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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Meet in Macon, The Heart of Georgia

Macon is dubbed “The Heart of Georgia” for good reason.

“We’re in the center of the state, and we’re easy to get to,” said Kimberly Payne-Ward, director of sales for the Macon Convention and Visitors Bureau (MCVB). “And two major interstates — I-75 and I-16 — converge here.”

A hip combo, Macon blends American pre-Colonial to Civil War history, boardroom- to arena-size meeting sites downtown and around town, art- to airplane-centric off-site venues, kids to pro sports and rock ’n’ roll. There are big names: the Allman Brothers and Otis Redding. One of the first inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was Macon native son Richard Lee Penniman, singer, songwriter, musician, recording artist and the “Architect of Rock and Roll,” who in the 1950s helped spark the transition from rhythm and blues to rock ’n’ roll. His stage name was Little Richard.

Located 85 miles south of Atlanta, Macon, with its downtown recently revitalized to the tune of $5.3 million, is truly a rockin’ meetings destination.

“Our huge revitalization has brought a lot of loft living downtown,” said Payne-Ward. “As a result, the atmosphere is vibrant, with plenty of restaurants, bars and evening entertainment.” 

Meeting in Macon

Meeting and staying near downtown is easy, thanks to the Macon Centreplex, a complex made up of the Edgar H. Wilson Convention Center, the 220-room Macon Marriott City Center Hotel and the Macon Coliseum, where greats such as Elvis, Elton John and, of course, Little Richard, have packed the house. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Macon City Auditorium, with a monumental 2,688-seat Assembly Hall, is close by.

Versatility is the convention center’s forte, as its 30,800-square-foot Exhibition Hall subdivides into two rooms, and its 9,100-square-foot ballroom breaks into five. With lots of breakout space, prefunction space and wide windows, the 102,000-square-foot facility, Georgia’s largest convention/event venue outside Metro Atlanta, has a light, airy feel throughout.

Connected to the center, the 9,000-seat Coliseum houses home ice for the Macon Mayhem hockey team October through April and hosts a novel possibility for team building: public ice skating. Three rentable suites overlook the arena floor.

“When it’s 100 degrees outside, you can keep cool in the Coliseum,” Payne-Ward said.

The best news for planners is that the convention center is connected to the Marriott by a covered walkway, so attendees have no excuse for missing a meeting.

“The Macon Marriott City Center is a little jewel,” said Roland Biron, director of sales and marketing. “It’s the only four-diamond Marriott in the entire state.”

Located just off I-16, the Centreplex boasts a total 145,000 square feet of meeting space with full catering for up to 9,000 attendees, all a short drive across the Ocmulgee River to downtown.

Options Around Town

The city is sprinkled with meeting sites to meet any group’s needs.

On the 400-plus acres of Middle Georgia State University, the Professional Sciences Conference Center offers 20,000 square feet of flexible space with floor-to-ceiling windows and state-of-the-art technology. A 4,500-square-foot banquet hall seats up to 400 guests, a high-tech tiered classroom accommodates 75, and a smaller boardroom overlooks a lake with a sparkling central fountain. As the entire campus is an arboretum and Macon is the Cherry Blossom Capital of the World, springtime is a gorgeous time to meet here.

Near I-475 and I-75, the Anderson Conference Center is part of a shopping center owned by Goodwill Industries and is devoted to teaching job skills; it comes complete with a cooking school, a restaurant and a coffee shop. The center’s ballroom seats 850, and its 9,200-square-foot Atrium, 650. On-site catering is gourmet quality.

Situated on Macon’s “Hospitality Highway,” the Holiday Inn Macon North has a 2,500-square-foot ballroom and is close to the 81-store Shoppes at River Crossing.

“We’ve got the best happy hour in town,” said Perry McCutcheon, director of sales. “Follow it with dinner at our restaurant, and there’s no driving involved.”

Two Macon eateries boast music history. The Tic Toc Room, where Little Richard first tickled the ivories, serves superb steaks, and the H&H Restaurant, a favorite of the Allman Brothers, has been pure down-home soul food, with breakfast served daily until 4 p.m., since 1959.