Savannah is dotted with 22 historic squares encircled by beautiful old buildings and live oaks. Its Historic District is one of largest in the nation, with an array of striking architecture styles towering over exquisite gardens and oak-shaded greenery. A popular way to explore the walkable city center is via tour companies offering guided excursions by foot, trolley or horse-drawn carriage.
This city is arguably best known for home-style soul food and low-country cookin'. Fuel your Savannah explorations with plates of fried chicken, baskets of shrimp and vegetables, steamed oysters, and pulled pork heaped beside macaroni and cheese and collard greens.
The city often serves as a backdrop for iconic movies. The famous park bench scene in "Forrest Gump" was filmed at Chippewa Square. And the movie perhaps most associated with Savannah—"Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" —is laced with scenes around town, including Bonaventure Cemetery, just east of the city; a two-hour walking tour meanders through this timeworn resting place.
Important religious sites include the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, a 19th-century church with majestic stained glass; Congregation Mickve Israel, one of the nation's oldest Jewish congregations ; and the First African Baptist Church, the oldest black church in North America.
Three art museums are part of the umbrella organization called Telfair Museums, which offers one ticket admission to the three venues. They include Telfair Academy, a mansion built during 1818-1819; Jepson Center, a contemporary building that features more than 7,500 square feet of gallery space; and the Owens-Thomas House, a historical house museum.
Savannah is the birthplace of the founder of the Girl Scouts of America, Juliette Gordon Low. Her historic house offers guided tours.
When not exploring antebellum architecture or touring cobblestone streets, check into a celebratory festival and get your party on. Savannah's calendar overflows with activity, from the Savannah Jazz Festival in September to the Savannah Food & Wine Festival each November.
Take a day trip to a beach or two. The resort town of Hilton Head is less than an hour's drive, while Tybee Island (also called Savannah Beach) is a 20-minute drive from Savannah. The Tybee Island Light Station, built in 1773, is Georgia's tallest and oldest lighthouse, standing at 154 feet tall. Its observation deck is a 178-step climb.
For an overnight on Tybee, Surf Song Bed & Breakfast (from $199 per night) is a Victorian inn just a block from the beach.
Food and Drink
Please your sophisticated palate at a host of decidedly unstuffy restaurants, including the shimmery and sparkly Chive Sea Bar & Lounge; the quietly elegant a.lure; the waterfront Vic’s on the River; and the stately Belford’s Savannah in City Market, an outdoor art, dining, shopping and entertainment area that was originally built in the 1700s.
Lunch or brunch favorites serving delicious food include The Funky Brunch Café, where you can prepare your own pancakes on a griddle in the middle of your table, and Gryphon, operated by the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD).
Leopold’s Ice Cream, an old-fashioned soda fountain, has scooped its treats downtown since 1919. And at Lulu's Chocolate Bar, a variety of chocolate-themed specialty drinks—including the Milky Way Martini and the Lulutini—complement an indulgent menu of cheese, chocolate and cake.
Locally-owned shops and boutiques abound in the historic district and beyond. ShopSCAD features artwork and designs created by SCAD artists. 24e DESIGN Co. offers novel home furnishings and accessories. The Salt Table is a taster's delight, with samples of spices, foods and Georgia wines. Popular women's clothing boutiques include Harper and Copper Penny.
Hamilton-Turner Inn (left) and Ballastone Inn (right)
Where to Stay
In Savannah, the historic district’s bed and breakfasts are just steps from attractions, shopping and dining. But each offers just enough food, drink and hospitality to keep you entertained before venturing out.
Foley House Inn (from $149 per night), overlooking Chippewa Square, offers 19 elegant rooms and is a Diamond Collection Inn. Guests enjoy complimentary breakfast, afternoon wine receptions, and afternoon high tea served from 3-5 p.m. with homebaked sweet and savory treats.
The Diamond Collection Hamilton-Turner Inn (from $209 per night) is a 19th-century mansion nestled amid magnolia and live oak trees in Lafayette Square. In addition to a famous Southern breakfast, guests enjoy complimentary early evening wine and hors d'oeuvres, and freshly baked cookies.
The Ballastone Inn (from $249 per night), another Diamond Collection gem, offers 16 elegant rooms decorated with antiques such as oak canopy beds and period artwork. Along with complimentary breakfast and an afternoon high tea at 4 p.m., the innkeepers serve complimentary aperitifs alongside snacks and treats.
—by Sharon Jayson