Savannah, Georgia was founded in 1733 and was America’s first planned city. It has 24 squares that function as peaceful public parks throughout the city, and it’s fun to walk through this clean and easy to navigate city. There’s a lot of history here and it was enjoyable to discover it for myself; however, Savannah isn’t stuck in the past. The Savannah College of Art and Design located right in the heart of the historic district, and there are loads of trendy shops scattered throughout the town, so Savannah is teeming with life. Even with all of this activity in concentrated locations, it didn’t feel like a college or tourist town, so it was easy to slow down, enjoy my time, and explore.
1.) Southern Food
To quote one of my friends from the South, Southern food is “to die for!” Whatever you do, do not miss out on some good ole fashioned Southern fare. I literally still daydream about the creamy macaroni and cheese, melt in your mouth biscuits, crispy fried chicken, the collard greens that were surprisingly delicious, and the so-sweet potato casserole that I could eat every day for the rest of my life. I had all of this and more at the lunch buffet at The Pirate’s House, which I highly recommend. Serving pirates since 1733, there are 15 small and welcoming dining rooms all decorated seemingly like they were back in the 1800’s. It had an ambiance that took us back in time, and if I ever find myself back in Savannah I will definitely go there again.
2.) Chippewa Square
This square is situated in the middle of Savannah’s historic district. On one side lies the Historic Savannah Theatre, the oldest theatre in the United States, which still holds shows each night. In the center of the square sits a bronze statue of James Oglethorpe, who was the founder of Georgia. And for a brief time, on the North side of the square sat a bench, and that bench is now in Savannah’s Historical Museum because a very important man sat there. A president, you ask? Nope, it was Forrest, Forrest Gump! As Forrest told his story from a park bench in the movie, the audience could see a quaint, friendly park with live oak trees draped with Spanish moss towering in the background. That was no movie magic, it really looks that serene in real life.
3.) Colonial Park Cemetery
Established around 1750, Colonial Park Cemetery holds many distinguished Savannhians, including Button Gwinnett, a signor of the Declaration of Independence. In 1820 a massive grave was dug to store the remains of about 700 people that died during the Yellow Fever epidemic. It even housed the Union Army during the Civil War, and some of those soldiers left a mark that still exists today. A few of the gravestones were vandalized and dates were changed to indicate that the deceased lived hundreds of years. The cemetery holds the graves of nearly 10,000, is surrounded by tall, wrought iron fencing, and makes for an interesting walk.
4.) Trolley Tour
There are quite a few trolley tours that explore the Savannah area. They provide transportation to all of the significant sites as well as some information about all of the stops. You can hop on and off at as many sites as you wish, and if you can get a discount on the tour it’s a home run. I went with Historic Savannah Tours and got a discounted rates from Groupon. Every few stops they had an actor portraying a famous or historic figure hop on the bus to give a short demonstration, so that was a fun experience an extra bonus for that particular company.
5.) City Market
City Market has been a marketplace since the 1700’s when farmers and fisherman came to sell their goods. After two fires and economic decline from the decreased demand of cotton, it has a troubled past. Today, it spans four blocks where you can shop at trendy, locally owned stores in revitalized warehouses that sell jewelry, art, clothing, cookies, baked goods and even tourist souvenirs. It even has an energetic night life with bars, restaurants, and live music.
6.) Walk through the Historic District
When walking through Savannah’s historic district it’s easy to put yourself back in the Colonial era and imagine horse-drawn carriages sauntering down the street. Even though the homes are huge, and the giant moss covered oaks loom over the houses, streets, and squares, everything seems drawn in and quaint. There are numerous historically significant homes built in many different architectural styles that are open to visitors, but I just liked walking through this peaceful area. I encourage you to sit on a bench in one of the squares, enjoy the tranquility, and just soak it all in.
7.) River Street
Along the cobblestone street that lies beside the Savannah River, you can watch candy being made, shop until your heart’s content, or partake in some fine dining. With the sun on your skin, the breeze in your hair, and the smell of river water wafting through the air, River Street is a great place to go for an enjoyable walk or to people watch. In addition to the shops, restaurants, and art galleries, there is an open air market right along the river where you can sip a cocktail, watch the river flow by, and browse some handmade gifts. Further down is Morell Park, where you can walk along the river and gaze at the Waving Girl statue as well as the Olympic Cauldron, which was lit during the 1996 Olympic Games for the yachting competition that took place in Savannah.
8.) Forsyth Park
Central Park is to New York City as Forsyth Park is to Savannah. This 30 acre park is situated beside the historic district and is where locals go to sunbathe, read, walk, run, or play sports like tennis, basketball, Frisbee and soccer. Sometimes free concerts are even offered in the summer. The focal point, however, is the beautiful Forsyth Fountain that was added in 1858. The park also boasts a children’s play area, a flower garden, and a monument dedicated to the soldiers of the Confederacy.
9.) Cathedral of Saint John
The congregation for the Cathedral of Saint John was formed in the late 18th century, but due to a fire the current structure dates to about 1900. It was built in the embellished French-Gothic style, and the two towering spires are worth stopping to stare. This is still an active church, but visitors are able to tour the inside when mass isn’t being held. If you thought the outside was unique and beautiful, wait until you see the inside. With stained glass and an altar that rivals some of the most beautiful churches in Europe, watch out for sensory overload as you absorb all of the details.
10.) Bay Street
The area along Bay Street from the gold-domed City Hall to Emmet Park is packed with things to see. Just East of City Hall are the Washington Guns (more like cannons if you ask me), which were captured from the British during the Revolutionary War battle at Yorktown and given to the Savannah Chatham Artillery in 1791 by George Washington. Further down is the giant Cotton Exchange building that was an important part of the Savannah economy 100 years ago is still guarded by a replica of the beloved gryphon statue that was placed there in the late 1800’s. Factors Walk, which is a series of walkways used in the cotton exchange, leads all way down to Emmet Park. This park houses even more monuments, some of which were dedicated to Vietnam Veterans, the Chatham Artillery, and Savannahians of Irish heritage.
Visiting Savannah was a nice retreat. You can easily see all of the sites on this list during a weekend, but if you plan to stay in Savannah for a longer period of time I would suggest a visit to the Savannah Visitor Center. They have a very impressive brochure display that might have a flier on something in the area that suits your fancy. The staff is very helpful if you have questions, and it offers free, clean bathrooms as well as free parking if you wish to walk to the historic district.
Is there something different on your Savannah top 10 list? Please let me know in the comments. Thank you!
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