“Hostess City of the South”
When my Australian and world- traveling friend, Kate, recently visited me again in Nashville, we took off on a fall road trip. I wanted her to meet a beloved friend.
Savannah, Georgia is known as “Hostess City of the South” and was named by TIME one of 100 “World’s Greatest Places on Earth.” To me, Savannah is New Orleans’ sweet little sister.
She, too, has iron Juliette balconies, French courtyards, gorgeous gardens, coastal cuisine, and pirate lore. But Savannah is old-school charm pulsing with new-school energy. Artists from over 100 countries attend Savannah College of Arts and Design because they’re inspired by the location and can choose from over 100 programs in creative careers.
When my niece, Emily Lancaster Salgado, became a freshman at SCAD, the area became one of our family’s favorite destinations. Savannah appeals to people of all ages. NashVegas may be the #1 Bachelorette Party Place in the country, but last year Emily and her bridesmaids (mostly Nashville natives) opted out of honky-tonks, flatbed trucks, Daisy Dukes, and cowgirl boots. Instead, they sipped craft cocktails in 1920s sequin dresses in Gatsby-worth Speakeasies, had Hemingway-sized moveable feasts, shivered under Spanish moss and magnolias on a ghost tour, and sunned on Tybee Island Beach. Below you’ll see some of the experiences mentioned in the post.
A working seaport since 1744 with the largest National Historic Landmark District in the country, Savannah is perfect for a walkabout.
Explore 22 town squares from Bay Street to Forsyth Park.
Even in summer’s high humidity, subtropical gardens and spewing fountains offer shade and cooling mist. See Chippewa Square where Forest Gump was filmed.
Stroll past Gothic, Greek Revival, and Georgian homes as church bells ring.
Or take a trolley tour or pedicab to hear pirate tales from locals.
We started listening to Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil — a true murder story set in Savannah —in the car. I hoped to finish before seeing the Mercer Williams House, but as is often the case when old friends reunite, we had too much catching up to do.
You know… some say Savannah is the most haunted city in the US.
Front steps and porches — many with classical design— are ubiquitous here. Some are so modest that I imagine Atticus Finch reading.to Scout in. a porch swing on one of them.
Pop in shops, or as Kate calls it, “have a snoop.”
In the Historic District, you’re allowed to carry an adult beverage in a plastic cup in one hand and munch on warm pralines like a kid from the other. There are also designer sweet shops. I LOVED Adam Turoni (below) where cases of chocolate are tucked into book shelves.
Stop in the JW Marriott, a former power plant repurposed as a luxury hotel. See a life-size, chrome-dipped dinosaur.
Sit a spell watching boats cruise the Savannah River from a rooftop.
Emily recommended Rocks on the Roof on the top floor of The Bohemian Hotel. Great place to get the lay of the land, see the sunset, and watch the moon rise.
Kate Woods of Morocco Bespoke
Relax beside the Atlantic Ocean on Tybee Island.
Eat low country boil on the bayou.
Where to Stay
We nostalgic Baby Boomers chose The Thunderbird Inn located just around the corner from the Historic District and the Riverfront. We were transported to the 60s when we heard Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons followed by Simon and Garfunkel piped around the property, smelled fresh popcorn and donuts in the lobby, and found RC Colas and Moon Pies in our room.
On previous trips with family I’ve enjoyed other options: a seaside rental on Tybee and the iconic Marshall House on Broughton Street.
*Check Savannah hotel deals here. Note: I have had good experiences using Travel Zoo but haven’t used the site for Savannah, so, as always, do your research before booking.
Where to Eat, Drink, and Be Merry
Most important tip in this post: Reservation. Reservation. Reservation.
Once upon a time, booking a table wasn’t required, not even at The Pirate’s House or J. Christopher’s for brunch. This time not doing so meant Kate and I sat at the bar for every brunch and dinner we had in the city. Emily and Kate’s daughter had suggested The Grey— the hottest place in town for its food, drinks, and history. Formerly a segregated bus station, the restaurant is founded on inclusion. Sadly the hostess said tables in the main dining room had been booked 60 days in advance. They are open for dinner only on Wednesday-Saturday. On Sunday, they serve brunch and dinner.
We did snag a seat in their bar car (first come, first served) then thanked our lucky stars when one of the few tables along the windows opened. My Old Fashioned and Beef stew … her champagne cocktail and first piece of chess pie… Perfection.
We ate at Savannah Seafood Shack where the crab cakes were good, but the bar space was cramped and the oysters a bit small.
We really enjoyed Saturday Brunch at Common Restaurant, located on East Broughton Street across Marshall House, where I ate my weight in fat raw oysters. The last night we had dinner at Corleone’s followed by takeaway treats next door at Lulu’s Chocolate Bar, voted “Best Martinis” and “Best Desserts in Savannah” for the last 15 years. I saved my Banana Foster cheesecake for the next morning—an incentive to rise and shine before sunrise for the 8-hour trip back to Nashville. We did not have to wait for lunch at The Crab Shack On Tybee Island, a former fishing camp and must-do. Our secret? We arrived on Sunday when they opened.
Emily’s other suggestions for next time…
Jen and Friends for martinis
The Artillery for drinks
The Prohibition (Speakeasy beside Grey we wanted to do but it was booked)
Vic’s On the River for lunch or dinner (known for their she crab soup)
Wyld on the Marshes
Also on my Next Time list…
Arches Bar and The Olde Pink House Restaurant
More time at SCAD Museum of Art.
See a show at the Savannah Theatre.
The American Prohibition Museum
We found the monument below thanking the Freedom Fighters for defending Savannah. They were one of the few Black regiments that fought in the Revolutionary War. Next time I want to visit the First African Baptist Church, the oldest Black church in North America.
We saw the Tybee Lighthouse but next time I’d like to go scouting for Megladon teeth.
FOR MORE ON SAVANNAH, GO HERE. Plan your trip around festivals here.