To outsiders, Macon can seem like one of those cities glimpsed from the highway on the way from Atlanta down to Florida. Maybe you know an attorney who went to Mercer Law School but hasn’t been back to Macon in years because it’s “too small,” or a die-hard Allman Brothers fan who makes pilgrimages to the band’s home city. But Macon deserves to be viewed with fresh eyes; recently, the city has seen a rebirth due to local grants and the hard work of students and community organizers. Mercer University professors are buying and rehabbing historic homes, motivated by a down-payment forgiveness plan offered by the school. Students are opting for the sleek downtown lofts that were, until just a few years ago, empty cotton warehouses. The Old South Junior League and the Sons of Confederate Veterans rub elbows with New South students studying social entrepreneurship and environmental engineering.
Where to find the best ...
Coffee shop for studying
Roasted Cafe and Lounge
“It’s not too quiet that it’s uncomfortable, and it’s not too loud that you can’t focus. Lots of locals are in and out. It’s a nice break from campus life,” says Mercer journalism major Laura Corley. 442 Second Street, 478-746-6914
Coffee shop for coffee
Taste and See Coffee Shop and Gallery
This recently opened spot has been a big hit thanks to all the natural syrups and sauces that gussy up the coffee offerings. 546 Poplar Street, 478-238-5191
Students may not be able to regularly shell out for Dovetail’s Sunday brunch, but their parents and professors sure do, seeking specials like wild-caught Georgia shrimp. 543 Cherry Street, 478-238-4693
Dinner—when your parents pay
Mercer junior Emily Farlow says, “The Rookery’s not too expensive, so you don’t feel guilty bringing your parents there, but it’s more than a college kid would usually go for. The hamburgers are famously delicious and the atmosphere is cool.” 543 Cherry Street, 478-746-8658
Dinner—when you’re paying
Margaritas at Mercer Village
Students love the specials and (free!) chips and salsa. 1602 Montpelier Avenue, 478-254-7707
Campus dive bar
Billed as “the Original Home of Southern Rock” and host to some serious notables before they were notable, like the Allman Brothers and Tom Petty. 576 Poplar Street, 478-746-9191
The Hummingbird Stage and Taproom
Says Molly McWilliams Wilkins, a Mercer graduate student, “Many times you can find newer acts, such as Swear and Shake.” 430 Cherry Street, 478-741-9130
Place to show out-of-towners
Rose Hill Cemetery
“It’s one of the prettiest places in Macon,” says Emily Farlow. “There is so much history, and famous people such as the Allman Brothers are buried there. There is also a Confederate soldiers section and a Jewish section. It’s all so interesting—and pretty.” 1071 Riverside Drive, 478-751-9119
This article originally appeared in our March 2014 issue.