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As dappled light filters down through massive branches of live oak trees, each draped in a gauze of Spanish moss, the southern charm of Savannah, Georgia, beckons us to visit. They call her the Hostess City of the South, and one needn’t go far to understand what that means. Whether you love history, architecture, the arts, or dining out, you’ll find plenty to do without having to go very far or try very hard. From the banks of the Savannah River to garden squares and public parks, the whole town seems ready to entertain you and show you a good time.
What is strikingly evident is the beauty of Savannah. Here you will find urban planning at its finest. James Oglethorpe (1696-1785), a British envoy of King George II, created the master plan for Savannah in 1733. When Oglethorpe designed Savannah with its regular grid of streets, public parks, and houses, he could not have imagined the unique garden atmosphere that the city has become in our time.
Live oak trees create a canopy over 22 city blocks in the historic district. Shade seems to be infinite. Because the blocks between the parks are short, walking is a pleasure. Strolling is delightful. You want to walk. It’s just so beautiful. This is a living, breathing antebellum city. Architectural gems line the streets. And people live in these houses! There are always places to sit and rest. It is not uncommon to see tour groups wandering about at all times of the day and night, some seeking paranormal activity.
There are many ways to see Savannah: walking tours, trolley tours, horse-drawn buggy tours, ghost tours, bicycle tours, SEGWAY tours, a Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil tour—even a dog-walking tour! Whatever your interests are, there is a tour for you.
Savannah is very pet friendly. Dogs are everywhere, and ambling about with a dog is a very natural activity. Many hotels allow pets. Two of the hotels I visited even offered my dog a complimentary bag of treats. Many restaurants provide lots of outdoor seating, so dining out with Fido is not a problem.
Savannah is renowned for its culinary tradition. Among the many quality restaurants, one classic establishment for regional cuisine is The Crystal Beer Parlor, where you will find such homegrown dishes as shrimp and grits, fried green tomatoes, and peach cobbler. For more upscale dining, The Grey is the home of James Beard award-winning chef de cuisine Mashama Bailey. While you may need to make a reservation weeks in advance, The Grey saves limited open seating on a first-come, first-served basis when the restaurant opens at 5:00 p.m. (Unreserved seating may also be available after 8:00 p.m.) Housed in a beautifully refurbished Greyhound Bus Terminal, the menu at The Grey riffs quintessential southern cuisine with modern sensibilities. The cocktails are excellent.
And speaking of cocktails, check out Savoy Society at 102 E. Liberty Street with its chic bar scene, where the people-watching is just as delicious as the libations and the food. Incidentally, Savannah has an open carry law, so you can have your drink and stroll with it, too.
Savannah is the confluence of several historically significant events. When Oglethorpe first established the town, Georgia became the last of the thirteen original colonies, and slavery was banned in the charter. Ironically, once the thirteen colonies secured their freedom from British rule, slavery was allowed. In 1864, when Union General William Tecumseh Sherman made his famous March to the Sea, burning southern towns in his wake (famously including Atlanta), he spared Savannah from his wrath and gave the city to President Abraham Lincoln for a Christmas present. The beauty of the city has enchanted multitudes for decades.
The influence of The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) is evident throughout the city. Original art is everywhere: in the shops, restaurants, cafés, and on the sides of buildings. This embellishment has the added effect of a lovely adornment, like so much jewelry. People seem to make the extra effort to make this city beautiful. Design excellence reigns.
Perhaps you will find yourself on the Savannah riverfront one evening as the full moon rises. And, if you’re lucky, strains of Moon River, written by Savannah native son Johnny Mercer, waft through your consciousness. It’s deservedly the sort of romantic, wistful soundtrack to this town that defies urbanization: Waitin’ ’round the bend… My Huckleberry friend… Moon River and me.
THE GREY | thegreyrestaurant.com
HUSK | husksavannah.com
COTTON AND RYE | cottonandrye.com
COLLINS QUARTER | thecollinsquarter.com
CRYSTAL BEER PARLOR | crystalbeerparlor.com
The Marshall House | This hotel is a perennial favorite with travelers. marshallhouse.com.
Bellwether House | Luxury Bed and Breakfast. Afternoon tea. bellwether.house.
The Desoto | Centrally located, large hotel with quiet rooms. thedesotosavannah.com.
Perry Lane Hotel | Boutique hotel with a rooftop pool. perrylanehotel.com.
JW Marriott Plant Riverside District | Waterfront. The lobby has an astonishing collection of giant crystals and a life-sized chrome dinosaur skeleton. marriott.com/en-us/hotels/savjw-jw-marriott-savannah-plant-riverside-district.
The Alida | Urbane and mod-ish. thealidahotel.com.
• Read Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, written by John Berendt
(1994). This work of nonfiction, with its local characters and a true crime story, absolutely enhances the Savannah experience.
• A car is superfluous. Savannah is a very walkable city!
• Take a tour. Check out the Visit Savanah website for a list of the various tours available: visitsavannah.com/tours-excursions.
• The Visit Savannah website is also a terrific resource for tips on current activities. A recent visit to the site yielded information for the Savannah Music Festival, where we had a chance to see jazz great Terrence Blanchard. visitsavannah.com
• While Savannah is in the South, it can get chilly or very hot. You will want to spend a lot of time outdoors, so pack accordingly, including comfortable walking shoes and season-appropriate clothing.
• For Civil War buffs, Fort Pulaski is a must to see. Here the Union Army struck down Confederate brick fortifications with a new weapon, the rifled cannon. nps.gov/fopu/index.htm
• Savannah is rich with both Revolutionary War and Civil War history.
If these streets could talk, what a tale they could tell! To learn more go to visitsavannah.com/article/history-savannah.
© Annapolis Home Magazine
Vol. 14, No. 3 2023