If Charleston South Carolina is the most sophisticated southern City, then nearby Savannah Georgia is her fun younger sister. General James Oglethorpe docked his ship here in 1733 and declared this Georgia, America’s 13th colony, so there is plenty of history in Savannah too. But Savannah is a self-proclaimed party town on the Savannah River. The saying goes, in Charleston they ask who you know, in Atlanta what do you do, and Savannah what do you drink?
What’s cool about Savannah – besides the Riverfront walks, tree-lined parks and streets, and a plethora of rooftop bars and old fashioned pubs, is the slow country attitude.
Top Things to do in Savannah:
The Old Savannah Trolley Tour takes 90-minutes and is an ideal orientation to all Savannah’s historic sites, grand mansions and park squares. Learn of Savannah’s military timeline from protecting the North, specifically the Carolinas, from the South – the Spanish Catholic invasions from Florida, to the Civil War that divided families in this otherwise gracious and gentile town.
Savannah’s green parks are a must. Savannah was designed in squares with an alphabet of beautiful green spaces. Forsyth Park is perhaps the most magnificent and Savannah’s largest park, 30-acres, with a spectacular fountain and a 300-year-old Candler Oak tree. But Chippewa Square is more famous since it’s the site of Forrest Gump’s park bench scene… the bench actually came from Hollywood and is now in the Telfair Museum. Franklin Park is legendary as Martin Luther King Jr. first gave his Dream speech here in 1963 outside the First African Baptist Church.
Savannah’s most beautiful street, Jones Street, is southern elegance defined with Spanish moss-draped Live Oaks, brick federal mansions featuring upper floor porticos – all the fashion in the 18th century, and wrought iron balconies cascading with ivy and flowers.
Drink rum at The Pirate House where Robert Louise Stevens spent time chatting with sailors and “pirates.” Their stories became the substance of Stevens’ Treasure Island novel.
See a movie at the country’s oldest theatre, Lucas Theatre. Local SCAD students, Savannah College of Art and Design, premier their work in this historic movie house during the Savannah Film Festival.
Drink in Savannah. Stroll the streets with drink in hand thanks to Savannah’s to go cup policy. You can take your drink from a bar – just ask for a To-Go cup. Once a prohibition town, Savannah was also anti-Catholic, also not allowing slavery or lawyers for that matter. Of course locals say if there was no drinking, there’d be no layers. Well, Savannah now proudly wears its open-mindedness and party pants. I’ve never witnessed so many happy hours, enhanced by Savannah’s aforementioned To-Go Cup policy.
City Market is a restored warehouse section of Savannah -now a vibrant pedestrian zone with lively bars, relaxed restaurants that spill out onto the sidewalks, boutiques & art galleries. Afternoons bring live music performances and great people-watching. Take a selfie with Johnny Mercer – Savannah’s famous Hollywood song writer. Think Moon River and Baby Its Cold Outside among his oldie but goodie movie sound tracks for Capitol Records.
Down by the river is The Cotton Exchange in beautiful old brick warehouses. See the Factor’s Walk bridges at street level on the city side, then go down two stories to the waterfront on the historic 3-S staircases, read: steep, stone, scary.
River Street offers an authentic cobblestone promenade with waterfront shopping and pub crawling. Get a sample of Praline at Savannah Candy Kitchen, then walk along the Riverwalk to The Waving Girl statue, which honors Florence Martus who greeted every incoming ship for over 40 years.
Take a free boat taxi across the Savannah River to the Westin for a commanding view of Savannah’s suspension bridge and the busy shipping port.
Sunset in Savannah, go to Rocks on the Roof, the rooftop bar at The Bohemian Hotel to watch the container ships come into the river loaded with foreign cars and freight from a far.
Go to The Pink House for shrimp and grits, or she crab soup. This pretty pink 1776 mansion is a stunning remainder of gracious southern hospitality. The Planters Tavern downstairs just creaks with pub folklore.
Play Ghost in a Graveyard. Savannah is the most haunted city in the US. Much of the city was built on top of graveyards, so it’s a city living on the dead. 100-acre Bonaventure Cemetery is the most famous, outside town. The Greenwich Cemetery hosts the grave of Danny Hansford, whose murder inspired Savannah’s “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”
Stay at the River Street Inn, in the heart of Savannah’s waterfront, overlooking the Savannah River, on the Trolley Route. Enjoy the Inn’s complimentary wine and cheese reception in the evening, and the French bakery Café M next door in the morning for coffee and fresh baked buttery croissants.