Serenity, Scenic Vistas And Simple Pleasures

Callaway Gardens in the foothills of Georgia’s Appalachian Mountains offers soothing anecdotes for people needing to slow down and at least “see the flowers”.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014 - by Diane Siskin

My choice for a Mother’s Day celebration couldn’t have been more perfect. Callaway Gardens located in middle Georgia less than two hours south of Atlanta and about four hours from Chattanooga offers an excellent locale to rest and rejuvenate.

I drove for four-and-half hours north from the Panhandle of Florida to Pine Mountain. My daughter and granddaughter drove south from Atlanta to reach our destination, The Lodge & Spa at Callaway Gardens.

The weather for the most part cooperated with some light rain on the day we arrived, but the Sunday of Mother’s Day dawned absolutely beautiful.

The sun shining only added to the tableau known as Callaway Gardens, 6,500 acres of gardens and preserved forest land.

Spring had finally arrived with bright daffodils, bell-shaped tulips, azaleas and Big leaf Magnolias providing a dazzling display.

Just driving into the gardens is an immediate relaxation anecdote. For me driving the old US 27 mountain road toward the gardens started my wind-down. The tall trees of the forests were tantalizing.

And while the focus of Callaway Gardens is nature, the Lodge and Spa is all about comfort and pampering.

The architecture is the first clue that this resort wants its guests to enjoy both the indoors and outdoors. Our room featured, from our balcony, a courtyard view of the beautiful stone waterfall. Leaving the sliding glass door open permitted us the soothing sound of cascading falling water, similar to being at the beach and leaving your cottage/condo door open to hear the waves as they hit the shore. In the morning the birds could be heard. As it gets into the summer months, more insects may cut into the open-door attribute.

Our bathroom featured a glass-enclosed shower, separate deep soaking tub and large granite vanity. The solid bathroom door with glass transoms resembled a front door found on a lodge dwelling. All the interior design motifs added to the lodge feeling.

My room was on the first floor, near the lobby and with easy access to the spa located down one flight and close to a hotel exit door leading to the pool and hot tubs. The pool was set among tall pine trees and gorgeous gardens.

The Piedmont Grille and Ironwood Lounge provide the only food outlets within the lodge (accept for the pool grill). The food, especially, the Lodge Breakfast Buffet and Mother’s Day buffet were abundant and attractively displayed. The cuisine leans definitely toward Southern fare, good, plentiful and highlighting organic and wild ingredients found in the region.

The rooms have a coffeemaker and refrigerator, but no microwaves. Guests need to plan for some picnic meals or go outside the resort if your stay lasts more than a few days. There are other restaurants at some of Callaway Gardens other accommodations and within the gardens which open seasonally. We had a good dinner at Aspen’s Mountain Grill on Georgia Highway 354 in Pine Mountain, Georgia, just a few miles from the Lodge.

If you dine at the Lodge, one meal can sustain for the day, meaning a breakfast buffet would easily take care of lunch.

My highest recommendation about this resort has to go to the wonderful caring and helpful staff. From the front desk to the spa attendants couldn’t have been more sincerely intent of helping all their guests truly enjoy their stay.

The serene atmosphere of the Lodge and Spa in this mountain oasis is geared to helping guests unwind and reflect. Without the attention and assistance of the friendly staff this the lodge would just be another beautiful facility.

A morning spent at the Spa Prunifolia is pure relaxation. A massage, some steam and a sauna and a short stay in the relaxation room may not be what the doctor ordered, but some of the ladies in there said “it was just what they needed.” Dee, the massage therapist certainly made my day.

The benefits of a visit linger because of the attention to detail. Need some extra towels or blankets, or need a minor bathroom repair? Someone is at your door almost before you put down the phone.

Don’t want to sit down to breakfast, but prefer to take out some quick items? Everything requested was packed and brought and presented quickly.

The Lodge and Spa is the site of many weddings, meetings and family reunions. Of course, the facilities and setting are perfect for all of those events.

But what we experienced on a Mother’s Day weekend easily exemplied what this resort and Callaway Gardens holds for its guests. Everywhere on that Sunday were families enjoying each other and the inspiration provided by the setting.

In the Piedmont Grill there were so many large family groups not only dining together but also walking the grounds and taking photos of each other with the spectacular background of nature.

