More than 50 species of butterflies flit between the petals of an ever-changing array of exotic plants inside the greenhouse as sunlight streams in through the glass ceilings. Outside, experts launch owls, falcons, and eagles into the air to fly—and many come back down to land on the arms of the audience. Since 1952, the staffers of Callaway Gardens’ educational nature preserve have immersed visitors in their passion for wildlife management and conservation across more than 4,600 acres of demonstration gardens, arboretums, and outdoor sports attractions.
At the 5-acre Horticultural Center, visitors wander through three conservatories, a grotto, and an outdoor garden and stand at the base of a 22-foot indoor waterfall. They can also soar up to 30 feet above the forest floor on a five-zipline treetop course replete with ladders, logs, and netting or practice their lumberjack calls on a 10-mile discovery trail through the trees. Staffers regularly lead guided hikes through the woods, hold a range of butterfly shows and cultural workshops, and help facilitate seasonal events—including circus, music, and theater performances and a holiday light show. On overnight stays, they welcome guests into lodgings such as a rustic inn, 155 secluded pine cottages, and 57 stone and wood villas with balconies.
Explorations in Antiquity Center give modern visitors a taste of daily life in the ancient Middle Eastern world. The Center's founder, archeologist James Fleming, has filled each room with authentic artifacts from his excavations in Israel, as well as faithful replicas of objects found in ancient Persia, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, and Rome. Visitors can immerse themselves in realistic settings including a Roman theater, a 2,000-year-old village, and a goat-hair tent like the ones used by nomadic shepherds. They also learn about worship practices of people from 2,500 BCE to 500 CE by visiting houses of worship excavated in Israel or a catacomb modeled on those where early Christians once prayed.
The staff at LaGrange Art Museum are focused on collecting and preserving works of art, right down to the building itself. The museum is housed in a shining example of Victorian architecture from the 1890s, which first served as the Troup County Jail and later the LaGrange Daily News. Today, it houses the museum's special exhibits and permanent collection, which includes 440 works that primarily focus on Southern American art from the 20th century.
The 90 acres occupied by Advantage Tactical Company seem made for firearms training. The area's hills and valleys create natural sound barriers that reduce noise, and the sprawling grounds allow for several types of shooting?including shotguns, pistols, and rifles. Here, licensed instructors teach NRA firearms classes as well as wilderness-survival techniques. The latter covers topics such as administering CPR and building shelter. During the 3-gun shooting-range experience, participants move through different stages with different firearms, a pistol, a tactical rifle, and a shotgun, and challenges participants to transition between them.
A tiger sits beneath the setting sun, her tail beating the ground as her gaze locks onto a man passing by. Luckily, the two aren’t deep in the jungle, but at Wild Animal Safari outside Atlanta, where guests view these majestic animals from the safety of slow-moving vehicles. During tours, personal cars and guided buses wind through 3.5 miles of the park’s territory, passing the habitats of 650 animals such as camels, zebras, and american bison. After the driving tour, safari groups set out on foot to spy smaller animals, including lemurs and peacocks, with opportunities to feed and pet some species. Afterward, pizza and burgers await the hungry at the safari café, and the Wild Animal gift shop offers mementos such as T-shirts and stuffed safari guides.
Since 1952, Callaway Gardens has sat in the Appalachian foothills, verdant and blooming. Its picturesque terrain to explore would be a perfect spot for a picnic?if there was any need for one. Instead, visitors stop by The Vineyard Green for a casual lunch or dinner, feasting on dishes such as tempura-battered fish and chips, Angus beef patty melts with horseradish sauce, and shrimp and grits studded with pieces of andouille sausage. The culinary team pays careful attention to dessert, too, serving up plates of white chocolate bread pudding drizzled in caramel, rather than dinner entrees covered in frosting. Diners can also enjoy a drink at the bar while they watch the big game on one of the 15 flat-screen HD TVs.