Located approximately 85 miles south of Atlanta, Macon is located in the dead center of the state, giving the city its moniker: the Heart of Georgia. An easy day trip from Atlanta, the state's fourth-largest city has a population of 150,000 and plenty of activities to offer visitors of all ages. From learning more about the land's first inhabitants at the Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park to digging for fossils at the Museum for Arts & Sciences to exploring nature at Amerson River Park, here are the top 12 things to do in Macon.
Visit the Museum of Arts & Sciences
With a full-dome planetarium and three floors of exhibitions, this museum is a must-visit. Highlights include nature trails, a mini zoo with over 70 live animals, an extensive collection of butterflies, and an opportunity to dig for fossils under the shadow of an installation of a 40 million-year-old whale fossil, Zygorhiza. The museum is closed on Mondays.
Explore Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park
Explore 17,000 years of history at the Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park. Situated on 702 acres along Walnut Creek and the Ocmulgee River at the site of the area's first Native American settlement, the national park includes a museum with over 2,000 artifacts ranging from 10,000 B.C. to the 1800s, hiking trails through forests and wetlands offering glimpses of local wildlife, a 1,000-year-old ceremonial Earth Lodge, and an original burial mound, the top of which offers stellar views of the city's downtown.
See a Show at the Grand Opera House
Formerly known as the Academy of Music and opened in 1884, this historic music hall was converted to a 2,400-seat theater in 1904. It was one of the Southeast's largest performing arts facilities at the time. Similar to the Fox Theatre in Atlanta's Midtown, the space hosts a variety of programming ranging from Broadway shows like The Color Purple to musical acts like the Allman Brothers Band as well as movie nights and holiday traditions like the Nutcracker of Middle Georgia.
Tour the Allman Brothers Band Museum at The Big House
Music fans will enjoy touring the home that members of the Allman Brothers Band lived, jammed and rehearsed in during their heyday in the early 1970s. Offered Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., the tours give visitors a glimpse into the life of the band, including Duane Allman's bedroom and the kitchen, where Dickey Betts wrote “Ramblin’ Man." Also expect exhibits with concert posters, magazine covers, vintage records, clothing, instruments, and other band memorabilia.
Opt Outside at Lake Tobesofkee Recreation Area
Comprised of three separate parks (Claystone, Sandy Beach, and Arrowhead), Lake Tobesofkee is a human-made recreational lake with 35 miles of shoreline on nearly eighteen hundred acres of land. The largest recreational area in middle Georgia, it offers outdoor enthusiasts plenty of activities, from fishing and boating to camping and miles of trails for running and hiking. In the summer season, visitors can enjoy the Sandy Beach Water Park, which has water slides, a wave pool, a lazy river, and other options for cooling down and splashing around on steamy days.
Tour the Historic Johnston-Felton-Hay House
Built by prominent Georgia railroad tycoon and banker William Butler Johnston in 1859, this historic home is renowned not only for its stunning Italian Renaissance Revival-style architecture, but its incorporation of technological advances for the time like gas lighting, temperature-controlled running water, and a tube-based intercom-like communication system. Added to the National Historic Landmark in 1974, the 16,000 square feet house is open for tours that give visitors a look at original furnishings, decorative arts, and stained glass windows. Insider tip: pay a bit extra and book the "Top of the House Tour," which includes a tour of the two-level dome that offers panoramic views of the city.
Visit the Tubman Museum
One of the country's largest museums dedicated to African-American art, culture, and history, the 49,000 square foot space is located in downtown. Permanent exhibitions range from an extensive collection of folk art to an inventors' gallery and a signature 55-foot long mural dedicated to the achievements of black Americans throughout history.
Play at the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame
Designed to look like a turn-of-the-century baseball stadium, this 43,000 square foot museum is the country’s largest dedicated to state sports. With memorabilia from the high school to collegiate levels to professional and Olympic athletes, the space has over 3,000 items of memorabilia from home-state favorites like Georgia Tech and the Atlanta Braves as well as NASCAR simulators, football games, and more interactive activities.
Play at Amerson River Park
Located on the scenic Ocmulgee River, this 180-acre park has something for everyone. Explore seven miles of trail on foot or by bike, enjoy a picnic at the Atlanta Gas Light Pavilion, or play on the swings, slides, and other equipment at the all-abilities playground. Weather permitting, rent a canoe, kayak, or tube and paddle or float down the river for unparalleled views of the city.
Explore Tattnall Square Park
Located across the street from Mercer University, this town park takes up an entire city block. It includes everything from a children's playground and art installations to sports facilities like playing fields for pick-up games of soccer and public tennis courts. The park also hosts the Mulberry Market produce-only farmers' market on Wednesdays from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m., as well as various outdoor festivals and movie nights.
Experience History at Fort Hawkins
Established by then-president Thomas Jefferson in 1806 as an army fort and trading post with Native Americans, highlights of this historic structure include views of the nearby Muskogee Creek Nation burial mounds, archeological artifacts uncovered from the site, and an original blockhouse.
Drink a Pint at Macon Beer Company
Tour Macon's first brewery post Prohibition and then sample the company's signature brews like the Macon Progress pale ale and the Macon History malty brown ale plus seasonal offerings as available. Tours are free, but for ages 21 and up only. The brewery opened a downtown taproom and beer garden in fall 2019.