In front of various attractions within the gardens on Saturday evening were prom couples posing for pictures in front of the Cecil B. Day Butterfly Pavilion and the Pioneer Log Cabin. Along the bike paths were parents with young children trying out their tricycles for the first time. There were grandparents enjoying their grandchildren. The locales for taking family photos with breathtaking backgrounds seemed limitless.

Cars filled with families seemingly were following the main roadway throughout the property to access the trails and facilities. Some were content to enjoy the native flora and horticultural treats lining the roadways.

The Lodge and Spa offers wired Internet for free, but AT&T users will not be able to place or receive calls within the lodge for another few months. You can access and make calls outside the Lodge.

The Lodge also offers free parking. If you are a guest at the Lodge you will also receive free passes to the Gardens. To access the gardens you will either have to drive in or bike in. I saw many cars filled with their own bike racks. You can rent bikes through the Lodge. Golf carts are also available for rent.

Room rates vary by how you book your stay. I saw some available in June (with one bed) for around $219 per night. There are so many different packages offered. Generally if you are coming to play golf or tennis, there is a package for that.

The Lodge and Spa at Callaway Gardens is easily accessible from I-185. From exit 42, it is less than six miles (via Route 18) to the Gardens new entrance where the Lodge and Spa is located.

For more information or reservations, visit www.callawaygardens.com or you can call 1-(800) Callaway (225-5292)

For more information on The Lodge and Spa at Callaway Gardens, you can call (866) 750-3980. Or visit www.callawaylodgeandspa.com

Our Favorite Callaway Gardens Attraction

Since our visit to Callaway Gardens included a teen-ager the first attraction we headed to was the Treetop Adventure & Zip Lines. This self-guided, in-air obstacle course is comprised of 10 zip lines ranging from 44 to 700 feet long and is filled with 34 challenges created with ladders, wires, logs, discs, netting and other suspended surfaces, each requiring a high-level balancing act that must be carefully executed in order to reach the next challenge or zip line.

Just looking at the attraction I knew, with my bad knees, I couldn’t execute even the first zip line. I said I would take photos and my daughter and granddaughter would do the challenge. My daughter tried the course for a short time and realized that it would be more of a challenge then she wished for. On the other hand, my granddaughter, Caitlin took to the ropes like she had done this many times, which she had not!

Lots of other kids, providing they were at least 54 inches tall, took the short tutorial and were off without looking back. Also included were parents, both moms and dads.

Everyone that started either finished or at least made it to most of the 26 stations.

After the guides secured the participants in harnesses (which hold up to 260 pounds and your waist size can’t measure more than 48 inches) and lead them through a brief instruction session, they started the course at their own pace. Some moved quicker through the course than others. A guide was stationed on the ground near each transfer point.

The weather on the day of our adventure was overcast, cooler with slight misting. Perfect to be in the Treetops.

Parents, like myself, video and photographed along the route from below. You could at all times communicate with your treetop adventurer. The course takes approximately 60 to 90 minutes to complete. Most of the participants seemed to thoughly enjoy the experience and some couldn’t wait to take on the next course.

Once you complete this course you can take on the Lake Course, a newly added feature, which has five zip lines, including several over water and four obstacles.

When we visited still another new course was being constructed. This one is a lower height level which will permit younger children to participate in the adventure.

The Treetop Adventure and Zip Lines are located near the Virginia Hand Callaway Discovery Center and are open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. (The last tour on Mondays-Thursdays is at 4 p.m. and on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 5 p.m.

The cost is $35 per person and an additional $15 for the Lake Course, if you choose to do that as well. Group rates are available and reservations are required. You can call 1 (800) CALLAWAY (225-5292) for more information or reservations.

While at this center you can rent bikes, or take in the Birds of Prey shows at the Discovery Amphitheater. This show features owls, hawks and other species which swoop overhead and land on the gloved hand of trainers and give visiting guests an up-close look at these magnificent creatures.

The TreeTop Adventure is within Callaway Gardens so an admission fee to the Gardens is required to even access the course’s location. If you are staying at the Lodge and Spa, admissions to the gardens are provided free of charge.

Diane Siskin
dsiskin123@gmail.com

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