Visit SavannahSavannah – Georgia On My Mind
Not to get all Scarlett on you, but it only takes one less-than-well-mannered cabbie to spark a yearning for some Southern hospitality. The door-holdin’, chair-rockin’, “more sweet tea, dahlin’?” kind. Luckily, Southerners take their tradition as seriously as they take their pimento cheese. Etiquette is alive and well, and it ain’t going anywhere soon. And where else to experience it but Savannah, Hostess City of the South – a city so pretty that even the Union General fell in love with it during the Civil War.
Good For: Couples, groups of friends, and families looking for an easy weekend getaway in our own backyard. Easily one of the most charming and interesting cities in the U.S., even for world travelers.
- Wandering the picturesque squares – all 22 of them – with sweet tea in hand.
- Catching the sunset at Rocks on the Roof, the rooftop bar of the Bohemian Hotel. Now this is a sundowner.
- Indulging in high-brow yet down-home southern cooking at Elizabeth on 37th.
- Taking in a traditional afternoon tea at the Gryphon, which is part of the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). One of the prettiest rooms in all of Savannah.
- Taking an evening carriage ride through the city. Yes, it’s touristy, but beautifully romantic. After all, when in the South…
Savannah offers plenty of nostalgic charm: dignified plantation homes, horse-drawn carriages, landscaped squares, and one of the largest national historic landmark districts in the country, honoring the Civil War to Civil Rights and beyond. It’s also a city with two sides – both as the graceful setting for films like Forest Gump and Something to Talk About, where Julia Roberts comes out in her nightgown to confront her cheatin’ husband, and as the ghostly backdrop for the classic Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. There’s no question that this city is haunted, especially when night falls and you’re walking on a deserted square as a heavy fog rolls through.
Bed and Breakfast
If you’re going to bed and breakfast in any city, Savannah is the place. The high-end option is the famed Hamilton-Turner Inn, built in the late 1800s and located on serene Lafayette Square. This landmark building has staying power: It survived the great Savannah fire and also averted demolition to turn it into a playground. This isn’t the Four Seasons, but rather quaint luxury. Think Southern hospitality, beautiful rooms with plenty of character, and the highly anticipated breakfast in the formal dining room. Don’t forget – pinkies up.
For a more modern twist, try the Andaz, which is next to City Market and the nightlife scene. On any weekend night, it’s the perfect vantage point to watch cars cruise by at a snail’s pace with the music cranked up. Service is worthy of the higher-end Park Hyatts, and rooms are brand-new with large luxury bathrooms. Ask politely, and they may upgrade you to a suite. On colder nights, sit by the fire pit with cocktail in hand, while on hot summer days you can cool off by the pool or chill in a cabana.
Straight Talk: The other options you will inevitably contemplate are the Bohemian Hotel and the Mansion on Forsyth Park. The Bohemian is right on the river, with more of a boutique-y bordello vibe. The Mansion on Forsyth Park is one of those hotels you want to like, but its service leaves something to be desired and we just couldn’t enjoy our meal in the restaurant knowing it was an old funeral parlor.
Beyond its antebellum charm, Savannah is nurturing a community of chefs and restaurateurs that could hold their own anywhere in the country. Forget your diet – to enjoy Savannah is to loosen the top button on your pants and indulge in fried green tomatoes, shrimp and grits, fried chicken, and just about anything else fried that your heart can only take a weekend of. You want old-school soul food? Mrs. Wilkes’ fried chicken, biscuits, and okra gumbo will have you shouting hallelujah from the rooftops. It’s only open for lunch, so get ready to queue up and eat family-style with those who aren’t your family, but will be just for a meal. If you’ve never been to Savannah, you’ll almost certainly be seduced by Paula Deen’s The Lady and Sons, the original restaurant that launched her food empire. Our advice is to skip the wait, hit the bar, and order something to share to satiate your curiosity. There are plenty of food options, and only so many calories in the day. Spend them wisely.
The standout meal in the city is at Elizabeth on 37th, which combines traditional Southern with high-end preparation. The oysters Rockefeller and almond-sesame-crusted fish are house specialties, while the wine list is surprisingly easy on the pocket for the California vintages. The Olde Pink House gives the impression that it’s all about simple cooking, but they take the quintessential shrimp and grits and gourmet it up. Thankfully, they also help you with portion control – dishes are on the smaller side for Savannah, which is a good thing, because those cheese straws to start are addictive. For lunch on a sunny day, head to Vic’s on the River for fried green tomatoes prepared with goat cheese and drizzled with a thick balsamic sauce.
When you’ve overdosed on Southern food, do as the Savannahians and head to Circa 1875, for classic moules marinière, frisée salad, and steak frites. Sapphire Grill is the buzzy restaurant among locals, but for obsessive eaters, it’s nothing exceptionally special.
Stop and Smell the Georgia Roses
You really want to get the essence of Savannah? Take advantage of the slower pace, and stop and smell the roses. Bull Street has a bevy of antique and local shops so that you can bring home some of that Southern hospitality. The more stylish boutiques are on Whitaker, where d. luxe sells candles that represent the smell of each of the 22 squares in town, and One Fish Two Fish will have you stocking up on gorgeous plates, glasses, and linens as well as other small gifts and jewelry.
The Telfair Museums – made up of the Telfair Academy with American and European art, Owens-Thomas House for period furniture, and the modern Jepson Center – will give you a dose of high culture. The Tea Room’s dainty finger sandwiches are an afternoon must (gloves and Sunday hats optional), as is a stop at SCAD’s design shop and its own cafe, the Gryphon. Set in one of the most architecturally pretty rooms in the city, don’t be surprised if tea turns into cocktails. After a weekend in Savannah, the phrase “y’all come back again, y’hear?” will make a whole lot more sense.