TRAVEL: a captivating Callaway experience

Before my stay at The Lodge and Spa at Callaway (www.callawaylodgeandspa.com), I was expecting calmness, relaxation and the tranquility of nature. And guess what? I got just that.

written by LaTria Garnigan
photography by The Lodge and Spa at Callaway & Callaway Gardens

Callaway is located just 94 miles south of Marietta off of I-85 and during that drive down there, I couldn’t help but wonder what waited.

As my travel companion and I exited onto U.S. 27 we drove several more miles until we reached the entrance to Callaway. The scenery felt very familiar. I grew up in a small town and started my first two years of college not far from Callaway — so the essence of the area was recognizable.

As we drove up the narrow, winding tree-lined road that led to the Lodge, a spark of wonder was ignited.

The Lodge has a stately entrance to welcome guests highlighted by a grand fireplace. It features 150 guest rooms, conference rooms, two restaurants — Piedmont Grille and Ironwood Lounge — a luxurious and hidden jewel in Spa Prunifolia, a gym and serene grounds that include a waterfall, two pools and a Jacuzzi. And if that is not enough for you, it’s just a short walk on a trail to Robin Lake Beach, the world’s largest man-made, inland, white sand beach.

FULL OF FLAVOR
Friday nights are hopping at the Lodge. It is by far the busiest night and the only night where you need a reservation to Piedmont Grille. This is all thanks to the all-you-can-eat seafood buffet that draws diners from all over Pine Mountain. And after my helping of crab legs, fried shrimp, rice and cocktail shrimp, it definitely lives up to the hype. Thankfully Catering Sales Manager Leslie Brown confirmed our reservation because I would have been distraught to miss such a feast on a technicality.

Saturday morning began with an early rise for breakfast back at Piedmont Grille where I employed the “Go Big or Go Home” philosophy and dined on biscuits and gravy, scrambled eggs, bacon, potatoes, fresh fruit and coffee.

For lunch we decided try out The Country Kitchen (http://www.callawaygardens.com/dining/country-kitchen) just a few miles up U.S. 27. Housed inside the Callaway Gardens Country Store, it immediately reminded me of Cracker Barrel. My lunch of chicken pot pie, fried green tomatoes, fried okra — all made from scratch — and sweet tea was the perfect padding for the day of walking ahead. What stood out the most besides the mouth-watering food, was the view. The restaurant takes full advantage of Pine Mountain and offers scenery of the vast mountain region that is second to none. If you go, be sure to make a quick hop across the street where you’ll meet everyone else with their cameras getting just the right selfie with the perfect view of the mountains in the background.

DEN OF ZEN
Spa Prunifolia was possibly the most anticipated experience of the trip. I had about 30 minutes after breakfast on Saturday to descend to the ground floor and into what I deem the “realm of relaxation.” Something magical happens when you travel down those stairs to the ground floor. Honestly, the entire area is structured and decorated completely different from the main level, so you not only feel as if you are in a different world, you actually ARE. Soft music, hushed voices and calming scents greeted us.

I was treated to an 80-minute Swedish massage. After changing into my robe and slippers, I sat in the quiet room for about 10 minutes flipping through a magazine and watched one by one as each of the patrons were called until finally it was my turn. The hushed voices and soft and gentle gait of the personnel never cease to amaze me.

Once in the dimly-lit room, my masseuse explained to me the massage technique she was going to use and allowed me to choose one of three oil/aromatherapy combinations. I was drawn to the sharp and citrusy smell of the ginger root/lemongrass oil combo. Halfway through my treatment, I was surprised to also receive an eye patch infused with peppermint and lavender oils — truly a winning combination in relaxation. Those 80 minutes flew by, but it was much needed and appreciated.

BACK TO NATURE
After my late-morning relaxation session in the spa, it was now time to explore Callaway. The grounds are a sight to see, and when everything is fully in bloom, it’s practically breathtaking. There are several aspects to Callaway Gardens worth discovering and we began with the Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center. It’s housed in a beautifully constructed glass conservatory and gives you the chance to walk among the butterflies. Just remember to watch your step. Inside the center is the actual butterfly garden, display cases where you can see the chrysalis process and an area to learn more about the species.

After that we wound around to the Virginia Hand Callaway Discovery Center, a magnificent building with a panoramic view of Mountain Creek Lake and access to TreeTop Adventure.

The multi-faceted building features an exhibit hall where we were able to view some artwork as well as an auditorium, café and amphitheater for the Birds of Prey shows. A quick walk outside, one can stop along the dock and view the lake activities or walk around to TreeTop Adventures and sign up for zip lining or watch in amazement at those courageous souls who decide to take on the sky-high challenge (as did I).

With such an adventurous day, we decided to wind down with dinner in the casual atmosphere of Ironwood Lounge, where I kept it simple with an Angus cheeseburger, fries and a Coke. And though we were there before the weekly entertainment of the band Backtrackin’, I hear they are quite the draw.


EXPLORATION OVER RELAXATION?

There’s lots to see and do at Callaway, and while I couldn’t experience them all, here’s a list of things you should check out:

  • Biking
  • Walking on the trails
  • Attend a Birds of Prey show
  • Zip lining and more with TreeTop Adventures (newest course takes guests on a 700-foot zip over water)
  • Explore the Azalea Bowl — 40 acres featuring thousands of hybrid and native azaleas and a multitude of other flora
  • Robin Lake Beach activities (open Memorial Day to mid-August): swimming, miniature golf, shuffleboard and table tennis
  • Go fishing in one of the 13 lakes
  • Enjoy a round of golf at the 18-hole Mountain View course or at the 26-acre Twin Oaks Golf Practice Facility

INFORMATION
Callaway Gardens
www.callawaygardens.com
Year founded: 1952
Acres: 6,500
History: Callaway Gardens was founded by Cason J. and Virginia Hand Callaway, inspired by the surroundings of their home. It originally opened in 1952 as Ida Cason Gardens (named after Cason’s mother) and officially changed the name to Ida Cason Callaway Gardens in 1955.

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