Historic & Haunted Savannah
Savannah, Georgia, is one of my very favorite southern cities. It is incredibly laid back and bears witness to the South’s finest hospitality. Designed by James Oglethorpe in 1733, Savannah is laid out in 22 squares, each lovely and unique in design. Georgia’s oldest city is bursting with Civil War history, antiques, art, and beautiful gardens.
Forsyth Square is Savnannah’s most visited site. It showcases the most majestic white fountain that is sure to be the highlight of your photography. Admiring the architecture and antebellum mansions framed in silvery Spanish moss-lined live oak trees are a tourist’s dream. I have been visiting the historic city of Savannah for about 20 years and have witnessed it become a major vacation destination. It truly is a timeless city full of grace and dignity.
If you are a first timer to Savannah, the Old Town Trolley tour is a must. Featuring 15 hop-on/hop-off stops, the 90 minute narrated tour will introduce you to Savannah’s biggest and most popular attractions. Some of these attractions are the Andrew Low House, Cathedral of St. John, River Street, and Mercer House. Being a Girl Scout leader, I loved visiting the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace, home to the first Girl Scout headquarters. It is open year round and sees around 75,000 visitors annually. The Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace was also designated Savannah’s first National Historic Landmark in 1965.
A Little Savannah History Trivia
Savannah was an important port city during the American Revolution and Civil War. It was actually the first organized city in the United States. Savannah was built of 21 squares. Some of Savannah’s famous monuments include the Pulaski, Jasper, and Greene. Also check out the Cotton Exchange, which at one time was the world center for cotton trading.
Shopping in Savannah
If you like shopping, Savannah has some must-see boutiques as well as priceless antiques, gourmet foods and candies, stylish jewelry, and cutting edge local art. Broughton Street is my favorite, chock full of gourmet shops, boutiques, and galleries. Be sure to drop in Levy’s Jewelers and admire all their baubles. The City Market is a pedestrian-only arcade of shops, art galleries, restaurants, and underground clubs. Locally owned shops mostly adorn the arcade. Do not miss The Christmas Shop (307 Bull St) for seasonal ornaments and decorations as well as unique jewelry, collectibles, and darling baby items.
The cobblestoned River Street is definitely a tourist trap, but does have some interesting shops and reasonably priced restaurants. Caution: there are many drunks and pickpocketers so you may not want to bring children to this part of town late at night.
Frightening Ghost Tours
Savannah has a macabre history and tour companies feast on visitors wanting a good scare, a chance to capture a spirit on film, or just a good story to take home and tell their friends. There are nightly ghost tours by foot, trolley and even by hearse that offer a decent amount of scare factor. Grab a copy of John Berendt’s “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” or watch the movie before you come so you can get acquainted with the familiar names, voodoo, and famous cross dresser, the Lady Chablis. Drop by the stunning Bonaventure Cemetery and seek out the gravesite of Johnny Mercer (author of “Moon River”) and Jim Williams (you will understand him after seeing the movie). My favorite ghost related stories pertain to the Juliette Gordon Low Girl Scout house, the Mercer-Williams House, and the Marshall House Hotel.
Savannah, A Paula Deen City
Foodies can delight in the mouth watering southern staples found here such as fried green tomatoes, collard greens, black eyed peas, creamy grits, and the true southern staple…sweet tea. Paula Deen’s The Lady and Sons, which I would argue truly put Savannah on the map (unless you are a history buff), has been serving Savannah the best of Southern foods since 1991. The restaurant moved downtown in 1996. I can remember taking my children there and them eating fried chicken (on a bone of course) for their first time. With crowds lined out the door, many best-selling cookbooks, and sons Bobby & Jamie bustling around inside their quaint restaurant, it was easy to see why Paula’s eatery was in such high demand. Perhaps the mint garnished sweet tea, homemade macaroni and cheese (I am not a fan), and ever changing buffet keep this place full at all hours of the day. I am chalking it up to the butter gooey cakes.
Where to Eat in Savannah
The Lady and Sons moved to a new location (102 West Congress St) in 2003 and went from an 86 seat restaurant to a 330 seat establishment complete with gift shop. I would recommend lunch over dinner. You can order off a menu or enjoy the buffet for $16 per person.
Other noteworthy restaurants include the soul food institution, Mrs. Wilkes Boarding Room, and the chic and stylish Elizabeth on 37th. My favorite is the former 18th century mansion converted to restaurant, The Olde Pink House. I recommend trying the low country she crab soup or shrimp and grits. Be sure to check out the basement at the Olde Pink House as it is home to their piano bar which features live entertainment. The more popular restaurants in Savannah offer cookbooks for purchase. Pick one up!
Don’t Miss the Sweet Treats!
Visiting Savannah would not be complete without a sampling (and purchase in my case!) from River City Sweets, where you can also watch the pralines, taffy, fudge, and other confections being made. For the ice cream lover, Leopold’s is the city favorite and continually ranking as best ice cream shops in the country.
The Gryphon Restaurant/Tea Room boasts white tablecloths, mahogany walls and stained glass panels. Operated by SCAD students, it is a great spot for lunch. Afternoon tea is also an option, featuring assorted teas and 3 tiers of tea sandwiches, scones, petit fours, and pastries. The decor is brilliant.
A Town with a Passionate College Scene
I am sure that while in Savannah, you will see the term SCAD literally everywhere and see bikes scattered on the lawns of hundreds of buildings. SCAD is the world’s largest art school and stands for the Savannah College of Art and Design. It has injected the city with vibrant culture. SCAD has a community of working artists and musicians restoring and revitalizing the downtown area. Galleries, museums, live performances, as well as the shopSCAD store showcase its students’ talents and unique gifts. The college promotes bike transportation around the very wide spread campus so most bikes belong to SCAD students.
My Favorite Hotel to Visit
For overnight accommodations in Savannah, I recommend the luxurious Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa for the best in value and location. The Westin features an outdoor pool overlooking the riverfront, has spacious rooms complete with their heavenly beds, and offers free ferry rides to River Street. Find the best deal for Westin and other great hotels here!
Tip: Great photo ops can also be found at Cathedral of St John the Baptist, Wesley Monumental United Methodist Church, and Trinity United Methodist Church.
Savannah, Georgia Photo Gallery:
Check out out post on Tybee Island; just a hop, skip, and jump from Savannah.