When it comes to impact on American music, the small town of Macon, Georgia, can hang with the best of them. Located less than two hours from Atlanta, Macon is the birthplace of Little Richard and Otis Redding, two titans of rock ‘n’ roll and soul music.
A sweet melody or a heavy bass is always within earshot, whether you're touring a Native American ceremonial ground, sipping on local craft beer or cheering on the Macon Bacon. Here’s our list of the best things to do in Macon, Georgia.
Groove to the greats at Capricorn Records
Macon local, Phil Walden, managed Otis Redding and Percy Sledge before founding Capricorn Records to rival the studios like Stax Records in Memphis and Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Alabama.
Walden founded Capricorn Records in the 1960s with Jerry Wexler (formerly of Atlantic Records), and Frank Fenter. After years of success, the company suffered personal and financial setbacks and eventually shuttered in 1980. But in 2019, Mercer University restored Capricorn Records as a museum and music incubator.
Phil’s legacy along with that of his younger brother Alan, who managed Lynyrd Skynyrd, are told on Rock Candy Tours. Owned by Alan’s daughter – Jessica – and her husband, the walking tours visit landmarks related to the city’s musical history.
Head to the homes of Little Richard and Otis Redding
Macon is the home of royalty. Otis Redding, the “King of Soul” and Little Richard, the “King of Rock and Roll” were both born and raised in the city before making it big.
Richard Wayne Penniman, better known as Little Richard, grew up in the Pleasant Hill neighborhood until his hit song “Tutti Frutti” propelled him to stardom. The home was saved from a wrecking ball in 2016 and was even moved a mile from its original spot to make way for an interstate expansion. The home has been restored and is now open for tours by appointment.
Otis Redding lived in Macon until he died in a plane crash in 1967. His family still lives in town and honors his legacy with the Otis Redding Foundation, a downtown storefront and museum.
Pay your respects to The Allman Brothers Band
The Allman Brothers Band may have begun their career in Jacksonville, Florida, but the group is forever tied to Macon. It’s where the band hit it big and where most of the members died.
The group shared a Tudor home in the Vinewood neighborhood with their families. Now, it’s the Allman Brothers Band Museum filled with concert posters, instruments, and clothing.
Back when the Allman Brothers Band were “starving artists,” owners Inez Hill and Louise Hudson fed the band at their H&H Restaurant on Forsyth St. Known for its mouth-watering fried chicken, this iconic dining spot recently unveiled a mural on the building depicting the band with Inez and Louise. Downtown Grill is a local steakhouse, originally called Le Bistro, attracted countless celebrities over the years. It’s best remembered as the spot where Gregg Allman proposed to Cher in 1973.
Following the tragic motorcycle wreck deaths in Macon of Duane Allman in 1971 and Berry Oakley in 1972, the pair were buried at Rose Hill Cemetery, not far from the grave that inspired the song “Little Martha” and the site of the photoshoot for their album Gold. Gregg Allman, who passed in 2017, is also buried there.
Explore even more music history and venues
Capricorn Studios isn’t the only spot to delve into Macon’s expansive musical history. Built in 1904, the Grand Opera House opened its doors to performers like illusionist Harry Houdini and Russian prima ballerina Anna Pavlova. In later years, musicians Hank Williams and the Allman Brothers Band took top billing.
During the Segregation era, the Douglass Theatre (named after local businessman Charles Douglass) showcased top Black musical acts like jazz maestros Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway, and blues singers Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey.
Today, the Douglass Theatre hosts events like the HBCU Art Series which promotes performative and visual arts from Historic Black Colleges and Universities.
Tour Macon's Antebellum homes
Macon stops along Georgia's Antebellum Trail, a self-guided route between towns that escaped Sherman's infamous March to the Sea, a military campaign of the American Civil War. Many of the homes are now museums.
One of the most popular is Hay House – an 1859 Italian Renaissance Revival unlike any other in town. The home includes a double parlor where the family entertained guests and a cupola that overlooks the city, visible from the guided tour.
Cheer on the Macon Bacon
After a 2017 fan contest, Macon’s new minor league baseball team was officially named the Macon Bacon. The Coastal Plains League team plays at historic Luther Williams Field, the site for the Jackie Robinson biopic 42 (2013). The team’s merchandise is a popular souvenir, with actor and muse Kevin Bacon even donning a hat. The team’s mascot, Kevin, is named in honor of him.
Sip on local suds at the Macon Beer Company
Macon’s breweries follow the tradition of beer that dates back to at least the 1800s. Prohibition nearly ended this legacy, but in 2013, the Macon Beer Company became the first brewery to open in town since America’s “failed experiment.”
Macon Beer Company has the best burgers in town, along with beers inspired by the city. Macon Love has cherry blossoms on the can, which bloom every spring, and a cherry wine flavor profile. Macon Mounds is a bittersweet porter named for the Ocmulgee Mounds. If you're not into beer, the menu also includes Willy Wonka-esque candy cocktails with house-made spirits.
Learn about the area’s original residents at the Ocmulgee Mounds National Historic Park
This sacred American Indian site at Ocmulgee Mounds National Historic Park dates back over 17,000 years and has seven ceremonial mounds. Park rangers lead tours of the “Earth Lodge'' – a council chamber dating back over 1000 years.
The nation’s largest archeological dig took place in Ocmulgee. Archeologists uncovered over 2000 artifacts including arrowheads, pottery, and jewelry. One of the best outdoor activities in Macon is the park’s eight miles of hiking trails.
Admission is free, except during the Ocmulgee Indian Celebration, which brings together Native American tribes with storytelling, dance, food, and arts and crafts.
Spend a night at the historic Hotel Forty Five
The Hotel Forty Five is Macon’s first boutique hotel, set in the historic district and named for the 45-degree angle of the cross streets. Perks include a coffee shop and restaurant, along with a rooftop bar overlooking the city and mid-century modern-inspired rooms. It’s also across the street from the Macon City Auditorium, where a young Little Richard caught a transformational performance by guitar icon Sister Rosetta Tharpe.
Catch live music at Grant’s Lounge
Macon has live musical performances all over town, but Grant's Lounge is a popular spot. Opening its doors in 1971, Grant's was home to early performances by the Allman Brothers Band, Tom Petty, and the Marshall Tucker Band. The self-described "original home of Southern rock" still hosts local musicians such as blues legend Robert Lee Coleman.
Wander through Macon’s museums
The heart of Macon is home to the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, a sprawling complex with artifacts from Georgia’s college teams, the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, and the professional football, baseball, and soccer teams. See a jug of water from Georgia Southern University’s Eagle Creek and the University of Georgia mascot Uga’s jersey.
Across the street, the Tubman Museum showcases Black excellence with items related to historic figures. Here you’ll find a sculpture of Harriet Tubman, Little Richard’s piano, and artwork by outsider artist Mister Imagination. The museum also hosts the annual Tubman Museum Pan African Festival of Georgia.
Dine at The Rookery
There are more than enough places to eat in Macon, but if you only have time for one, it should be The Rookery, which has been part of the community since 1976.
The casual restaurant has an upper level that overlooks Widespread Panic's stage playing one of their earliest shows. The menu honors Georgia legends with a mushroom and swiss burger named for the Allman Brothers and a Jimmy Carter milkshake made with (what else!) peanut butter.
You might also like:
Creole Trail highlights Black cowboy history
Where to explore Gullah culture in the US
The 14 best free things to do in Georgia