10 Ways Savannah's Southern Charm Keeps Us Coming Back for More
Savannah may be best known for its centuries-old squares, cobblestone lanes and moss-draped live oaks, but not even its ghosts are stuck in the past (as you’ll find on the famed paranormal tours). At nearly 300 years old, this hauntingly beautiful city is bustling with new restaurants, bars, hotels and galleries—and we’ve put together just the right mix of historic and modern for your perfect Southern sojourn.
Bonus: getting there is ever easier, with year-round direct flights from 16 cities across the US, and seasonal service from many more. Just don’t squander overhead space on a puffy coat: Even mid-winter, you’re likely to find 70-something-degree days on arrival. As for what to do after that…
Walk through a picture book
For a Spanish moss fairy tale, wander through the live oak-sheltered avenue that leads to the 18th-century Wormsloe estate, where you’ll find the city’s oldest structure and interpreters in period costume, depending on when you go.To see a whole series of tree-canopied old homes, head to Jones Street—the prettiest one in town, say some—where Greek Revival will become your new favorite style. #TBT
...Or through a movie set
If you think the city looks like something out of a movie, you’re not wrong. “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” was famously filmed here, and you can revisit one of its most iconic backdrops (also the cover of the novel of the same name) at the Bonaventure Cemetery. Among other notable headstones here is the one belonging to Johnny Mercer, the Academy Award-winning songwriter behind “Moon River” and “Hooray for Hollywood.”
Though “Midnight” may be the movie most closely associated with Savannah, plenty of others were filmed here, including “Forrest Gump.” The hero’s bench now resides at the Savannah Visitors Center and is an Insta post waiting to happen. But just remember: It’s BYOB (box of chocolates).
For a relatively small town, this place has a lot of squares: 22 to be exact. Why? They were originally intended for fire prevention, but today they serve as peaceful oases where you can take a second to learn a little history—or just garden-gaze.
Taste a little of everything—or a lot
There are so many raved-about new restaurants here, eating all the things could be a trip unto itself. But here’s a good short list: Husk, where you’ll find inventive, farm-to-table versions of local favorites (think Georgia shrimp and grits with farm egg, pea shoots and embered shiitakes); the Grove, a Southern-inspired restaurant and rooftop bar where you should try the Forsyth fried okra and honey drizzle fries before moving on to such entrees as rib-eye mac and cheese with sausage and green tomato relish. Or—for an improbably plant-based take on that same Southern classic—check out Fox & Fig Café’s smoky mac n’ cheese with organic cultured cashew cheeses, macaroni, panko breadcrumbs and sunflower shoots.
But don’t let a tasting tour of the new stars keep you from the long-standing legends: Do yourself a favor and wait however long you need to get into Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room, where the slogan is “If the colonel made chicken this good, he’d be a general.” (And we won’t disagree.)
There’s also Vic’s on the River, which serves up history along with such favorites as wild Georgia shrimp and smoked cheddar stone ground grits. This 19th-century warehouse was used by General Sherman’s officers, and the main dining room still displays a map that was hand-drawn by Union soldiers.
As for the sweet stuff, that's another tour unto itself: Hit Savannah's Candy Kitchen for seductively good praline samples, Savannah Bee Company to taste fresh local honey (tupelo, wildflower, acacia and orange blossom to name a few) and Leopold's Ice Cream—a Savannah institution since 1919—where you'll find hand-churned flavors such as chocolate chewies & cream, honey almond & cream, peanut butter chippy and mocha chocolate chip.
Test your sixth sense
With all the Southern fare you’ll be devouring, you’ll likely want to fit in some walks. May we suggest you make one of them a ghost tour? With so many restless spirits famously floating around town—especially in the historic homes and cemeteries—you’re bound to run into a few. Just ask any Savannah native (everyone here has a favorite ghost story or two). If you'd rather be...spirited around town rather than walking, you'll find ghost tours by trolley and—for the truly committed—hearse.
Give new meaning to “good to go”
If you want some liquid courage for your ghost tour, get a drink—to go. The Historic District allows open containers, so you can take in the city by foot, tasty beverage in hand. You can even buy a beer in one bar, carry it a block, and finish that same cup at the next joint. Locals like to call these magical, and legal, 16-ounce vessels “travelers.”
Elevate touring to an art
Already an arty city, Savannah is now home to the buzz-generating Laney Contemporary Fine Art gallery, in addition to Savannah College of Art and Design and SCAD Museum of Art. If you can get to the latter before Feb. 3—in time to catch the trippy Inverso Mundus video installation—do.
Experience a riverside revival
Feel the ballast stones from centuries-ago voyages underfoot as you walk down River Street past old cotton warehouses that are now part of a buzzing riverfront scene (think hotels, shops, bars and restaurants).
Hit the beach
Tybee Island is just 18 miles from Savannah, with three miles of public beach and plenty of activities (kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, biking) on offer. You may even decide to check into one of the quaint cottages or inns for an overnight stay—at reduced winter rates.
While you're there, don't miss a Low Country boil at The Crab Shack (skip your fancy sandals, or any at all—this is a spot where "the elite eat in their bare feet"). Finish the day with a stop at Coco’s Sunset Grille, where the bartenders pass out free shots so that the crowd can toast the setting sun. Cheers!
Make yourself at home
Cozy-chic is the prevailing vibe at some of Savannah’s best (and best-situated) new hotels: See the wood-paneled lobby seating area at the new Perry Lane Hotel, a Luxury Collection Hotel near fabled Forsyth Park. The rich wood theme carries into the meticulously appointed guestrooms, where your private bar is made of gorgeous walnut.
Meanwhile, at the Alida, you’ll sleep off days spent gallery-hopping and shopping (you’re near both here) in a cushy king-size bed, because that’s all you’ll find at the city’s only all-king outpost. But even if you don’t stay here, head up to the bar for handcrafted cocktails, riverside views and city panoramas.