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Editor’s note: TravelQ, a series that documents travel through the eyes of stylish queers, returns this week with a new feature by Erin McGrady and Caroline Whatley, freelance photographers, writers, and content creators who co-own Authentic Asheville.
I’ll admit, I was nervous about traveling to Macon, Georgia. As a queer Asian American in an interracial relationship, my anxiety increases each time my wife and I visit somewhere new, particularly in the American south. We go into each trip (this is our 16th piece for dapperQ!) knowing we may experience discomfort, judgment, disapproval, and even physical harm in trying to find safe spaces because let’s face it, that’s still the world we live in. Still, we are motivated to continue traveling and sharing about the places we visit so that others can go to places where they can be their authentic selves without fear and have a fun time.
This Pride Month, we’re excited to share our most recent guide with you on Macon, Georgia.
Things to Do
There’s no shortage of fun things to do in Macon but the ones below are our top picks for how to spend your time while in the city that bills itself as the city where soul lives. Music is a big deal here (Otis Redding and The Allman Brothers both have direct ties to Macon) but there’s a whole lot more to it than just music. Keep reading to see what we got into.
Flavorz Hookah and Coffee | 368 2nd Street
If you’re looking for a chill spot to gather with friends head on over to Flavorz Hookah and Coffee. This is a Black-owned, woman-owned, lesbian business and it’s conveniently located downtown, just a short walk from the hotel we listed below. Every Saturday Flavorz hosts a Pride Night and Tuesdays are Tacos and Tequlia nights where you can get a shot, a taco, or a margarita each for $2. In addition to these weekly specials are open mics, DJ dance parties, and events. Keep your eye on their Facebook posts to stay up to date with what’s happening each week and say what’s up to the owner, Daaijee, if you see her.
Fresh Produce Records Macon | 567 Cherry St
Audiophiles rejoice, this record store is damn fine. It’s been open since October of 2013 and though it closed for a year during COVID and took sales online, it’s doors are back open and it’s moving to a bigger location on Cherry Street, the main corridor through town. Will, the owner, has booked some LGBTQ artists for shows (they used to be played at Fresh Produce but as of late have been at nearby JBA) and maintains an awesome collection of artists in his inventory. Don’t see something you want? It can be ordered. Decision-fatigued to the max? There are a couple of mystery boxes you can purchase that have been sorted for you so that you can just pick one and go.
Georgia Sports Hall of Fame | 301 Cherry Street
When we first laid eyes on the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame building we thought it was a baseball stadium. Not quite. It looks like one from the entrance but there isn’t a field behind the front doors. Instead there’s a hall of fame museum that celebrates over 400 athletes who have a connection to Georgia. And at 43,000 square feet it’s one of the country’s largest state sports museums where you’ll find everyone from 25-time All Star Hank Aaron to lesser known athletes like Lisa Spain Short who was the first University of Georgia women’s tennis All-American.
Golden Bough Bookstore | 371 Cotton Avenue
One of the first places we stopped in Macon was a bookstore that had a chalk advertisement on the sidewalk near our hotel. In our experience, bookstores are typically safe spaces. (Though I’m sure there is an exception to everything, so far in our travels, they’ve been reliable jumping-off points for us to connect a few dots and find a couple of other locally recommend LGBTQ+ safe spaces.) Golden Bough didn’t let us down. They’ve been in business for 30+ years and the current owner has operated it for the last 17. He has an LGBTQ section and we picked up a title on marriage equality before heading to one of his queer-friendly Macon recommendations: Fresh Produce.
Macon Pride | various locations
Macon Pride has over the years grown to be quite an event! What started out one year as an idea has grown to become a week-long event with a board of directors and an official non-profit status. Though Pride was canceled in 2020 due to COVID, the 2021 festival was a huge success and plans are already in the works for this year’s event which is held at the end of September. There will be drag shows, a Pride beer, a film festival, karaoke in the park, a one-man show at Theater Macon, and all kinds of vendors showing up to table throughout the week. There are even churches that come out to support the LGBTQ community. Be sure to check the website as the event approaches for more details and information.
Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park | 1207 Emery Hwy
Less than 2 and a half miles from downtown Macon you’ll find Ocmulgee Mounds National Historic Park, stolen lands where the Muscogee people were manipulated, subjected to violence, and forcefully removed from their homes and land. Entry into the park is free but on occasion there is a fee for special events such as the Ocmulgee Indian Celebration which is held the third weekend in September. Visitors to the park will be able to learn about the seven different mounds and the cultures of the people that once thrived in this area. The visitor center has over 2,000 artifacts on display including a short film about the history of the park. It’s a great spot to visit when things heat up in Macon and you need to get out of the sun for a bit.
Otis Redding Museum | 339 Cotton Ave.
If you’ve ever sung along to the song “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” then you already know and love the genius that was Otis Redding. Though not born in Macon, Otis’ family moved there when he was five years old. His legend lives on as he continues to be loved by locals and tourists alike who keep his life and music alive. We recommend putting Otis on your speakers as you head towards Macon and let him prime you for the fun you’re about to have.
Travis Jean Emporium and The Bohemian Den | 522 Cherry St.
This gay-owned business is a great spot for picking up a cool gift (enamel pronoun pins, rainbow earrings, rainbow glassware, Black Lives Matter/Trans Lives Matter/LGBTQ+ Lives Matter Flags, and more). Be sure to ask if Scott, the owner, is there because, as the President and co-founder of Macon Pride, he is one of the most prominent leaders in the LGBTQ+ community in Macon and a gem of a human who can give you the rich backstory of the LGBTQ community in Macon.
Tubman Museum | 310 Cherry St.
Visiting the Tubman Museum is one of our top picks for things to do in Macon. Even if you only have a day or two in Macon, we recommend making time to visit. It’s the largest museum in the United States dedicated to African American art, history, and culture. It is named after the courageous African American woman Harriet Tubman who was also known as “the Moses of her people.” After escaping bondage, Tubman led hundreds of other slaves to freedom on several treks as an Underground Railroad conductor who had a bounty on her head at the time. She continued to help people her entire life and towards the end of her life even opened the Harriet Tubman Home for Aged and Indigent Colored People. There is an exhibit dedicated to Tubmans life as well as others that celebrate the art, music, and inventions made by African Americans. Bonus: The Tubman Museum also happens to be a queer friendly space that’s held many an LGBTQ wedding and wedding photo shoot inside its beautiful sunlit space.
Places to Eat and Drink
Reboot Retrocade and Bar | 566 Cherry Street
Old school board games, pinball machines, video games, $2 and $3 hot snacks, nightly drink specials, nice bartenders, and cos play nights? We honestly couldn’t ask for much more out of a space. The regional LGBTQ+ youth group serving middle Georgia thinks so too as this is a regular meeting-up spot for them.
JBA | 499 MLK Jr Boulevard
This self-described cozy music venue featuring craft cocktails, rotating craft beer, and an extensive whiskey selection was one of our favorite LGBQT safe spaces in Macon. We felt welcome and at ease the moment we walked in. JBA regularly hosts drag shows, the staff is super cool, the dance floor is cozy and the drinks are reasonably priced. Being there felt like hanging out in some of our favorite places back home in Asheville where you can show up as you are and you’re bound to run into familiar faces of friends and meet new people.
