th century. But before them their prehistoric predecessors, the Mississippian's, built a powerful chiefdom (950–1100 AD) based on an agricultural village and constructed earthwork mounds for ceremonial, burial and religious purposes. Some of these still stand today. In the 1800's the city of Macon began its settlement and growth. Macon originally started out as Fort Hawkins and was located along the Ocmulgee River. The fort served as trading post for the Native Americans and colonists. It was also used as a military distribution point during the War of 1812 against Great Britain and also during the Creek War of 1813. During this time period settlers continued to flock to Fort Hawkins, which was later renamed Newton. In 1823 the city gained its name Macon. Due to its location along the Ocmulgee River the city thrived and was known as the Black Belt of Georgia, where cotton was the chief commodity crop. In 1843, railroad's helped increase marketing opportunities and contributed to the economic prosperity of Macon. During the Civil War, Macon served as the official arsenal of the Confederacy. Camp Oglethorpe, in Macon, was used as a prison for captured Union officers and enlisted men. Macon City Hall, which served as the temporary state capitol in 1864, was converted to use as a hospital for the wounded. Unlike many major Georgia cities Macon was spared during Sherman's  march to the sea preserving many of the historical buildings and artifacts in Macon. Macon continued to prosper and was even dubbed, "The Central City" in 1895 by the New York Times. Macon also has a long civil rights history that begins with slavery. Many famous African Americans from Macon helped contribute to and influence civil rights history. And Macon was one of the few Georgia cities that peacefully abolished segregation.

10 Places To Visit:
We only spent a day and a half in Macon so we were only able to fit in the Harriet Tubman Museum and Ocmulgee Mounds. The Museum of Aviation (located just outside Macon) we visited a couple years ago. The other places listed below are attractions we have on our list for future visits.

1) Tubman  Museum
Ever since I was a child I have always been fascinated with Harriet Tubman's life so I was really excited to visit this museum. The Tubman Museum was established in 1981 and is the largest museum in Southeast dedicated to educating people about the art, history and culture of African Americans. The museum is truly amazing and the dedicated staff and volunteers really enhance the overall experience. And in 2015 this museum is going to get even better, because they will be moving to a new location just down the street, which is 49,000 square feet. This larger space will allow them to have even more artifacts and artwork on display. This museum is a great place for children and adults of all ages. During our visit we also had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Andy Ambrose, the Executive Director of the museum.

The two story museum flowed quite nicely and in each section there was a staff member or volunteer available to discuss the pieces and answer any questions.

The first section of the museum included a large acrylic and oil mural that takes you on a voyage from Africa to America, no passport needed. As you travel through time you will learn about the feats of African Americans from past to present. After viewing the mural we learned more about Harriet Tubman and her amazing life through articles and artwork. Next we walked through the Black Artists of Georgia and African Folk Art exhibits. These exhibits were fascinating and very inspirational. My children loved the bright colors and use of mixed media.

Next we headed to the Inventors Gallery where we learned some amazing history. This exhibit featured select inventions that were created by African Americans. Many of these we had no clue about!  We then made our way upstairs to the Local History gallery. In this section we learned about the roots of the Tubman exhibits. There were artifacts and artwork from Macon and Georgia history, including materials associated with the lives of Ellen and William Craft. We had never heard of the Crafts and were in complete awe of their amazing story and journey. The last portion of the museum included an inspiring video about Ellen and William Craft which was narrated by their great, great granddaughter. The Craft story is a powerful story about courage, perseverance and faith.

Be sure to check out the amazing gift shop afterwards.

*This information is based on the current museum location.

2) Ocmulgee National Monument
Travel back in time and soak in the beautiful scenery and sounds at the Ocmulgee National Monument. First learn about the history of this amazing place in the museum. You will be greeted by a Ranger who will briefly tell you about the Paleo-Indian period during the Ice Age as well as the different cultures that occupied the land over thousands of years. Be sure to grab a scavenger hunt and Jr Ranger booklet from the Ranger. As you walk through the museum you will view artifacts and read in depth information about this historic area.

