Callaway Gardens

Callaway Gardens, located in Pine Mountain, Georgia, is an ideal 1- 1.5 hour(s) road trip for Atlanta residents, among others. This 13,000 acre resort complex draws nearly 1 million visitors annually. Attractions include 12 miles of walking/biking trails, a butterfly house and a gorgeous Horticulture Center. The main attractions can be seen in one day -as a day trip- but I recommend staying overnight because garden admission is included with your stay, not to mention that I’m a huge fan of their hotels. Take the time of year you are coming into consideration, some attractions are open seasonally:

Spring: The azaleas usually come into bloom in early April, bringing the Callaway Brothers Azelea bowl to life.

Summer: Arguably considered the best time of year to visit. The worlds largest manmade beach will be open and this is the best time of year to see the vegetable garden.



No matter what time of year you come, you will want to see the two “must-see” attractions:

The Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center is a $5.3-million state of the art facility. The octagonal conservatory houses more than 1,000 free-flying butterflies and numerous birds. The conservatory includes a 12-foot waterfall and lush tropical foliage.

The John A. Sibley Horticultural Center, one of the most advanced garden and greenhouse complexes in the world, encompasses 5 acres with 20,200 square feet of indoor floral displays, plus 30,675 square feet of greenhouse space. Floral displays integrate indoor and outdoor settings.
Let me start by saying that Attractions include 12 miles of walking/ biking trails, golf courses and two must-see attractions spread across 13,000 acres:

Mr. Cason’s Vegetable Garden, started in 1960, was the last major project initiated by Mr. Callaway. On 7 1/2 acres, gardeners demonstrate scientific, educational, and practical applications of fruit and vegetable cultures. A trio of large terraces in a semicircular design, the vegetable garden produces more than 400 varieties of crops that range from traditional Southern fruits and vegetables to wildflower test plots. The PBS show Victory Garden films its Southern segments from here.
The Ida Cason Callaway Memorial Chapel, in the English Gothic style, was built to honor Mr. Callaway’s mother, Ida Cason. It was dedicated in 1962 by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale. It’s patterned much like a rural wayside chapel of the 16th and 17th centuries.

Now that I’ve mentioned all of the positive parts of the place, I’d like to mention the negatives. To enter through the main entrance you are “forced” to drive through what “feels” as if it’s a 20 minute drive, just to get into the park. It gets old hat quickly. One day we got lost and biked around until an hour after the park had closed. We drove all the way through the entry road and the gates were locked!!! We we’re exhausted and felt as if they had locked us in the park. We had to call to find out where to get out, which was through the original entrance. We also noticed that they stop charging for admission an hour before the park closes, so anyone could get into the park and stay four hours, until it gets dark. Complaint B: you can tell they are making their money through real estate, on the main entrannce sign, it says hotel this way, main garden entrance this way and then they have this big huge sign for real estate office this way!! They also have kiosks throughout the park and hotels promoting their real estate opportunities. Parts of the park are looking tired–just wait until you see the parking lot at the butterfly house! I remember coming four or five years ago and seeing the same problem; the bricks around some of the parking places are way out of shape. I‘m not usually one to complain but this place is showing its age and Callaway needs do a lot of painting and repairing. That’s just the gardens though.

I LOVED getting to see the newer part of Callaway which includes the lodge and on-site homes. The Lodge and Spa, this place reminded me of Disney’s Grand Californian Resort and Spa at Disneyland–which is a huge compliment! This facility was $ 200 on weekends and $150 on weekdays at the time of our vacation. We had the opportunity to pay $119 to stay at the Mountain Creek Inn
Callaway Gardens was founded in 1952 by Cason J. and Virginia Hand Callaway to promote and protect native azalea species. as the Ida Cason Gardens, with a number of lakes, a golf course, and scenic drives

Robin Lake Beach and the Overlook Azalea Garden opened in 1953
The Masters Water-ski Tournament, now an annual event, held its first competition in 1959.
The John A. Sibley Horticultural Center opened in 1984.
The Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center opened on September 25, 1988.
“Fantasy in Lights”, a spectacular Christmas light display, debuted in 1992.
The Azalea Bowl opened in 1999 as did the premiere of the Sky High Hot Air Balloon Festival

We had seen pictures of the Mountain Creek Inn online, before the recent renovation and… let’s just say it it looked like we’d be looking at a Motel 6. Don’t let the exterior send you packing; doors do open to the outside. We we’re expecting the worse but were pleasantly surprised because the rooms had just been updated to give a modern look that was just our style, it’s really all you need.

