A is for Art
Savannah is home to the oldest public art museum in the country, a world-renowned art and design school, and beaucoup boutique galleries featuring local artists. Telfair Museums, comprised of three distinct sites, offers a diverse menu of art. These include classic artwork at the Telfair Academy, which opened its doors in 1886; period furnishings in the lavish nineteenth-century Owens-Thomas House museum; and contemporary holdings at the sleek Jepson Center, designed by Moshe Safdie. A major player in Savannah’s preservation movement since its 1978 founding, Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) has restored dozens of historic downtown structures for its campus—most recently the former Central of Georgia Railway headquarters, which now houses the SCAD Museum of Art and its acclaimed contemporary art collection.
B is for Beer
Whether on a pubcrawl or by happy accident, you’re likely to discover Savannah’s growing love affair with great beer. Local favorite The Distillery keeps twenty-one craft brews on tap and ninety-nine bottled beers on the wall. The city is also home to two “buzz”-worthy microbreweries. Moon River Brewing Company brewpub pours beers available only in Savannah, and its 5,400-square-foot Beer Garden provides the ideal setting to imbibe. Established early in 2013, Southbound Brewing Company is the city’s first and only production microbrewery and welcomes visitors for tours. To truly understand the extent of Savannah’s oat soda obsession, make plans now to head down Labor Day weekend for the Savannah Craft Brew Fest, featuring 150-plus craft brews for tasting, beer seminars, a VIP area for the diehard beer geeks, and a cornhole tournament.
C is for City Market
An epicenter for shopping and socializing since the days following the city’s founding, the four-block City Market area exemplifies Savannah’s old-meets-new dichotomy. Located near the original market site, where farmers and traders once sold their crops and wares, its restored warehouses are now home to cool galleries, great restaurants, charming shops, and hip bars. The perfect place to gather with friends or simply take a stroll, City Market enchants with breezy live music, open-air cafes, working artists, and the must-visit cookie bar at Byrd Cookie Company.
D is for Dan
As in Savannah Dan. Complete with seersucker suit and bow tie, Savannah Dan is the epitome of Southern gentility and charm, and his walking tour through downtown Savannah is one of the city’s most popular. His personal history includes stints as a police officer and a radio host, and he brings a veteran detective’s eye and a morning deejay’s wit to his catchall tour of historic buildings, famous movie locations, and favorite local eateries.
E is for Epicurean
Foodies will be flocking to the city this November for the inaugural Savannah Food & Wine Festival. The gastronomic celebration will feature tastings, paired luncheons, a wine stroll along River Street, and a riverboat dinner cruise. Other highlights include a dinner with winemaker Rob Mondavi Jr. and a James Beard Foundation Celebrity Chef Tour with Steven Satterfield, Chris Hastings, and Hugh Acheson.
F is for Forsyth Park
The largest city park is a popular venue for concerts, nuptials, recreation, and people-watching. While you’re there, stop by the serene Flagrant Garden for the Blind, and enjoy a pretzel roll at the Forsyth Park Cafe, a refurbished fort. Be sure to toss a coin into the park’s iconic fountain.
G is for Guitars
Home to two internationally renowned guitar makers, Benedetto Guitars and Randy Wood Guitars, Savannah also welcomes some of the world’s greatest guitarists at two popular spring festivals: March’s Savannah Stopover, attracting indie rockers bound for Austin’s SXSW, and the world-class, cross-genre Savannah Music Festival.
H is for Honey
In just over a decade, the buzz surrounding Savannah Bee Company has grown to a roar. Today its specialty honeys show up in dishes at Savannah’s finest restaurants and in the confections of celebrated local chocolatier Adam Turoni. They’re even used in the treatment of wounds at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island. In addition to fine gourmet honeys (popular varietals include Orange Blossom, Tupelo, and Wildflower), visitors to the Wilmington Island showroom, the River Street shop, or the flagship store on Broughton Street (home of the must-try honey tasting bar) will find a new line of luxury body products—from lip balm to body butter—utilizing the natural healing power of beeswax and royal jelly.
I is for Ice Cream
Savannah recently took the top slot on Travel + Leisure‘s “America’s Best Cities for Ice Cream” list, and much of the credit goes to Leopold’s Ice Cream, established in 1919. Batches are made one at a time, and flavors range from classic tutti frutti to unexpected Guinness. Also a producer of blockbuster films, owner Stratton Leopold hired a set designer to bring a retro soda-fountain feel to the shop, which showcases his movie memorabilia.
