Savannah: The downtown renaissance that SCAD built

The art school sparked a cultural resurgence. Plus: What’s best in town
Photograph by Chia Chong, courtesy of SCAD

Savannah boasts a rich conglomeration of talented, tattoo-bedecked art students; driven professionals; and the good ol’ boys (and girls) whose families have been around since General Oglethorpe settled here in the 1730s. Now vibrant and energetic, the Hostess City had become sleepy and rundown by 1978, when Savannah College of Art and Design was founded. The art school sparked a resurgence in downtown Savannah, repurposing both mansions and abandoned strip malls into academic halls and dorms. Now many of the local businesses downtown tie their success back to SCAD.

In Savannah, you can window-shop under a delicate canopy of Spanish moss between classes, or get your reading done before a pickup soccer game at Forsyth Park. Every fall, rub elbows with the city’s elite and national celebrities at SCAD’s Savannah Film Festival while you grab a to-go cup for your mint julep. Or check out Tybee Island, a beach town freckled with sea salt–coated, wind-worn cottages—it’s only a twenty-five-minute drive from downtown. ­

Coffee shop for studying
Gallery Espresso
Decorated with well-worn armchairs and big wooden tables, the cafe is adjacent to Chippewa Square (where Forrest Gump was shot) and is an ideal place to work solo or tackle a group project. 234 Bull Street, 912-233-5348

Coffee shop for coffee
Foxy Loxy
Find quality coffee, comfy couches, and half-price wine bottles and s’mores around the fire pit on Saturday nights. Also: kolaches. 1919 Bull Street, 912-401-0543

B. Matthew’s Eatery
It can be a destination for both fancy spring brunch or just some post-partying scrambled eggs and bacon. 325 East Bay Street, 912-233-1319

Dinner—when your parents pay
The Olde Pink House
Tucked next to the historic Planters Inn, this is a local special-occasion favorite and a draw for out-of-towners. 23 Abercorn Street, 912-232-4286

Dinner—when you’re paying
Moon River Brewing Company
The name Moon River may remind you of Savannah native Johnny Mercer’s beloved Breakfast at Tiffany’s theme, but owners Eugene Beeco and John Pinkerton based the name on fire and water elements. Regardless, it has great food—and it’s the only bar in town that brews its own beer. 21 West Bay Street, 912-447-0943

Campus dive bar
Pinkie Master’s Lounge
Nothing good ever happens after 2 a.m. Unless you somehow end up at Pinkie Master’s—then you know it’s been a great night. 318 Drayton Street, 912-238-0447

Savannah must-do
Sixth Sense Savannah Ghost Tours
Savannah’s considered to be one of the most haunted cities in America. Take the late-night tour to find out why. 404 Abercorn Street, 912-292-0960

Essential place to take friends when they come to visit
The Lucas Theatre and Leopold’s Ice Cream
Catch an old movie at the posh and painstakingly restored Lucas, then pop around the corner for a cone of homemade rum bisque or butter pecan. 32 Abercorn Street, 912-525-5040; 212 East Broughton Street, 912-234-4442