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.
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.
Named one of the best local markets by Georgia Family Magazine, Lane Southern Orchards cossets juicy treats with loving attention and proper hydration. A sprawling sea of strawberry plants blankets numerous acres of Lane Southern Orchards' grounds, sprouting sanguine offspring ready to be plucked by roving customers, ferried home, and given playful nicknames. Pick-your-own outings allow customers of all ages to forage into the horticultural unknown, bucket in tow, in search of perfectly plump and ripe natural delicacies. Towering deciduous gatekeepers flank the fields, engendering a feeling of being whisked away to a private fruit-filled paradise far from the outside world's petty demands and snootily-worded subpoenas.