Pine Mountain, GA
December 29-30, 2006

We decided to take a quick two day, one night trip over to Pine Mountain, GA as part of our Christmas vacation.  The main draw was the Fantasy in Lights at Callaway Gardens, which is a huge display of Christmas lights that draws people from all over.  While we were there, we spent the day in the gardens, and on our way home on the second day, we planned a visit to the Wild Animal Safari.

On Friday morning, we left home early so we'd have most of the day to explore the gardens.  We were able to check into our hotel, the Mountain Creek Inn (which is part of Callaway), then went into the gardens to grab lunch at the Discovery Cafe.  We watched the Birds of Prey show first, then pretty much spent the rest of the day seeing most of what the gardens has to offer.  We hiked (well, walked would probably be more accurate) a few trails and visited most of the sites.  One highlight was the Day Butterfly Center, where you walk around in this huge glassed-in area with different kinds of butterflies everywhere.  It wasn't quite as big as the one we saw in Gainesville, but it was still plenty big.

After stuffing ourselves at the seafood buffet back at the hotel, we took our free shuttle bus back over to the gardens for the Fantasy in Lights.  We rode an open-air trolley through it (you can also take your car).  It was nice to not have to worry about driving, but the downside was that it was VERY cold.  The trolley also had the advantage of some cheesy narration.  The lights were amazing...they had all kinds of animated displays and themed areas.  We then explored the Christmas Village area and bought a few ornaments, and we got some dessert at the food court there.  We tried to get an older lady to take a picture of us, and after several unsuccessful attempts we realized that she was lining us up through the space on top of the camera between the camera and the flash, instead of the viewfinder.

On Saturday morning, we enjoyed the breakfast buffet that came with our room (it was all part of a package).  We checked out and headed back into the gardens.  Tammy then discovered that Callaway Gardens is a birding sanctuary.  She saw all kinds of birds in various places.  One of the best was Mr. Cason's Vegetable Garden.  Because it was December, there wasn't much growing there and so there weren't many people around, and the birds loved this.  We spent some more time in various areas in the gardens before heading out for our afternoon.  We spent a while searching for a restaurant we had heard about for lunch, only to discover that it's not even open that time of year.  We ended up eating at a cool place in Pine Mountain called the Purple Cow Cafe.  Everyone working there seemed like they were in middle school, but the sandwiches were good and so was the milkshake.

It was a little rainy and wet, but we decided to go ahead and do the Wild Animal Safari as planned.  The animals didn't seem to care that it was raining.  We elected to drive our own car through instead of renting one (probably a mistake), but fortunately did buy two bags of food (one would not have been enough).  The park was a very unique roll your windows down, and the animals just walk up to you hoping you'll give them some food.  A few brave ones tried to stick their heads in.  Sometimes, as you tried to drive off, they wouldn't move because they wanted more food.  The zebras actually chased us.  Tammy got a little panicked a few times, but all in all it was fun.  A goat tried to take off one of our side mirrors, but the car survived.

We then went to the caged part of the park, which was pretty much like a miniature zoo.  They have the largest collection of ligers (bred for their skills in magic) in the U.S., along with a bunch of other animals.  Tammy wanted to take home the piglet that they had for sale, but Ricky said it wouldn't get along with Angel.  We ate supper at a place called Crickets, then headed back to Birmingham.

link to home page entry including video from Wild Animal Safari

Callaway Gardens Pictures

Animal Safari Pictures