A few weeks ago the family made a trip to Pumpkins at Callaway, a new event being held this year. It promised an opportunity to “explore gardens by day and watch them glow by night.” You may be more familiar with another seasonal event that Callaway Gardens has held since the 1990’s called Fantasy In Lights. It has a Winter Wonderland / Christmas theme and has seen visitors from across the globe. I’m sure Callaway hopes for similar success from its new Pumpkins At Callaway event in coming years.
Depending on what night you go, the hours will differ. This year, the hours for Fridays and Saturdays were 4 pm to 10 pm and 4 pm to 9 pm on Sundays. There was only one Monday that the event was open, Columbus Day. That was the day we happened to go. The hours that day were the same as Sundays, 4 pm to 9 pm. I would definitely recommend going on a night that stayed open a little later, as it didn’t really get dark until after 7 pm which made experiencing the glow-by-night aspect a little more challenging. We arrived around 4:30 pm because I wanted to get some pictures of the kids before it got dark and I didn’t know how bad the crowds would be. It wasn’t very crowded when we first got there, but after a while, it became quite congested in areas.
The area of the gardens where the Pumpkins At Callaway event is located is around the Robin Lake Beach Pavillion, the same as the walk-around attractions for Fantasy In Lights. There were probably twenty independent food trucks and vendors situated around the area as well as refreshment bays in the Pavillion area aptly called the Pumpkin Cafe. In the vicinity, were a few picnic-style tables with benches for sitting and eating, although they got snatched up rather quickly.
To one side of the pavillions was the tented area called the Pumpkin Emporium that had a couple of vendors and a few stops for bottled drinks and sweets. You were supposed to be able to have your picture taken with Spookley the Pumpkin there, but apparently, he only shows up at certain times and when I checked back later he still wasn’t there, so my kids weren’t able to take part in that. I am able to understand why they wouldn’t constantly have a person in a heavy costume in that area because it was sweltering in the tent. Thanks, Georgia heat and humidity. It was probably 15 degrees cooler outside and the tented area was a bit of a disappointment.
Outside of the Pumpkin Emporium was the Dance Party area which was also the outlet for the walk-through attraction. There they had inflatable pumpkins and a DJ playing dance music. Kids raced by with their glow-in-the-dark swords and bubble wands as parents looked on. It was an area of pure energy.
Down from the Dance Party, there was a playground area surrounded by pumpkin displays in an area called the Pumpkin Art Garden that was swarming with kids. It did get a bit overwhelming for this paranoid helicopter Mom when some of the kids started pushing others at the top of the slides when the smaller kids weren’t moving fast enough. I was a nervous wreck, but the smaller kids had a ball. Nearby there were several Instagram-worthy areas to take pictures such as the Pumpkin Tree and Pumpkin Tunnel.
Probably the biggest draw for this event was the walk through Enchanted Forest. There were light-up and glowing vignettes along the winding walk. We made the walk when it was still full daylight and wasn’t able to make it through again with 3 kids and a grandmother in tow once it got dark because it became so crowded.
The kids were looking forward to playing Glow Golf which is basically putt-putt with blacklights. I’m glad I went ahead and got in line because apparently, you have to get a ticket with a time on it because they only allow a certain number of players per hour. The tickets we were given were for 45 minutes later and we had done everything else already. We sat by the Robin Lake Beach that entire time waiting for our designated time, only to wait another 30 minutes before actually getting to start. We did a good amount of waiting in between holes and actually ended up leaving halfway through because it was so slow. On the other hand, the course was right next to the entrance to the Enchanted Forest, so we were able to enjoy looking at some of the lights in the dark from a distance while we waited.
It was about 8:45 pm when we left with only about 15 minutes until that night’s official closing time, although I don’t know how strict they actually are about getting everyone out at 9 pm. It didn’t take long to reach our vehicles, as parking is right next to the Pumpkin Cafe. From there it was a short drive to the exit of the park.
Obviously, because this was the first time this event was held, there were bound to be some kinks to work out. Overall I think that Callaway Gardens did a good job putting on a new event that the entire family could enjoy. I wouldn’t recommend getting there at 4 pm unless you want to do everything in the daylight and then sit around waiting for nightfall. If your goal is avoiding the crowds and you don’t mind missing the glow aspect then maybe the earlier arrival is for you. My other suggestion would be to secure your Glow Golf ticket early. I wouldn’t have minded playing with it slightly still light out if it meant we were able to get to do the walk through Enchanted Forest in the dark before it becomes ridiculously packed. We will definitely be going back again next year. If you’re looking for some Fall fun for the family, you should definitely check out Pumpkins At Callaway as well!