Macon's good fortune during the Civil War is our good fortune today. General Sherman spared the city on his March to the Sea (Old Cannonball House was the only building in Macon to suffer any damage), and the result is a city full of fine architecture from centuries past. More than 50 sites in Macon are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The city has devised three walking tours to show off its architectural splendor.
If you see nothing else, don't pass up a visit to the Hay House, one of the finest antebellum mansions to survive the war. Built in 1855, the 18,000-sq-ft/1,700-sq-m mansion has seven levels, beautiful stained-glass windows, a secret room and, so it's said, a ghost. A newer, but still noteworthy, structure is the Douglass Theater, which has been recently restored. Built in 1921, it hosted performances by some of the great black entertainers of the 20th century. It now offers live shows and movies.
There's more to Macon than its historic buildings. The Georgia Music Hall of Fame celebrates the state's rich musical legacy with an innovative design. Visitors can wander among various re-creations of nightclubs, cafes and soda fountains—the places where the music was born and appreciated. Listening stations throughout the museum give visitors a good feel for the music and musicians being celebrated. (Macon is a fitting city for the hall of fame: A number of Georgia artists, including Otis Redding and the Allman Brothers Band, have called it home.)
The Museum of Arts and Sciences complex includes a planetarium, live animal shows and natural science exhibits, including a 40-million-year-old whale fossil discovered near Macon. Children will especially love the Discovery House—three stories of interactive exhibits, a scientists' workshop, audiovisual experiences and a backyard filled with live animals. Stroll along the numerous nature trails.
Other attractions in Macon include the Tubman African American Museum and the city's opera house. And you can see nearly 300,000 Yoshino cherry trees in bloom during Macon's Cherry Blossom Festival in March. Because it's near the center of the state, Macon is a good base for day trips.
Ocmulgee National Monument, about 1 mi/1.6 km east of Macon, preserves some fascinating Indian mounds that were constructed at least 1,000 years ago by tribes of the Mississippian culture and which contain evidence of human habitation going back 12,000 years. The park also has a re-created earth lodge similar to those used for tribal gatherings. It's also a great area for bird-watching.
Aeronautical buffs will want to head 15 mi/25 km south to Warner Robins to visit the Museum of Aviation. The museum, on the grounds of Warner Robins Air Force Base, displays more than 90 military aircraft (including an SR-71 Blackbird and an F-15A McDonnell-Douglas Eagle).
At Andersonville National Historic Site, 65 mi/105 km southwest of Macon, visitors experience the Civil War prison camp where 13,000 Union soldiers died, primarily from neglect. (The prison commander, Capt. Henry Wirz, was found guilty of conspiring to murder Union prisoners. He was hanged.) The 495-acre park serves as a memorial to all U.S. prisoners of war throughout the nation's history. The Andersonville National Cemetery is part of the site. Andersonville is 65 mi/105 km southwest of Macon.
Eatonton is the hometown of Joel Chandler Harris, creator of the Uncle Remus tales (which Disney used as the basis for the movie Song of the South). The Uncle Remus Museum in Eatonton (40 mi/65 km northeast of Macon) is housed in two log cabins reminiscent of the cottage where Uncle Remus used to spin his hilarious yarns for Harris, who re-created and published the tales he had heard as a child. At the courthouse, children can have their picture made with a colorful statue of Br'er Rabbit himself. Another famous author from Eatonton is Alice Walker, who wrote the novel The Color Purple.
The simple but amazing Rock Eagle Effigy Mound, 5 mi/8 km north of Eatonton, is one of the most ancient structures in Georgia. Some 2,000 to 3,000 years ago, Woodland Indians constructed the figure of a gigantic eagle by arranging quartz rocks on the ground. The figure stretches 120 ft/37 m from head to tail, 102 ft/31 m across its wingspan. It rises some 10 ft/3 m above ground level. Circle around for an up-close look, and then climb the tower for a bird's-eye view. Macon is 82 mi/132 km south of Atlanta.
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