Our primary motivation for venturing into Georgia on our way back to Wisconsin was to visit Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain. We visited here a few years ago — in early fall. We knew that this visit was going to be a little early to see the gardens in their prime, but we thought we might catch the azaleas and rhododendron in bloom and enjoy a few other flowers.
This is a private gardens and not part of the reciprocity program that many botanical gardens participate in. The organization is clearly about making money — entrance fees are $25.00 for adults, $15.00 for seniors and the annual membership fees are high enough that you’d need to visit for at least 4 days to break even. There is an unpublished 2 day entry program that I had known about from our last visit — it gives you a second consecutive day for 1/2 price. And if you visit for one day and want to return the next day you can also just bring your receipt from the previous day in order to get the 1/2 off price for the second day.
In fact were were a little early for azaleas and rhodies, there were some blooms but they were nothing like the full blush of color one might expect. Also we were disappointed that the John A Sibley Horticultural Center has been closed since our last visit. It was a victim of the last recessionary cycle and I’m truly saddened to realize that one of my major reasons for wanting to see the gardens was lying dis-used and crumbling. Sad, that. Callaway hired a new President and CEO in April of ’15 and you know how the new boss always has to justify his/her salary and show how supposedly forward looking they are — so the closing of the horticultural center and the demonstration gardens were announced with great flurry. They said they were investing in the newer Day Butterfly Center — a much smaller USDA monitored center featuring newly hatched butterflies from around the world.
None of which inhibited our having a good time. We had a glorious spring day for our visit. The gardens were not overly crowded though ‘crowds’ are always difficult to assess here. For one thing, the property is huge and for another the several hotels/resorts on the premises mean that a lot of guests are getting around on bikes and rental go-karts rather than driving autos.
I’m not sure if I counted them all, but there are about 8 food and drinks establishments on site. There are rental concessions for everything from golf to climbing around in trees. There are at least 7 gift shoppes to take your souvenir money and … did I say… it’s a money making proposition for Callaway Gardens?
If you love raptors — you know those birds that hunt other critters — they have a wonderful raptor show which we took in on our previous visit. Today there was a private event booked so that the raptor show was re-jiggered because the venue where the show is held was being used by a wedding party. The kids love the show and parents do too. It’s one of the few shows that I particularly enjoyed over the years.
The memorial chapel is lovely, and they do have periodic organ recitals in the chapel — check before going. Can you tell — I DO love organ music!
Well, there you have it. Our day at Callaway! All things considered I think one day will be enough. With our remaining time here we’ll relax and check out more of this state park. Nearby — about 13 miles from the campground — is The Little White House — it was F.D. Roosevelt’s presidential retreat and the place where he died. I doubt we’ll take it in; we just don’t do tours and such anymore. But we will walk the park, and check out some of the shorter trails — with my leg I am not doing long walks anymore but we still enjoy ambling.
Thanks for stopping by and I’ll talk with you tomorrow.