Savannah Will Totally Charm You -- Even in Summer
As the oldest city in Georgia, Savannah has quite a multi-faceted personality. This genteel city overflows with Southern hospitality, arts and culture, haunted history and enough food to fill you for a week.
Though the temperature easily reaches 90 degrees in the summertime, Savannah melts our hearts no matter the season. Here's why:
You can see a ghost ... if you're lucky
Founded in 1733, Savannah has survived fires, yellow fever and the Civil War, to name a few. It's also home to more than a few ghosts. Part of the fun of a trip here is uncovering these stories, particularly in the Historic District, a National Historic Landmark.
Hop aboard a trolley from Old Savannah Tours and take a ride that will help you get fully acquainted with America's most haunted city. In fact, some of the city's ghosts may join you on the Grave Encounters tour.
Other Old Savannah Tours include the popular hop-on/hop-off option and a historic overview. On all tours, guides give lively descriptions and, sometimes, historical re-enactors join as well. These can include Georgia founder General James Oglethorpe or a lingering pirate from the old days at the historic Pirates' House Restaurant. Let's not forget this is Forrest Gump's town, so he might join as well.
The Sorrel-Weed House, a grand antebellum mansion, offers a daily daytime tour of the premises to check out the fine antiques and architecture. If you feel like testing your mettle, you can come back and do the ghost hunters tour inside the house or stay for the late-night paranormal investigation.
While dining in town, you might be joined by a spirit or two, but more on that later.
It only takes a minute to get the perfect skyline shot
The Savannah River used to play host to pirates in the early 18th century. Today it's a perfect playground for visitors and locals alike.
Take a 60-second ferry ride across the water to drop your stuff off at Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa, the second-tallest building in Savannah with 16 floors. A sprawling resort, the Westin has a PGA Championship golf course, a beach club on secluded Daufuskie Island and a spa. From here, you get an awesome view of downtown Savannah.
Power your own trip down the river by renting a kayak or a canoe. Guided tours are available to see coastal wildlife in places like undeveloped Little Tybee Island; the black water, cypress-filled Ebenezer Creek; and the barrier island of Skidaway Narrows.
Stroll along centuries-old ballast stones on River Street as you make your way to a riverboat cruise that looks like it's straight out of a Mark Twain novel.
Tybee Island, aka "Savannah's Beach," is just a 20-minute drive from downtown. The beach can get crowded around the pier at 16th Street, so head down a few blocks if you want a quieter beach day. If the view looks familiar, you may recognize it as the filming location for the recent "Baywatch" movie.
Take a walk back in time (plus it's hard to get lost)
Savannah is so beautiful that even General Sherman couldn't destroy it after burning Atlanta on his March to the Sea in the Civil War. (He sent President Lincoln a telegram gifting him the city as a Christmas present in 1864.) Don't take our word for it -- see for yourself.
Known as America's first planned city, Savannah is laid out on a grid. This means wide-open streets intertwine with 22 peaceful public squares full of live oak trees dripping with Spanish moss and grassy areas, perfect for catching some shade.
It is a must to stroll down Jones Street, simply one of the most beautiful roads in Savannah. Walking under a canopy of trees while looking at the mid-19th century houses and their high stoops, elegant wrought-iron railings and two sets of staircases, you'll feel like you've gone back in time.
If you're on Jones Street around lunchtime, you might see a line stretching down the block. You'll want to get on that as it's for Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room. An absolute must for the soul and stomach, it's a communal dining experience featuring dozens of homemade Southern dishes.
Savannah latches on to visitors' hearts with its abundance of historic homes and buildings. In total, more than 1,000 buildings here have historical or architectural significance.
Part of the Historic Hotels of America, The Hilton Savannah DeSoto Hotel was built in 1890 and overlooks Madison Square. At 15 stories, the hotel, one of the tallest in Savannah, offers great views of the stunning Cathedral of St. John the Baptist and is within walking distance of many attractions, like River Street (three blocks) and Forsyth Park (two blocks).
