Savannah, Georgia., is enchanted. At every turn, you will find yourself with a movie-like backdrop. Savannah is an example of great planning and engineering, completely coordinated to lay on a grid of 21 squares. The downtown area of the Historic District is perfect for walking or exploring via bicycle. Nicknamed the Hostess City of the South, Savannah is also recognized for the development of the arts and the strong presence of artists and creative types who continue to flood the city. Their influence is palpable as you stroll through the downtown area. The best way to explore Savannah is to compartmentalize the journey — just like the design of the squares — so here are a few of my favorite places from a local’s point of view to help you plan the perfect Savvy getaway.
Start your day at The Collins Quarter, which brings Australia’s café capitol to Savannah. Styled after Melbourne’s historic Collins Street, they deliver a unique café experience by pairing specialty coffees with innovative cuisine. Their seasonal quick breads and the ricotta hot cakes are amazing, and on Sundays, they offer mimosas during brunch hours. After breakfast, take a stroll through the 30 acres of Forsyth Park. Magical oak trees draped in moss adorn the pathways of this park. Walking through the park will make you feel as if you are traveling through Paris. The fountain at the north end was added in 1858 and is reminiscent of fountains in the Place de la Concorde in Paris.
Retail therapy can be found on Broughton Street, which offers a large selection of stores and boutiques. It also houses Lucas Theatre for the Arts, Savannah College of Art and Design’s Trustees Theater and The Paris Market, which is one of the coolest places to shop in Savannah. Make sure to stop by Leopold’s Ice Cream while on Broughton for a cool snack. It houses all original fixtures, like the black marble soda fountain and wooden interior phone booths from eras gone by.
A local favorite lunch spot would be Green Truck Pub, located south of Forsyth Park on Habersham Street. Green Truck hand-makes everything from ketchup and pimiento cheese to salad dressing and veggie patties. They source their grass-fed, all-natural, hormone-free meat locally from Hunter Cattle Co., located in Brooklet, Georgia. They also work with other area farms to get produce in season. A walk on the beach is easy to find with a short 20-minute drive from downtown Savannah to Tybee Island, Georgia. Tybee Island, also known as Savannah Beach, is an easily accessible barrier island. There are fishing piers, offshore and deep sea charters, or you can fish right in the surf.
Rich in history and wildlife, the salt marshes are filled with birds and ecology from the coastal area. Do not miss the Tybee Lighthouse, which has been guiding mariners’ safe entrance into the Savannah River for more than 270 years. Now the sun is about to set and the best place to catch a sunset is at the rooftop bar of the Cotton Sail Hotel, the Top Deck Bar. The breathtaking views of the city skyline will leave you begging for time to stand still. There you can enjoy wine, cocktails and appetizers perfect for a romantic night or with a group of friends. Savannah hosts a large number of restaurants and cuisines from around the world, but one of the newest and most celebrated at the moment is The Grey. Occupying a 1938 art deco Greyhound bus terminal painstakingly restored to its original luster, The Grey offers a food, wine and service experience that is domestic but refined. Do try the Sapelo Island clams and the catfish tagine. They also offer local meats and produce as well as a focus on European wines and Atlantic Trade liquors.
Now the moon is reflecting over the Savannah River and for a nightcap, travel in time to the 1920s with Savannah’s own speakeasy, Mata Hari. You need a key for entry to this venue, but most hotel concierges will be happy to help you gain entrance to this one-of-a-kind and very secretive establishment. Sip on some absinthe while listening to lounge singers and Moulin Rouge-like burlesque dancers who will entertain you until the early morning hours.
One last great tip for tourists while visiting Savannah is the Chatham Area Transit (CAT) is Savannah’s municipal transportation system. In the historic district, they operate a free shuttle service, the route is found on the CAT website and they offer a free shuttle down River Street, a free ferryboat ride across the river to Hutcheson Island where the Westin Hotel is located, and a free bus which loops around the downtown of Savannah, including Forsyth Park and River Street, completely free of charge. Understand these are not guided tours offered by local private companies but the city’s own transportation system.
Savannah is like a Southern fairy tale and unlike any other city it will assault each one of your senses. It is a preservationist’s dream filled with antebellum architecture and rich in history.
From sunrise to sunset there is something in Savannah for everyone to enjoy.