What better way to celebrate a birthday than a roadtrip? Our destination? Savannah, GA. It was my first visit to this historic city, so we wanted to hit all the highlights. To begin, we cashed in some hard-earned Marriott points for two nights at the lovely Bohemian Hotel. The corner suite featured floor-to-ceiling windows on two walls, plush leather armchairs and cool accents like an oyster shell chandelier over the bed and a driftwood floor-lamp. Not a bad place to call home base.
Established in 1733, Savannah was the first capital of the state of Georgia, and a strategic port in both the American Revolution and the Civil War. The Downtown Historic District is filled with historic homes and green squares. There are 22 of these green-spaces, each with its own character and unique features, planned when Oglethorpe first laid out the design of the city. Most have benches and plantings to relax and enjoy. Others have statues or fountains and historical info on plaques. In the middle of the Historic District, we enjoyed a walk through Forsyth Park, a great city park with a centerpiece fountain, an area for concerts, a playground, sports courts, gardens and walking paths. Live oaks dominate Savannah, draped with Spanish Moss, creating an almost Gothic, mysterious feel. (This air plant, by the way, is neither Spanish nor moss. It’s actually a relative of the pineapple!) The city is compact enough to see the majority of the bigger tourist sites on foot, though trolley tours are quite popular. There is a free public transportation system called Dot, which includes bus, ferry and an authentic 1930’s streetcar as well.
There is an annual Savannah Tour of Homes and Gardens in the spring, opening many houses and spaces for public view. A number of restored historic homes are open for visits year-round. We toured the Owens Thomas House, said to be to be one of the finest examples of English Regency architecture in America. It was the first in the country to have indoor plumbing throughout, even before the White House! Built between 1816 and 1819, the home’s owners once hosted Revolutionary War hero Marquis de Lafayette who stayed as a guest in 1825. The majority of the furniture and artifacts are original to the house. Also on the grounds are a lovely garden and an original carriage house, part of which is one of the earliest intact urban slave quarters in the South.
Cobblestoned River Street is the place to go for scenic views of the river, the bridge and the associated constant flow of container ships and tugboats. There are many shops and restaurants including longstanding Huey’s On the River, where we had brunch, and the Savannah Bee Company. Stop there for a honey tasting! The cobblestones on River Street are actually ballast from ships, discarded as needed when taking on more cargo at Savannah.
Dining options range from dive bars to five-star, white tablecloth establishments. The main focus is on Southern fare, along with a number of French creole spots, similar in feel to New Orleans. There’s seafood everywhere and bakeries and cafes galore. Farm-to-Table organic cuisine is an especially popular current trend. We had an amazing birthday dinner at Alligator Soul and some downright yummy tapas with live music at Jazz’d, both in the Historic District.
Side-trips to Bonaventure Cemetery and Tybee Island
Outside downtown, there’s plenty to discover as well. Originally a private cemetery (est 1846), the Bonaventure Cemetery went public in 1907. It sits above the Wilmington River, and is a scenic spot to walk among the graves and contemplate a bit of history. There are many notable people buried here, and the sculptures are fascinating. The statue featured on the cover of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, however, isn’t there anymore. They had to remove it due to concerns for its safety, lending it to the Telfair Museum in town.
Tybee Island is Savannah’s beach, located just 15 miles or so away. The dunes separate beach homes from the shore; the lighthouse is very scenic, and there are a number of historic forts nearby.
Our ideas for a future visit:
- exploring in much more depth the Gullah/Geechee heritage and traditions of the region. (Gullah or Geechee people are descendants of skilled agrarians from the Rice Coast of West Africa, stretching from the coast of Senegal to Côte D’Ivoire).
- a Ghost Tour in this most haunted city–very popular on the Savannah must-see lists (The American Institute of Parapsychology named Savannah “America’s Most Haunted City.”)
For more Savannah pictures click HERE.