About Callaway Gardens:
Callaway Gardens is a wonderful resort in Pine Mountain, Georgia. The gardens opened in 1952 and were founded by Cason and Virginia Callaway. There are many things to entertain you while on a visit including: playing golf, riding bikes, walking the many beautiful trails throughout the garden, viewing butterflies at the Day Butterfly Center, watching the Birds of Prey show, visiting the chapel, zip lining and much more. The mission of Callaway Gardnens is to connect man and nature in a way that benefits both.
Visiting Callaway Gardens:
I have visited Callaway Gardens many times since I was a child. I can remember running through the cabbage patch in Mr. Cason’s Vegetable Garden, and then watching my children do the same thing many years later. Below are photos from different visits we made to the garden when my kids were little. It is a favorite place to visit with friends and family. We are sorry to hear the vegetable garden is just too expensive to keep up, and they are no longer planting it.
When my mother came into town we decided it would be exciting to see the azaleas there since we have not been for years. Since Callaway Gardens is a resort it has several overnight lodging options available, but my mom and I decided to go as day visitors. We got there before the gates opened so went to have breakfast at the Callaway Garden Country Store right outside of the garden. It’s a quaint country store and restaurant which has tables with views out over the ridge it sits on. We had biscuits, jam, and homemade sausage for breakfast, and it was a delicious way to start our day. My mom bought a hat in the store.
There is a gatehouse where we paid admission, and then went to the Callaway Discovery Center to get oriented on what we were going to do. A lovely statue of Virginia Callaway greeted us at the entrance. There are large maps, rest rooms, a gift shop, exhibits and a small cafe in the Discovery Center. We looked around and made a plan for the day with the help of the staff there.
We decided to visit the Ida Cason Callaway Memorial Chapel first. There is a charming stone bridge leading the way to the chapel over a small stream. The sound of water is always so peaceful and calming. This is the perfect spot for the chapel which seems to be admiring it’s splendid reflection in the water.
Once inside the chapel, there was a hospitable volunteer to tell us the details of the chapel. She told us how Mr. Callaway spent many years deciding where he would build this memorial to his mother and then meticulously planned the chapel itself. The stained glass was my favorite part with the colorful artwork of local plants etched into the glass.
A stunning stained glass window stood at each end of the chapel and then down one side were lovely panels representing the four seasons: spring, summer, fall and winter. The morning light streaming through the glass gave them a marvelous glow.
Next, we decided to see if there were any azalea blooms that had survived the freeze in the Callaway Brothers Azalea Bowl. We were not hopeful since the azaleas at my home which were in full bloom the week before were frozen when the temperatures dropped. We passed over a sturdy bridge next to an alluring man-made waterfall. We stopped to admire the view and listen to the cascading sound of the water. Would we see the azaleas blooming around the corner?
Unfortunately, as we expected, the azalea blooms were all dead. Of course the plants are still alive and will bloom again next year, just the blooms themselves were dead. The photo on the sign is what I have had the pleasure of experiencing in these gardens in the past. If you get lucky enough to time your visit right and the weather cooperates, the woods are ablaze with blooming azaleas. Pinks, whites, corals and reds cover the earth beneath the large pine and oak trees. Of course we were disappointed. However, part of travel is the highs and lows- you can’t ever expect everything to work out as planned. So we moved on.
Our next stop was Pioneer Log Cabin. We parked at the cabin and quickly explored the rustic structure. We were anxious to reach the Day Butterfly Center, so we quickly headed down the path that was lined with colorful blooms.
The Butterfly Center was surrounded with blooming plants and we admired them as well as the sculpture which shows the metamorphosis of a butterfly.
Inside the center was an entertaining and informative film on butterflies. It was a great introduction to what we were about to see. We were able to closely inspect rows of cocoons, and some of the butterflies in the case had hatched.
The center needs to be hot for the butterflies so be sure to dress in layers so you can peel them off when you get inside.
There were several varieties of butterflies fluttering around, and it was fun to follow them around the tropical oasis and watch them land and then take flight again. Of course the landing part is what I was looking for since taking a photo of a flying butterfly is not easy. I was a little disappointed that there were not more varieties.
There was an enchanting waterfall and these turtles were soaking up the warm sun on the rocks.
After lingering in the butterfly center and perusing the gift shop, we headed back to the Discovery Center to catch the Birds of Prey Show. I knew this would be a highlight for me, since I have seen it before and love birds. The birds in the show cannot be released into the wild, due either to injury or having developed an unnatural association with humans, known as “imprinting”. I wish I could spout off all of the facts and figures about the birds that our adorable interpreter knew. Her knowledge of the birds was immense and entertaining. Below is the owl that showed off for the crowd.
Next came a hawk from the western United States. We were warned not to stand up suddenly since the birds would fly just above our heads, and this was not an exaggeration. They flew over our heads many times and like to get very close.
The vulture was my mom’s favorite. Our guide explained that they may not be beautiful, but they are very efficient in cleaning up the environment and helping prevent the spread of disease.
After the bird show we walked back to the Discovery Center where many people were enjoying lunch on the deck. We decided to head back to Alpharetta to try to avoid the traffic. One last thing I want to mention is how much fun bike riding can be at Callaway. There is a 10 mile path that meanders through the woods and gardens. It is great fun, but may be a little too hilly for young children.
Visiting Callaway Gardens is an enjoyable outing for people who enjoy gardens, butterflies, birds, biking, and golf. Of course there are other things to do there, so be sure to check out their website to see what interests you. I enjoyed my visit with my mother, and will probably try again next year to catch the azaleas putting on their spectacular show of color.
Click below for details about visiting Callaway Gardens:
I was pleased with the way my photos of the birds turned out. However, I am not an expert on photographing birds. To maximize your chance of great photos of birds you need a really large zoom lens, and lots of patience. The more you can fill your frame with the bird, the more amazing they look since you can really see the details of their feathers, beaks etc. However, the bird show made things a bit easier than shooting in the wild. I sat in the front row to get as close as I could since the lens I had only zooms to 105mm. I set my shutter speed to 1/1,000 to freeze the action of the birds flying. If you have a moving or sports setting on your camera switch the mode to that setting. As you can see in my photos below, I was able to freeze the motion of the body, but not the wings. I do still like the photos since the bit of blur in the wings shows the motion. To freeze the motion of the wings, I would have needed to go to 1/1,000+.