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Macon blooms in Georgia’s heartland

Photos courtesy Macon CVB

Spring brings a wash of floral color to Macon, a city that has quietly become one of the country’s best destinations for cherry blossoms. Along with the blooms come a bevy of great reasons for groups to visit.

During March, the Macon’s International Cherry Blossom Festival attracts a great many visitors, with numerous associated celebrations and events taking place throughout the city. The festival makes a great backdrop for a tour of the town, which can include stops that highlight Macon’s music history, Georgia’s athletic prowess and African-American art, history and culture.

International Cherry Blossom Festival
In the 1950s, a Macon local became intrigued with the cherry tree growing in his back yard and started a movement that would come to define springtime in the city for decades.

“He began giving cherry trees away to residents,” said Valerie Bradley, communications manager at the Macon-Bibb Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Today, 300,000 cherry trees blossom all over the city. A lot of people don’t realize that we have more Yoshino cherry trees than Washington, D.C.”

Inspired by the growing spring color, the city decided to launch the Macon International Cherry Blossom Festival in the 1980s. The festival, which completed its 31st edition this year, comprises 10 days of celebration, with more than 50 individual events happening around the city.

“They have a huge black-tie gala to start things off the first night,” Bradley said. “At Central City Park, they have things like a pink pancake breakfast and a tiger show. They also incorporate things like food truck competitions and fashion shows.”

Groups can attend many of these events, such as Tunes and Balloons, which features live music and a nighttime exhibit of glowing hot-air balloons. Ocmulgee National Monument offers lantern light tours during the festival, taking groups out to explore the ancient Native American site by lantern light.

The Mulberry Street Art Festival also takes place concurrent with the cherry blossom festival.

“They shut down Mulberry Street on Saturday and Sunday, and have more than 100 vendors selling food and art,” Bradley said.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.