Why Macon, Georgia, for a weekend? Well, I'll tell you--it's about music, music, music. This town is the birthplace of some of the greatest sounds of the 20th century. And there's no better time to visit than in September, when all manner of artists belt out their songs here. You'll want to aim for September 19 through 21 for the best performances and concerts.
Start your toe tapping at the Brown Bag Boogie outdoor concert, which begins at noon on the 19th at the Music Hall of Fame. It's typically the best. Then get to Len Berg's before 2 p.m. for lunch. This meat-and-two eatery, which has been around since 1908, serves tasty comfort food, such as country-fried steak, salmon croquettes, and baked turkey along with fresh vegetables (from $5.60).
Afterward, check in to your lodging. For those travelers who enjoy elegant bed-and-breakfasts, we deem the 1842 Inn one of the finest (478) 741-1842 or www.the1842inn.com; $109-$230). When you prefer a simple, more affordable motel, we recommend the airy Atrium La Quinta Inn & Suites (478) 475-0206 or www.laquinta
Spend the afternoon strolling on Cherry Street, where ladies can outfit themselves from head to toe. Hats and makeup take center stage at Joycine's Accessories-Art-Attitudes. Owner Barbara Barry keeps a fine selection of chapeaus, much as her mother did when she started the business in 1945. For those who can never have enough shoes and purses, Karla's Shoe Boutique feels heavenly. Owners Karla Redding Andrews and Zelma Redding also have a musical connection; they are Otis Redding's daughter and widow.
If you're in town on the 19th, dine early enough to catch Jammin' in the Street, an outdoor concert at the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. Indulge in a romantic Italian dinner tonight at Natalia's. This is a good place for a lighter meal. You can order from the antipasti menu ($4.50-$10) and ask for the pasta as an appetizer ($9 instead of $15-$17). We love the artichoke hearts served with steamed shrimp ($8.50) and the piroshki, a delicate pastry filled with beef and topped with béarnaise sauce ($7).
For a nightcap, drop in to Trio on Cherry Street. Live jazz and excellent martinis create beautiful dreams.
If you are not staying at the 1842 Inn, visit H&H Restaurant on Forsyth Street for breakfast. (They also serve a fine lunch.) Little has changed in the cinder block dining room since the days when The Allman Brothers Band frequented the place. Dive into plates full of buttery grits, bacon, and eggs ($5), while the ancient jukebox churns out Elvis, the Eagles, and, of course, your favorite Allman Brothers tunes.
Spend the remainder of the morning exploring Ocmulgee National Monument. The annual Indian Celebration fills the air with traditional native music and handmade crafts. Ceremonial mounds dating from 1,000 years ago provide a glimpse into an ancient culture.
For lunch, slide into Nu-Way for the most famous hot dogs in town. You might want to eat your private-label wiener with a fork as do most Macon residents, who've been munching on these dogs since 1916.
Macon's musical past beckons at the Georgia Music Hall of Fame this afternoon ($8 adults, $6 seniors and college students, and $3.50 ages 4-16). There you'll learn how "Little Richard" Penniman, Otis Redding, James Brown, The Allman Brothers Band, the B-52's, and R.E.M. all launched their careers here. Afterward, stroll over to the Tubman African American Museum to examine Afrocentric art, history, and culture ($3). Then become a fan of the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame ($6 adults, $3.50 ages 6-16), filled with tributes to state legends Bobby Jones, Evander Holyfield, and Jackie Robinson.
Before heading out for the evening, visit with Otis Redding. The life-size bronze sits on the dock of the Ocmulgee River, a wonderful place to feel the evening breeze freshen the warm September night.
Another dinner is in order, so head to the Tic Toc Room, formerly a smoky nightclub where Little Richard used to perform. These days its focus is on great food. The menu features Big and Little Plates. Whet your appetite with the chived lobster-and-crabmeat dip ($8), then move on to a mouthwatering strip steak with blue cheese and mashed potatoes ($19). Instead of dessert, go upstairs for after-dinner drinks at the piano bar, or join patrons at The Grand Opera House for an American Indian performance on the 20th.
This morning, follow the crowds to Willow on Fifth. This Southern buffet, a sister restaurant to the famous Blue Willow in Social Circle, Georgia, offers a tasty selection of fried chicken, meat loaf, pork chops, and fresh veggies ($8.95-$12.95).
If you have time before heading out of town, pay a visit to another gorgeous Macon establishment, the 1859 Hay House. Although not connected to any local musician, this lovely Italian Renaissance Revival home, nicknamed Palace of the South, may motivate you to write your own song of the beauties of a Macon weekend.
For more information: Contact the Macon-Bibb County Convention and Visitors Bureau, P.O. Box 6354, Macon, GA 31208; 1-800-768-3401 or www.maconga.org.
This article is from the September 2003 issue of Southern Living.Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.