Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Pine Mountain, GA

We decided to visit the Wild Animal Safari in Pine Mountain, GA today. I had heard about it online and it seemed like it would be a great rainy day activity since you could stay in your car and drive around.

We decided to rent their zebra van for about $11. I was hesitant to rent it since it meant my three kids wouldn't be in car seats and I'm a bit of a car seat freak. But we had 4 adults and three kids, so plenty of hands available to help the little ones (5, 3, and 20 mo). I was concerned that the youngest would be afraid of the animals so we sat in the back in the middle of the seat, far away from the windows.

The zebra van was a good choice though, despite it being about 10 years old, having no heat, and being a rough drive. I honestly couldn't tell you if the horns from the animals scratched the car at all because it was in pretty poor condition before we got into it. And thank goodness the interior was brown; it hid the dirt, food, and animal hair well. Having the bars on the windows in place of glass was very handy. It kept the animals heads from getting completely inside the car. Also, with the kids in charge of their bags of food there were several bags spilled and food crumbs ALL OVER the car. I was happy that the mess wasn't in our car, on our jackets, or in our car seats. We were able to leave the filth behind for the next family.

We bought 8 bags of food thinking that would surely be enough for 7 people, nope. About halfway through we were out of food. I think our favorite animals were the llamas and pigs. The llamas weren't as slobbery and the pigs were short and cute. The bison and bulls were fairly scary as their noses were about the size of my palm. I found a review online that stated that these animals are hardly "wild" and I would have to agree with that. These animals were fairly domesticated and knew what to do when they saw a car. They would swarm us and stick their tongues in the window. Quite frankly it was nice knowing they were so docile, I was concerned we would be the victims of some African Safari scenario where the rhino totals the car. That was very much not the case.

The day was so cold and rainy though that we opted to skip the walk-about part of the park and just leave. Bring some food though. There weren't any fast food restaurants nearby. Although there was a cafe, it was akin to a high school cafeteria, maybe worse. I had plenty of snacks in the car so we didn't even try any of the food.

We drove another 3 miles down the road to Butts Mill Farm. I sincerely wish the weather had been better because it looked like a blast. It was essentially closed down for the day; no hay rides, horse back rides or other outdoor activities. But there is a Discovery Zone play area that is indoors. We opted not to pay for it as there was no separate pricing and $14 for a one hour activity seemed a bit much. In addition, Butts Mill doesn't have any food either.

If you drive about another mile down the road there are two fast food places; Kentucky Fried Chicken and a Huddle House. There are lots of cute antique shops in this little town. But we headed on to Callaway Gardens. It also required an entry fee of about $13, but children under 6 are free. That meant three fewer tickets for us.

There are several restaurants, lodges and spas available on this 13,000 acre resort. We opted for a quick meal at the Discovery Center cafe. Although it was a tad expensive, it was good. Afterwards the children were able to walk on one of the many trails over a bridge and feed the turtles. We ran, skipped, and jumped through the beautiful flowers and trees until the cold got the better of us. We hopped in the car and drove to the Butterfly Center. This was a fabulous stop, not only was it warm inside, but there was so much to look at. Connor, 3, especially enjoyed spotting butterflies and then finding them on the reference card. We would match the coloring and stripping until we found one of the 25 species on the card. They also had a 'hatchery' of sorts where cocoons were pinned and in various stages of development, including empty cocoons.

I would LOVE to go back to the Callaway Gardens. We spent a few hours there, but you could spend days wandering through forests. In fact, my mother is already planning a trip with her husband. One that will be more relaxing and she can take advantage of the dozens of trails, movies, research centers, and lake activities. We saw some honeymooners and senior groups enjoying the sites and serenity, until we arrived. :-) Lainy Ann enjoyed running and screaming through the pavillion. I am hoping butterflies don't have ears.

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