Callaway Gardens Lights the Holidays
by Kathie Farnell
Callaway Gardens, famous for its magnificent spring displays of azaleas, shines at Christmas with more than eight million lights in a drive-through holiday display that’s become a Southern holiday tradition.
Located south of Atlanta in the town of Pine Mountain, Georgia, the Gardens’ 13,000 acres were restored from barren farmland to one of the world’s most spectacular gardens by the Callaway family, a labor of love that took decades.
Today, the Gardens are a favorite with brides looking for a beautiful natural backdrop for a wedding.
The five-acre John A. Sibley Horticultural Center offers outdoor garden settings year-round along with a soaring glass conservatory featuring a 22-foot-tall waterfall and a fern grotto. Seasonal displays here include a breathtaking Christmas tree made of poinsettias.
The Ida Cason Callaway Memorial Chapel, with its Gothic-inspired design and woodland setting, is a favorite for couples seeking an intimate wedding venue.
The Chapel accommodates weddings for up to fifty guests in a serene, traditional atmosphere that features beautiful stained glass windows and a custom-built pipe organ. Just outside, a natural waterfall burbles its way into the lake.
For brides planning a larger event, the 35,000 square-foot Virginia Hand Callaway Discovery Center, on the banks of Mountain Creek Lake, offers a number of options for ceremonies and receptions. The Center is also the ideal place to begin an exploration of the Gardens’ other attractions. The Mountain View golf course is ranked as one of the top courses in the country; the Twin Oaks practice facility offers clinics, individual lessons and group lessons.
Nature trails wind throughout the Gardens, and bikes are available for exploring the ten miles of bicycle trails. The glass-enclosed Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center is home to more than 1000 flutterers from more than 50 species. During the summer, Robin Lake Beach is open for swimming, paddleboats and sunbathing on the world’s largest inland manmade sandy beach. Among the other options: tennis, fishing and boating, and for those who fancy the great indoors, there’s a full-service spa nearby. The Gardens hosts special events year-round, including a water ski tournament, a hot-air balloon festival, and a steeplechase.
Accommodations here include the inviting Mountain Creek Inn; and for those seeking seclusion amid the pines, the casual Southern Pine Cottages and the luxurious Mountain Creek Villas. Dining options range from the Country Kitchen to the lakeside Gardens Restaurant.
Spring may be the most spectacular time to visit the Gardens; the 40-acre Callaway Brothers Azalea Bowl forms an ideal setting for outdoor weddings set in a floral fairyland. Literally thousands of azaleas join ornamental plants from around the world in a tranquil woodland setting that seems a world away from nearby Atlanta.
For more information on Callaway Gardens, check the website at www.callawaygardens.com or phone 1-800-CALLAWAY.
Photos by Jack Purser; top photo courtesy of Callaway Gardens.