History Lives in the Charming and Hospitable Coastal Town of Savannah
The embodiment of romance and mystique, the coastal city of Savannah is a Southern jewel. Established in 1773 by General James Ogelthorpe, Savannah holds the distinction of being America’s first planned city. Ogelthorpe had a vision for Savannah, dividing the city into “grids” or “squares” with wide, tree lined avenues, and pristine parks that were to be meeting places and the centers of city commerce. Of the twenty-four original squares, twenty-one exist today, each holding a unique glimpse of Savannah. Today, Georgia’s oldest city is a melting pot of culture and history. Whether shopping along the river, taking a carriage ride down a cobblestone street, or soaking up the past at one of the city’s many historic sites, Savannah has something to offer everyone. However, with so much to see and do, planning a trip here can be a difficult task. This travel guide sums it up – giving you the inside track to attractions and restaurants – and makes planning your Southern getaway a breeze.
Breakfast at Gallery Espresso
Located at 234 Bull Street in downtown Savannah, Gallery Espresso is a trendy cafe offering the best coffee and hot tea in the city. In addition, Gallery Espresso offers a great menu of muffins, bagels, scones, and other delectable baked goods, as well as appetizing midday fare, making it a great stop for breakfast or lunch. The prices aren’t half bad either.
Savannah Visitor Center
In the historic refurbished Central of Georgia Railway Passenger Station, the Savannah Visitor Center offers a wealth of information, including brochures and maps of the city. With so much ground to cover, having the layout of the city tucked in your back pocket is a great way to ensure you visit all the attractions.
Battlefield Park stands as a memorial to Savannah’s fallen soldiers. On October 9, 1779, American and French troops sparred with British soldiers defending Savannah. The British held their ground and won, but not without great loss: there were more than 800 troops from both sides left wounded or dead when the smoke cleared. Fallen troops were buried without gravestones. Nestled between the Roundhouse Railroad Museum and the Savannah History Museum, Battlefield Park honors these fallen soldiers.
In the heart of Savannah’s historic district lies Chippewa Square, named for the Battle of Chippewa during the War of 1812. Daniel Chester French’s nine-foot bronze statue of General James Ogelthorpe stands in the middle of the square, looking down on passers-by from a high ivory pedestal. Also in Chippewa Square – a location used in the filming of the movie Forrest Gump. For the better part of the film, Forrest is seen sitting on a park bench, recounting his tale to anyone who will listen. Though the park bench is no longer in Chippewa Square (now housed in the Savannah History Museum), move lovers will still enjoy seeing this piece of film history.
Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace
Juliette Gordon Low, affectionately known as Daisy, was the founder of the Girl Scouts. Throughout her childhood she lived in this home, located at 10 East Ogelthorpe Avenue. With its beautiful Regency style architecture, the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace has become one of the most popular house museums in the United States. Tours begin every fifteen minutes and ticket prices are $8 for adults, $7 for registered Girl Scouts adults and students, $6 for registered Girl Scouts, and children (5 and under) are admitted free.
Dinner at The Lady and Sons
Made famous by lovable owner and Savannah native, Paula Deen, The Lady and Sons restaurant is a dream. With traditional Southern fare like fried chicken, collard greens, and Gooey butter cakes good enough to make you have a good ole fashioned “hissy fit,” this is one restaurant not to be missed on your trip to Savannah.
Soak in Savannah culture with an evening play. The historic Savannah Theater first opened its doors in December of 1818. The beautiful piece of Savannah architecture has survived remodeling, change of ownership, and even a few fires. One infamous American was thought to have played on the theater’s stage in the mid-1800’s: John Wilkes Booth. Today, plays are still held here. Shows typically go on at 3 PM and 8 PM everyday and tickets are reasonably priced. A schedule of performances is posted on the theater website.
Restored to its original 1892 splendor, the Kehoe House is a beautiful example of Savannah’s many historic homes. Built by William Kehoe, the sprawling home features glittering chandeliers, marble fireplaces, a well manicured courtyard, and an extensive collection of Victorian antiques. The Renaissance Revival style mansion is now home to a luxurious hotel.
Lunch at Clary’s Cafe
A long-standing Savannah establishment, Clary’s menu offers omelettes, hamburgers, and everything in between. Great prices and great fare. This little greasy spoon was even featured as a “diner” in John Behrendt’s Savannah-based suspense novel, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.
Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum
William Scarborough, president of the Savannah Steamship Company, built the beautiful homeplace that now houses the Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum. Founded in 1966, the collection features pieces from the 18th and 19th century era of Atlantic trade between America and England – such as nautical paintings, ship models, and maritime antiques.
River Street Shopping
Aside from offering a serene walk along the banks of the Savannah River, River Street shopping has a little of everything: antiques, haute couture, and boutiques are just a sampling of the shops you will find along the river’s edge. In addition to the great shopping finds, River Street has a fabulous selection of restaurants and candy shops.
Dinner at Pirate’s House Restaurant
Believe it or not, the Pirate’s House has been in business since 1753. It began as a sort of bed and breakfast for seafarers and soon became a haven for rough and rowdy pirates, who came to drink grog and share tales of their adventures on the Seven Seas. The restaurant today holds little vestiges of the past (though it is said to still be haunted by the ghosts of pirates) and today is a bit more tame, catering mostly to families and locals. The menu is tasty and diverse and offers something for everyone at a reasonable price.
Locals and visitors alike flock to this beautiful and historic park. It is the largest of all the public parks in Savannah. With well-manicured expanses of lawn, elegant flora, and ornate architecture and sculpture – including the famous Forsyth Fountain, added for the beautification of the park in 1858 – it is a great stop on your tour of Savannah, Georgia.
Monterey Square & Mercer House
Construction on the Italianate style Mercer House began in 1860, but was not completed until 1868 (due to the Civil War erupting). It has had many owners since it was sold off from the original inhabitants, the Mercer family, but never received much notoriety until it was the place of a murder in the 1980’s. John Berhendt’s novel Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil was written about the murder of Danny Hansford, immortalizing Monterey Square and Mercer House forever. A must see for history and literary buffs.
Bonaventure Cemetery is built on the former site of Bonaventure Plantation. Originally purchased as a private cemetery, the land was made public in 1907 and has since become a historic landmark. Unique sculptures and ornate headstones are shaded by mossy oaks and long, winding avenues make the cemetery both charming and haunting. Each year, hundreds flock to the cemetery, immortalized in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, to see the final resting place of some of Savannah’s most famous natives.
Dinner at Elizabeth’s on 37th
A fine dining experience, housed in an elegant historic mansion, Elizabeth’s on 37th offers a variety of Southern cuisine blended with more innovative dishes. The entrees are delicious and the wine list is wonderful. However, the restaurant is pricey, so be advised. Most dishes are around $40 and up. Walk-ins are welcome, but reservations are helpful. Dress is business casual.
Ghost Tour of Savannah
Experience the darker side of Savannah. Often called “America’s Most Haunted City,” Savannah has a rich history full of murderous pirates and all sorts of fiendish characters. Narrated ghost tours come in all shapes and sizes, but the best, in my opinion, are the walking tours. Visit the Juliette Gordon Low House, Colonial Park Cemetery, buried bodies on Hutchinson Island, and various other haunted Savannah locales.