Sunny autumn days are tailor-made for exploring the sights and delights of Georgia’s oldest city. History is an ever-present companion on the tour, offering an enriching experience during a wonderful weekend away.
By Karen Callaway
Photography By John O’Hagan
The tree-shaded streets of downtown Savannah are 22 pockets of perfectly manicured squares knit together, giving the illusion the town is one big patchwork park. Planned in detail by founder James Oglethorpe in 1733, the compact area is quite walkable, allowing visitors to enjoy the city at the same easy pace that the eponymous river flows by on its way to the Atlantic. Radiating from Forsyth Park with its oft-photographed fountain, the National Historic Landmark District is a montage of venerable buildings, each infused with a charm found only in this quintessential Southern gem. Savannah is a study in architecture, with Federal, Greek Revival, and more showcased in the businesses and residences lining the squares.
Among them are the home of Girl Scouts of America founder Juliette Gordon Low and the Mercer Williams House of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Secret gardens are tucked here and there, competing with the famed cemeteries for sheer loveliness. The riverfront still bustles—though the cotton warehouses have become restaurants, shops, and galleries.
Art plays a vital role in the community, as it’s home to the acclaimed Savannah College of Art and Design. Accommodations range from the Victorian Romanesque-style Mansion on Forsyth Park to quaint inns, all within walking distance of the historic district. And though the town is best explored on foot, no visit is complete without the clip-clop cadence of a horse-drawn carriage ride.
Four fabulous floors of timeworn treasures await at Alex Raskin Antiques. Located in the Noble Hardee Mansion, the shop offers everything from period furniture to architectural fragments and more. At Maison de Macarons, owners Amy Shippy and Laura Hale have built a loyal following with their irresistible cookies that start with silky-soft almond flour and end with a smile.
A true Savannah institution, Leopold’s Ice Cream has been scooping up pure delight since 1919 and still sports the original black-marble soda fountain. Candlelit tables, streetfront views, and Southern-inspired cuisine draw visitors and locals alike to Local 11ten. Be sure to visit the Tiffani Taylor Gallery to see the SCAD grad’s ethereal watercolor paintings, inspired by nature.
From shopping to dining to history lessons, Savannah offers endless options. Save the air fare, and tour the world at The Paris Market and Brocante, where the owners have collected amazing finds from their travels around the globe. At Satchel, you’ll fall in love with leather goods ranging from purses to guitar straps. Need a little fuel for your adventures? Pick up a pulled-pork sandwich from Wiley’s Championship BBQ or a slice of Chocolate S’more pie at Back in the Day Bakery. Or enjoy an alfresco meal of new Southern cuisine at The Olde Pink House. Goose Feathers Cafe offers a great lunch, but they also serve breakfast items all day.
And if you’d like a quiet respite from your busy day, the Gryphon Tea Room is the perfect spot. History buffs can drive under a canopy of live oaks to Wormsloe, a colonial-era estate, or learn about Savannah’s rich and storied past at Massie Heritage Center.
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