Callaway Gardens and Pine Mountain, Georgia Area: A Destination For All Seasons
Located just outside Pine Mountain, Georgia and just northeast of the Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park, Callaway Gardens is a destination for just under a million visitors every year. Founded in 1952 by Cason J. Callaway and his wife Virginia Hand Callaway, this park and nature preserve are home to a wide range of attractions which include activities for winter, spring, summer and autumn.
Although the "Fantasy In Lights" at Callaway Gardens is one of the most widely known attractions, many people come to Callaway for golf, hiking, nature and wildlife education and more. Along with the many attractions surrounding Pine Mountain, GA and the Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park, there are many things to do in the area surrounding Callaway Gardens, making it one of the most desirable destinations in the Southeastern U.S.
Callaway Gardens: Natural And Horticultural Attractions
Begun as a haven to promote and protect native species of the Azalea, a southern staple for flowering shrubs and bushes, Callaway Gardens has always had a large emphasis on both plant life and wildlife alike. With many horticultural attractions, such as the Azalea Bowl, the John A. Sibley Horticultural Center, and the "Mr. Cason's Vegetable Garden", visitors can spend hours enjoying the beautiful scenery while learning at the same time.
The wildlife attractions at Callaway are also amazing. The two main attractions are the Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center and the birds of prey exhibition. The butterfly center has over 1,000 butterflies all in an 80 degree atrium (so be prepared to be warm). These butterflies are easily photographed and will sometimes even land on you, so this is excellent for young children. Inside the atrium there are also large Koi ponds and educational areas to tell about the butterflies and the building itself.
The birds of prey exibition is in the outdoor amphitheater overlooking the water. They have all kinds of birds of prey flying over your head from trainer to trainer, including hawks and even a buzzard. This show is great for young and old alike and lasts about 45 minutes. All of these exibits are free of charge after you have paid to enter the park.
Callaway Gardens: Seasonal Attractions
With their large acreage and great facilities, Callaway Gardens is a great place for all kinds of events and seasonal attractions. The most visited of these are the Masters Water Ski & Wakeboard Tournament on Memorial Day weekend, the Steeplechase the first Saturday of November, the Sky High Hot Air Balloon Festival on Labor Day weekend, and the Fantasy In Lights in November and December.
The Fantasy In Lights is a very large draw for the park, as thousands from surrounding counties and states make an annual trip to see it. The lights can be seen from your car or you can get a ticket for a trolley to see the lights with a narrator. While you wait for the trolley, you can visit the big top tent which is filled with many vendors of Christmas and holiday crafts and merchandise or visit Santa Clause for special requests. Outside near the trolley station there are several different food vendors and many tables to eat or enjoy hot chocolate or hot apple cider prior to your Christmas lights tour.
Callaway Gardens: Athletic And Fitness Attractions
Along with the large events like the Steeplechase and the Water Ski & Wakeboard Tournament, there are many athletic and fitness opportunities for the thousands of year round visitors to the park. Callaway Gardens is home to some of the greatest golf the South has to offer. From 1991 to 2002 the Gardens was home to the Buick Challenge on the PGA tour. The Gardens has 27 holes of golf that will challenge your golf skills and provide a relaxing outing at the same time.
The Gardens has several walking, hiking, and biking trails including a 10 mile Discover Bike Trail. These trails provide great nature and wildlife viewing along with access to the other attractions at the park. There is also the Mountain Creek Tennis Center which is located across Hwy 27 from the main park. Families and children can also enjoy the world's largest man-made beach at the Robin Lake Beach complex, and possibly see the Florida State University's Flying High Circus which has shows near the beach every summer.
Other Attractions In Pine Mountain
Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park
Founded in 1882 as Chipley, GA, the town now known as Pine Mountain is home to just over 1,000 residents. Although this town is not a large metropolis, there is much to enjoy here. While you are in town you can experience some great southern food, shop in some small stores that have everything from toys to antiques, and you can get some great chocolates and candies.
Just north of Pine Mountain you can also have a "wild" experience. The Pine Mountain Wild Animal Safari is located just north of town on Hwy 27, north of I-185. Here you and your family can see lions, tigers, and bears, yes, I said it, along with many other animals from around the world for less than $20 per person. In the park, you can drive your own vehicle through the exhibits, ride a tour bus, or even rent ($12) a zebra-striped minivan. With the ability for animals to walk right up to your vehicle, be sure to "keep your hands inside the vehicle at all times."
Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park
Founded in 1935 by the work of the Civillian Conservation Corps, one of FDR's civil works programs, the F. D. Roosevelt State Park is Georgia's largest state park. After finding relief in the natural warm springs from pain caused by years of polio, FDR built a house near Warm Springs, GA which would later be called the Little White House. This building along with other structures built by the CCC make up some great attractions in the large park.
Besides the historical sites, the F. D. Roosevelt State park has miles of biking and hiking trails as well as scenic lookouts, picnic areas, cabins, and camping areas. This large park, with its natural beauty and historical significance, is just one more reason to visit the Callaway Gardens / Pine Mountain area!
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