No complaints whatsoever about the incredible dining options at the park. Well I may take that back…

Piedmont Dining Room at the Lodge & Spa was very impressive. Even if you don’t wantto spend $150+ a night to stay here, I still recommend coming in, taking a look around and even asking if you can see a room–they will require you to leave your license with them!! I had no idea what to expect as we came in. The lobby was impressive, but the facade of this hotel took we in awe, it was just my style! The back yard of the hotel is truly stunning. This restaurant is just as nice, loved the décor and couldn’t get over how much we enjoyed the fish tacos, salad and homemade pecan pie.. Worth the visit over here!

The Plant Room at the Mountain Creek Inn has always been popular for its bountiful buffets and especially the themed Thursday Fiesta Night, Friday Night Seafood Buffet and Saturday night Italian Buffet.

The Gardens Restaurant’s porch overlooks the beautiful Mountain Creek Lake and the Lake View number 10 island green and serpentine bridge. The menu offers organic and upscale items for all palates
The Gardens Country Store’s Country Kitchen is located off the beaten path, outside the entry gates to the gardens, but still part of Callaway. It is gorgeous on the outside, stone and gardens were to die for, but the food was just average in our opinion. A few of the employees told us it was an upscale version of Cracker Barrel, so we just had to try it. It really is an exact copy of it, they’ve got the country store and the same types of food. I guess these imaginers aren’t former Disney employees. We did like the atmosphere and got seated at a table that overlooked Callaway. Of course it’s all about what you order so we’d love to try it again someday. We thought the blueberry pancakes were average, maybe not even Cracker Barrel standards and the place was like a ghost town, only one other couple was eating there at 9am on a Sunday. They also had someone washing the windows right beside us while we were eating, as if they couldn’t have planned it when the restaurant was closed or after we had left! The service was average too but overall I’d definitely give this place another chance.
The park is open daily from 9am to 5pm, with extended summer hours. Admission is $13 for adults, $6.50 for children 6 to 12, and free for children 5 and under

In 1951, as the success of Callaway Gardens attracted visitors from around the country, Cason Callaway engaged Holiday Inn to build a motel on gently sloping terrain across the highway from the gardens. Eventually, Callaway acquired the property and enlarged it. It now encompasses the Mountain Creek Inn, the Cottages at Callaway Gardens, the Villas at Callaway Gardens, and the Lodge and Spa at Callaway Gardens.
Adjacent to the resort’s freshwater beach, rustic two-bedroom cottages contain fireplaces, kitchens, and lots of modern luxuries. Popular with families, they’re what you’d expect at an outdoor camping retreat: They have endured their share of wear and tear. More stylish are the villas; all have kitchens, relatively formal furnishings, fireplaces, screened-in verandas, and a greater emphasis on style and comfort.
The Lodge and Spa offers deluxe guest rooms and suites, with private balconies opening onto the forest. This first-class lodge is furnished with an eclectic mix of furnishings, some in the style of an elegant Southern estate. In the beautiful landscaping is a swimming pool with a cabana-style bar. The spa features 13 treatment rooms, with “nature-based massages” and nourishing facials. The fitness center features the latest equipment and also has a yoga studio.
9 restaurants; 2 lounges; 3 pools (1 indoor); 2 18-hole golf courses; 10 tennis courts; fitness center; boutiques; room service; babysitting; laundry service; dry cleaning; nonsmoking rooms; rooms for those w/limited mobility

Real Estate Opportunities
My CAD teacher (Computer Aided Drafting) had showed me plans of his vacation home in Longleaf (we lives in Chattanooga, TN) at Callaway and let me sketch it out. Seeing all the kiosks and information throughout the gardens also spurred my interest in these homes, I had always dreamed of becoming an architect. When we were at the resort and Spa we happened to run into someone who owned a home in Longleaf and wanted to sell because her husband had just passed on. I noticed it was more of a retirement community for those who wanted to come up for the winter, on the weekends or make this there main home. Any who… This woman started talking about her house and finally asked us if we wanted to see it, so of course we wanted too. It was a small, 3 bedroom, 2 bath; exact same plan I had drawn in school. The construction was timely and showed quality, nice stone fireplace, screened in porch, neutral paint colors, etc. The price was about $360,000 USD. Of course you’re paying for the location at the gardens, but you are out in the country. We were “seriously” considering moving here, we even had her realtor come by, but realized that the maintenance fees made it unfeasible.


Taylor Goldblatt

After years of research, travel, and dreams, I have created this website for people like you who want to experience the things that only America can offer. My passion is to explore and share America's greatest destinations and attractions. Follow me on Twitter @USCityTraveler for additional travel tips and ideas.

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