Afterwards head outside to step inside the continents only Earthlodge or climb to the top of the Early Mississippian temple mounds. There are a total of 7 mounds in the park. Throughout the park are informational placards to help you learn even more about the historic sites. You can also utilize the cell phone audio tour to learn even more.

From the top of the Great Temple Mound you can view downtown Macon and the wetlands. The view is absolutely breathtaking. There are several hiking and biking trails throughout the park including the Opelofa Trail, Bartram Trail, Walnut Creek River Trail and Heritage Bike Trail. You can also visit the site of only two Civil War Battles fought in Macon.

The Ocmulgee Mounds are FREE to visit. Pack a picnic lunch and stay all day. Be sure to visit the website for information on events, activities and monthly walks.

*If you are a gecoacher there are a couple that you can grab here. 

3) Museum of Aviation
The Museum of Aviation is FREE to visit and is a definitely a must see!! It is one of the largest aviation museums in the United States and a major Air Force Heritage, Exhibit and Education Center in the Southeast. The museum is located on U.S. Air Force property next to Robins Air Force Base, the Museum is the second largest museum in the U.S. Air Force. It is one of only ten aviation museums in the United States to be accredited by the American Alliance of Museums.

The majority of the staff at the museum are volunteers and many of them are veterans. And boy can you learn a lot just by talking to them. There are several buildings located on the 51 acre property which house the exhibits. Definitely plan on staying at least 2-3 hours. During your visit you will learn the history of various wars, touch planes and even fly planes.

The Museum has a large collection of approximately 85 historic U.S. Air Force aircraft, missiles and cockpits dating from a replica of an 1986 glider to modern aircraft in today’s U.S. Air Force inventory.

Major exhibits include:
- The 14th Air Force Flying Tigers
- The “Hump” Pilots of the China Burma India Theater during WWII
- The 50th Anniversary of WWII and the history of Robins Air Force Base
- The 483rd Bomb Group which flew B-17s out of Italy during World War II
“God Is My Co-Pilot” – the story of WWII Ace Brig. Gen Robert L. Scott
- “Down to Earth: - the 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment and the Air Invasion of
- The Tuskegee Airmen – A Proud Heritage
- The Korean War: The Forgotten War

After you visit the museum make sure you stop by the museum store to pick up some great souvenirs. Then enjoy a picnic lunch out at the picnic area. Also check the website for information on events, educational programming and more.

4) Allman Brothers Band Museum
At the Allman Brothers Band Museum at The Big House you can view the largest collection of the band's memorabilia in the country. The Big House became the place where members of the band, their roadies and friends and families lived until 1973. 

The Big House - Allman Brothers Band Museum
Image courtesy of Allman Brothers Museum and The Big House website.

5) Cannonball House & Museum
The Cannonball House and Museum is a Greek Revival mansion that was built in 1853. It was the only house in Macon that was struck by a cannonball during Stoneman's Raid on Macon in 1864. The home has been restored with furnishings of the period and is open to the public. Also on the property is an English garden featuring seasonal blooms. 40 minute tours are offered every 1/2 hour and include the main house and the original two-story brick kitchen and servants' quarters.

6) Georgia Sports Hall of Fame
Georgia's storied athletic heritage is featured in the 43,000 square foot Georgia Sport Hall of Fame. This museum offers educational and interactive exhibits that honor heroes from the state's top high school, collegiate, professional and amateur athletic fields such as record home run hitter Henry "Hank" Aaron and golf legend Bobby Jones.

Professional Sports corridor
Image courtesy of Georgia Sports Hall of Fame website.

7) Lake Tobesofkee Recreation Area
The Lake Tobesofkee Recreation Area is located just outside the city limits and offers families a year-round recreation area covering nearly 1,800 acres with 35 miles of shore line. there are 3 parks Clavestone, Arrowhead and Sandy Beach which provide white sandy beaches, swimming, fishing, boating, camping, water skiing, sailing and picnicking.

