I have a few cities around the world that I absolutely adore and that are on my fav city list. When I travelled to Savannah I was fairly sure I would love it, but now I can honestly say it’s on my top ten best cities to visit. As I said in my previous post, Savannah Georgia is the epitome of Southern hospitality. Truly Southern charm and hospitality at its finest. And it’s not just the locals that exude this trait, but visitors and expats alike. Guess it’s true what they say, “kindness begets kindness”, and if you share a smile you will get tenfold in return.
My stay in Savannah was short, too short I now realize, with only two days one night to take in all the sights and enjoy all the city has to offer. Though I did manage to see the whole historic town for the most part, a few more days would have allowed for such a broader experience. I guess there will have to be a next time!
The best way to see Savannah is to take advantage of the hop on hop off trolley tours that are available in the historic district. I booked two days, a much better deal then just one, through Old Town Trolley Tours. They were amazing and I can’t recommend them more. The drivers/tour guides were all super entertaining and extremely knowledgeable of all things Savannah. Everything from local history to celebrity gossip to ghost tales to local legends. Each guide had their own stories to tell and extra tid bits to add. I actually wanted to stay on the trolley and try out each guide to hear all they had to say. And since we used the trolleys for our two days to get around I got to hear some great stuff! The Old Town Trolley Tours have 15 very convenient hop on hop off locations so that you can see every corner of the historic city. Since we were staying at the 17 Hundred 90 Inn (read all about the haunted inn in my previous post) we had a trolley stop just around the corner. Though the historic town is not that big, it is still a bit of a walk if you attempt to do it all on foot, especially in the 40℃ + heat wave that we were having at the time! Plus, with a one time fee, a trolley every 10-15 minutes, and great guides, this tour is really a great way to not only see the city but to get around it. Who wants to waste time figuring out a bus schedule and routes while exploring a new place?!
Savannah is stunning as it is friendly. Established in 1733 on the Savannah River, it is the oldest city in the state of Georgia. The downtown area, made up of the Historic District, Victorian District, and 22 park squares, is one of the largest National Historic Landmark Districts in the United States. For the most part it retains its original town plan and attracts thousands of visitors each year to its cobble stone streets, parks, and historic buildings. I can totally see why!
The streets are lined with old oak trees covered in Spanish moss hanging from their branches. You can find small park squares and green spaces scattered throughout giving the city quiet places of calm and serenity. The bustling water front at River Street and Factors Walk is a great place to take in Savannah’s history by exploring the stairways, bridges and catwalks that access hidden doorways, all connected by narrow streets paved with ballast stones brought in by trade ships coming from Europe who left them behind when they loaded up. Here you will find the famous Cotton Exchange, Savannah’s City Hall with its glistening 23 karat gold leaf dome, and the Savannah Vaults in the Clunky embankment from 1842 which are believed to have served as storage among other things.
Lining River Street are also many great restaurants and bars to choose from making it a great area to head to for the evening, and that is exactly what we did. A short walk from our hotel, we had dinner there both days and neither restaurant disappointed. The first night we opted for Lizzy’s Tequila Bar & Grill where I tried fried green tomatoes for the first time ever, yum! More of a Mexican vibe with great food and even greater views, and portions so big we ended up having leftovers for lunch the next day. On our second day we had dinner at Joe’s Crab Shack because how can you not try the seafood when in a place with so many seafood restaurants. Joe’s is well priced, has a super laid back atmosphere, right on the river, and their lobster bisque surpassed my previous favourite from Holguin, Cuba.
The City Market is another stop on the trolley route. Here you will find shops, museums, galleries, and more restaurants with great night life. An absolute must for anyone with a sweet tooth is a stop into Byrd’s Famous Cookies. With over twenty flavours to try, and yes you can try them all right in store!!, I dare you to pick a favourite. I know that I couldn’t decide, but since in Georgia, the Georgia Peach Cookie deserve a shout out. It was delicious! (Oh, and for all my gluten free readers out there, they have some gluten free flavours too.) After I was done stuffing myself with cookies we hit Broughton for some shopping. Just around the corner from the Market, you’ll find lots of great stores and boutiques if you are looking to do some damage to your bank account.
But my favourite spot in Savannah is by far Forsyth Park. A 30 acres park in the Victorian Historic District, it’s an oasis away from the bustling city without having to leave the city. It has numerous walking paths lined with those moss covered oak trees I mentioned. A play area for kids that made me wish I was five again. A fragrant garden for the blind with brail signs. Plus large fields and courts for a variety of sports uses. At the north end of the park is the Forsyth Park Fountain which I learned was ordered from a catalogue over 100 years ago and was originally multicoloured but later painted white. The fountain is one of Savannah’s most well known and most photographed icons, though quite difficult to get a photo of it with no one in it.
Surrounding the park you will find some of the most beautiful houses representing Victorian style architecture. If I haven’t mentioned this before I will now… I looooove checking out the architecture style of the places I travel to. It’s one of my passions and something I draw inspiration from in my day job of graphic designer. One of the largest and possibly more well known properties is the Mansion on Forsyth Park. Now a luxury boutique hotel it has a turn of the century Victorian-Romanesque exterior and interiors boasting all the Southern charm you can expect in Savannah. It includes a spa and on-site cooking school, and an art gallery from which it is difficult to leave empty handed (I sure didn’t!).
On the other side of the park you will find the Forsyth Park Animal Hospital housed in a 1903 historic building in the high style Neoclassical Revival. And across the street on the south end of the park is the Old Telfair Hospital, now a seniors residence, but originally a women’s only hospital funded by Mary Telfair’s will, who has been said to haunt the place. Built in 1884 in an Italianate style, almost ten years after her death.
A house that instantly became my favourite in all of historic Savannah is Magnolia Hall. Everything from the name to the porch chandelier to the ivy covered front steps, made me fall in love with this house. Located on the west side of Forsyth Park, it was built in 1878 and is now one of SCAD’s guest houses. Being a graphic designer myself, it’s no surprise that I would be so attracted to The Savannah College of Art and Design’s house. The college started 36 years ago in Savannah and now has locations in Atlanta, Hong Kong and France. SCAD is very loved and well respected in Savannah as it has and continues to play a huge role in the preservation of the historic city. As with Magnolia Hall, it purchases properties and restores them to their former glory, then uses them as galleries for its students work, lecture or library halls, different departments, and student housing. The college has become a large part of Savannah as is evident throughout the city. They truly are designing Savannah!
There are many more beautiful historic buildings to see and you’ll be able to catch them next week on the blog gallery.