Callaway Gardens, Pine Mountain, Ga.
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You'd never know you were standing on a former worn-out cotton field when tiptoeing among the astonishing azaleas and rhododendrons at Callaway Gardens Resort and Preserve (callawaygardens.com), now a 14,000-acre golf, tennis, fishing, spa, and beach resort with sprawling woodland gardens. The property, redeveloped by businessman Cason J. Callaway in the 1930s, now plays host to hundreds of leaf-peepers, enviro-tourists, stressed-out city dwellers, business groups, and families every month. The resort's most popular attractions include the Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center, where more than 1,000 varieties of the winged creatures float freely in a special conservatory, and the annual holiday lights display. Guests can stay in the cozy Mountain Creek Inn, the rustic Cottages, The Villas, or the Lodge and Spa (some rooms start at $129 a night).
Going green at Callaway begins in the bathroom. In lieu of little shampoos and conditioners, you'll find pump bottles affixed to the shower wall, saving 150,000 plastic bottles from entering the environment every year. But that's small stuff compared to the resort's other eco-friendly initiatives. In addition to each commercial building achieving LEED standards, the homes on the property are certified by EarthCraft House, a residential green-building program of the Greater Atlanta Home Builders Association. About 2,500 acres of the preserve have been set aside as a permanent conservation easement through Georgia's Forest Legacy Program. Even golfing is eco-friendly here—water for the courses comes from spring-fed Mountain Creek Lake, so it doesn't deplete the potable water supply.
Save the World
Take a drive through the resort's energy-hungry annual Fantasy in Lights spectacle—featuring 444 stereo speakers, 3,500 extension cords, more than thirty-two miles of cable, and 8 million little twinklers arranged to resemble butterflies, ice skaters, and all twelve days of Christmas—and you might wonder how in the world this place can call itself green. The answer: the property purchased wind power to offset all energy consumption at Callaway Gardens.