The morning of Sunday, July 3 was shaping up to be another hot day in Phenix City, Alabama. My friend and I (along with her husband and his family) had made plans to carpool to Pine Mountain, GA to check out Callaway Gardens. My friend had previously been there and suggested that it was perfect place to soak up some sun and relax by the water.
We arrived at Callaway Gardens and paid a $12.50 per person entrance fee. My friend, and fellow Army wife, told me that it was normally free admittance for military. We were a bit disappointed that because of the “holiday weekend”, we had to pay the entrance fee. We did, however, save some money. The normal entrance fee is $20 per person. I don’t necessarily agree with the entrance fee because of the holiday weekend. We were there on Sunday, July 3 – not the 4th of July.
As soon as we parked and got out of the vehicles, that southern hot air just takes your breath away. Maybe not for everyone but I have spent the last three years living in the Pacific Northwest. The air in Georgia is definitely very hot and humid! We walked towards the lake with our coolers and beach towels. The lake was not nearly as packed with people as I surely imagined it would be. We found what I considered to be a perfect spot on the grass. We opted for a spot on the grass versus the sand because, well, the sand was hot! We set up shop and immediately started putting on the sunscreen. In my case, I put on the sun tan oil.
My friend and I walked up to the gift shop to browse around for goodies. I am a sucker for gift shops and souvenirs! I ended up purchasing a lime green Callaway Gardens drink koozie ($1.25). While in the gift shop, my friend paid a $10 per person/an hour fee to take part in climbing on and sliding down a huge blow up obstacle course out on the lake. It looked appealing but I actually passed up on the adventure. Instead, I walked over to the refreshment bar and ordered the Sunday Special : a Bahama Mama ($5.00). While my friends and their family enjoyed the obstacle course, I sipped on my delicious, ice cold adult beverage and soaked up some sun … a lot of sun.
It eventually got to the point that it was too hot, so that meant it was time to take a dip in the lake! Normally, I have minor “issues” with water that I cannot see the bottom of. I had bad past experiences with dirty lake water that just had creepy things in it. This was not the case at Callaway Gardens. My friend and I walked across the white (and hot!) sand beach and approached the water. I could immediately see that the water was clean, clear, and very inviting. As I dipped my toes into the water, it was not freezing, it was a refreshing warm – but not too warm – temperature. We walked out into the lake until the water was about chest high and waded around in the water. As mentioned before, the lake was not overly crowded so we felt that we had our “own space” to enjoy in the water.
The great thing about Callaway Gardens (which is different from some places I have been) is that you are allowed to bring your own cooler full of food and drinks. You are not expected to fork out tons of money on their food (they do have a place that you can order food) or drinks. We all enjoyed the homemade sandwiches and ice cold water that we brought with us. We also enjoyed the adult Sunday Special beverages offered at the refreshment bar.
While eating lunch, we watched a boat out on the lake that was pulling patrons on an inner tube as well as other people who were knee boarding. Callaway Gardens offers a lot of different experiences! The blow up obstacle course, laser tag, inner tube rides as well as many other things. Callaway Gardens is a rather large park that spans several acres, from what I understand. There are cottages available to rent as well as a large golf course and spa to enjoy.
Overall: Callaway Gardens has a beautiful, clean lake to cool off from the notorious southern heat. Laying under the sun, next to the white sand beach, and the blue green water gives the impression of laying right next to the ocean on a beach side vacation on the coast. The staff that I encountered in the gift shop and the bartender who made my Bahama Mama drinks were courteous and extremely friendly. I was able to completely relax – maybe take a little nap – and enjoy the sun. Although there were plenty of people nearby, I never felt crowded or felt like I was having my space invaded. This is definitely a place to go to enjoy fun in the sun!
If I had anything negative to say it would be: the admission prices are a bit steep. Although on any other day of the year (not including holidays or weekends leading up to a holiday, apparently) I could get in for free with a military ID, I do understand that not everyone is affiliated with the military. A $20 per person fee seems a little much. If I lived there and my girlfriends (and did not have a military ID) and we wanted to spend the day at the lake, we are easily looking at spending $80 – $100 for all of us. I do understand that at a such a beautiful lake with such clean surroundings, it probably does cost quite a bit to keep it that way. However, if my friends and I are looking to get together to enjoy the sun, what would stop us from enjoying margaritas poolside versus paying so much for admission to a lake?
As a visitor to the state of Georgia, it was a nice “tourist” place to visit. I enjoyed my time at Callaway Gardens! My friends who live there say they take almost all visitors there for some relaxation time. I really like the caption that Callway Gardens has on their Twitter page: “Callaway Gardens is an unspoiled paradise just beyond the lights of the city” – because that is just what it was: paradise!
Advice: Don’t get too comfortable while soaking in the sun and forget to rotate your body! I failed to do so and ended up with a tan on the left side of my body only. Oops!