Amidst idyllic oak lined streets and under picturesque canopies of Spanish moss lies charming Savannah, Georgia, a city rich with history, romance, arts and culinary inventiveness.
Savannah is known to be one of the most beautiful cities in the United States with storybook landscapes and stately antebellum mansions, but in more recent years, it has also become a center of the arts, thanks to the Savannah College of Arts & Design, better known as SCAD. For every bit of southern tradition there also appears to be a palpable bohemian counterculture – but all seem to exist and thrive harmoniously here – creating an undeniably charming and unique city.
At the suggestion of one of my best friends for an impromptu girls trip, four New York City dwellers headed south for approximately 48 hours. Here is MY Guide to Savannah.
When to Travel
All the guides say the best time to visit is between March and July, when events like the Savannah Music Festival and the River Street Seafood Festival occur. However, I speak from experience when I say Savannah may be the hottest place I have ever visited. At the time we booked, we did not know that July was the hottest month of the year with an average high of 92°F or that humidity customarily reaches 100% during the summer months, but we soon found out. On our first day in the city, we could barely walk two storefronts before requiring an A/C break. This should not deter you from visiting, but I must caution you to be prepared and to hydrate if you visit during the summer months (April to September). On the upside, the subtropical climates make beachgoing a year round activity and who doesn’t love that (more on visiting Tybee Island later in the post).
Where to Stay
Cool boutique hotels, Airbnb’s and larger hotel chains and establishments are plentiful in Savannah. With most places in short walking or cab distance, choosing an ideal location is not as critical in this old city.
1. The Brice: We spent our time in Savannah at The Brice, which is located conveniently in the Historic District. A Kimpton Hotel, the decor was super chic, service was impeccable (including a complimentary daily happy hour with bites in the lobby), on site food options were upscale through its restaurant Pacci and the pool was a welcome daily respite after long, very hot days.
2. Perry Lane Hotel: Brand new and ultra sexy Perry Lane Hotel is a place to see and be seen. The rooftop, outfitted with a gorgeous bar, drinking games and a pool overlooks the city. Even if you don’t stay, it’s worth a midday cocktail visit.
3. Mansion on Forsyth: One of the city’s most luxurious hotels, this former funeral home is eclectic with baroque interiors, art galleries and whimsical displays.
4. Cotton Sail Hotel: Located along the riverfront, many of the rooms come with views of the Savannah River, which can also be enjoyed from its popular rooftop bar and lounge, the Top Deck.
5. Marshall House: Set in a historic building that was once a hospital during the Civil War, it is rumored to be one of the most haunted hotels in the U.S. (yea, I’ll pass).
Things to Do in Savannah
From mansion tours to strolling through the city’s 22 squares to venturing to the beach, there are a multitude of things to do in and around the city.
1. History Tours: A daytime trolley tour with Old Savannah Tours or Old Town Trolley is a great way to see and hear about the city’s major sights and to help orient you to the city’s neighborhoods.
2. Ghost Tours: Come dusk, for those who love the city’s macabre history, there are plenty of ghost tours to pick from.
3. Forsyth Park: This 30-acre park in the heart of the city’s historic district features famous Forsyth Fountain and is surrounded by historic homes and buildings. Go for a stroll or find a shaded area for a picnic.
4. Bonaventure Cemetery: This more than 100-acre site is a must. Filled with historical figures and the setting that inspired “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” it really is hauntingly beautiful.
5. Cathedral of St. John the Baptist: As you stroll through the 22 squares of the city, you’ll find yourself upon this gorgeous and unexpected gothic cathedral, which dates back to the 18th century.
6. River Street: Take a stroll along the Savannah River and stop into the many shops, bars and restaurants.
7. Tybee Island: When you’re ready for some time away from the city, rent a car or take a cab just a half hour east of the city to Tybee Island. Oh, and don’t forget to grab a frozen drink and some bar food at Tybee Time, right along the beach.
8. Walk Aimlessly: The best way to see the city is to walk aimlessly through all of the 22 gorgeous squares and you’ll find some of the most beautiful sites. If you want a little direction, don’t forget to take a walk down Jones Street, voted as one of the most beautiful streets in America.
Places to Eat
The city offers a wide range of culinary experiences, from inexpensive to Michelin star fare.
Upscale + Formal:
1. Olde Pink House: On every list, this lovely establishment brings all the southern charm and fare.
2. Elizabeth on 37th: If you’re looking for a southern fine dining experience with impeccable traditional fare in an old historic mansion, go to Elizabeths, which is on every local’s must-try list. I can’t think of a more quintessential Savannah experience.
3. Atlantic Savannah: Eclectic, elevated comfort food in a hip environment.
4. Cotton and Rye: Inspired all-American eatery in a super cute space with great cocktails.
5. The Grey: Occupying a 1938 Art Deco Greyhoud bus station with vintage furnishings, this restaurant is everything you’re hoping for a transformative southern dining experience.
Brunch + Casual:
Places to Drink
Savannah is a cocktail lover’s dream. A city filled with specialty cocktail bars, rooftop lounges and speakeasys, there are dozens of places to grab and enjoy a cocktail midday, at sunset or late into the night.
1. Artillery: An intimate speakeasy in a venetian gothic building with killer cocktails. A strict dress code applies with a preference for period appropriate ware.
2. Alley Cat Lounge: Tucked away in a small alley, this upscale drinking den is super cute with delicious cocktails and a great vibe.
3. Top Deck Bar: Along river street in the Cotton Sail Hotel, enjoy the river views while sipping on a midday cocktail.
4. Congress Street Social Club: In the mood for some dancing and a later crowd, check out this fun place for a live DJ and cheap drinks.
5. Savannah Smiles Dueling Pianos: Rock piano bar turn dance party, not a bad late night option.
6. Congress Street Up: Part museum, all speakeasy, a very cool place to grab a traditional cocktail.
7. Barrelhouse South: Lively dive bar with music and cheap drinks.
8. Rocks on the Roof: Upscale rooftop bar and lounge in the Bohemian Hotel with great river views.
9. Peregrin Rooftop: Rooftop of the Perry Lane Hotel, its for the see and be seen.
Places to Shop
Not always high on everyone’s travel priority list, but always on mine, I love knowing and finding the best places to shop, whether it’s for local goods to vintage finds to upscale boutiques. Savannah is a paradise for shoppers seeking unique finds.
1. The Paris Market & Brocante: Part café, part clothing/jewelry store and all parts amazing homeware and décor extravaganza – if this place was in NYC, I’d live there. Named as one of the most beautiful cafes in America, it also houses the most unique housewares. I spent no less than three hours admiring everything.
2. Alex Raskin Antiques: Located along Bull Street, which is lined with interesting shops, this incredible 4 floor Victorian home is stuffed to the gills with antiques.
3. Savannah Bee Company: The most delicious selection of tasteable honeys among lovely housewares and collectibles, I came back to this space twice. The shopkeepers are also absolutely wonderful.