Searching for your next great adventure? This Sweet July series taps top travel enthusiasts to share first-hand insight into their ventures across the country and world, so you know exactly what to expect and how to prepare once you book your ticket. Wishing you safe—and sweet—travels!
Today: Andrea Bossi shares her top tips for vacationing in Savannah.
Since moving to New York City, I’ve constantly received the same travel recommendation: “Go to Savannah,” people always said. No, it’s not classic Paris or a clear-water island paradise, but it’s a beautiful and charming place, they claimed.
I learned of Savannah’s “charm” firsthand when I stumbled into Forsyth, the city’s main park, at golden hour. Moss on live oak trees gave each branch a halo. The scene felt like it could be in some enchanted movie or mystical otherworld.
Savannah in a lot of ways feels like many other metropolitan areas—there will be glitz downtown—but the surrounding area has factories, farms and dinky gas stations with better prices than anything in the city limits. Once you’re in, you’re in: signs by historic stairways read “climb at your own risk.” Tour buses chug in between traffic. SCAD students meander with weighty backpacks. Characters perform or lounge in the city’s 22 historic squares. Kids try not to let their ice cream drip. I wandered and explored for three days.
I knew this would be a destination for weddings and adventure-seekers, but I also want to point out that it can be a retreat for anyone seeking refuge from the bustle of a city. Things move slower. People don’t rush to a red light. Cars will wait for you to cross instead of almost graze you at a crosswalk.
If Savannah, Georgia is on your travel list, check out these recommendations to help maximize your experience.
FOR A BUDGET:
Collins Quarter is a popular spot that’s great for brunch and boasts an all-day breakfast meal. Though the line is long, it moves fast. It’s also worth mentioning the hidden gem around the corner: Fox and Fig, a plant-based cafe with the most decadent maple buns, fresh coffee, and an array of delicious lunch options. I fell in love with the pastry assortment and vegan burgers. Nearby, Fire Street is a relaxed spot for a midday meal, especially if you like teriyaki.
If we’re talking Savannah, then we’re also talking sweets. Savannah Candy Kitchen immediately entices any visitor with the savory smell of freshly made fudge. Candied apples line the display, looking like they were plucked right from Snow White. Truffles dot trays in the window while thick peanut butter cups are hoisted alongside them. Byrd’s Famous Cookies also has some delectable treats on the river—get the key lime cooler cookies. For frozen delights, Leopold’s Ice Cream is the destination.
Candied apples at Savannah Candy Kitchen
FOR A SPLURGE:
Check out Cha Bella, which boasts a woody ambiance, farm-to-table ethos and main dishes like shrimp risotto and prime ribeye. The Olde Pink House also serves an upscale and savory dinner under gleaming chandeliers in a colonial mansion that used to be a bank.
I couldn’t forget the cocktails! Myrtle & Rose is a rooftop bar on the JW Marriott Hotel with some of the most scenic views in Savannah. This alone makes it worth it, though the drinks are tasty, too. But the absolute highlight is Peacock Lounge, a speakeasy tucked away under an unassuming Asian fusion restaurant named Flok to the Wok. After descending into the space, you’re transported from Savannah to some timeless, windowless room with low, red lighting and mixologists ready to craft something new and off-menu.
*I’d recommend staying in the historic district, since it’s so central. Then, pick based on budget.
FOR A BUDGET:
If you’re looking for something bare bones at the lowest prices, stay at the Quality Inn, Best Western, DoubleTree by Hilton, or Holiday Inn in the Historic District. Many will offer the basics in addition to continental breakfast.
SOMEWHERE IN BETWEEN A BUDGET AND A SPLURGE:
For something more in the middle, look to The Grant, Hyatt Regency, Andaz or East Bay Inn.
FOR A SPLURGE:
If you’re ready to splurge and want a heaping taste of Southern hospitality, stay at the Drayton Hotel, the Bohemian Hotel (it has a great rooftop bar!), or the Perry Lane Hotel. These will be the pinnacle of luxury in Savannah along with other perks like fabulous restaurants and bars in the same building.
FOR ALL BUDGETS
I’m a relaxed kind of traveler, versus someone who needs an itinerary, so I went to Savannah with a list of activities and stayed flexible. If you like art, visit the SCAD Museum of Art, which had incredible collections of Chase Hall and recent alumni work. The Jepson Center is another art museum in the city with captivating architecture and interactive exhibits for children. Adjacent sits the Telfair Museum, which hosts 19th- and 20th-century American and European art.
SCAD Museum of Art
E Shaver Booksellers
For shopping, you can meander down River Street or Broughton Street for tourist shops and chains like H&M, Urban Outfitters and Bluemercury. Or, you could go to the cooler stores that tend to be boutiques and independent spots. Any sneakerhead will appreciate HallofSneakz, which keeps a tight curation of the hottest shoes out. E Shaver Booksellers is a quirky bookstore with new and classic titles that feels like a maze of pages (in the best way). You’ll also find cats hanging out in the store. Copper Penny is a colorful boutique with labels like Farm Rio and Tanya Taylor, while House of Strut does a fun vibe with vintage.
The bus tours can be nice, but aren’t necessary. The Savannah Riverboat Cruise isn’t a must-do, for example, but I think it offers some interesting context of the city—how it came to be, where it got its money and what led to its luster.
What To Pack
As beautiful as the city may appear, the heat is sweltering. It wasn’t rare to pass a fellow tourist who had mercilessly lost yesterday’s bout with the sun. Pack lots of sunscreen for your face and body. For a glowy finish with no whitecast, I’d recommend the face cream and body spray from Cay Skin, Vacation’s whipped cream body sunscreen, and Peter Thomas Roth’s formula. Pro tip: don’t forget to apply it on your feet if wearing open-toed shoes.
Also consider throwing a hat or two in your suitcase, either baseball, bucket or something seasonal (like this raffia hat).
If you love walking, I’d recommend very comfortable shoes. Plenty of sidewalks are made with uneven bricks that’d gobble a stiletto or make you regret the wrong footwear. I wore Sperry boat shoes and Vionic heels—neither left me with blisters across three days with over 10,000 steps each.
Clothing style in Savannah seems to vary from faded t-shirt outfits to Southern belle and weekend chic. Plus, with the creative force of SCAD students, there’s always the possibility of a magnificent wild card. So, pack the clothes that align best with your style. If how you’re dressed stands out, use it as an opportunity to tell people who you are and where you’re from.