Savannah In 3 Days
Day 1: MorningStart your vacation at the Savannah Visitor Information Center in the massive brick building that used to be the Central of Georgia Railroad passenger depot. This tourist hub has a large souvenir shop and the Savannah History Museum . For a good historical overview and to be introduced to the city's founder, Gen. James Oglethorpe, watch the film, “Savannah the Survivor.” The museum has an array of artifacts, including an 1830s cotton gin, 19th- and 20th-century ladies' fashions, and a carriage belonging to the family of U.S. Girl Scout founder and Savannah native Juliette Gordon Low.
Take a trolley tour around the city; Old Savannah Tours and Old Town Trolley Tours ) depart from the information center. These companies offer themed tours, but if this is your first time in the city, go with a basic narrated tour that offers unlimited hop on/off service throughout the day. It's a great introduction to the city's history and helps you get a feel for what to do during your stay.
Depending on the trolley's route, you might be able to see some of the nearby historic railroad structures occupied by the Georgia State Railroad Museum and the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) when you pull out of the visitor center parking lot. The college has a large presence in the city. It operates from dozens of buildings, giving the entire historic district the feel of a beautiful college campus.
Day 1: AfternoonAAA/Inspector 557
No matter which company you've selected, there are likely to be several stops along Bay Street, where there are some interesting places to eat. Hop off somewhere around Habersham or Lincoln streets and have lunch at B. Matthew's Eatery, a popular lunch spot thanks to its signature sandwiches. Soups and salads round out the menu at this historic tavern.
Davenport House Museum/Davenport House Museum
After lunch walk east on Bay to the first intersection, Habersham Street, and head south to Columbia Square's north side to tour the circa 1820 brick Federal-style Davenport House . Isaiah Davenport was a builder from New England, and this house served as the family household as well as his office. You'll learn what life was like for the Davenport family, including how they dealt with such inconveniences as dirt streets and hot coastal weather without modern conveniences.
Courtesy of The Kehoe House
Before you leave Columbia Square, take a few minutes to admire the exterior of the adjacent 1892 Kehoe House , now a bed-and-breakfast. Any similarity between this and the Davenport house ends at their brick exteriors. This large Renaissance Revival mansion boasts Corinthian columns, balconies and several dozen windows beautifully fitted with cast-iron embellishments.
Head west a very short distance to Oglethorpe Square to tour the Owens-Thomas House and Slave Quarters . It was completed at nearly the same time as Davenport House, but there's no confusing the two. You'll be amazed over and over as you go from room to room, and keep in mind that English architect William Jay was only 24 when he designed the house. Highlights include a bridge above the staircase, an amber-colored glass window in the dining room innovatively serving as a skylight, and the use of trompe l'oeil painting in the drawing room to create the illusion of a domed ceiling.
If you didn't get to experience the majority of the trolley tour in the morning, hop back on at the nearest stop to catch what you missed.
Day 1: EveningAAA/Inspector 33
Try Garibaldi's Cafe on W. Congress Street for dinner. It features a generous variety of Italian and seafood fare served in a former 1870s German firehouse; the second-floor ballroom décor features chandeliers and a pressed tin ceiling.
Denis Tangney Jr/iStockphoto.com
Many claim that Savannah is a very haunted city, but even if you're not a believer, you should still take a ghost tour. It's one of the many fun things to do while you're in town. (Plus it gives you a chance to tour the district after dark.) Be sure to call ahead to reserve a spot; these haunted jaunts are popular. There are a lot of companies to choose from, so take your pick based on the area you want to cover, the theme you're most interested in (some visit pubs along the way), and whether you want to walk or ride. Cobblestone Tours , Old Savannah Tours and Old Town Trolley Tours are options.
Day 2: MorningChances are you heard stories about Colonial Park Cemetery during your ghost tour the previous evening and are anxious to inspect this destination up close in daylight. Enter through the large granite archway at Abercorn Street and Oglethorpe Avenue. The age of the cemetery, which was open to interments 1750-1853, is readily apparent from the abundance of cracked and weathered grave markers. Although there are more than 9,200 graves, only about 550 are marked. Like all cemeteries, this one has many stories to tell. As you investigate the markings on some of the stones, you might notice that dates on several have been inaccurately re-carved as pranks. Although there is no proof, a lingering tale blames British soldiers during the Revolutionary War and Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman's troops during the Civil War. Also of interest are the headstones attached to and propped up against the only remaining portion of the 1796 wall. They probably ended up here because no one knew where they belonged or because they were moved to make room when paths were cut through the grounds. Either way, they're certainly a conversation piece.
