Callaway Gardens by Bonnie and Bill Neely

In Southern Georgia, USA, the peaceful 2,500 acres of Callaway Gardens beckons visitors any time of year. It is one of the most peaceful experiences of nature you can find anywhere if you want easy accessibility and family fun and learning in addition to a great holiday.  We chose to stay in one of the spacious cottages, which have two bedrooms, two baths, a full kitchen, a large living room, screened in porch and open porch for bar-b-que.  You can also elect to stay in the beautiful lodge.

The location is the wonderful little town of Pine Mountain, where you can find the most unique gift shops and excellent one-of-a-kind restaurants that feature authentic Southern cooking.  I have never tasted such delicious home-cooked delights since my childhood in South Carolina!  You get the real feel of being in the unpretentious South with warm greetings, friendly atmosphere, strangers treating you like family.

Callaway Gardens was once a cotton farm, but you can hardly believe it when you see the enormous trees of so many varieties and species planted by the three generations of Callaway family who conceived of and developed this serene setting and invited everyone to enjoy it.  We had the privilege of meeting Edward Callaway, grandson of the original, who now oversees his grandparents’ creation and labors of love and generosity.

2 Atlanta Symphony

We were there on the special early spring weekend to enjoy the annual Atlanta Symphony event by the lake.  On the sandy beach tables and chairs and even catered meals can be reserved, or you can bring your own chairs, beach blankets, food and beverages to enjoy family and friends before the concert. There was a huge tent area in case of rain, and the bathroom facilities were very good.  A thunderstorm was predicted, but bravely the Symphony made the approximately two-hour journey from Atlanta and set up their instruments and seating on a large platform with a huge tent canopy.  Joseph Young, the assistant conductor of the Atlanta Symphony, conducted a lovely program of Bohemian selection, blending classical with some new selections. The audience of thousands was appreciative of the very enjoyable evening.  At the conclusion of the music, there were many Oohs and AAhs from clapping audience as we thrilled to the terrific fireworks, which continued for quite a while against the dark sky. We were so fortunate that the weather held off until long after everyone dispersed.

3  fireworks

Since rain was the order of our daytime there we chose not see the large grounds on the beautifully manicured bike trails but instead drove our car to the wonderful Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center in a large building.

4 bike trails

Although the beautiful little creatures are more active on sunny days, we found many, many fluttering around us and even sometimes lighting briefly on some lucky observer.  There were cocoons with butterflies and moths emerging, resting from their hard work and enabling us to photograph their beauty.  Many species of these gorgeous creatures live there and thrive in the gorgeous jungle-like greenery and flowers.  It is a magical experience for all ages.

5 Butterflies emerging from cocoon

Our other place to enjoy, rain or shine, is the John A. Sibley Horticulture Center, a mostly glass building with moveable walls to allow the plants to have natural sunlight and air when temperatures are amenable for them to thrive.  Walking through this indoor-outdoor garden lifts our spirits in wonder, with glorious colors, scents, and beauty so carefully planned and tended. There are periodic classes and horticulture sales events so you can make your own attempts with plants at home.

One of the most enjoyable features of Callaway Gardens for me were the wonderful trails through the enormous, groomed forests of pines, oaks, maples, magnolias, rhododendron, laurel, azaleas, dogwood, and many other species in this well-planned and beautifully kept place.  These trails and roads border the beautiful golf course which follows lake and streams.

6  Horticulture Center

Although you can prepare your meals in your cottage if you wish, be sure to reserve a time to eat at the warm and inviting Gardens Restaurant on the property. The setting indoors or on the wrap around porch is perfect for elegant dining and good visiting with friends and family and a celebration you’ll always remember. The wines and cuisine, presentation and service are excellent.