Dovetail | 543 Cherry Street
Dovetail is one of the best places to eat in Macon. It’d make a great spot for a date what with its intimate mood lighting, craft cocktail menu, and farm to table menu. You can expect upscale traditional southern fare with local ingredients and sides like grits, buttermilk mashed potatoes and aged cheddar mac and cheese. We highly recommend the Dovetail Burger as it’s one of the best we’ve ever had. I’m actually still thinking about it weeks later…
H & H Soul Food | 807 Forsyth Street
H & H was founded in 1959 by Inez Hill and Louise Hudson, two Black women entrepreneurs who served up delicious home-cooked meals for decades until Ms. Hill passed on. The restaurant closed for a few years but it was reopened in 2014 by the Moonhanger group, in cooperation with Ms. Hudson. Many years ago, before the Allman Brothers were famous, they wandered in hungry and looking for a meal. The only catch was that they could not pay. Ms. Hill and Ms. Hudson, fed them anyway and it led to a long and lasting relationship with the band. These days H & H has not only one of the most delicious and reasonably priced meals around, but it’s also steeped in Macon history with signed pictures and postcards of musicians and the women who started H & H. Their hearty portion of grits, bacon and eggs hit the spot and kept us full until lunch. 10/10 would recommend.
Loom | 401 Cotton Avenue
You’re Macon me hungry! (We can’t take credit for the pun, it’s on Loom’s website) But the truth of the matter is, yep, Loom made us hungry from the smells that kept wafting out of the kitchen. We opted for the Benne Seed Seared Yellowfin Tuna served over a bed of Charleston Gold Rice as an appetizer and then leaned into some wine and cocktails before splitting the sauteéd grouper with black-eyed peas, bacon and tomato salad, greens, and salsa fresca. The menu changes based on the season and what’s available so it’s the kind of place where you can return to again and again and continue to find something new. Outdoor dining is available and it’s a great spot to go on your first night in town.
Oliver’s Bistro | 496 2nd Street
Sitting at the corner of 2nd Street and Poplar you’ll find a cute little outdoor dining space named Oliver’s that’s perfect for brunch, lunch, or dinner. The salads we ordered at this locally-owned business were fresh, tasty, and huge! We each had enough to take home a little to-go for a snack later. We hope to return at a future time for brunch when they serve their bottomless mimosas …
Piedmont Brewery | 450-B 3rd Street
There are a couple of breweries for the craft beer enthusiast to try in Macon but we opted to visit Piedmont Brewery namely because we learned they’d brewed a beer for Macon Pride in 2021. The beer was called “In the Name of Love Beer” and even had a release party during Pride week. Though that beer wasn’t on tap when we visited, we did get a nice, cold West Coast IPA to go with our pulled pork BBQ and sides. Piedmont has plans to brew another beer for this year’s Macon Pride and also shared that they’ll be donating money towards the event as well.
Where to Stay
Hotel Forty Five | 401 Cotton Avenue
We stayed in the beautifully renovated Art-Deco Hotel Forty Five which is conveniently located in downtown Macon to most of the attractions listed above. If you’re wondering if there’s a connection between the name of the hotel and the music culture here in Macon, you’re correct. Hotel Forty Five is a subtle nod to 45 rpm records. Upon check-in we were offered a refreshing strawberry bellini which we gratefully sipped on as we made our way along the original marble floors and stairs to the elevator that took us to the ninth floor. Our room had a beautiful view that overlooked downtown Macon and was stylishly appointed with a mini Smeg refrigerator, a coffee station, a plush King size bed, and a custom peach scented shampoo. The cafe and wine bar, Reckon, located on the first floor of the hotel has a nice hot breakfast (we had the egg and cheese croissant, yogurt, and coffee) and also a single stall bathroom in the dining area. The hotel also has a rooftop bar, Hightales, and its clever cocktails paired with a view make it a great start or end to your evening.
Want to know more? Check out maconga.org | @visitmacon
Keep up with Erin McGrady and Caroline Whatley of Authentic Asheville by following them on Instagram at @e.mcgrady, @carolineperdue, and @authenticasheville and check out the short film about them titled Who Is A Runner by Brooks Running in partnership with Camp4 Collective.
About the authors: Caroline and Erin are freelance web designers, photographers and writers for the travel blog Authentic Asheville. When they’re not on the road, they hang their hats in Asheville, North Carolina. Follow their adventures on Instagram at @e.mcgrady + @carolineperdue + @authenticasheville