Just west down Oglethorpe Avenue is the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace . The exquisitely furnished dining room and parlor are two highlights. Not only will you get to tour a lovely house and garden, you'll get to hear the remarkable story of how she founded the Girl Scouts of the USA. The 1821 Regency house has seen several modifications over the years. In 1886 the house underwent major renovations, including the addition of a piazza and a third floor. During World War I it became a Red Cross office, and in World War II it was converted into apartments.
Walk west and travel up to Telfair Square on Barnard Street to explore the Telfair Academy . William Jay designed this mansion for Alexander Telfair, Gov. Edward Telfair's son, shortly after he designed the Owens-Thomas House. The home was eventually left to Alexander's sister Mary, who intended for it to become a museum after her death. Alterations and expansions were implemented 1883-85 so it could better function as a museum. Statues of Michelangelo, Phidias, Raphael, Rembrandt and Peter Paul Rubens grace the entrance.
When you leave the museum, take Jefferson Street north to City Market. The market's origins lie in the mid-18th century when farmers, fishermen and tradespeople congregated at this commercial and social hub. City Market is still a gathering place, but now you'll find art galleries and specialty shops as well as places to stop for gelato, ice cream and handmade candy. The demolition of the 1872 market building in 1954 escalated local preservationists' frustrations and led seven women to form the Historic Savannah Foundation. The first of the many houses the organization has been able to save was the Davenport House you toured yesterday.
Day 2: AfternoonAAA/Sherry Mims
On nearby Congress Street to the east, look for the sign for The Lady & Sons. This is celebrity chef Paula Deen's restaurant with sons Jamie and Bobby, who are also known for their cookbooks and television show. The menu features ultimate Southern comfort food with staples like baked or fried chicken, chicken potpie, pulled pork, macaroni and cheese, seafood dishes, peach cobbler and pecan pie. You can opt for the daily buffet or order from the menu Mon.-Sat. The restaurant highly recommends reservations which can be made up to a year in advance.
Walk south to Lafayette Square, which is surrounded by fun places to go on all sides. Work your way around the square clockwise, beginning on the south side where a large historical marker points out the simple and modest four-story Flannery O'Connor Childhood Home . Acclaimed author Mary Flannery O'Connor was born in Savannah in 1925 and lived in this house until 1938. She attended Catholic school and St. John the Baptist Cathedral, both across Lafayette Square. The house reopened in October 2007 after a renovation to return the two main floors to their appearance when the family lived here.
On the west side of the square is the Andrew Low House , which features cast-iron filigree on the balconies, a dry moat, a garden in front and a wrought-iron fence. The five bedrooms are furnished and laid out beautifully, most with reproduced wallpapers of designs that would have been used during that era. One of the rooms includes the desk that English author William Makepeace Thackeray used when he was a guest here.
Around the corner stands the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist . The parish was established in the late 1700s but the current cathedral dates to the late 19th century. Steps front the entire facade of this French Gothic edifice, and inside are many religious works of art. Walk down the wall aisles to see the Stations of the Cross, large multicolored figural wood carvings from Bavaria displayed against detailed American woodwork. Other highlights are the Italian marble altar and baptismal font.
Courtesy of Hamilton Turner Inn
Completing the quartet is Hamilton-Turner Inn . Admire this elegant 1873 Second Empire mansion and its beautiful wrought-iron fence from the sidewalk or the square. With the installation of salon lights in 1883, it became the first residence in Savannah with electricity.
Day 2: EveningSpend the evening along the Savannah River in the northernmost section of the city, but put on flats before you set out to make walking on the cobbled sidewalks there a bit easier. Begin at Bay and Drayton streets (on Yamacraw Bluff) at the Savannah Cotton Exchange. The impressive size of this late 1880s building gives you a clue just how important cotton was to the city. Head one block west to City Hall. On your way you'll pass a small memorial with two cannons captured at Yorktown during the American Revolution; both date to the late 1750s and were a gift to the Chatham Artillery after President George Washington's visit to the city in 1791. City Hall , which opened in 1906, has sported a shiny gold-leaf dome since 1987.
flickr / CC BY SA/Ken Lund
Stairs, an outdoor elevator and ramps off Bay Street—including one at City Hall—lead down to Factors Walk , which lies on the middle level between Bay and River streets. In the 1800s cotton was a major export for the city, and Factors Walk developed when warehouses and offices for cotton brokers (factors) and other merchants were built. Iron and concrete pedestrian bridges connect the historic buildings to the bluff. Paths were cobbled from heavy stones used as ballast that were unloaded from ships coming into port.