8) Hay House
In the mid 1800's, William Butler Johnston was the keeper of the Confederate treasure, but the mansion he built is the real treasure he left behind. The Hay House design was inspired by the mansions of Florence and Rome. The 18,000 sq ft home took 4 years to build. The Italian Renaissance Revival mansion is now a National Historic Landmark and open to the public to tour.

Image courtesy of Hay House website.
9) Museum of Arts and Sciences
"Discover The World - Explore The Universe" at the Museum of Arts and Sciences. This museum is the largest general purpose museum in Georgia and the only cultural institution in the state dedicated to both art and science. The museum was founded in 1956 in the basement of the old Weslevan Conservatory, the museum's 55,000 square-foot facility located on 14 acres on Forsyth Road in Macon. The museum offers a wide selection of art and science exhibits, a full-dome planetarium, mini-store and more. 

10) College Hill Corridor
If you are looking for a fun place to visit and play head over to the College Hill Corridor. This two square mile section of Macon connects Mercer University to Downtown Macon. Visitors can explore the Old South architecture, music history, and burgeoning culinary scene. But wait there's more you will also experience a vibe and a lifestyle, an urban renewal machine, entrepreneurial/maker's haven, bicycling & pedestrian streetscape, an educational oasis. 

It started as a senior capstone project by four Mercer students in 2007. At the time, Mercer was in a bubble, the surrounding neighborhoods were struggling, and dining and entertainment were limited. The city's Mayor and Mercer's President created the College Hill Corridor Commission and a movement was born. Thanks to an initial grant of $2 million from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the College Hill Alliance became operational in the fall of 2009.

Screen Shot 2014-08-27 at 4.19.33 PM
Image courtesy of College Hill Corridor website.
More than $91 million in private and public investment later, the area is now an icon of urban renewal - and all that comes with it. Creativity is a constant with offbeat art projects, live theatre, festivals, urban hikes, a huge neighborhood Soap Box Derby, art house movies, free outdoor Second Sunday concerts, restored parks and green spaces, the city's top three house museums, art galleries, great dining, and nightlife all within walking and biking distance. Add bookend hotel accommodations - the Hilton Garden Inn right on the edge of campus, next door to the new Mercer Bears football stadium, and the luxurious 1842 Inn in the heart of the In-Town Historic District, and you've got an amazing new (historic) destination. 

Where To Eat:
There are tons of great places to eat in Macon. From soul food and vittles that kept Macon's Southern Rock musicians fed, to new farm-to-fork cuisine in a downtown landmark. But if you are only in Macon for a day you MUST stop by one of the Nu-Way Weiner restaurants. Nu-Way has been serving up their famous hot dogs since 1916. What started out as tiny stand on Cotton Avenue has turned into a chain restaurant that has won national recognition. Nu-Way is the second oldest hot dog restaurant in the USA.

Where To Stay:
If you need a place to stay check in at the Wingate on Northcrest Blvd. This is the perfect for hotel for business or leisure. The hotel is conveniently located off Interstate 75 and within minutes from major attractions. Check in was quick and easy and the staff at the Wyngate was very courteous. Overall the hotel was comfortable, clean, and affordable. The hotel is pet and smoke free which was a huge plus for us.

The room decor was very pleasing and featured dark woods and colors. We stayed in a double queen room which was very spacious and accommodated our family of 4 quite nicely. Everything you could possibly need to make your stay comfortable is included in the accommodations. The room had fast free Wi-Fi connection, a refrigerator, a microwave, a flat screen TV, a hair dryer and plenty of clean towels.

If you need to relax after a long day head out to the seasonal pool and whirlpool. There is also a free gym available if you need to stick to your workout routine during your trip. Start your morning off right with a free hot, robust breakfast. Vending and ice machines are also available. For guest convenience there is a business center located inside the hotel too.

Whether you are just making a pit stop in Macon or staying for a week there is definitely plenty to see and do!

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