By Karu F. Daniels
Strolling through Savannah’s Historic District, with its intoxicating scent, sweeping moss trees and lush greenery, is engrossing. There’s a reason why Georgia’s oldest city, and its first capital long before Atlanta took that honor, is considered one of the world’s most alluring. Even on the heels of now infamous resident Paula Deen’s antics and the city’s not-so-glorious slave past, it’s impossible not to fall for Savannah.
Although jumping on a flight may seem like the only way to get to Savannah for some, there are alternatives. In nearby cities like Charleston, Jacksonville, Charlotte and Atlanta, driving, which typically ranges from two to four hours, is most popular. For those residing in northeast corridor cities such as New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., Amtrak (yes Amtrak!) is a comfortable, relaxing and adventurous option, especially the Viewliner, which offers private sleeping cars and lavatories. Find gourmet-style meals prepared to order morning, noon and night in the dining car. Best of all: windows capturing the beauty of the everchanging landscape.
Since millions of visitors literally pour into the city annually, Savannah has countless accommodation options, from cozy bed & breakfasts to luxury rental properties to opulent boutique hotels. Some popular choices include Mansion on Forsyth Park, a grand Triple A Four Diamond 125-room Victorian Romanesque mansion; Hyatt’s sleek and more contemporary Andaz Savannah, the first in the Southeast; as well as the trusted Hilton Garden Inn, which has three locations, including one in the Historic District.
Savannah, like its sprightly cousin New Orleans, is known for great food; so eating is never a problem. Sunday brunch at Rocks on the River at the eclectically elegant Bohemian Hotel Savannah Riverfront boasts a menu that includes such traditional Southern favorites as she crab soup and fried green tomatoes, alongside gastronomical adventures like chicken & waffle sliders and eight different eggs benedict offerings. The Olde Pink House, built in 1771, is an institution known for its seafood dishes. Masada Café, which is literally a church cafe, is renowned for its old school Southern cooking (surely made by somebody’s grandmother) at wallet friendly prices. Tip: call ahead to check hours.
Strolling through the 22 squares dotting Savannah’s historic areas is wondrous. Each possesses its own unique charm and backstory. Many contain monuments, markers and statues. Franklin Square’s Haitian Memorial Monument honors the soldiers from Saint-Domingue (as Haiti was then known) who fought in the Revolutionary War. Madison Square’s marker “History of Emancipation: Special Field Orders No. 15” commemorates General Sherman’s orders granting freed families 40-acre tracts. Once a slave market, Ellis Square now buzzes with a bevy of locals and tourists enjoying surrounding restaurants and bars. The African-American Monument, depicting a family of four embracing as their former chains lay at their feet with an inscription by Maya Angelou, sits in the popular Savannah Riverfront on well-traveled River Street. First African Baptist Church, one of the nation’s oldest operating churches— organized in 1773—was a stop on the Underground Railroad and, hence, has a 4-foot tunnel beneath its lower auditorium. It’s now open to the public for both church services and tours.
Savannah is a laid-back city, so outright debauchery is hard to find, even if Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is a frame of reference. First-rate evening options include veteran Jazz’d Tapas Bar, which features live music; romantic Noble Fare; and relative newcomer The Public Kitchen & Bar.
(Photo credits: Visit Savannah, Hyatt, Kandi Burress/Instagram)