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Callaway Gardens
By Kathleen Walls - American Roads Travel Magazine

Callaway Gardens began as the dream of one couple. Cason and Virginia Callaway dreamed of building the prettiest place since the Garden of Eden. Their dream became reality when the gates of Callaway Gardens swung open for the first time. In May 2002,the gardens celebrated half a century of offering guests a glimpse of what two determined people can accomplish in America.

From the blooming Azalea Bowl, the world’s largest, to Sibley Horticultural Center, a five acre conservatory featuring some of the most colorful plants in existence; from the Day Butterfly Center, aflutter with jewel toned "flying flowers" and darting hummingbirds, to the native wildlife, deer, raccoons, birds and others, all protected by the lush growth. . Throughout the year, Callaway throws many special events but none more traditional than their Independence Day celebration.

This year above all others more Americans will be out in force to affirm that the dream that began on July fourth, 1776 is not dead. It is not even sick. If you are looking for a great place to celebrate consider Callaway’s traditional Fourth of July celebration.

They offer the Surf and Sand Spectacular. What’s more American than to spend the day enjoying family-oriented beach activities including swimming in Robin Lake, playing miniature golf or shuffleboard, picnicking, riding paddleboats and more. Around 9:30 p.m. a very patriotic fireworks show will offer the finishing touch for a perfect Fourth of July. In addition, children of all ages are sure to be thrilled by the acrobatics of the Florida State University "Flying High" Circus as they perform at 3:30 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.

In the evening, you won’t want to miss dancing to the inviting sounds of the Swingin’ Medallions at 7:30 p.m. If you get "beached out" visit with our national bird, The Bald Eagle. Two wonderful programs not to be missed are the "Hunters of the Sky" raptor exhibit and the live, free flight Birds of Prey program. The first is inside the Virginia Hand Callaway Discovery Center and the second is just outside the Discovery Center. Birds have become increasingly prominent at the gardens. Their newest attraction is really big. The Birds of Prey show is much more than just entertainment. These magnificent raptors demonstrate their strength, speed and natural instincts at a lakeside amphitheater where the birds swoop directly over your head. However they are more than just entertaining creatures. They are feathered ambassadors who bring the message about the fragile balance between man and nature necessary if they are to survive as a species in the wild. This is a rare opportunity to see eagles, falcons and other magnificent birds of prey up-close and personal.

The Callaway Gardens Birds of Prey show is a joint effort between the garden and Earth Quest. . Earth Quest was founded by are Steve Hoddy and Robby Sinkler in 1989 and is now headquartered at the Gardens. The purpose of EarthQuest is to teach the public about wildlife through an entertainment form and at to help inspire people to become closer to nature.

Of course you can’t stop there, From the New Discovery Center branch out to all the other attractions the garden offers before you return to the beach. Virginia and her Great Dane, Rex Muddynose, welcome you into the center in the form of a lifelike bronze statue created by local artist, Margery Godwin. The Center stands on a fifty-acre site in the heart of the Gardens. Its timber frame and glass type construction blend subtly with the natural surroundings. Within the 35,000 square foot structure, indoors and outdoors merge thanks in part to the 10,000 square feet of decking flanking the Mountain Creek Lake that sits directly behind the Center.

Within, the illusion of forest persists. You stroll on a bamboo floor strewn here and there with clusters of scattered oak leaves cleverly created with overhead lighting. The film depicting the evolution of the garden, Time & the Gardens plays continuously. The Center also houses an education wing, lecture hall, The Discovery Gift Shop and Mountain Creek Café, where you can enjoy a light meal overlooking the lake and an impressive swan sculpture.

The Garden’s other attraction that features winged creatures is the Day Butterfly Center. Here multicolored jewels shimmer as the sunlight is refracted from their iridescent wings. A hummingbird flutters by; so close you could touch him. You stand in the tropical paradise that is the Day Butterfly Center. Here the message is clear. Plants provide more than just beauty and color. They are a home for some of the loveliest creatures on earth. The Center encloses more than 1,000 butterflies from all over the world as well as free flying hummingbirds, colorful macaws, a Chinese Mandarin Duck, a bleeding heart dove from Southeast Asia, and three crested partridges within its octagon shaped glass walls. The tinkling waterfall and tropical pool surely are modeled on ones in the original Paradise. The award-winning film, On Wings of Wonder, shown continually in the Center’s orientation theater, explains the life cycle of butterflies.

When the Callaway family first discovered the place that is now the Gardens, the beauty of the Prunifolia Azalea so impressed them that it later became the Callaway Gardens’ logo. It, along with dozens of other native and hybrid Azalea burst into color each spring in the Callaway Brothers Azalea Bowl. This forty-acre garden opened in 1999 and is a spot to fill your soul with beauty to be remembered and treasured long after your vacation ends.

Another spot that will bloom in your memory on many a rainy day is the Sibley Horticultural Center. Here, native and exotic plants blossom year round in an atmosphere that blend the indoor conservatory with the outdoor garden so skillfully that you will not notice the difference as you wander the paths amongst blossoms, ponds and waterfalls.

Whether you are a fan of The Victory Garden on television or not, you will enjoy Mr. Cason’s Vegetable Garden. If you haven’t realized it before, you will discover how beautiful herbs and vegetables can be.

After all, if humanity began in a beautiful garden, what better place to celebrate the beginning of the American way of life than in a garden.

Admission into the festivities at Robin Lake Beach on July 4th is $15 plus tax for adults and $7.50 plus tax for children (6-12). Children five and under are admitted free. Admission into the Gardens is included. The Gardens will be open from 7:00 a.m. Make this a holiday getaway. The Independence Day Special offers one night in Callaway’s Mountain Creek Inn starting at $95 (rates available for cottages and villas), admission to The Gardens at Callaway and 50 percent discount on recreation including hourly bicycle rentals, tennis court fees and tennis equipment rentals, golf greens fees, fishing boat and fishing equipment rentals, fly-casting lessons, canoe rentals, skeet, trap, 5-stand and sporting clays. The nights of July 3rd or 5th available for just $85.

Provided by American Roads Travel Magazine - Visit American Roads Travel Magazine website.



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