Steve and I had not been to Callaway Gardens since the first year we were married — 1971. At that time, we were dirt-poor college students who just wanted to spend a few idyllic hours riding around (gas was only about 25-cents a gallon, remember?). We drove about an hour, went through the gates and starting oohing and ahhing about the beautiful surroundings and dreaming of a time in the future when we could return and actually STAY for a day or two. And, believe me, considering our circumstances, it was one of those times when we could have sung “To Dream the Impossible Dream.”
Forty-five years later, we’ve learned to have a budget category specifically for TRAVEL, and we felt a strong need to “get away and just be.” Callaway Gardens seemed like the perfect place . . . and it was.
We hit it at just the right time for our purposes — their SLOW season. In the spring, thousands of azaleas bring in the crowds, and during the holidays the dazzling light shows attract visitors from miles around. Summer finds it bursting with families — mommas and children enjoying the beach area, while Dad plays a round of golf on one or both of the championship courses. I’m sure Callaway Gardens is beautiful in all of those seasons, but for us, the 2nd week in August with all the kids back in school and the families back at home, the quiet was very, very welcome.
We stayed in one of the Mountain Creek Villas, but you might prefer a cabin or a hotel-like room in The Lodge and Spa or at Mountain Creek Inn. Our villa had a comfortable living area with a flat-screen TV, full kitchen, fireplace and wi-fi access. The bedroom also had a fireplace and wonderfully soft beds.
Throughout the thousands of acres, visitors can enjoy miles of hiking and biking trails. We chose to rent a golf cart for a half day which allowed us to pull over and take photos at the slightest whim.
Callaway Gardens has a strong commitment to education. The Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center and the Virginia Hand Callaway Discovery Center have remarkable displays with specially-scheduled events. The Birds of Prey shows at the Discovery Center are sure to inform and entertain you. Fair warning about the Butterfly Center. It is hot, hot, hot!!!! And so humid you are bound to see your own sweat popping out within the first few minutes of entering the large glass butterfly-filled pavilion. The admission fee into Callaway Gardens includes entrance to these two places also.
We tried 3 different eating places while we were at Callaway. The Plant Room Restaurant is inside the Mountain Creek Inn and offers a lavish breakfast buffet. It was good, although somewhat pricey. The food at the Country Kitchen inside the Country Store on Hwy. 27 was both delicious and reasonably priced, plus you get the added bonus of a gorgeous mountain view out the windows –which I suspect is spectacular in the fall. The Gardens Restaurant is open for dinner Tuesdays through Saturdays and has a chef-driven, gourmet menu.
There are several restaurants in nearby Pine Mountain. We tried the Oyster House. It was nothing to “write home about” but certainly adequate. Most of the seafood was fresh, and the prices were okay. Can’t you just sense my enthusiasm? Ha! We passed a Mexican place and a barbecue cafe, so there are other options if you’re interested.
If you are a history buff, particularly a Presidential history buff, then Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Little White House is about 30 minutes away in Warm Springs, GA and Jimmy Carter’s hometown of Plains, GA is about 90 minutes away. In this Presidential election year, it is very eye-opening to remember those who served in that office in the past. Just sayin.’
This area in Georgia is certainly worth a few days of your time. It is beautiful, and you’re almost guaranteed to learn something new.