Head down to the final level, which puts you on the lively and touristy River Street paralleling the Savannah River. This area hosts many of the city's special events, but it usually has a street festival feel on its own anyway. Local restaurants, shops and galleries occupy the magnificent multistory 19th-century buildings, which are actually just the other sides of the ones lining Factors Walk, but now you can see all the stories at once instead of just the two in view from Bay Street. River Street Market Place on the east end of River Street features open-air shopping with vendors selling jewelry, art, Savannah souvenirs and items from other countries.
For dinner, try River House Seafood & Bakery. You'll find a variety of seafood dishes on the menu, but you can also choose from filet mignon, sirloin, chicken Marsala and pork or veal chops. Take the hint in the restaurant's name and order a homemade dessert; the bakery menu is nearly as long as the dinner one!
Day 3: MorningAAA/Michael L. Camarano
Forsyth Park , on Gaston Street between Whitaker and Drayton streets, originated in the 1850s and remains an important part of the community. Joggers make good use of the walkways, and the vast fields attract picnickers and athletes alike. It's also where you'll finally find that extravagant two-tiered fountain you keep seeing on all the Savannah brochures. Water sprays outward from multiple points on the lower tier into a large pool, which is surrounded by a decorative wrought-iron fence.
Wikimedia Commons / CC BY SA/Elisa.rolle
Head north up Bull Street to Monterey Square, which boasts the nearly 55-foot-tall Italian marble monument honoring Gen. Count Casimir Pulaski's dedication to America's fight for freedom during the Revolutionary War. Across the square is Mercer Williams House Museum . The Civil War temporarily halted its construction, which had begun in 1860 for Gen. Hugh Mercer; it was finished around 1868, but by this time Mercer had sold it. A century later antique dealer and noted house restorer Jim Williams bought the vacant house and began to restore it. Most of the home's furnishings, which include furniture from the 18th- and 19th centuries, belonged to Williams.
You probably have time to only tour one more place in the morning, so if you're interested in religious history, tour Congregation Mickve Israel on the other side of the square. If you prefer historic homes, head north on Bull Street to Madison Square. Although the Jewish congregation dates back to the founding of Savannah, the current structure was built in the late 19th century. A docent will walk you through the sanctuary and museum.
Walk north up Bull Street a few blocks and just south of Madison Square you can't miss the 1892 brick Savannah Volunteer Guards Armory with its corner towers and multitude of arches and wrought-iron balconies. It now serves as SCAD's welcome center and houses the popular shopSCAD boutique that sells works and designs by students, faculty, staff and alumni.
The eye-catching early 1850s Green-Meldrim House —with its sandstone parapet, oriel windows and extensive iron filigree—coupled with the fact that it was Sherman's headquarters during the Union's occupation of Savannah makes this an ideal stop on your itinerary. Sherman telegraphed President Abraham Lincoln: “I beg to present you as a Christmas gift the city of Savannah….” Unlike Atlanta, Savannah was spared from great destruction during the war.
Day 3: AfternoonVenture toward the coast on your last afternoon to visit Bonaventure Cemetery and Fort Pulaski National Monument. You can stop for barbecue at Barnes Restaurant; the restaurant has been serving it up for 40 years.
flickr / CC BY/subherwal
Bonaventure Cemetery occupies the bluff above the Wilmington River. The long, Spanish moss-draped branches of live oaks rest above the old graves, many embellished with marble and granite statues. Stroll through the grounds to see the intricate carvings, engravings and statues up close. Angels, crosses and female figures are frequently represented in the artwork. Author Conrad Aiken's grave is one of the more unusual markers—his is an engraved bench instead of a headstone.
About 12 miles east stands Fort Pulaski National Monument . It was widely believed that this Confederate fort—surrounded by water and marsh and outfitted with extremely thick walls—was indestructible, which is why its 1862 surrender within only 30 hours after being attacked was so shocking. Thanks to the work of the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, the fort has been restored. The visitor center displays recovered objects, including uniforms, flags, bottles and personal items from the soldiers. As you tour the grounds, you might get to see a resident alligator in the moat.
Day 3: EveningCatch the 8 o'clock performance at the Savannah Theatre . Several productions headline each year and often feature popular music, including oldies and rock 'n' roll. The 1818 building is one more of William Jay's contributions to Savannah, but since its remodeling after a 1948 fire, it has had an Art Deco style.
After the show, stroll north up Drayton Street and over to Reynolds Square for dinner at The Olde Pink House . The late 1700s mansion boasts an elegant interior, but some diners prefer to take the stairs around the side of the building down to the cozier, darker and more intimate Planters Tavern, where a piano player performs nightly. Both spots offer the same menu.