Diane McCray, innkeeper at Green Palm Inn bed and breakfast in downtown Savannah, believes that three words will describe Savannah, “Hostess City of the South” – jolly, generous, winsome.
It was literary great William Makepeace Thackeray, a house guest of Andrew Low, who captured the essence of the bustling port city with his description: “jolly, little, friendly Savannah”.
Diane loves and is well versed on the best things to do in downtown Savannah. However, to travel like a local the adventures weave within and beyond the 2+ miles of the Landmark Savannah Historic District. OFF THE BEATEN PATH EXPERIENCE.
Time and resources are precious, so I seek out and share what is predictably wonderful – Savannah’s authentic spots to soak up the local culture, sense of location, southern idioms, and customs. I encourage these:
(1) Walking in a new place! … where convening sidewalks and grassy knolls are likely to prompt you to linger as a southerner, moseying along, often with little sense of time.
Sure to make (2) a great first impression, from Green Palm Inn I point a straight path walk from Greene Square through Columbia Square to Telfair’s Owen-Thomas House on Oglethorpe Square. The mansion museum is not only a world-famous architectural masterpiece by the young English architect William Jay, but also a showplace of so many Savannah firsts.
For (3) a fresh view, “Gates of Savannah” introduces prized artisan workmanship and little known private gardens that quietly dot the historic district. It is not by chance that Savannah is called a “living museum”. Citizens join in preferred causes to constantly preserve and enrich this historically vibrant place.
A walk along Broughton Street is where I encourage guests to begin their (4) discovery of new tastes — a (5) new flavor at Leopold’s Ice Cream Shop, a (6) new martini at Jen’s and Friends, (7) new dessert at Lulu’s Chocolate Bar, a (8) new spices from Spice and Tea Exchange, or what is (9) freshest from the farm (and on the dinner menu) at Cha Bella.
For (10) a patriotic focus, walk north-to-south along Bull Street – the long “Avenue of Monuments” to Revolutionary War heroes – check out Washington’s Guns on Bay Street all the way to the overlooked little stone pedestal at the south end of Forsyth Park, commemorating the British evacuation in 1782.
(11) Pick up a café beverage in route and “sit a spell” in Forsyth Park. You’ll enjoy the grand park ambiance and one of the city’s iconic images – the majestic French fountain (ca. 1854).
The Civil War Sesquicentennial (2011-2015) offers (12) fresh stories along this Bull Street promenade. The Civil War-era publication, Harper’s Weekly, illustrated Rebel Women Crossing the Savannah River [west River Street], soldiers on parade at Bay Street in front of the U.S. Customs House, and fashionable palm décor in Union General Sherman’s headquarters at the Green-Meldrim House on Madison Square. Today’s private Oglethorpe Club, also confiscated for Union officers, and the Confederate Memorial are found at Forsyth Park.
(13) Genealogical buffs will want to seek out the Georgia Historical Society, located where Forsyth Park meets Whitaker Street at Gaston Street. The story-rich and photogenic (14) Bonaventure Cemetery is an ultimate destination when a peaceful setting is a priority and time permits. Instead of driving by way of the Island’s Expressway, I encourage city visitors to take the route along the palm-lined Victory Drive (U.S. Highway 80). It is the roadway of the Vanderbilt Cup‘s racing history and where stalwart palm trees honor Savannah’s war soldiers. The palms punctuate, too, the indigenous native trees in Savannah’s sub-tropical climate, and the City of Savannah’s devoted continual beautification that began centuries ago.
From Victory Drive, turn left onto Skidaway Road and then right at 36th Street, which merges right into Bonaventure Road. Lined with colonial-era Live Oak trees, Bonaventure Cemetery’s grand boulevard delivers a classic, southern plantation-style welcome that is breathtaking and picturesque. Soldiers, families, and celebrities (including Savannah-born songwriter Johnny Mercer and Pulitzer Prize writer Conrad Aiken), are laid to rest in the noble lands at Bonaventure.
Weaving through Georgia’s peaceful coastal marshes from Savannah, (15) Tybee Island is less than 20 minutes away. A daily, storybook sunset waits over the Atlantic Ocean horizon. On the left you’ll pass Fort Pulaski National Monument (a Civil War battlefield site and movie site in Robert Redford’s The Conspirator), the McQueen Island Rails-to-Trails running and biking path re-purposed from the old Savannah to Tybee railway, the Cockspur Island Lighthouse (unique with its base shaped like the prow of a ship), and (on the right) the character-rich shrimp boats at Lazaretto Creek.
Enjoy a laid back little beach town dinner at A.J.’s overlooking the river. Or, you’ll pinch yourself for seeking out the well-concealed, unassuming Sundae Café — a “don’t miss” for coastal fine dining. If you want to head back towards town instead, stop for lip smacking barbecue at Wiley’s Championship BBQ on Whitemarsh Island — only 10 minutes from downtown –before exploring “jolly, little, friendly Savannah” after dark.
Favorite Restaurants – Alligator Soul, Cha Bella, Lulu’s Chocolate Bar, Wiley’s Championship BBQ, and Sundae Café (Tybee Island)
Favorite Event – Savannah Music Festival — So much music. So many people. So much fun!
For more information about downtown Savannah, downtown lodging or more ideas about Savannah’s local culture, please contact us at Green Palm Inn bed and breakfast!
Green Palm Inn
YouTube Travel Video: “The Softer Side of Savannah”
548 East President Street, Savannah, GA USA 31401
Telephone 912-447-8901 / Toll Free USA & Canada 888-606-9510
greenpalminn.com | Twitter @GreenPalmInn | Facebook
Copyright (c) 2011 Green Palm Inn / Sandy Traub
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