Reunite in Pine Mountain, where adventures in nature at Callaway Gardens provide activities for all ages in summer, and holiday lights delight families in winter. Looking for a travel destination that prides itself on providing wholesome family fun while keeping your schedule full of activities you'll always remember? Then this central Georgia resort may be the place for you.
Callaway Gardens is a 14,000-acre garden, resort and nature preserve in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains that opened in 1952 as a place for families to relax and enjoy nature's beauty. 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 typically offered daily from the beginning of June through the mid-September. For children ages 3-6, supervised arts and crafts, train rides, visits to the Butterfly Center and Birds of Prey Show (lakeside amphitheater that gives children a chance to get up-close with exotic birds), sing-alongs, miniature golf, learning circus skills, beach games, paddleboat rides, shuffleboard and more are available.
Children ages 7-12 can enjoy supervised beach games, swimming, circus activities, field sports, tennis, bike hikes, the Wildlife Discovery Program, and water skiing.
Teens 13-18 can have fun with ropes courses, a new zipline, waterpark, bumper boats, laser tag, water skiing, arts and crafts (I still have a T-shirt I painted at Callaway!), golf clinics, learning circus skills, golf and tennis matches. A Teen Center allows teens to play video games, dance and sing karaoke. Adults 19+ enjoy all these activities and many naturalist programs.
Don't believe me? After 50 years of making fun for families, the resort produced this anniversary video:
Callaway's Beautiful Gardens
The Gardens are at the heart of Callaway's appeal and family programs. Families can experience Virginia Head Discovery Center museum and theater, and the Day Butterfly Center where 1,000 tropical butterflies fly freely. I recommend it as 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, and Mr. Cason's Vegetable Garden, which is a7.5-acre vegetable garden.
Callaway Brothers Azalea Bowl, 40 acres of beautiful flowers, is also part of the Gardens admissions, as well as the Overlook Garden trail of flowers, the Discovery Bicycle Trail through nature, the Pioneer Log Cabin that takes you into a 1830s piece of history, and the lakeside Ida Cason Callaway Memorial Chapel that provides a quiet place for reflection.
During the summer, Callaway visitors also receive admission to the inland Robin Lake Beach and Flying High Circus performances by Florida State University students. The Circus was always a favorite of my younger brothers and older sisters.
Year-Round Family Activities at Callaway Gardens
If fall or winter vacations are more your style, Callaway celebrates autumn every weekend in October with a Harvest Festival that includes hay rides, pumpkin painting and more.
In November and December, special holiday dinner menus are available, and Callaway's elaborate and very popular Christmas Fantasy in Lights, and outdoor light and sound show, takes place. 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.
Mountain Creek Lake Fishing activities include boat, canoe, and rod and tackle rentals. Guided fishing and fly-fishing lessons are also available. Hunters can enjoy target shooting under professional staff supervision at the Gun Club where skeet and trap rounds, as well as gun rentals are available.
If you're not visiting in summer when the SFA schedule is in effect, I recommend purchasing the Family Activity Pass, which provides several opportunities (out of the dozens available) for anyone in your group to play golf, tennis, and racquetball or rent carts, fishing boats, skeet and other shooting targets. The Family Activity Pass is a real value no matter what time of year you plan on visiting. If you just want to relax on the back porch of your cabin, you may see wild turkeys, great blue herons, red foxes, beavers, raccoons, white-tailed deer, rabbits and many other of nature's inhabitants.
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 Resort Facilities
There are three types of accommodation at Callaway, ranging in price from moderate to expensive depending on season and unit size. Many families book one of two-bedroom Southern Pine Cottages that has four double beds; two full baths; living, dining and kitchen areas; fireplace; and 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. If you choose not to book one of the primitive family cottages scattered around the grounds, you can consider the rooms or suites in the Mountain Creek Inn or the one to four-bedroom villas. Most cottage and villa rooms have dining and living areas, as well as great outdoor sitting areas that allow you to enjoy the scenery.
Although many families choose to prepare meals in their cabins, Callaway has a number of restaurants and snack stops, including a lakefront pavilion perfect for beachside snacking; the Plantation Room that has large breakfast and dinner buffets at bargain rates; and a restaurant that overlooks the Lake View Golf Course.
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. Callaway offers a discounted Family Reunion package any of time of year, based on double occupancy accommodations in the Inn, admission to the gardens, use of banquet room for catered event, and a 10% discount on golf, tennis, fishing, biking and skeet shooting for your group. 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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