Tybee Island and Savannah are inextricably linked, and for one obvious reason – if you want to get to Tybee, you need to travel through Savannah first. Or, at least, you should.
There is no town quite like Savannah. With an eccentric and sometimes dark past, Savannah draws tourists from all across the globe to its oak-lined streets each year. Today, the town is an eclectic mix of young creatives and a community intent on preserving its colorful heritage.
Visit: Savannah’s Historic District covers over two square miles and whether by foot, trolley, or carriage ride, it’s worth exploring every inch.
Taking a trolley ride with Old Savannah Tours is a fast and easy way to get acquainted with the city. If you’re short on time, hop on the Historic Overview tour, which introduces you to Savannah’s many historic sites in just 90 minutes.
Telfair Museums, the oldest public museum in the Southeast, offers something for everyone. Fans of contemporary art can visit the Jepson Center, an imposing modern structure that plays host to the Pulse Art and Technology Fest every year. Telfair Academy houses an impressive painting collection with works by Robert Henri and Childe Hassam. Buying a full pass to Telfair Museums also includes a stop at the Owens Thomas House, a grand mansion that’s considered one of the best examples of English Regency architecture in the country.
Savannah has many stories to tell, and not all of them are family-friendly. The city has been named the most haunted in the United States on several occasions, and if you take a ghost tour through Savannah, you’ll begin to understand why. For one of the best ghost tours in town, book with Blue Orb Tours. The guides at Blue Orb aren’t just out to spook you with tall tales or rumors, but with historical facts – after all, the truth is just as frightening in Savannah. Ask for a tour with Topher.
In 1994, author John Berendt published Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, a book centered on a Savannah murder and the town’s eccentric residents. The book was an instant bestseller, and Savannah saw a massive influx of visitors. In order to see where this infamous murder took place, take a tour through the Mercer House on Monterey Square.
Perhaps Savannah’s most visited green space is Forsyth Park, the largest park in the Historic District. Walk from north to south down the oak-lined promenade, passing the famous Forsyth Fountain and Confederate Monument. The scenic Victorian District flanks the southwest side of Forsyth, and on Saturday mornings, Forsyth Farmers Market sets up shop at the southern end of the park.
Interested in shopping? Head north towards the river to Broughton Street, a well-traveled road that is home to many stores. While visitors can find several major retailers, a visit to Broughton would be amiss without a stop at locally-run Prospector Co. and Paris Market. Prospector Co. offers everything from specialty shave products for men (made right here in Georgia) to home goods and high-end apparel. Paris Market is a one-of-a-kind shop that carries leather goods and illustrations by talented Savannah artists.
While shopping on Broughton Street, grab a drink at Coffee Fox. The small coffee shop serves a signature blend from PERC, a local coffee roaster, along with other single origin varieties, and their horchata latte can’t be beat. Coffee Fox is also one of the few places in Savannah that offers pour-over coffee.
Eat: Thanks to a bestselling cookbook and a reputation for serving delicious desserts, Back in the Day Bakery is pretty famous. It’s also a must-see when visiting Savannah. Stop by for a cinnamon roll in the morning or a ham and swiss sandwich, served on fresh baked bread, at lunch. Back in the Day’s bourbon bread pudding, old fashioned cupcakes, or chocolate chip cookies can satisfy any sweet tooth.
Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room has been a Savannah cornerstone for over 70 years, and it’s likely the menu hasn’t changed much in that time. The lunch-only spot serves home cooked meals communal-style: fried chicken, meatloaf, turnip greens, banana pudding, and everything else imaginable. Wash your meal down with sweet tea for a strictly Southern experience.
For dinner, head to Midtown for the best burgers in Savannah. Open Tuesday through Saturday for lunch and dinner, Green Truck Pub prides itself in serving fare from local farms. Most sauces and dressings, including their ketchup, are made in house, and the restaurant even serves vegetables grown just a few feet away in their backyard garden. Everything is fresh, no-frills, and full of flavor. If you order fries, ask for their housemade ranch on the side.
Locals and tourists enjoy visiting the 22 Square Bar for a nightcap, located in the Andaz hotel on Ellis Square. The bartenders know their stuff when it comes to both classic and modern cocktails. For whiskey drinkers, try 22 Square’s East of Hudson, the bar’s award-winning take on the Manhattan. For something a little lighter, the West to South features gin, Jack Rudy tonic, rosemary, and herb bitters.
Stay: Hotels line the busy stretch between Broughton and River Street, but I suggest staying off the beaten path and on one of Savannah’s many squares instead.
The smallest house in Savannah also happens to be a vacation rental on Greene Square. Built in 1845, it’s a quaint, affordable, and pet-friendly choice. The home is an ideal getaway for one couple or a small family.
Facing Lafayette Square is the Hamilton-Turner Inn, a grand residence that was the first home in Savannah to have electricity. Joe Odom, of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil fame, used to throw raucous parties at the home when he was in charge of managing the property. The mansion was almost converted into a Midnight-themed restaurant in the 1990s before it was purchased and converted into an inn. Nowadays, parties thrown at Hamilton-Turner are a little less rowdy, and the inn offers an elegant escape right in the heart of historic Savannah.