Savannah is an extremely beautiful, historic city. It’s also known as America’s first planned city with lots of parks and squares (22 survive to this day). And because of SCAD, it has a young, creative vibe.
I visited for 4 days/3 nights and was the guest of two longtime Savannahians so my experience was definitely more “insider” than tourist. I also appreciated getting a local’s perspective on the who, what and where of the city. Alice and Bob seemingly know everyone so I met lots of fascinating people – including one of Savannah’s major style icons, Ann Lytle (see pic below).
Here are my top recommendations for a weekend visit to Savannah:
1. Explore The City On Foot
It’s a small, easily navigable town with lots of charming old buildings. I especially love the variety of ironwork balconies and the downspout fountains that are shaped like fish or dolphins (see pic below).
Make sure you stop by some of the major squares and parks e.g. Forsyth Park. There are also lots of small restaurants and bars with outdoor seating. And you MUST stop by Leopold’s Ice Cream Parlor – it’s 100 years old and popular with both locals and visitors – and they make rosewater ice cream! Other restaurants worth dropping in on as you explore: The Public Kitchen & Bar, Soho South Cafe, The Grey, The Collins Quarter.
See below for more pics of Savannah and additional tips.
Exploring the city:
SCAD has acquired nearly 70 distinctive buildings around town in what is the largest National Historic Landmark District in the U.S. A former armory (renamed Poetter Hall) serves as the Admissions Center (originally, the first classroom for SCAD).
Major SCAD buildings to check out include: Morris Hall, the Gryphon Tea Room (in a former pharmacy building), Charlton Hall, Habersham Hall, Granite Hall, Lai Wa Hall, Streamliner Diner, Forsyth House, Magnolia Hall, Trustees Theater.
3. Historic Cemeteries: Bonaventure and Colonial Park Cemetery
Bonaventure Cemetery is one of the most photographed cemeteries in the country and best known for its role in “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.” You can also take a Segway tour of the cemetery!!
Colonial Park Cemetery: While Bonaventure Cemetery lies just outside the historic district, Colonial Park Cemetery is right in the heart of it. Many of Savannah’s earliest citizens are buried here including many who were victims of Savannah’s dueling era. This cemetery is also a popular stop for local ghost tours.
4. Historic House Tours
We took the Owens-Thomas House tour led by our extremely well-informed guide, Michelle. The tour starts in the Carriage House – one of the earliest intact urban slave quarters in the South. The original owner of the house fell on hard times almost as soon as the house was completed and it was claimed by the bank. It eventually became a lodging house where the Marquis de Lafayette stayed while visiting America.
5. Tidal Marshes/ Wildlife
My friends live right on the marsh and there’s nothing like having a cup of coffee, watching the sun rise while herds of deer wander around the front yard along with a few random raccoons and even a mink. And, of course, the bird watching is extraordinary with everything from woodpeckers to cardinals. So if you visit and any of your friends suggest a tour of the marsh, GO!!
BUT the biggest treat of all was spending the day at my hosts’ farm/plantation and hanging with horses, cows, hunting dogs, mallards, and even chickens. I’m sure if we had stayed longer, the wildlife sightings later in the day would have been out of this world!!
I checked online and there are several historic plantation and farm tours available in Georgia and in South Carolina near Charleston (a 2 hour drive from Savannah). I can’t speak to the quality of any of them but I highly recommend looking into it if you have any extra day.