Reunite in Pine Mountain, where adventures in nature at the Callaway Gardens family resort provide activities for all ages. Go for the summer adventure weeks or, in winter, the holiday lights that delight families. Looking for a travel destination that prides itself on providing wholesome family fun you’ll always remember? Then this central Georgia resort may be the place for you.
Callaway Gardens is a 2,500-acre garden, resort and nature preserve in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Opened in 1952 as a place for families to relax and enjoy nature’s beauty, it has evolved well. There are many educational and visually pleasing activities, whether you’re touring a 19th-century log cabin, playing golf or seeing some unusual flora.
When I was younger, I visited Callaway several times with my family, and after reviewing their current accommodations and attractions, I feel confident recommending the experience to your family.
Callaway has year-round packages that will keep your family entertained from morning to night, but it’s summer in Callaway that will always stand out in my childhood memories.
Summer Family Adventure at Callaway Gardens
The most popular part of the summer family packages is known as Summer Family Adventure, a busy schedule of activities, sports and recreation. It’s offered daily from the beginning of June through late July. Hotel stay options include four, five, six or seven-night stays, for two adults and up to three children age 4-17. Expect to find accommodations in neighborhood-style Cottage or Villas equipped with full kitchen, living and dining areas, screen porch and WiFi. Rates include participation in Summer Family Adventure Camp day and evening programs, plus daily admission to Callaway Gardens and Robin Lake Beach throughout your stay.
For children ages 4-6, supervised arts and crafts, train rides, waterplay, visits to the Butterfly Center and circus rehearsals rule the day. Children ages 7-9 enjoy supervised beach games, swimming, circus activities, beginner golf and watersports.
The 10-12 age group has more active fun at the beach, paddleboarding and kayaking, plus golf, safari and treetop adventures. Teens 13-14 can have fun with the zipline, water tubing, arts and crafts, golf clinics, circus skills, golf and tennis matches. (I still have a T-shirt I painted at Callaway!)Ages 15-17 have their own cohort for similar activities and plenty of tie-dye time. Adults 19+ enjoy all these activities, fishing, bike riding, craft beer tastings and many naturalist programs. A special Family Camp program highlights activities, like the “Birds of Prey” show, to do together.
Don’t believe me? After 50 years of making fun for families, the resort produced this anniversary video.
I like the nostagla of it, especially since change is coming to the resort as it approaches its seventh decade.
Callaway Gardens Families Love The Beautiful Gardens
The Gardens are at the heart of Callaway’s appeal and family programs. Families start at the Callaway Discovery Center at Mountain Creek Lake where interactive kiosks provide an overview. Allow time for changing art exhibits, an educational program and conversations with the staff. Outside is the MEGA BUGS Exhibit, TreeTop zip lines and the Birds of Prey Show theater.
The Day Butterfly Center is a sustainble venture which supports rainforests by importing chrysalis from family-run butterfly farms in economically-challenged, tropical countries. See 1,000 tropical butterflies flying freely; it’s an unusual experience that won’t be forgotten. Gardens admissions also include the Sibley Horticultural Center that is five acres of native and exotic plants within a conservatory.
Callaway Brothers Azalea Bowl, 40 acres of beautiful flowers, is also part of the Gardens admissions. Peak flowering time for their 700 azalea species is early March to late April. Rent bikes to ride the Discovery Bicycle Trail through nature. Spend time at the lakeside Ida Cason Callaway Memorial Chapel that provides a quiet place for reflection.
During the summer, Callaway visitors also love to visit the inland Robin Lake Beach. In past years, the Flying High Circus comprised of Florida State University students has performed there. The Circus was always a favorite of my younger brothers and older sisters.
Callaway Gardens Family Activities All Year
Are fall or winter vacations more your style? Callaway celebrates autumn every weekend from mid-September to late October with a Harvest Festival. The Fall event includes hay rides, pumpkin painting and more.
Don’t miss Callaway’s elaborate and very popular Christmas Fantasy in Lights with its outdoor light and sound show. From mid-November to after New Years, special holiday dinner menus are also available. We learned of one family from Florida who have booked 10 two-bedroom cottages for the Thanksgiving week, when the lights are already up, for the past four years because they enjoy the show so much!
A 10-mile paved path is also opened year-round that allows you to pedal through Callaway’s beautiful landscape on the Discovery Bike Trail. For many parents, it’s a favorite pastime, as the trails wind through some of the gardens, by the butterfly museum, and through serenely beautiful countryside. Bike and helmet rentals are offered, and child carriers are available.
Fishing activities include boat, canoe, and rod and tackle rentals. Guided fishing and fly-fishing lessons are also available. Hunters can enjoy target shooting, skeet and trap rounds under professional staff supervision.
There’s no longer a Family Pass program, but annual memberships are available. In additon to discounts on playing golf, tennis, and rental gear, it’s sold at special rates to military and first responder families. Near Callaway are the F.D. Roosevelt State Park, Pine Mountain Trail for hiking, and the Little White House that includes artifacts from FDR’s life in his seasonal Georgia home.
Callaway Gardens Family Facilities
There are three types of accommodation at Callaway. They range in price from moderate to expensive depending on season and unit size. Many families book one of the two-bedroom Callaway Resort & Gardens Cottages. I recall seeing wild turkeys, great blue herons, red foxes, beavers, raccoons, white-tailed deer, rabbits and many other of nature’s inhabitants from our porch when I was young.
Today’s fully modernized cottages (not the rustic ones I remember) have four queen beds, two full baths, living and dining rooms. In addition to the stocked kitchen areas, there’s a fireplace plus a screened porch and deck big enough to dine out on. They are designed to feel like home (depending on what “home” is like) and are surrounded by beautiful pine trees.
The Callaway Gardens Lodge has 150 contemporary-style rooms with a swimming pool and cabana-style bar, a hot tub, and seating in the courtyard. More posh, yet with an old-fashioned decor, the two- to four-bedroom villas have dining and living areas, as well as great outdoor sitting areas that allow you to enjoy the scenery. The Villas provide convenient access to all resort amenities.
Although many families choose to prepare meals in their cabins, Callaway has a number of restaurants and snack stops. The lakefront pavilion is perfect for beachside snacking. The Piedmont has large breakfast and dinner buffets at bargain rates. Another restaurant that overlooks the Lake View Golf Course.
Vivienne’s Callaway Gardens Family Vacation Tips
Callaway has, of course, changed over time. New since my visit, the Spa at Callaway Resort & Gardens has a menu of botanical-inspired treatments. Special wellness sessions are available for ages 14-17 with parents in attendance. In 2022, Herschend Enterprises (owners of Dollywood, Silver Dollar City in Branson and other family attractions) will assume ownership of the Resort assets. They plan to invest at least $20 million in upgrades and we’re excited to see what happens next.
Meanwhile, the classic Callaway still has a lot to offer. Planning a vacation with lots of relatives? Because the activity-packed summer program is sold as a “cruise on land,” it is a popular choice for family reunions. Ask about discounted Family Reunion packages any of time of year. There are also tennis, golf packages or other sport-specific options for booking family visits.
Water taxis to bike trails, shuttles to Gardens attractions, and bike rentals are available and fun for adults and children.
I think having your own vehicle is recommended though, since bikes are rented at an hourly rate and shuttles require waiting time.
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