by Melissa Macker, Executive Director
It seems like summer always flies by! In just a couple of weeks, kids will return to school, and Mercer students will be back downtown. If you haven't managed to find the time (or money) to have a vacation yet this summer, or just want the summer fun to last a little longer, it's not too late! There's plenty of fun to be had right here in downtown Macon without having to go very far. It's fun to play tourist in your own backyard, and many of the options are free or cheap. So take a couple of days off from work, play hooky, and enjoy your staycation! Here are just a few ideas:
1) Visit a museum. We have a few museums downtown. If you appreciate downtown's historic architecture, you must visit the Hay House and the Cannonball House. The Hay House is a 18,000-square-foot Italian Renaissance Revival style mansion that has been featured on A&E's "America's Castles." The Cannonball House was built around the same time and has some interesting Civil War history. Sports fans will enjoy the interactive and educational exhibits at the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame. For art lovers, check out the Tubman Museum. It is the largest museum in the Southeast that is dedicated to preserving and sharing the story of African American Art, Culture, and History. Their new building at the end of Cherry Street is big and beautiful and well air-conditioned, so you can spend a while here.
2) Travel by bike. What better way to see downtown from a different angle than on a bicycle! Thanks to Macon's bike share program, you can pick up a bike in front of the Tubman Museum and rent it using an app on your phone. If riding along the Ocmulgee River is more your pace, you can also pick one up at the Spring Street entrance of the Ocmulgee Heritage Trail (also known as "the river walk" to locals). You can learn more about the bike share on the Macon CVB's website.
3) Enjoy a self-guided tour of downtown. Downtown has a range of new and old pieces of public art, from statues to murals. Unlike statues, murals tend to change, get painted over, or pop up suddenly, so this map of public art is a little out of date, but it's a good starting point. You may discover new murals on your way! If you stop into the Macon Visitors Center at 450 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., you'll find many more self-guided tours and suggested itineraries.
4) Explore downtown Macon's art galleries. If you've visited the galleries on First Friday, they're full of people mingling and enjoying the festivities. During the week, the galleries are quieter, which gives you a chance to really step back and appreciate the work at a leisurely pace. The staff (us included) usually love visitors and are happy to give you the low-down on what's happening downtown. Our hours are 11 am-4 pm, Monday-Friday, and we'd love for you to see our artwork in person. Other galleries to visit: Macon Arts Alliance, Travis Jean, Gallery West, and Ampersand Guild. Bonus: visiting the galleries is free!
5) Try a new restaurant. As downtown Macon grows, so does its culinary scene! Use your time off to check out a restaurant you haven't tried yet--several have opened up just this year. While you're visiting the galleries, the Red Rooster is a great lunch spot. Make sure you leave room for one of their delicious desserts (you're on vacation, after all!). Other places that have opened (or re-opened) semi-recently: Tzango at Lanier's, La Bella Morelia, Ginger, Ladda Bistro, Sang's Thai Isaan Restaurant, Piedmont Brewery & Kitchen, and Ocmulgee Brewpub. Bonus: grab yourself some ice cream at Cherry Street Scoops while you're wandering around.
6) Get the low-down on Macon's music history. Downtown Macon's streets were once frequented by many famous musicians who got their start here. When the sun sets, Rock Candy Tours can tell you many stories and fun facts as you stroll through downtown.
7) See a band--or a play. It's hard to throw a stone downtown on the weekend without hitting a musician. From restaurants to bars to venues like Fresh Produce Music Hall or Cox Capitol Theater, there's something for every musical taste almost every night of the week. You can also see a play or a variety of other performances at Theater Macon, Douglass Theatre, or Grand Opera House. Ovations365.com is a great resource for many events happening in our area.
8) Learn to paint. If you've never been to one of our paint nights, you need to try it at least once. Even people who think they don't have a shred of artistic talent are surprised what they can create with a little help. Plus it's super relaxing (especially if you bring your own wine!). Depending on the night, you can choose from Corks & Canvas (with acrylic paint), Watercolor & Wine, or Drink & Ink (which is like doodling with watercolor added).
9) Float down the Ocmulgee. When you need to beat the summer heat, there's nothing like getting wet. This isn't exactly downtown, but most floats start at Amerson River Park and end up at the Spring Street ramp (which is basically downtown). If you want to travel by kayak or canoe, Ocmulgee Outdoor Expeditions will take good care of you. Leave your cell phone and worries behind and enjoy the scenery.
10) Go shopping. No vacation is complete without shopping--or at least buying a souvenir. If you haven't already picked up something for yourself at one of the galleries or museum gift shops, there are plenty of cute shops to peruse downtown. You're sure to find something! Buy a rare book at Golden Bough, find the perfect accessory for your home at Nest, or make an impulse purchase on a like-new dress from Wear. There are other boutiques to check out, too!
11) Bonus: stay in a B & B. If you have the money and want to splurge on the complete vacation experience, stay at the 1842 Inn. This historic home has thought of every detail. It's right downtown, but it's so relaxing you may not want to get out and explore!