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City beckons with beauty, something for everyone

By Tamara Boatwright

Brad Willis is one of thousands of visitors to Macon's Rose Hill Cemetery with one thing in mind - paying homage to the late Duane Allman, founder of the Allman Brothers Band.

"I've always been a fan," Willis said. "For years driving through here back and forth to St. Simons Island, I've said I was going to stop."

A simple question to two other visitors, "Do you know where Duane is buried?" helped him complete his quest.

Willis and his 12-year-old son Sidney joined others who were also paying homage to Allman.

Rose Hill Cemetery, which also is the final resting place for Allman's fellow bandmate Berry Oakley, who is buried alongside Allman, is one of the main attractions in the historic city. It is also the final resting place for Elizabeth Reed, a woman whose name was used for one of the band's more popular recordings.

Macon, about 60 miles straight down I-75, is home to more than a cemetery and the Allman Brothers legacy. Otis Redding Jr., famous for songs like "These Arms of Mine," "Try a Little Tenderness" and his most famous recording, "Sitting on the Dock of the Bay," called Macon home until his death in a 1967 plane crash. A statue commemorating Redding sits near the banks of the Ocmulgee River at Gateway Park. A nearby bridge also carries Redding's name.

Macon is also home to the Georgia Music Hall of Fame which has exhibits dedicated to the Allman Brothers, Redding, Ray Charles, Johnny Mercer, James Brown, Little Richard and others. Open since Sept. 1996, the building features permanent exhibits, the Music Factory Children's Wing, the Zell Miller Center for Georgia Music Studies and visiting exhibits. The Great Gretsch Sound - dedicated to Gretsch Guitars - is the current exhibit.

Recent visitors to the Hall of Fame included Chicago residents Betty and Fred Jankowski who were in the area visiting family.

"This was fascinating," Fred Jankowski said. "Johnny Mercer songs are great. Skylark is my favorite."

When asked what he thought about the B 52s, another Georgia band, Jankowski shook his head.

"None of that crazy stuff for me," he replied.

Macon is home to more than music. Grand and historic homes dot the downtown area, the Ocmulgee Indian Mounds are nearby and there is an assortment of museums. And few places are as beautiful as Macon in the spring when the town's 275,000 Yoshino cherry trees are blooming.

Given its proximity, Macon is perfect for a day trip. But beware, it can seem like it is one of the hottest places on earth in the summer - so plan your day accordingly. Here is a rundown of some of the main attractions:

* Rose Hill Cemetery, 1091 Riverside Drive.

Open daily until sunset, it is interesting beyond the Allman, Oakley, Reed plots. Some of the graves date back to the mid-1800s. Literally on a hill, it slopes down to the Ocmulgee River and makes for a beautiful, albeit hilly, walk - if cemeteries are interesting to you. Free

* Ocmulgee National Monument, 1207 Emery Highway in east Macon.

Visit the earthlodge, a reconstruction of a ceremonial building. Interesting and a cool break on a warm day. Stop at the visitor center on your way in to the park and pick up a guide so you can navigate around the park. Free. Open 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. daily. Just down the road is Ft. Hawkins, a replica of a 1806 blockhouse that was built in 1938 by the Work Projects Administration. It was named for Benjamin Hawkins, a Creek Indian agent.

* Georgia Music Hall of Fame, 200 MLK Jr. Blvd.

A great place to visit if you are a fan of Georgia music, or music in general. Open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays, 1-5 p.m. Sundays. Admission: $8 for adults, seniors and students with ID, $6, ages 4-16 $3.50 and under 4 free.

* Sidney Lanier Cottage, 935 High St.

The 1842 birthplace of poet Sidney Lanier. Open Mondays-Fridays, 9 a.m. -4 p.m and Saturdays 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Admission: Adults, $5; children 6-18, $3.

* Cannonball House, 856 Mulberry St.

Built in 1853, it was struck by a cannonball in 1864. Beautiful. Furnished with period pieces. Mondays-Saturdays 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission, a value at $1 per person.

* Hay House, 934 Georgia Ave.

Once a private home, now a museum. Mondays-Saturdays 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., Sunday: 1 p.m. - 5 p.m. Tours are on the hour with the last tour at 4 p.m. Admission: Adults $8; seniors/military $7; students $4.

*Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, 301 Cherry St.

The country's largest state sports hall of fame and honors almost 300 members. It's interesting, even if you aren't a sports fan. It's also near the Georgia Music Hall of Fame so you could hit both places in an afternoon visit. Mondays-Saturdays 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Adults, $8; seniors, students and military with ID $5; children 6-16 $3.50; 5 and under, free. There is a family package available for $15.

* Tubman African American Museum, 340 Walnut Street

This is the state's largest African American museum. There are permanent collections as well as touring exhibitions. Mondays -Fridays 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Sat 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun 2 p.m.-5 p.m. Admission: Adults $5; children and students with ID $3; children under 4 free.

Hungry?

There are lots of restaurants in Macon and they range from fancy to fast-food. But no visit to middle Georgia is complete without a visit to Nu Way Weiners (yes, that's the way they spell it) at 430 Cotton Avenue.

Some people would call it a dump, others would claim the decor charming in a vintage kind of way. Either way, its the bright-red dogs smothered in Nu Way's special chili sauce and the drinks served with "the famous flaky ice" that keep people coming back again and again.

Order a dog "all the way" and get a chili dog with the chili sauce, mustard, ketchup and onions. A Mega-Burger is mega-good. Open Mondays-Fridays 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Another quaint, non-chain restaurant is Len Berg's at 240 Post Office Alley. Eat at the counter or in one of the little side rooms with booths that remind you of train dining cars from long ago. Try the macaroon pie topped with fresh whipped cream either before or after the salmon croquettes. Ordering is a special treat. The meats and vegetables are lettered so you order via the alphabet and since old-timers know the secret, it's easy to spot a visitor by the way they stumble around the menu. Len Berg's is reasonably priced and if you especially like the meal, ring the "doorbell" as you leave. Open Mondays through Saturdays 11-2:30.

Need more information?

The Macon Downtown Welcome Center is in the Terminal Station just off Interstate 16 at exit 2. There is free all day parking. Open Mondays - Saturdays 9 a.m.-5 p.m. or call 1-800-768-3401. Or visit www.maconga.org