If you guys follow me on Facebook or Twitter you know that our family just had an amazing time at Callaway Gardens last week! Truly, this vacation was way above what we expected it to be and we are already thinking about a time when we can go back. I even mentioned to Matthew that it would be the ideal spot for the BIG family vacation with all of the aunts, uncles and cousins or even our church leadership retreat.
If you have never heard of Callaway Gardens and you live in the eastern part of the US, this is really a great little spot to consider. I say little, but the entire place is about 1300 acres give or take a few. They have several different options when it comes to accommodations: 1 or 2 bedroom cottages, 1 to 4 bedroom villas, Mountain Creek Inn or the Mountain View Golf Cottage. This place truly has so many things to do that we ran out of time to do them all in our 5 short days. Graham was so sad to leave that he asked if we could move there (which is also a possibility believe it or not… just not for us).
So, what did my crew enjoy the most? It is no surprise that the things they enjoyed the most were the simple things (which is why I adore this spot we’ve found). There are miles of bike trails and we have a Burley bike trailer that is our best friend (power house for towing the kidlets). Matthew measured our distance and we biked over 38 miles total while we were there (so maybe HE is the power house and not the bike trailer). The boys also brought their bikes and enjoyed a little riding. We loved riding through the gardens and around the Robin Lake Beach for a cool breeze. We may have made a pit stop by the Taco Truck and the pavilion for a little something, something too (hello Choco Tacos and cheese fries). The best news is we did it all from our bikes which meant we could eat more… right? Once we arrived the only time we got back into the car was when I discovered I’d left the swim diapers at home! Crisis! So, if you find that you’ve run out of swim diapers or even need a few groceries while you are at Callaway Gardens our advice is to head to the Family Dollar that is not very far away instead of the Piggly Wiggly that I thought we may die in a torrential storm to get to. Just a friendly tip.
We even biked over to the Butterfly Day Center and it was beyond my wildest dreams! When you first walk in you see real live butterflies in their cocoons coming out! Craziness! Then the real fun begins when you walk into where the butterflies are flying free amongst all of the tropical plants, waterfalls and coy fish. As soon as we walked in we were all speechless. The butterflies fly so close to you and they are everywhere. Graham and Davis were so mesmerized by seeing these beautiful creatures so close. If you are a nature photographer this is your dream destination!
Mr. Cason’s Vegetable Garden was also one of their favorites. Of course, we have a small garden here at the house so the boys sort of had an idea of what this was all about, but on a much larger scale. This is actually where the PBS show The Victory Garden is filmed. Davis enjoyed chasing butterflies and picking pumpkins (just kidding Callaway if you are reading this… we stopped him… we only carved one, maybe two.)! He really did chase butterflies and we really did chase both boys around that beautiful place. I even got this gorgeous shot of my guys!
A close second to the scenery and bike riding for the boys was Robin Lake Beach. At first I was worried we were going to be traipsing into some algae infested lake. Just calling it like it is. Lakes can be gross, right? Wrong! This lake was a gorgeous blue and the sandy beach matched the bottom of the lake. I kept telling friends it was like actually being in the ocean water at St. Thomas (bath like temperature) but with no rocks, sharks or waves (unless you count the waves being made from the ski boats). Of course, the water is not as clear as the caribbean waters, but it sure was much more pleasant than our super icy, rocky beaches on the coast of NC (I still heart you Ocracoke). I wasn’t constantly on shark or jellyfish patrol which was also helpful for not going into full blown panic attack mode like I can be at the beach. There are several different areas roped off that are designated for swimming and you can wade in the other areas. I was worried that the beach would be slammed in early July but we actually had a little space to ourselves and the beach remained very spacious throughout the day. That is also a bonus in my opinion. Carter Family + Crowds = Meltdowns. That’s just how we roll.
In the evening we treated ourselves to some yummy malts, shakes and ice cream cones from the Rockin’ Robin’s Malt Shop & Pizzeria, dinner at The Country Kitchen and loved hanging out on our screened in porch from the cottage. Speaking of the cottage, it also had a fireplace, full kitchen, dinning table, living room, tv’s in every room with cable, and 3 total porches! It was a dream for a family of 4. I found the cottage to be very clean, updated and laid out well. There were two bathrooms (one for each bedroom) and tons of space for storing things (in case you are an unpacker on vacation).
Like I said, there were so many things that we didn’t even do. If you love golf my husband was drooling over the course. Fisherman/woman/person? You can even do that! If your kids are older they may enjoy the TreeTop Adventure course that has you climbing through the trees or Aqua Island which has huge inflatables on the lake. Oh wait, and there are Blaster Boats! And about 45 other things that I would see and think… let’s do that!
So, if you are looking for a fun way to spend your summer vacation without driving forever to the beach (or being on shark lookout) Callaway Gardens is such a great choice! I would definitely recommend staying in the cottages because you can ride your bike just about everywhere. If you stay at the Inn it seems you would not be as close. Looking for a great deal? Of course you are. Right now Callaway Gardens is offering a $99 a night special for a family of four with access to so many of the fun things they have to offer! $99 is where prices start so check it out!
Thank you Callaway Gardens for this awesome experience and wonderful memories!