Savannah relishes its Southern heritage, but contemporary culture keeps it fresh
Savannah tells America what the Old South was like. Or at least what it looked like. The 18th- and 19th-century architectural ambiance of the oldest city in Georgia hearkens back to a time long gone. Yet the people of Savannah and its shopkeepers, innkeepers and restaurateurs keep demonstrating that the latest trends are not lost amongst the brick streets and Spanish moss hanging from the trees. Old Savannah these days provides a multi-textured backdrop for a 21st-century vacation.
Squares and Parks
The heart and soul of Savannah are its squares, 22 in all, defining the city’s historic center and making it green. Each has its own character and attractions, but most are surrounded by the architecture that made Savannah famous.
Near Calhoun square is Forsythe Park at Drayton and East Park Avenue. It’s one of the most photographed sites in Savannah with its majestic fountain and green space lined with live oaks. In the spring the park turns pink and purple with azalea blooms.
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Skidaway Island State Park
Ever wonder where that Moon River “wider than a mile” is? You found it. Skidaway Island State Park encompasses a barrier island located on an inlet renamed “Moon River” in honor of Johnny Mercer, writer of the song, who was a native of Savannah. Trails wind through a coastal forest and past salt marshes, leading to a boardwalk and observation tower. Visitors can watch for deer, fiddler crabs, raccoon, egrets and other wildlife. 52 Diamond Causeway.
Savannah’s Beach – Tybee Island
Just a 20-minute drive to the east, Tybee Island offers travelers a host of activities, not the least of which is its five miles of public beach backed by sand dunes and undulating sea oats. It’s a great base for sailing, fishing and frolicking in the Atlantic with bottlenose dolphins, if you’re lucky.
SCAD Museum of Art
One of the South’s newest museums, this futuristic building, constructed from the ruins of a railway station, boasts the one of the world’s biggest free-standing touchscreens and fashion collections curated by former Vogue editor-at-large Andre Leon Talley. The Savannah College of Art and Design rotates special exhibitions, including the bead and textile works of brothers Steven and William Ladd and the photography of Alec Soth through April. 601 Turner Blvd.
Owens-Thomas House Museum
One of Savannah’s many historic house museums, this home was one of the first professionally designed residences in America, and is drooled over by architectural historians around the world. It boasts a decorative arts collection along with American and European objects dating 1750-1830. The site also includes a beautiful English-inspired parterre garden and an original carriage house. 124 Abercorn St.
Weather Made for Golf
Savannah’s agreeable climate has made it a magnet for golfers from all over the world the year ’round. Some of the favorite courses open to visitors include these three:
The Club at Savannah Harbor, operated by Troon Golf, offers great views of downtown while winding its way through tidal wetlands. 2 Resort Drive.
Play your round among the live oaks draped with Spanish moss at Henderson Golf Club, where accuracy and finesse are paramount over length. Five sets of tees are available to accommodate golfers of all skill levels, and ensure that they have an enjoyable playing experience. 1 Al Henderson Dr.
A good value is a round at the Crosswinds Golf Club. Undulating greens and rolling, well-bunkered Bermuda fairways combine with streams, ponds and marshes to delight the eye and enhance the enjoyment of the game. Par 72. 232 James B. Blackburn Dr.
Downtown Savannah provides a wide range of choices from fashion-forward shops, specialty foods stores, home furnishings and antiques. A sampling includes original designs at Kendra Scott, 311 W. Broughton St.; Eva Design House, 415 W. Boundary St., for the best in fashion, jewelry, handbags, shoes and bridal couture; for eclectic tastes, Sylvester & Co., 205 W. Broughton St., offers “life supplies” to celebrate design, authenticity and quality, from apparel to kitchen gadgets; and Terra Cotta prides itself on dressing the woman who is “effortlessly stylish” and draws from a select list of European designers, 34 Barnard St.
The Paris Market & Brocante, 36 W. Broughton St., offers a charming environment for vintage merchandise, stationery, plus an excellent café.
A little farther afield, , 2819 Bull St. and a second location at 13051 Abercorn St., are two innovative antique malls with like-minded vendors who offer a large selection of vintage and repurposed household items.
Where to Stay
This Kimpton hotel is noted for its extremely friendly service. Sleek ambiance and well-appointed rooms. Nightly complimentary wine hour in the lobby. Pet friendly, too. From $194/night. 601 E. Bay St.
DeSoto Beach Hotel
An older but very nice hotel right on the beach. Great for families with kids. A good value at $169/night. 212 Butler Ave., Tybee Island
A bed-and-breakfast inn overlooking Lafayette Square. Attentive staff, and within easy walking distance of most historic district sites. Evening receptions in the parlor. From $228/night. 330 Abercorn St.
Mansion on Forsythe
Boutique hotel overlooking Forsythe Park, a step away from the crowds. Operated by the Marriott’s Autograph Collection. The halls are full of art. The staff will learn your name. From $259/night. 700 Drayton St.
The Westin Savannah Golf Resort and Spa
Its prime waterfront location sets this hotel apart. Golf packages available. Full service spa. From $275/night. 1 Resort Dr.
Where to Dine
A-J’s Dockside Restaurant
Locals flock to this on Tybee Island by boat and by car for some of the freshest seafood ever. Good burgers for the landlubbers in your party.
1315 Chatham Ave., 912-786-9533
In the heart of the historic district, this venue of owner Daniel Berman features a chic, upscale ambiance, combining historic and modern touches. Serving classic Southern cuisine—with a playful twist. Seafood is the specialty. 309 W. Congress St., 912-233-2111
Elizabeth on 37th
Elegant, Southern-inspired menu with a nouvelle twist. Serving local fresh seafood and produce. Sapelo Island clams are a favorite along with the decadent desserts. 105 E. 37th St., 912-236-5547
Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room
For a taste of true Southern cooking, this is the “real deal.” Very popular lunch spot downtown situated in a cozy house. Meals served family style. 107 W. Jones St., 912-232-5997
Chef Patrick McNamara rolls out his signature take on low-country cuisine at this downtown landmark. Past standouts have included the tuna tartare with avocado, pineapple relish and curry oil, the pan-seared scallops over bacon and corn risotto and the raspberry chocolate cake paired with creamy custard. 321 Jefferson St., 914-443-3210