-- intro: Savannah takes its moniker, The Hostess City of the South, very seriously. The hospitality is palpable, and a pervasive friendliness reigns supreme. Throw in rich history, mouthwatering cuisine, creative libations and an innovative arts scene, and it’s no wonder this Georgia gem is a traveler mecca. Here are a few of our favorite things to do in Savannah.
Hunt for Ghosts, Bring the Kids The tour industry is alive and well in Savannah; if you’re a first-timer, it behooves you to consider any of the many themed, guided excursions through this colorful town. Ghost tours are popular, and we especially like the Savannah Ghost Show for its kid-friendliness. This is not merely a tour but more of a traveling theater combining elements of Savannah’s spooky past with family-friendly elements like pirate tales and magic tricks. The 7 p.m. “Catch a Ghost” tour covers a mile, lasts 75 minutes and is good for kids of all ages. The 9 p.m. “Bizarre Savannah” tour is best for ages 8 and up.
Skip the Walk, Hop On Cool Savannah Tours does ghost tours -- like their Hunted Pub Walking Tour -- for an older crowd. But we like it for its adventures by horse-drawn carriage. Private tours for two last 50 minutes and are fully customized -- from where you’re picked up and dropped off to the attractions you visit along the way. Offered year-round, the cost is $115 (or $105, if you reserve online).
Skip the Sweet Tea, Sip on Martinis text: Sipping that famous sweet tea on a lovely Savannah afternoon is a must. But if you want to give your taste buds a jolt, consider the Martini Tour. Put on by the folks at Savannah Movie Tours (which, naturally, is popular for its twice-a-day treks through Savannah sights that have been featured on the silver screen), this 90-minute libation adventure explores the cocktail that became a popular local sipper during Prohibition. The colorful tour is intimate -- limited to 10 people -- and includes plenty of
After Tasting River Street, Visit the Market River Street is a bustling hot spot and a glittering array of coastal-inspired culinary options -- from chic restaurants to slick pubs -- along the sweeping Savannah River. But be sure also to take in the tastes and aromas of City Market -- a cultural epicenter in this city that’s been a hubbub of social activity for 300 years. This is a four-block area, adjacent to Ellis Square, that features beautifully restored storefronts and warehouses, as well as a handful of great eats. Vinnie Van Go-Go’s gets high marks for its loaded pizzas, while Pie Society, a traditional British bakery, draws crowds with its wide selection of made-from-scratch quiches and pies. media:
Skip Town, Head to the Beach A day trip to Tybee Island is a must, and it’s easy because it is less than 20 miles from downtown Savannah. There’s a museum there, with artifacts spanning more than 400 years, a wonderful marine science center and a light station you can climb -- the first lighthouse ever built on the south Atlantic coast. But a visit here is mainly about the sandy beaches and that salty air, plus some beautiful seaside vistas. Keep your eye out for bottlenose dolphins.
Skip the Hotel Gym, Hit the Course text: OK, maybe golf isn’t the most heart-pumping sport. But there’s no denying it’s a growing movement throughout Georgia. The Georgia Golf Trail links close to 20 championship golf courses throughout the state and two of the best are based in Savannah. The Club at Savannah Harbor and Savannah Quarters Country Club both feature sweeping views and 18 challenging holes.
Leave the Hotel, Go to a House text: There’s a bevy of old, historic houses in Savannah that offer a genuine historic snapshot. Visit any of these to experience classic architecture, extraordinary furnishings and colorful stories of Savannah’s past. Davenport House dates back to the early 1800s and marks the beginning of this city’s preservation movement. It’s been a museum for more than 50 years and offers a variety of living history programs. The stately Owens-Thomas House was built in 1819 and is a pristine example of English Regency architecture, inspired by England’s King George IV. The tour of this estate begins at the original slave quarters and includes glimpses of an impressive arts collection and lovely gardens.
Skip the Museum, Visit the Fort text: For their sheer historic relevance, the museums in Savannah are a must. There is an extensive collection of ship models and antiques at the Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum and there are locomotive cab rides at the Georgia State Railroad Museum. A visit to Fort Pulaski, though, is a real throwback. Located on Cockspur Island, about 20 minutes east of Savannah, the Union’s successful test of a rifled cannon here during the Civil War is seen as a significant turning point in the country’s military history. This is a National Landmark that features trails and plenty of wildlife viewing, and it draws history buffs with its various interpretive programs.
Gabe Saglie is Senior Editor for Travelzoo, which features many New Orleans travel and entertainment deals, along with travel tips, here: http://www.travelzoo.com/destinations/new_orleans/.