Courtesy of Callaway Gardens
A little piece of heaven is quietly tucked away in Pine Mountain, Georgia. Only sixty short miles south of the Atlanta airport, Callaway Gardens is the ideal location for a weekend getaway and a breath of fresh air. With a wide variety of recreational activities and 6,500 acres of stunning scenery, you’ll leave feeling refreshed and reenergized. I should know; I just returned from a brief trip there.
It was late afternoon when I arrived at Callaway’s pleasant and inviting Southern Pine Cottages. Nuzzled between magnolias and white oaks, these one- and two-bedroom suites provide a full kitchen, fireplace, dining area, and a tranquil place to rest your head. (Callaway Gardens also offers several other lodging experiences, including vacation homes and the Mountain Creek Inn.)
With only 24 hours to spare, I was buzzing to begin exploring, so off I went to the Day Butterfly Center. Founded in 1988, this glass-enclosed tropical conservatory is home to more than 1,000 free-flying butterflies. One of these magnificent creatures landed on the center of my hand and didn’t budge for several moments. The other visitors stared in annoyance as I gleefully snapped pictures and yelped in excitement.
Leaving the Butterfly Center on cloud nine, my companion and I meandered aimlessly, hoping to stumble upon the perfect dinner location. Along the way, we strolled through the wildflower trail, admired the Pioneer Log Cabin, and somehow ended up sprawled out on the greenest grass I’ve ever seen, appreciating the beauty of the day and the impressive landscaping.
Lost in the splendor of it all, we almost didn’t realize that the sun was beginning to set and we still had not found a place for dinner. Luckily, in a few moments we ended up at The Country Kitchen, where we gazed out at the gorgeous mountain ridge, sipped rich sweet tea, and dined on Southern fare.
Early the next morning, we awoke to conquer Callaway Garden’s TreeTop Adventure, a self-guided obstacle course and zip line attraction. Soaring seventy-five feet above the water on the zip line, I felt like the butterflies from the day before might have invaded my stomach. But I also felt alive. Electrically, happily, alive.
Afterward, we had salads and sandwiches at The Discovery Café, then rented two bikes to take on Callaway’s ten-mile bike trail. Determined to see several more attractions before the impending rain came, we pedaled along the scenic trail as fast as we could. We made it to Sibley Horticultural Center and the famous Callaway Brothers Azalea Bowl, a vibrant homage to the flower that inspired the gardens. It was then that the heavens opened and threatened to drown us. But as the rain poured down and we biked forward, I couldn’t help but laugh as I realized how transcendent the beauty of this place really is.