You have only a few days but want a quick getaway … consider Savannah, Georgia.
This riverfront city is old in history and tradition, but new and modern in visitor attributes.
If your idea of a quick getaway includes more dining out and relaxation than sightseeing, Savannah is a good destination.
Since our last visit to the city many years ago, Savannah’s lodging offerings have greatly expanded to include a multitude of new hotels, bed and breakfast inns and even a golf and spa resort. There is also an International Trade & Convention Center.
The city’s culinary choices have also mushroomed. (See accompanying feature)
If you stay downtown, even during a short stay, you can combine relaxation with sightseeing.
Our stay at the new Indigo Hotel on Bay Street put us within walking distance of a myriad of attractions, some of which shouldn’t be missed even on a short visit.
We climbed down the very steep and historic stone steps from Bay Street to River Street. This enabled us to access the riverfront by just crossing the street from the hotel.
We meandered down along the old stone streets peeking into the shops and restaurants.
Then we turned our attention to the riverfront and quickly realized the more things change the more they stay the same.
Docked along this street is Savannah’s riverboat which offers tours and dining experience while the riverboat cruises the harbor. Also in this area is a large monument honoring the service of many area citizens in many different military conflicts.
You can also wander into the city’s famous sweet shop, River Street Sweets and purchase some of their “World Famous handmade Pralines” to munch on while you walk the area.
Once you want to return to Bay Street you don’t have to climb back up the historic steps, but rather take an elevator up which is located behind the River Street
Visitors Information Center. Also in this area is City Hall, U.S. Customs House.
Located in the 300 Block East River Street (at the Lincoln Street Ramp) are Factors Walk, The Waving Girl and the Olympic Caldron and the African-American Family Monument.
Those so inclined can view the city by open tour bus or in private horse-driven carriage.
There are public, private, Savannah Ghost and Moonlight and Roses tours.
But our favorite way to tour a beautiful and historic city like Savannah is to drive our own car until we reach an area we want to explore, find a place to park and do so on foot.
Choosing one place to explore was difficult in the Historic District because there are more than 20 green squares (parks) which have public access. Lafayette Square is anchored in one corner (at Liberty and Abercorn Streets) by the magnificent Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.
So many of Historic District’s squares are really lush green spaces which seemingly also function as front yards for the beautifully restored mansions which surround them.
We stopped near the elegant Hamilton-Turner Inn which is nestled among magnolias and large live oak trees.
Even in this residential area there are quaint shops, restaurants and other lodging locations.
Exiting the Hamilton-Turner Inn were a young honeymoon couple from Chicago who hopped into a private open carriage for their own tour of the city. As they pulled away a large tour bus came around the corner and its guide enumerated the highlights of the area. As that bus departed a private Uber vehicle pulled up.
The Uber was for an inn visitor from California who had just completed her own short stay in Savannah. “After I dropped my daughter at college at Ole Miss for her freshman year, I decided to detour here before flying to New York,’’ she said. “I had a wonderful stay here at the inn. I liked everything about this bed and breakfast. The accommodations were excellent as were the extras they offered. It was so welcoming and comfortable affording me time to be on my own with opportunities to sightsee, continued the Bed and Breakfast guest.”
After exploring Lafayette Square area we got back into our car and followed Abercorn toward mid-town to experience quite a few interesting neighborhoods.
When you reach 73rd Street there are strip shopping centers with the usual chain restaurants and shops, but if you veer off onto some short streets and alley ways there are hidden gems to discover such as large globe painted to look like planet Earth which in its former life when it was constructed in 1956, was used as a natural gas storage tank by the Savannah Gas Company.
According to Roadside America, R.E. Turner, Jr. (Ted Turner of Cable News and Chattanooga history) father talked the gas company into painting the container like a globe. It is no longer functioning as storage tank and its new owners had it painted to resemble earth as seen from space.
Its location (one block south of Derenne Street at the corner of White Bluff Road) has now become a tourist destination in that visitors like to pose in front of the globe.
Note: Roadside America also mentions other offbeat places in Savannah to visit, such as Forrest Gump’s Bench and the sculpture the “Home of the Atom Smashers,” both just a few miles away.
Easier to visit and just across the street from the globe is Amusement Sales & Service Company which for more than 45 years has offered one of the largest selections of Juke Boxes, Video games, Pinball ball and Pool tables in the Southeast.
The selection within the store alone is extensive with even more readily available. Also within the shop’s complex is large offering of college and university memorabilia perfect for home game rooms. “Not only is it Savannah’s toy store for big kids’’ it is the repository for items no longer generally available.
“We sell new, refurnished and collector items,” said Jim Siskin, a former Chattanoogan and store owner.
So if you find yourself in mid-town Savannah, check out this site which is located at 5500 White Bluff Road. Just look for the Big Globe.
For Your Information:
Hotel Indigo, 201 West Bay Street, hotelindigo.com/savannah, (912) 236-4440. This hotel just opened in March. It was formerly another lodging facility (former Inn at Ellis Square) which has been totally remodeled in the style of a boutique, sleek and contemporary accommodation in a great location in the city’s Historic District.
Secure parking is available for additional charge. The chain’s motto is “Travel like an explorer. Stay like a local.” You definitely can do that from this property. The entire staff was friendly and helpful.
There is a full restaurant and bar on site.
There are other similar accommodations downtown including the Bohemian Hotel, Cotton Sail and The Brice.
There are Visitor Centers throughout the city and surrounding area, including one at 101 E. Bay Street and 1 W. River Street.
Official Visit Savannah Information Center
301 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Savannah, GA 31401
Hours 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily.