We recently went with the grandparents to Callaway Gardens and experienced the quintessential multigenerational weekend getaway. Callaway was the perfect location for our family. Here are seven hints for finding your dream adventure with the grandparents, and why you too should consider Callaway Gardens!
You can stay together – apart.
It’s important to stay together during a multi-generational excursion. You want the grandparents to be part of the goodnight ritual, and nothing beats coffee and OJ together in the morning, fully clad in jammies. Just as important? Personal space. We all need it, especially the grands that may not be accustomed to the 24-hour chaos of little ones.
Callaway’s Southern Pine Cottages are the answer. The cottage we stayed at opened to a shared living space…fully-equipped kitchen, dining room and living room with great stretching-out space. We also enjoyed a screened in patio area with table and chairs, and a deck with a charcoal grill.
There are two bedrooms, each with two queen beds and a full bathroom. Our bedroom was part of the main cottage. Grammy and Poppy’s bedroom could be accessed from the main living area, but also included a private door to the outside and a separate deck. When things got rowdy, Poppy was able to sneak away for some computer time in his room. The large second bedroom that worked much like a “stand-alone” hotel room (even a separate coffee maker!) was a great way for the ‘rents to take a break from the craziness, recharge, and come back with gusto.
More insight from Sue: Callaway offers a variety of accommodations from hotel rooms, to cottages and villas to single family homes. The Mountain Creek Inn and Villas are across the street from the original Garden entrance. If you’ll be playing a lot of tennis, definitely stay here as the six tennis courts are within this complex. For more luxurious accommodations, the Lodge and Spa located within Callaway Gardens, is a perfect choice. The Lodge is actually managed by Marriott and is booked through their reservation system.
The single-family homes in Camp Callaway aren’t available through the Gardens yet, but are available by owner. Callaway is working to bring them into their rental pool soon. This small cluster of homes would be exceptionally fun for group of families.
Like Lesli and her family, we stayed in the Southern Pine Cottages and unlike the Mountain Creek Inn and Villas, the cottages are within the Gardens themselves with bike and walking paths to all the attractions.
Look for an easy way to navigate
Our family loves being outside. When we visit somewhere like Callaway, we want to take in the hiking, gardens, beach, and every exciting nook and cranny we can find. The kids lead the way, with their energy and spiritedness, sometimes leaving mom and dad in the wind. While Grammy and Poppy can hold their own (surprising me with their agility every day!) it’s unlikely they could keep up with the boys’ energy levels for an entire weekend, especially with a packed itinerary.
Callaway solved this issue for us by offering golf carts! We rented a golf cart for our adventure. Four and six seaters are available; our little boys’ rear-ends are small, so we went with the four seater and were very happy. The beauty of the park shined from the open-air cart. We loved the wind in our hair, and the ease of jumping on and off when we visited the wildflower trail, the log cabin, the discovery center and more.
There is no way we could have visited so many places within Callaway by foot, and it would not have been as enjoyable by car. We salvaged enough energy to still enjoy each other after dinner each night, with games and books and stories back at the cottage.
Make it affordable for everyone
It’s best to look for a vacation that works, financially, for everyone. Be certain to talk about the budget while planning your adventure; don’t wait until you are vacationing to discuss the coinage.
Callaway provides free garden entry to those that stay at the Gardens. That’s a considerable savings. Another way to save is by staying at the Southern Pine Cottages. With a full kitchen, we at every meal, save one, in our cottage. This saved a considerable amount of money.
Here’s a hint about Callaway Gardens: If you’re staying on the weekend, don’t miss the Southern Buffet at least one night. The fried chicken and pecan pie are out of this world!
More insight from Sue: During this visit, we ate mostly in our cottage, stopping at Whistling Pig BBQ on Main Street in Pine Mountain on our way into the Gardens for one dinner and then cooking food brought from home the next night. We splurged on brunch in the Plant Room on Easter Sunday, which was quite tasty with a large variety of food. They even had a kid’s buffet of chicken figures, mac and cheese and fresh green beans, laid out on kid sized tables. Normally The Plant Room serves a traditional Southern breakfast buffet and I’ve heard the muscadine jelly is one of their specialties. There are plenty of other restaurants for a variety of tastes on property. Rockin’ Robin’s Malt Shop & Pizzeria looked fun and is opened seasonally. The Discovery Café near the Discovery Center offers sandwiches and snack foods.
A means of teaching and a touch of history
Every set of grandparents are different, but my boy’s grandparents always love an opportunity to teach them something new or share a story about “the way it used to be.” You know what else is interesting to me? The boys are always much more receptive to those lessons when they come from the grandparents. Is it the delivery? Maybe they sense their elevated experience? I’m not sure what it is, but it works!
Callaway Gardens is filled with teachable moments, but two distinct things stand out for me. First, we stopped at the Pioneer Log Cabin where Grammy and Poppy talked to the boys about this 1830s cabin – the sleeping conditions, how it was built and what life was like before iPads. Second, we explored Cecil B Day Butterfly Center. Not only did we enjoy the butterflies, we also talked about what they eat, how to attract butterflies to our backyard, and more.
Schedule down time
If you ask me, down time is an important factor in any successful vacation. Never more so than when traveling with friends or extended family. Take time to do nothing, and plenty of it. Also, don’t just assume that it will happen, especially if you are a busy family. Add it to the plan, consciously.
We took time in the mornings and after lunch to just lounge at the cottage a while. I brought books and a few puzzles for the boys. We also took some time at Robin Lake Beach. The boys played in the sand and dipped their toes in the water, while we spread out a picnic blanket and laid on our bellies doing nothing. It might not sound like much, but it was a highlight of our trip.
Find something for everyone
Possibly the most challenging effort in a multigenerational trip is finding a location with something for everyone. Sure, parents and grandparents love to watch happy kids doing their “kid thing,” but an entire weekend filled with only kid-centric excitement can get old. Opt for activities that everyone can enjoy.
At Callaway Gardens there is history and horticulture. There are hiking opportunities, beach play excitement. You’ll find treetop zip lining, and golfing and tennis. There’s a birds of prey show, bike rental and geocaching. There is literally something for every member of the family.
More insight from Sue: As with most resorts, there is golf, tennis and swimming pools. What sets Callaway apart is the beautiful gardens and nature focused attractions such as the Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center, where you can have a butterfly land on you. The Virginia Hand Callaway Discovery Center, where you can feed turtles, learn the history of Callaway Gardens or purchase a souvenir.
Close to the Discovery Center is the Birds of Prey show. We learned all sorts of things about raptors including that a buzzard’s stomach acid is so powerful that it can kill e-coli. That same buzzard urinates down it’s legs so that stomach acid cleans off any bacteria. As gross as it sounds, it’s what keeps our natural world healthy. It’s also the one fact I’m going to keep with me for years (I know why couldn’t it have been something else). The John A. Sibley Horticultural Center was gorgeous both from an architectural standpoint and for the plants inside. However, this was more of an adult attraction, and my kids were a bit restless in here.
One of our favorite activities was riding bikes around the resorts 10 miles of bike trails. Rent bikes there or bring your own. The Robin Lake trail is flat and smooth, perfect for newer riders or even those still sporting training wheels. The older boys enjoyed having destinations to ride to and explore like the Pioneer Log Cabin and Mr. Cason’s Vegetable garden.
For adventurous older kids and adults, the TreeTop Adventure is a must do. This is a strenuous ropes course combined with five zip lines.
Summer brings a whole new set of attractions to Callaway. Sixty-five acre Robin Lake becomes the focal point with swimming, mini-golf, table tennis, playground and shuffleboard among the activities included with admission. During certain times, the Florida State University Flying High Circus performs. For those who are more active (and for an additional fee) try the aqua island that looks a lot like a Wipe Out water course or a water ski lesson. There are also blaster boats and a light striker laser tag course.
Mix and mingle your time together
Finally, I encourage you to plan activities together and apart. Let the kids have time along with the grandparents (which gives you a break.) Conversely, take the kiddos on a small adventure without the grandparents. Have the grandparents take one kid somewhere, while you take the other with you. Mix it up to create focused memories together.
We took the kids on a short hike late one evening, without the grandparents. We also let the grandparents take the kiddos to Rockin’ Robins Malt Shop, just down the road from our cottage.
Disclosure: Thank you to Callaway Gardens for hosting my family and me. We appreciate the kindness, but it did not impact our opinions here. #keepingitreal