Savannah: A Charming Southern Escape!
Savannah, Georgia is a charming Southern escape where art, period architecture, trendy boutiques and ghost stories are all set under a veil of Spanish moss. Savannah is a place where cuisine comes straight from the coast and cocktails are served at every meal.
By Anne & Les Heintz
Put Savannah on your “short list” of getaway weekends.
There’s a lot to love about Savannah. It is the oldest city in the state of Georgia and it has aged gracefully! It’s perfect for a weekend getaway or as a destination for those of you who want to ease back into travel.
First the basics.
While there are non-stop flights from many cities (including Metro DC), Savannah just feels like a driving destination. It’s an easy drive (4 hours or less) from Atlanta, Charlotte or the top half of Florida. It’s about 6-hours from south Florida. If you’re driving to or from the mid-Atlantic region, Savannah is a great stopover to break up a road-trip to the sunshine state.
That last option was our plan. We had been touring destinations in Florida for about 3-weeks. It made more sense to drive and we decided to explore Savannah on the way back to metro DC.
Our only regret about this visit is that we didn’t make it sooner! We loved the two days we spent in Savannah and already look forward to returning!
Savannah is often compared to Charleston, SC. While we think that’s a bit unfair to both destinations, we understand why it happens. Both are small historic cities in the southeast and embrace many of the same things… like good food, the arts and a relaxed southern hospitality.
We have been to Charleston twice and would say that Savannah is a laid-back version of Charleston. A hotelier we met said, “if Charleston is considered champagne, then Savannah would be beer.” We would like to say a nice craft beer at a minimum!
Savannah is the perfect destination for these strange times we are living through. It begs for its visitors to stay outdoors and absorb its natural beauty. Stroll, run or bike along picturesque cobblestone streets. See gardens and fountains and sit a spell under shady trees in 22 historic squares dotting the city. If walking is not your thing, let someone else do the navigating via a trolley, horse-drawn carriage or riverboat.
Simply put… there is something that feels so comfortable about the place. It is a community with deep roots and layers of nuance. It has a charm and grace that can easily captivate anyone walking on its cobblestone streets.
As an aside, it’s probably important at this point to say Savannah is not deserted. There are people here. It’s not packed with crowds but the tour buses, trolleys and horse drawn carriages are pretty full. We never felt uncomfortable. Everyone wore masks inside and about 50% outside.
Now back to the good stuff!
There are a slew of great hotel properties in Savannah that can accommodate a range of budgets. For this tour, we headquartered at the Perry Lane Hotel. It’s centrally located in the Downtown district. A wonderful choice that we would recommend to anyone.
The Perry Lane is part of Marriott’s Luxury Collection, but it very much feels like a fine independent hotel. There’s a lot to like here. The staff is warm, helpful and genuinely friendly. The arrival experience is easy and welcoming. The room product is southern contemporary, clean and very comfortable. It’s also a dog-friendly hotel, but not in an overbearing way.
The signature feature of The Perry Lane is its rooftop. It has a bar, restaurant and a great pool! The view from the rooftop is stellar. On a clear day you can see most of Savannah. This is a perfect location for a glass of champagne after a day of exploring!
When we travel to a new city, we tend spend a lot of time walking the neighborhoods. In our minds there is no better way to get a good feel for a place. Savannah is perfect for this approach. By far our favorite thing is all the green space. The squares and parks are absolutely stunning! Throw in a little Spanish moss, blooming azalea bushes, spraying fountain and you get our drift.
We briefly walked along the downtown river front. It is pretty touristy. We’re glad we saw it, but didn’t spend much time there.
Much better for us is the “Downtown Design District.” This area along Whitaker Street features a number of cute and eclectic shops where Anne did some damage!
Speaking of walking, a stroll through Forsyth Park is highly recommended. At 30 acres, Forsyth Park is Savannah’s largest and oldest public park. When you visit this area, you may want to stop at The Sentient Bean for a cup of coffee… at Café Collins Quarter for brunch outdoors… or at The Mansion on Forsyth Park for the experience.
The Mansion on Forsyth Park is probably one of the most unique hotels we have ever seen. It is an independent hotel owned and operated by The Kessler Collection. Like the rest of Kessler properties, The Mansion on Forsyth Park is full of wonderful artwork. It’s the kind of art you would expect from a cool contemporary gallery rather than in a stuffy museum.
While the entire property covers a block, the hotel has only 125 rooms. There are two buildings. The original mansion holds the restaurant, cooking school and trendy upstairs lounge, while the adjacent building houses the guest rooms and public areas.
Last but certainly not least are the essentials of life… food and drink! In this regard, there’s a lot of great choices in Savannah. We have a few worth mentioning.
We were drawn to Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room on Jones Street. It offers simple and traditional southern style fare. Having lived in Tennessee, we would call it a “meat and three” but the locals take issue with that. It’s only open for lunch and does a big carryout business.
Savannah has a ton of Irish Pubs. Our choice was Churchill’s on West Bay Street in the Downtown Historic District. They have a rooftop bar which was perfect on a sunny spring day. The food was outstanding and John the Bartender made one of the best Bloody Mary’s we’ve ever had. It featured a local mix along with bacon, cucumber, celery, lime, old bay and a shot of Guinness!
For dinner, there are multiple great options. Our best dinner was at Vics on the River near city hall. We would describe the cuisine as “contemporary low-country.” It was very good.
There are a lot of beautiful historic homes, mansions, monuments and museums to visit. The Savannah College of Art and Design or SCAD has taken over many of the older buildings, making sure to keep the integrity of their historic significance intact.
There is a sense of local pride, whether talking to someone in the arts community or chatting with a local boutique owner in the historic or warehouse district.
It’s been said that Savannah is a unique study in contrasts. The city seems to embody two characters at once: an old soul with a modern outlook, and worldly elegance with a creative edge. These rivaling identities energize the city, resulting in a sense that magic is around each corner. We’ll be back soon!
Anne and Les Heintz are Co-founders of TravelAnne.com. Anne is a Travel Advisor. Les is a television & media producer. They are based in Washington, DC and have been traveling the world since they met in high school more years ago than they care to admit. They can be reached at info@TravelAnne.com.
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