Snacking on Having Fun in Macon, Georgia
A Local’s Guide to Having Fun in Macon, Georgia for Visitors:
Macon can be a hard town. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty to do, but at the same time, pinpointing those things can be hard for the uninitiated. You have to remember that, at heart, Macon is a small town. Though we have just over 95,000 people within the city limits, there is generally only 3 degrees of separation between you and the stranger seated at the other end of the bar. The other thing that makes Macon a hard town is that we like to hang out in our own social groups. Yes, they may be cliques in a lot of ways, but many of us pride ourselves on the various cliques with which we get to hang out. Here are a few helpful tips to get you through the days, weeks, or months in which you’ll get to inhabit Macon.
So You’re Visiting Macon
You gotta eat, and there is no shame in our food game. We’ve all seen and read about the stars visiting independently owned restaurants several times. I just want to reiterate the ones that do such a good job, I remember and miss them when I’m away from home.
The Rookery – Overall top notch food and probably my favorite restaurant. I feel like I know the entire staff, the food is always good (we all know that no place is perfect, so if something is wrong, they work quickly and efficiently to correct it), the service is great, and the specials are always interesting, enticing even. Their draft beers change constantly, so there’s always something new to try and they are good at picking beers that go with their food.
Downtown Grill – This is my chill spot, a place where I go to smoke a cigar, have a glass of wine or a cocktail, maybe an appetizer. When it comes to fine dining, this is definitely the place to take your special someone, or to go by yourself if that’s your thing. The staff is awesome, courteous and almost flawless in their execution of duties while the bar is laid back and what you’d want while you puff on a stogie.
Lemongrass – Different and interesting, I love the food that I get at Lemongrass, and I love how they do spicy. As much as I love the food, however, I have to say my favorite thing at Lemongrass is the fried ice cream. It is definitely what I have always had in my head when I thought fried ice cream, not the cornflake concoction some restaurants use. Nearly anything you get will be fabulous, but if you’re a fan of fried ice cream, theirs will blow you away.
Nu-Way – Cheap, filling, good. I’m not saying this to be funny, but if you only have $8 in your hand and you want to feel like you spent $16, go to Nu-Way.
Honorable Mention: Roasted – I love this place. It’s been in existence for nearly a year and it has some of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had. They are like sandwich geniuses. It’s a coffee house that serves some really good craft beers and awesome, awesome sandwiches. The Greek Heat with sriracha is one of my favorites, but they are doing some good shit with roast beef as well. And if you, like me, like a pretty plate of food, Nick Rizkalla will gladly oblige. This place is also great for relaxing with a beer on the outdoor patio.
This isn’t an exhaustive list, just the places I personally miss when I’m not in Macon. There are so many good places to eat, you could almost spend your entire time in Macon eating and enjoying food.
So you’re eating. That’s good. It means you’re alive. But you have to play as well. Where does a stranger in a strange land play when they visit Macon?
You can play at reading, and if you do, you HAVE to go to the Golden Bough Bookstore. Eric Wakefield, the owner, is probably one of the most interesting people to talk to in the city. If you want to know what music is local, he has them all. They are loaded on his computer, there are CDs for sale, and he knows them all personally. His book selections are top notch. He has everything from trashy romance novels to highbrow philosophical tomes. He is a genuine used book store with all the nooks and crannies you could want to escape the heat of day for a good read.
You could play at socializing, but how does that work for a stranger? First of all, you have to remember you in a southern town. While we have a large number of citizens, we also still have that small town feel, which means you can do something that would get you slapped, or maybe kicked out in cities like Los Angeles, New York, and even Atlanta. You can just go up to a stranger and talk to them. You can ask them questions. You can buy them a beer. And visitors from big cities, our beers are CHEAP. You’re spending $1, at most $2.50 to find out all the places you should be and if you talk to the right stranger at the bar (like if you happen to run into me), you’ll get introduced to just about everyone who calls downtown Macon home. And that’s important because these are the people who know what’s going on downtown. Yes, we have the dourpusses who think that the little be we do is not enough, but I’m so social, I have to schedule my events. Live music, eating, smoking cigars (indoors, no less, visitors!), socializing… there’s so much going on, even if it is right under everyone’s nose.
You could play at relaxing, which sleepy, small southern towns are good for. Whether you get a floaty and drift down the Ocmulgee (starting at Amerson’s Waterworks Park and ending at Spring Street’s Riverwalk), or spend the day beside Duane Allman’s grave with your guitar (or pastels, paints, pencil & notebook, etc.) enjoying the quiet stillness of nature, the river (and occasionally the train), There is much you can do. One of the things I love about this city is that you can do as much or as little as you want.
You could play at culture, but make no mistake, this is real culture, real artists working in the community with real museums informing the masses. One of the things I love about Fridays in Macon is that pretty much every art gallery is open. Each month is a new show, and there are so many interesting places to view art. The Georgia Sports Hall of Fame has many interesting exhibits and movies that chronicle Georgia athletes who have made an impact on the world, not just on Georgia. The Museum of Arts and Sciences, if you care to take a drive, will show you nature, and Georgia, art to explore the past, and interesting, nationally traveling exhibits. I’ve been to MoMA, Boston’s MFA, even museums in Spain and Italy. I am still awed every time I step into the Museum of Arts and Sciences. Or how about the Tubman African American Museum, with the largest collection of African American art and history in the Southeast? The art is interesting and speaks to the years of traditions, history, and inventions that is part of the African American experience – which affects or influences pretty much everyone in the world.
But I’m just one person, which is why it’s important that you buy that drink, meet that person, and eventually meet the people they know. Don’t be nervous. Don’t worry if you strike out with one person. Get to know the bartender, they can definitely introduce you around. The waiter at your restaurant probably knows the area as well. The wealth of what to do in Macon is all around you in the people. Don’t be afraid to avail yourself of that knowledge.
So, visitor, welcome to Macon. I hope you get to enjoy it as much as I do.