J is for Juliette Gordon Low
Juliette “Daisy” Gordon Low founded the Girl Scouts of the USA in 1912 in Savannah. Today, Girl Scouts and Brownies from across the nation make the pilgrimage to the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace, the Andrew Low House, and the First Headquarters to learn about Daisy’s life and see family relics—including her original artwork. Craving Thin Mints? Girl Scout Cookies are available at the First Headquarters from February to July.
K is for Kosher
Savannah is home to the third-oldest Jewish congregation in the country, Congregation Mickve Israel, and their Gothic Revival–style temple on Monterey Square, open for tours year-round, houses the oldest Torah in America. For twenty-five years, they’ve hosted the popular Shalom Y’all Jewish Food Festival in Forsyth Park; this year’s is slated for October 29. The latkes are so good they’ll make you challah (sorry).
L is for Lighthouse
Known as Savannah’s Beach, Tybee Island lies just east of the city. It’s most recognizable landmark, the Tybee Island Light Station, has been guiding mariners into the Savannah River for 270 years and welcomes visitors to climb its 178 stairs and tour its lovingly restored support buildings.
M is for Moon River
Savannah’s Johnny Mercer won an Oscar to “Moon River” in 1961, prompting the city to rename an inlet in honor of the beloved ballad. The river flows past the Gullah/Geechee community of Pin Point, where Mercer listened to women singing the hymns as they shucked oysters. Today the oyster factory houses the Pin Point Heritage Museum, celebrating this unique community founded by freedmen.
N is for Nightlife
Revel in the city’s wonderfully eclectic bar scene—and its liberal open-container policy. Squeeze into Jen’s and Friends for one of 300 types of martinis, from basil lemonade to Rice Krispies treat. Duck into Pinkie Master’s, a legendary dive, where patrons from all walks of life rub elbows—and Jimmy Carter once danced on the bar. For something more upscale, try Circa 1875 or Rocks on the Roof, which also serves up outstanding views of the historic district.
O is for Olde Pink House
Along with Elizabeth on 37th and Garibaldi Cafe, this tango-pink paragon of Southern cuisine constitutes the trifecta of legendary Savannah fine-dining establishments. In recent years, the trio has been joined by a host of innovative upscale restaurants offering exciting menus showcasing local farm-to-fork ingredients. Standouts include Local 11ten, Cha Bella, A.lure, Noble Fare, and 22 Square at the Andaz Savannah hotel, known for its open-kitchen concept.
P is for Pooches
Savannah appreciates the bond between man and man’s best friend, and the pet set will find plenty of accommodations in the historic district, including the Azalea Inn & Gardens, the East Bay Inn, the Hamilton-Turner Inn, and the Thunderbird Inn. Most restaurants with alfresco dining allow dogs, and some offer doggie menus (try the puppy chow skillet at J. Christopher’s). Spoil your furry friend with gourmet dog treats and fashionable accessories from The Grateful Hound and Oliver Bentleys, then seek absolution for Fido’s gluttony at the dog-friendly Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.
Q is for Queens
Royal-watching takes on a completely different meaning in Savannah. Enjoy majestic views of the city from the balconies of the Savannah River Queen or the Georgia Queen, two stunning riverboats offering unforgettable dinner and entertainment cruises departing from River Street. Then head to Savannah’s famed gay nightspot Club One for a dazzling drag show featuring the queens of cabaret. On the first Saturday night of each month, the Lady Chablis, of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil fame, brings her legendary show to the club’s stage.
R is for River Street
Famous for its cobblestone street and spirited celebrations, the historic waterfront promenade is ideal for romantic strolls. Take time to visit River Street‘s many monuments, such as the famous Waving Girl statue, or find a balcony and watch cargo ships, the leviathans of the Savannah River, moving in and out of the harbor. The riverside strip is also ground zero for the city’s holiday festivals, the St. Patrick’s Day bash (the nation’s second largest) being the grandest of them all.
S is for Squares
General James Oglethorpe laid out Savannah, America’s first planned city, on a grid featuring wide streets and twenty-four public squares. Originally intended for military exercises, the remaining twenty-two squares now serve as live oak–canopied public space for monuments, picnics, and special events. From the squares, you can admire some of the city’s spectacular architecture. For a more in-depth exploration of the city’s many architecturally significant buildings, check out Architectural Savannah tours.
T is for Trolleys
Park the car and pocket your keys; Savannah is full of creative means of transportation. Trolley tours are a great way to get the lay of the land, and three companies offer a wide array of themed rides catering to history buffs, ghost hunters, Girl Scouts, and gourmands. Segway tours and fifteen-person bikes from Savannah Slow Ride offer eco-friendly ways to sightsee. You can also rent bicycles and mopeds or hop in a pedicab. The city’s DOT system offers outstanding fare-free transportation, including buses with stops throughout the historic district, a water ferry across the Savannah River, and a streetcar running the length of River Street.
U is for Under the Oaks
Live oaks draped in Spanish moss arch over historic Savannah, and the city has become synonymous with the grand trees. But during the colonial period, the city was surrounded by pine forests. Live oaks were imported from Georgia’s barrier islands. One of the most impressive avenues of oaks lines the mile-long driveway to Wormsloe Plantation. This state historic site twenty minutes from downtown was once the colonial estate of Noble Jones, who arrived in Georgia with James Oglethorpe and the first group of settlers. Wormsloe’s tabby ruin is the oldest standing structure in Savannah.
V is for Vinnie Van GoGo’s
City Market’s cash-only, NYC-style slice shop is one of Savannah’s many casual-dining gems. The operation is small and simple, and the pizza worth every penny. The internationally inspired sandwiches at Zunzi’s have made many foodie hot lists, and the popular lunch joint just opened a dine-in spot with a full bar. Wiley’s Championship BBQ is famous for its redneck nachos, and The Crab Shack on Tybee Island is renowned as the place “where the elite eat in their bare feet.” Satisfy your sweet tooth at Back in the Day Bakery (try the banana pudding).
W is for Window-Shopping
Barneys and Bergdorf don’t have anything on Broughton Street’s inspired window displays. From the quirky chic of The Paris Market to the bold pop of 24e, independent specialty stores set the bar on the bustling boutique-shopping avenue.
X is for X-Files
Savannah is regarded as one of America’s most haunted cities. If you’re game for a brush with the spirit world, sign on with Blue Orb Tours to explore sites of paranormal activity, or opt for the eerie beauty of Bonaventure Cemetery on an after-hours tour.
Y is for Year-Round
With mild temperatures throughout the year, Savannah is a great place for outdoor activities. Most any time, you’ll find boaters, canoers, and kayakers in the waterways, and golf courses and tennis courts stay open all year. The outstanding fall weather provides excellent conditions for runners who descend on the city for two favorite events: November’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Savannah Marathon and Half Marathon and the Savannah River Bridge Run in early December. And the time is always right for a beach stroll or bike ride in the easygoing coastal community of Tybee Island.
Z is for Zzzs
Legendary hospitality awaits guests of the city’s hotels, inns, and cottages. Here are our favorite places to catch some zzzs.
This jaw-dropping stunner of a boutique hotel sits on Ellis Square, in the middle of all the action. The design is sleek, the atmosphere relaxed, and the service top-notch. The hotel bar and restaurant are favorite spots for guests and locals alike.
Forsyth Park Inn
After a long day, retire to a rocking chair on the sweeping veranda of this circa 1893 Queen Anne Victorian mansion and watch people mosey about Forsyth Park. Not sure what’s sweeter: fourteen-foot ceilings and antique fireplaces or brownies at turndown.
In a former life, this historic mansion on Lafayette Square was the setting for wild parties documented in John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Today, you’ll rest easy in one of its luxurious suites, each named for a notable Savannahian.
Mansion on Forsyth Park
Consistently making the best lists of Travel + Leisure and Condé Nast Traveler, the Kessler Collection gem weds Gone With the Wind charm to high-style chic. The on-site restaurant and bar, 700 Drayton, also draws raves, as do the spa and cooking school.
The Marshall House
Built in 1856, The Marshall House is the oldest hotel in Savannah, but you certainly won’t want for modern conveniences. Original ceilings, moldings, and wrought-iron accents add elegance and character, and guest rooms are romantic—some even have claw-foot tubs!
Why get a room when you could have an entire beach to yourself? Mermaid Cottages rents properties throughout Tybee Island, ranging from one to six bedrooms. Each has its own colorful beach theme, and many are pet-friendly.
The Planters Inn Savannah
Facing Reynolds Square, the historic Planters Inn offers upscale accommodations in the heart of historic Savannah, as well as curated tour packages. And the butter on the biscuit: Room service is provided by The Olde Pink House across the street.
River Street Inn
Once a cotton warehouse, this historic inn spans a block on Savannah’s Riverfront. Guests are treated to a unique taste of yesterday, as well as all of the modern conveniences you’d expect.
Surf Song Bed & Breakfast
A recent addition to Tybee’s accommodations, this quaint 1890s home is all charm. Recently renovated, the house retains its pocket doors, tin ceilings, and fireplaces. Relax by the swimming pool, or walk a block to the beach.