Guest Author - Cynthia Parker
Callaway Gardens Georgia
Located on Highway 27 in Pine Mountain, Georgia, Callaway Gardens boasts a wide range of activities for families, couples, or just the individual.
Probably best known for its Azalea Watch, the gardens can be viewed by car or by foot. With over 20,000 azalea bushes of both the native and cultivated varieties, the gardens are ablaze with bright-blooming azaleas from early to late March. Native azalea bushes grow up to fifteen feet in height and boast blooms of pink, white, orange and yellow. They bloom about two weeks later than the cultivated variety and their distinct sweet fragrance is a delight. The azaleas are not the only attraction in the gardens. I explored the walking trails when I visited Callaway Gardens and found the trees, wildflowers, and “contemplation areas” set up throughout to be very uplifting. Along one trail I came across a small, open air chapel. With the wind in the trees and the birds’ songs, it was a relaxing place to find a little peace.
Wildlife conservation and education is a big focus at Callaway Gardens. The Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center is a LEED certified, glass enclosed building filled with tropical plants and over 50 species of butterflies. Visitors can get an up close view of the development and life cycle of butterflies in this beautifully special environment. Since 2000, Calloway Gardens has featured a Bird of Prey exhibit where visitors learn of man’s impact on wildlife, particularly raptors. These amazing birds can be viewed soaring overhead, as well as on the hand of their handlers. All of the birds in the exhibit cannot be released into the wild either because of injuries that have prevented them from being able to survive on their own or due to imprinting. This exhibit has been approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
Other outdoor adventures at Calloway Gardens include watersports at Robin Beach Lake and the Tree Top Adventures and Zip Lines. Robin Beach Lake sports a sandy white beach with a wonderful swimming area along with a variety of watersports including water skiing, wakeboarding, and tubing. There are plenty of picnic areas to enjoy a cook-out and lots of open space to kids to play. Tree Top Adventures run 70 feet above the ground and stretch horizontally for over 3,000 feet. They include ten zip lines ranging in length from 44-700 feet, along with a network of ladders, wires, logs, discs, and other suspended surfaces to explore. Guidelines and helmets are provided and required for all participants. There are three courses to explore: Discovery Course, the Lake Course which includes a zip line over the water, and the Sapling Course designed especially for the smaller adventurers.
Do you prefer your adventures sitting down? There are lots of musical events at Calloway Gardens including Symphony on the Sand, Singer-Songwriter Night and a variety of concerts. The stage is located at Robin Beach Lake and all that open space provides a great area of dancing. Additionally, each year the FSU Flying High Circus takes up residency at Calloway Gardens for the summer. The circus has been a Calloway Gardens tradition since 1961. Consisting of FSU college students, the top circus performers reside at Calloway Gardens from June through August where they serve as adventure counselors and provide entertainment for the Summer Family Adventure program.
There are many options for lodging at Calloway Gardens including the Mountain Creek Inn, the Southern Pines cottages, the Mountain Creek villas and vacation homes, and the Lodge and Spa. I stayed at the Mountain Creek Inn and it was a unique experience. This luxury inn appears to have been built around the trees and other flora of the area. There are several wooded areas nestled within the resort that feature seating arrangements, local flowers and shrubs, and relaxing in nature just outside your door. The Inn’s dining rooms is wonderful and guests should definitely experience their breakfast menu, especially the creamy Calloway Gardens grits. They are the absolute creamiest, tastiest grits this southern girl has ever experienced. The chef will tell you his secret if you ask politely, but I still cannot get the ones I cook at home to taste as good as his.
Calloway Gardens has so much to offer, in such a wide variety of venues, that there is sure to be an adventure that everyone will enjoy. Check out their Events calendar on-line to get news of scheduled specialty adventures, along with the annual staples that have brought people back to the resort again and again.