Savannah may be Georgia’s oldest city but the cobblestone streets pulse with contemporary eateries, live music and unique boutiques. This hip revival may be attributed to the youthful and diverse influx of students attending the prestigious Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), and the school’s efforts to preserve downtown Savannah’s architectural heritage.
Established in 1733, the city’s historic charm draws almost 14 million yearly visitors to its 22 squares, scenic River Street walk, and a variety of notable preserved homes including Juliette Gordon Low’s house, the founder of the Girl Scouts of America. Beyond downtown, discover the city’s natural beauty—its salt marshes and indigenous wildlife, stunning oaks and scenic parks. Just plan your trip in the early months of summer before temperatures rise.
Where to Stay
For those who want a boutique hotel experience right on the Savannah riverfront, The Bohemian offers a prime location to enjoy downtown’s vibrant restaurants, bars and music venues. Amenities include high-end linens, a fitness center, in-room dining and valet parking. Get a drink at the rooftop bar, Rocks on the Roof, for a stunning view of the Savannah River.
Those seeking a quieter stay will find the historic Savannah Bed and Breakfast Inn (dating from 1853) a perfect refuge. Located off of Chatham Square, the inn is still walking distance from lively Liberty Street and around the corner from Forsyth Park. Guests enjoy home comforts, including afternoon tea, and milk and cookies at bedtime.
Brave souls interested in exploring Savannah’s spirit world should reserve a room at The Marshall House. One of the city’s oldest hotels, it also holds the dubious honor of being one of the “best” haunted hotels in the United States. Guests have reported seeing ghosts in the hallways and faucets turning on unassisted. Located on bustling Broughton Street, extras include twice-weekly history talks in the library along with an evening wine and cheese reception, complimentary water and continental breakfast.
Where to Eat & Drink
The dining scene in Savannah has exploded in recent years. New eateries such as Circa 1875, a cozy bistro offering French classics, or The Public Kitchen and Bar, a farm-to-table restaurant, offer fresh culinary options. While the Olde Pink House, one of Savannah’s finest dining establishments housed in an 18th century mansion continues to please with sophisticated southern cuisine. For a more casual option, head to The Distillery Ale House, once home to the Kentucky Distilling Company, the resurrected space features a carefully selected craft beer menu. For dessert, grab a cone at Leopold’s Ice Cream, which has been making ice cream on site since 1919. (Fun Fact: Owner Stratton Leopold is also a film producer; credits include “Mission Impossible 3”.) Those who need a quick pick me up before heading out should stop by The Coffee Fox, a gourmet coffee shop near SCAD.
Can’t make up your mind? Try the Savannah Taste Experience (savannahtasteexperience.com), a walking tour of six different eateries where you learn about the city’s culinary history leisurely over three hours.
What to Do
History buffs, craft beer lovers, adventure seekers and nature lovers will all find something to do in Savannah. The Jepson Center for the Arts, in the heart of downtown, features works by modern artists including Roy Lichtenstein, Jeff Koons and Jasper Johns. Families can enjoy 24 different activities at the 3,500-square-foot ArtZeum.
You can hardly turn a corner in Savannah without hearing a haunted tale. Considered one of the spookiest tours in the city, Blue Orb Ghost Tours are aimed mostly towards adults only, except the “Questionable Parents Tour,” which offers a campfire-level option for families. Recover from your ghost tour at Southbound Brewing Company, the city’s first microbrewery. Tour the facility ($15) on Wednesdays and Fridays at 5:30 p.m. or on Saturdays at 2 p.m., and taste from their seasonal and one-off batch brews.
Outside downtown Savannah head to Wormsloe, once the colonial estate of Noble Jones, where an avenue of oaks draped in Spanish moss welcomes visitors in a spectacular manner. The nature trail leads past the oldest structure in Savannah, and costumed actors give insight into life in the 1700s. On your way back, visit Bonaventure Cemetery. Immortalized in the book, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”, this stunning gothic cemetery sprawls over 100 acres east of Savannah. But don’t expect to see the cover’s image of the Bird Girl. After publication the burial monument was moved to the Jepson Center for the Arts.
What to Buy
Savannah Bee Company
104 W. Broughton Street; (912) 233-7873; savannahbee.com
Founded from a passion for beekeeping, the flagship store features a range of products including artisanal honey and skincare creams. Also, don’t miss sampling the mead bar. Pick up: The Royal Jelly Body Butter ($26.90), secreted from bees to feed their offspring, the ingredient infuses skin with rich nutrients
340 Bull Street; 912-525-5180; Shopscad.com
An adjunct gallery of the art and design school features works by students, alumni and faculty—from jewelry and handbags to fine art and home goods. Pick up: Whatever speaks to you! We’re partial to Juan Sepulveda’s “Untitled” sheep and Kate Shelton’s fox blanket.
The Paris Market
36 W. Broughton Street; 912-232-1500; theparismarket.com
Browse this shop, inspired by European markets, filled with great gifts and unusual treasures. Pick up: Savannah Pirate Planks ($25 to $55), handcrafted cutting boards salvaged from local historic houses by wood artist Steve Cook.
Where to Find
1) The Bohemian
102 W. Bay Street
2) Savannah Bed and Breakfast Inn
117 W. Gordon Street
3) The Marshall House
123 E. Broughton Street
4) Circa 1875
48 Whitaker Street
5) The Public Kitchen and Bar
1 W. Liberty Street
6) Olde Pink House
23 Abercorn Street
7) The Distillery Ale House
416 W. Liberty Street
8) Leopold’s Ice Cream
212 E. Broughton Street
9) The Coffee Fox
102 W. Broughton Street
10) Jepson Center for the Arts
207 W. York Street
11) Blue Orb Ghost Tour
Chippewa Square, next to the Oglethorpe monument
12) Southbound Brewing Company
107 E. Lathrop Ave.
7601 Skidaway Road
14) Bonaventure Cemetary
330 Bonaventure Rd.