The Beginner’s Guide to Savannah, Georgia
Savannah, Georgia is hauntingly beautiful.
It’s so charming, I am flabbergasted it’s not raved about more… by everyone.
Is Savannah the South’s best kept secret? I would argue so.
I spent about a month there, drifting through downtown like a wide-eyed tourist. I was hopelessly enamored with the Spanish moss wafting gracefully from the live oak trees, the cobblestone streets, the ornate crumbling buildings, the chic bars and incredible seafood, the friendly people, and the 22 city squares. (Monterey Square was my favorite.) Savannah, Georgia feels like a tiny Barcelona.
I visited Asheville and Charleston, but Savannah was my favorite, hands down. Unlike the former, Savannah a bit more grit and a touch more soul. It is real and lived in and interesting beyond downtown.
I was surprised to fall in love with Savannah, Georgia because I am not a southern girl by any definition of the word. I am from Cincinnati and lived in Maryland before I did my time in Texas (at least that’s how it felt when I was forced to move there at 12). After I left Texas, I never imagined myself seeking out southern cities. But in October of 2016, we moved into our newly remodeled Airstream and immediately realized it was too cold to go north as planned. We started scoping out southern cities. After reading Jamie Beck’s raving reviews of Savannah on Ann Street Studio, I realized I needed a more open mind.
I’m so glad I shook off my preconceptions of the South and found Savannah.
Savannah, Georgia is a college town and SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) owns tons of buildings downtown, all lovingly restored to their former glory by staff and students. In fact, one of my favorite restaurants, Gryphon, was designed by SCAD students.
I cannot praise Gryphon enough, both for its food and for its character. As a former pharmacy, it has all the vintage cues that will make it impossible to put your camera down, but you should do so long enough to try the Asian-marinated salmon (with Moroccan-spiced couscous, spinach, mandarin oranges, toasted almonds, Kalamata olives, red curry sauce and lobster aioli). The Indian spice chai was delicious and would be perfect for an afternoon spent munching on scones with Devonshire cream and jam. It all sounds very fussy, but Savannah doesn’t roll that way. It’s not a style-over-substance place — it’s both.
My second recommendation is the impossibly chic cocktail bar Artillery, also downtown. Located in a building circa 1896 that housed — you guessed it — artillery, I recommend you order the Bit of a Pickle.
If you’re craving Southern food and you love sharing, head to Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room for a family-style dinner with all your cheat-day favorites like fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, potatoes, and gravy.
To walk off some of those carbs, head to the riverfront before sunset and watch the boats flow in and out of the harbor. (Wear comfortable shoes, as the streets are cobblestone.) The shops on River Street are hopelessly touristy and tacky, so don’t waste your time.
Instead, head to Shop SCAD for inventive art, jewelry, and clothing created by students.
Outside of downtown, Green Truck Neighborhood Pub has one of the best veggie burgers I’ve ever tasted. It’s a tiny place that fills up fast at meal times, so get there early.
Venture out to Tybee Island for solitude, wind-swept beaches, and marshland. Pretend you’re Jane Eyre if you like. The landscape has a gothic vibe. In fact, all of Savannah feels like one big period drama. Whether you want to pretend you’re in a Twain, a Hemingway, or even a Grisham (yes, I realize none of those authors wrote from Savannah), you can escape into the city and feel like you’re in another world.
Here are my favorite places in Savannah:
SCAD & Downtown
In my next post, I’ll tell you all about the charming farm and campground that was my home for a month in Savannah. Stay tuned…