You'll need to drive about 15 minutes to Bonaventure Cemetery, but it's absolutely something you can't miss. A cemetery with a creepy cool factor of 100% and made famous by "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil," Bonaventure spans approximately 100 acres.
The sunlight peeks through the trees sparingly here, helping to create a chilling atmosphere as you walk among Victorian Gothic statues and headstones of famous haunters like Little Gracie.
Check out famous artists of the past and future
The Telfair Academy of Arts and Sciences, built in 1812 as a mansion, was the South's first public art museum. Today it has three locations that include the Owens-Thomas House and the Jepson Center.
Cool off in the air conditioning at the Jepson Center while you check out its exhibit on William Wegman (open through Aug. 13.) Wegman's career has spanned more than five decades and he became a household name for photographs of his Weimaraners. He was also a key figure in what was later dubbed West Coast Conceptual Art and a pioneer in the developing medium of video art.
Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) draws creative types from around the globe to study topics like fashion, illustration, industrial design and sculpture. Take home a unique souvenir by heading to ShopScad, a retail store that sells one-of-a-kind artwork created by SCAD students, alumni and faculty.
Try cooking you'll remember long after you leave
Bring your stretchy pants to Savannah -- you're going to eat well. Here are a few suggestions:
For low-country cuisine (think seafood, rice and spices), head over to Tybee Island for fresh water-to-table goodness at The Crab Shack, where you can eat crabs and crawfish in your bare feet.
There are also restaurants where the history competes with the menu for attention -- like Vic's on the River, a 19th-century warehouse with a hand-drawn map by Union soldiers from the Civil War. There's also the Olde Pink House, set in an 18th-century mansion with a few cool ghost stories (like spirits dressed in Colonial gear enjoying a pint, sounds of a woman crying upstairs and even a boy who locks women in the tavern bathroom).
For a taste of the Old World in Savannah, La Famiglia Restaurant Group features authentic Italian cuisine with an outdoor dining setting -- perfect for soaking up a sunset. Cuoco Pazza Cucina Italiana is in the Historic District, while Little Italy Neighborhood Restaurant is located minutes from downtown, along the marshes of Wilmington Island.
If it's French food you seek, head to 39 Rue de Jean on the western end of downtown. Escargot, moules, ratatouille crepes, salmon béarnaise and bouillabaisse are just a few of the delicacies served.
...But leave room for dessert
There's a reason why Leopold's has been an institution in Savannah since 1919: It's incredibly yummy. What better way to cool off than with a scoop (or three) of homemade ice cream, with flavors like honey almond and cream, rum bisque and butter pecan. Nobody will tell if you go back for seconds.
Candy shops aren't just for kids. Step inside Savannah's Candy Kitchen for a free sample ... and leave with a bag or two of pralines, saltwater taffy and fudge.
If it's a cupcake or cookie you're craving, drive over to Back in the Day Bakery in Savannah's quirky Starland District. This spot is a favorite among locals and tourists alike.
Take your "to-go" cup rooftop bar hopping
Savannah is full of cool spots to enjoy a cocktail or celebrate a summer night. Even if you just want to walk around outside, the Historic District allows open containers, so you can bring your alcoholic beverage in a 16-ounce plastic "to-go" cup along with you.
Service Brewing Company, a veteran-owned and -operated brewery downtown, offers tastings on Thursday and Friday evenings and Saturday afternoons. If you're lucky enough to get a key, or know someone with one, you can check out Mata Hari, a speakeasy with burlesque shows, down by Factor's Walk near River Street.
For cocktails and spectacular sunset views, head to The Bohemian Hotel's rooftop bar, Rocks on the Roof. To find live music, visit The Jinx, just off Ellis Square and formerly known as Velvet Elvis, for rock, metal, country and hip-hop shows six nights a week.