What: Callaway Gardens
Where: 17800 U. S. Hwy. 27, Pine Mtn., Ga. 800-225-5292
When: Something new every season
Cost: Adults (13 – 64) $18, Seniors (65+) $15 and Children (6-12) are $9
Children 5 and under are FREE
* Admission for select Special Events is higher
Accommodation rates vary and packages are available
With gas prices rising to unmanageable levels, I’ve been looking for family friendly vacations that don’t feel like a staycation, but don’t drain my pocketbook at the pump. Callaway Gardens, less than one gas tank from Atlanta is a perfect choice.
Where to Stay
Callaway offers a variety of accommodations from hotel rooms, to cottages and villas to single family homes. The Mountain Creek Inn and Villas are across the street from the original Garden entrance. If you’ll be playing a lot of tennis, definitely stay here as the six tennis courts are within this complex. However, if you are planning to spend most of your time in the Gardens, you’ll have to cross the highway to enter. The gardens are literally across the street, so it isn’t far, but know that visiting all the attractions will require crossing the road. For more luxurious accomodations, the Lodge and Spa located within Callaway Gardens is a perfect choice. The Lodge is actually managed by Marriott and is booked through their reservation system. The single-family homes in Camp Callaway aren’t available through the Gardens yet, but are available by owner. Callaway is working to bring them into their rental pool soon. This small cluster of homes would be exceptionally fun for group of families. We stayed in the Southern Pine Cottages and unlike the Mountain Creek Inn and Villas, the cottages are within the Gardens themselves with bike and walking paths to all the attractions. Our two bedroom cottage had queen beds in each room, a full kitchen with eating area, living room with a fireplace and wood ready for us to build a cozy fire – which we did each night. It also had a roomy screened in porch where we ate dinner and a small deck where the boys played soccer with pine cones. Although other cottages were close, there was also lots of room for the kids to run around. One cottage had a volleyball net set up outside.
What to Do:
As with most resorts, there is golf, tennis and swimming pools. What sets Callaway apart is the beautiful gardens and nature focused attractions such as the Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center, where you can have a butterfly land on you. The Virginia Hand Callaway Discovery Center, where you can feed turtles, learn the history of Callaway Gardens or purchase a souvenir. Close to the Discovery Center is the Birds of Prey show. We learned all sorts of things about raptors including that a buzzard’s stomach acid is so powerful that it can kill e-coli. That same buzzard urinates down it’s legs so that stomach acid cleans off any bacteria. As gross as it sounds, it’s what keeps our natural world healthy. It’s also the one fact I’m going to keep with me for years (I know why couldn’t it have been something else). The John A. Sibley Horticultural Center was gorgeous both from an architectural standpoint and for the plants inside. However, this was more of an adult attraction, the kids were a bit restless in here.
One of our favorite activities was riding bikes around the resorts 10 miles of bike trails. Rent bikes there or bring your own. The Robin Lake trail is flat and smooth, perfect for newer riders or even those still sporting training wheels. The older boys enjoyed having destinations to ride to and explore like the Pioneer Log Cabin and Mr. Cason’s Vegetable garden.
For adventurous older kids and adults, the TreeTop Adventure is a must do. This is a strenuous ropes course combined with five zip lines. For a more information and a closer look, visit the TreeTop Adventure post on Field Trips with Sue.
Summer brings a whole new set of attractions to Callaway. Sixty-five acre Robin Lake becomes the focal point with swimming, mini-golf, table tennis, playground and shuffleboard among the activities included with admission. During certain times, the Florida State University Flying High Circus performs. For those who are more active (and for an additional fee) try the aqua island that looks a lot like a Wipe Out water course or a water ski lesson. There are also blaster boats and a light striker laser tag course.
Where to Eat
During this visit, we ate mostly in our cottage, stopping at Whistling Pig BBQ on Main Street in Pine Mountain on our way into the Gardens for one dinner and then cooking food brought from home the next night. We splurged on brunch in the Plant Room on Easter Sunday, which was quite tasty with a large variety of food. They even had a kid’s buffet of chicken figures, mac and cheese and fresh green beans, laid out on kid sized tables. Normally The Plant Room serves a traditional Southern breakfast buffet and I’ve heard the muscadine jelly is one of their specialties. There are plenty of other restaurants for a variety of tastes on property. Rockin’ Robin’s Malt Shop & Pizzeria looked fun and is opened seasonally. The Discovery Café near the Discovery Center offers sandwiches and nack foods.