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Beautiful Callaway Gardens
By: James Richardson

If you are ever in the mood to visit a place where you can relax and engage in practically any activity imaginable without traveling half way across the country, try Callaway Gardens in Georgia. Their expansive 14,000 acres consist of beautiful gardens, varied hiking trails, tranquil lakes, educational centers, and possibilities for a large assortment of outdoor activities. If there ever were one single place to relax and have at your fingertips the possibility of such a wide variety of activities, Callaway Gardens is it.

Callaway Gardens is located in southwest Georgia about sixty minutes southwest of Atlanta and thirty minutes north of Columbus. It is situated near the Alabama border near the town of Pine Mountain. It is easy to get there. Callaway Gardens is at U. S. Highway 27 about eight miles off Interstate 185, which links Atlanta and Columbus. I-185 is a north-south leg off I-85 out of Atlanta just before LaGrange, Georgia.

If you are interested in beautiful gardens or any form of nature, you will be excited about getting to Callaway. With discovery centers and several different gardens of various species of flowering plants, an almost endless amount of time could be spent strolling the paths and admiring the beautiful blooms of Callaway. There are azalea gardens, vegetable gardens, a butterfly garden, and lakes for fishing, trails for hiking and biking, links for golfing, and just time for spending.

Start your visit at Callaway Gardens at the Virginia Hand Callaway Discovery Center. Virginia Hand Callaway was co-founder of the gardens, which celebrated fifty years in 2002. The 35.000 square-foot Discovery Center is nestled in the woodlands on the edge of Mountain Creek Lake. The Callaway’s were devoted to improving and understanding man’s delicate relationship to nature. At the Discovery Center there are facilities to enhance that experience with a theater, interactive kiosks, an education wing, museum and gift shop, art exhibits and a café. Outside the center a transportation court assists arriving and departing guests. The Discovery Center is within easy walk of the John A. Sibley Horticultural Center, the Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center, the Callaway Brothers Azalea Bowl and the Ida Cason Callaway Memorial Chapel.

Many annual events are planned so your visit could coincide with special activities. Plan ahead for the harvest festival or the hot air balloon festival. Or plan to attend the fly fishing school for lessons on how to fish for bass, bream, or trout. With thirteen managed lakes at Callaway the fly fisherman can test his skill in one of Callaway’s lakes.

The highpoint of Callaway is the spectacular gardens. Every season has a colorful representation of nature’s blooms. This is evident at the Callaway Brothers Azalea Bowl, a forty-acre garden that contains more than 3400 hybrid azaleas in all colors (well, all colors for azaleas – pink, red and white). A walkway, a stream, an arched bridge, and gazebo enhance the setting in the colorful garden. Many of the azaleas at the Bowl came from the Overlook Azalea Garden; the original garden planted under the direction of the founders Cason and Virginia Callaway through the fifty-year history of the gardens. Through time this garden has grown and changed naturally.

For the vegetable grower there are seven and a half acres of demonstration gardens in Mr. Cason’s Vegetable Garden. If this garden looks familiar, it is probably because it is the setting for the PBS television show, The Victory Garden. Fruits, herbs and flowers also grow here.

Another attraction a visitor might expect at beautifully landscaped and colorful gardens is a butterfly center. The Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center has over one thousand tropical butterflies representing more than fifty different species. The free-flying butterflies find plenty of habitat within the largest glass-enclosed tropical conservatory in North America.

One of the interesting historical attractions is the Pioneer Log Cabin, which was constructed in the 1830s and was occupied until the 1930s. The last family to occupy its two rooms consisted of fifteen people. The cabin was relocated in 1960 from neighboring Troup County in Georgia. Here at Callaway it is a reminder of a time when life was much simpler and the obstacles faced daily by people of that time period.

During the summer months at Callaway the center point of activities is Robin Lake Beach, the world’s largest manmade white sand beach. It stretches a mile around the sixty-five acre Robin Lake and during the summer months there are programs for the family. In addition to the swimming and sunbathing, there is a fitness trail, a miniature golf course, paddleboats, kiddie games, and other diversions.

For the bicyclists there is a ten-mile discovery trail leading the biker through beautiful surroundings close to nature. The trail is wide enough for a family excursion and takes the bikers past all the major attractions of Callaway. So it would be possible to enjoy all the attractions while exercising on a very beautiful course. Take a picnic lunch and stop along side one of the lakes for a somewhat private time with nature or family. If you do not want to take your own bicycle, there are rental bikes at Callaway. They thought of most everything.

If you prefer hiking instead of bicycling through the countryside, there are plenty of opportunities for that also. You can spend hours amid the woodlands or gardens enjoying all the beauty surrounding you. There are several trails that wind through Callaway’s attractions. They range in length from one-half mile to one and one-half miles and are from easy to moderate in ease of walking. The names of the trails are descriptive of their special characteristics. For instance, there is the Callaway Brothers Azalea Bowl Trail at 1.2 miles, the Wildflower Trail at 0.6 miles, the Holly Trail at 0.8 miles, the Rhododendron Trail 0.6 miles in length, the Mountain Creek at 1.5 miles, the Laurel Springs Trail at 0.5 miles, the Azalea Overlook Trail at 1.6 miles, the Whippoorwill Trail at 0.5 miles plus the Discovery Bicycle Trail at 10 miles.

For the golfers there is Mountain View Golf Course, which is ranked among the nation’s top-rated courses and was home to the PGA Tour's Buick Challenge for more than a decade. Callaway's courses feature woodland borders and lakeland settings.

In the vicinity of Callaway Gardens are several attractions named for and relate in one way or another to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. There is F. D. Roosevelt State Park, Georgia’s largest state park with its 10,000 acres. Most of its structures date to the 1930s. Then there is the town of Warm Springs, which Roosevelt frequented because of its soothing effect on his polio. FDR’s Little White House is located in Warm Springs and was the President’s ‘other White House’. Several buildings are located on the site and are worth the visit for history buffs.

With all this available within Callaway Gardens it seems that this would be an ideal place to visit for relaxation and a wide range of activities without having to drive a great distance.

For More Information:

Callaway Gardens
P. O. Box 2000
Pine Mountain, Georgia 31822-2000
1-800-CALLAWAY (225-5292)
1-706-663-2281 or Fax: 706-663-5068

Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park
2970 Highway 190
Pine Mountain, GA 31822
Located just off I-185 near Callaway Gardens, west of Warm Springs on Georgia Route 190, or south of Pine Mountain off U.S. Highway 27A
Warm Springs, Georgia
From Atlanta: Interstate85 south to Exit 41. Turn left onto Hwy 27A/41. Travel 35 miles to Warm Springs.

Little White House
401 Little White House Road
Georgia Highway 85 Alt
Warm Springs, GA 31830

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