I booked an impromptu trip to this coastal city in Georgia for two reasons: history and architecture. I was not disappointed. I expected to be charmed by Savannah, and I was right!
Before we get to my favorite things in Savannah, let’s talk about the trip’s details.
- Traveler: Heather
- When: June 26–July 4, 2021
- Duration: 9 days
- Flights: American Airlines — Fort Wayne, Indiana, to Savannah, Georgia, one stop in Charlotte, North Carolina
- Solo trip
- Vacation/Working remote
- Public transportation only
- Carry-on luggage, no checked bags
- Airbnb: Owned by a resident; I stayed in a guest suite in their home (shared space)
- Pros: Savannah is beautiful.
- Cons: It is hot and humid in late June. Very. Humid.
- Conclusion: I loved it but would return in the winter.
I flew from my home airport and was routed through Charlotte with what was supposed to be a pretty quick connection. Instead, I ended up on a delayed flight and spent one night in Charlotte. I was happy to have a night to check out the town. I wish I had asked for a hotel voucher from the airline earlier in the day as I had seven hours in the airport. Note: If the flight is delayed more than four hours and you have some flexibility, you might as well ask for the first flight the following day. Be nice to the desk agents, and they will take care of you. They put me up in a nearby hotel, and I took an Uber to a restaurant a friend had told me about where I had a lovely dinner.
The next day I arrived in Savannah and was chagrined to find out that the free bus I had planned to take from the airport to downtown stopped running early, so I ended up taking an Uber. I had a great driver; he became my first introduction to Savannah and the first part of my Savannah stories. I encourage you to read more about the characters I met in Savannah, for they truly made my trip.
I was dropped off at my Airbnb, which sat at the far west edge of downtown; from my place to the river was exactly two miles. The house was a huge old Victorian that a couple from California bought and are in the process of restoring. I had my own room, a mini-suite with a small, charming living room and a bedroom. I also had my own bathroom down the hall, across from the host’s bedroom. I’ve done shared-space Airbnbs before, but I never felt super relaxed in this one. I think being there for seven nights and working remotely made me a bit uncomfortable. I thought the couple would be gone more, but they were home often during the day. They just had a VIBE.
That being said, the room was comfy and lovely, and overall it was an uneventful stay, except the day that they were moving a five-foot-tall gun safe up the stairs with five guys. That’s also in the Savannah story.
Here are my favorite things from Savannah!
Food in Savannah
OK. Here is the deal. I am not a food person. It’s annoying, I know. I travel and write and hardly ever talk about food — unless it’s desserts and a drink. But I found some great gems in Savannah.
The Vault: I was staying right off Bull Street and wandered past this place and thought, “That looks interesting.” It has 4.6 stars and a bunch of articles written about it. So I walked in around 4:30 and got a seat at the bar. The drinks, the food, the service and the atmosphere were wonderful. I’m pretty sure you need reservations at almost any time; I got lucky.
Squirrel’s Pizza: Also on Bull Street. Just damn good pizza and beer. I loved all the portraits of squirrels on the walls.
Bull Street Taco: I ate here multiple times. It was close by and had GREAT food. I loved the outdoor seating area, and the margaritas were delicious!
Hop Atomica: I took an Uber to this little brewery. It was just too hot for more walking this evening. I had pizza that was fine, but the beers were excellent. And the flight glasses were SO cute. I would go again just for the ambiance and pretty glassware. They also have a large outdoor patio area.
Foxy Loxy: This fun little coffeehouse had a great back patio where I did a little work. Emphasis on little. Sitting and watching the residents and the koi fish was excellent. Lush and shaded, it’s the perfect spot for sipping coffee or wine.
Blue Door: My favorite little place to pop in. I loved the owner, who was usually out having a smoke first thing in the morning. The interior is an homage to 80s pop culture, and each room is decorated differently. One room is ALL Star Wars. The bathroom is all comics. Great little sandwiches and coffee. LGBTQ welcoming!
HUSK: This was my one fancy pick, and again, I wandered in. I stagger my eating schedule so I’m not eating at busy times, which means I can usually get into busy places. I didn’t have luck at The Olde Pink House, but I walked right into HUSK and got a seat at the bar. I have some stories from HUSK, but the food was only OK. For the price, I expected both better and more. The cocktails were good, and I left with a pretty solid buzz for my ghost tour.
Squares of Savannah
Savannah was built with an urban plan called the Oglethorpe plan. James Oglethorpe founded the Georgia colony and Savannah. According to Wikipedia: “At the heart of Oglethorpe’s comprehensive and multi-faceted plan, there was a vision of social equity and civic virtue. The mechanisms supporting that vision, including yeoman governance, equitable land allocation, stable land tenure, prohibition of slavery, and secular administration, were among the ideas debated during the British Enlightenment.”
The city was originally laid out in a series of “wards,” which included homes, businesses and agricultural spaces. In the middle of each ward was a square that usually had some sort of monument to a person or an event. Twenty-two of these squares still exist, and in about 10,000 steps, you can see them all! Learn more about the squares of Savannah here.
My accommodation was right off of Bull Street, so I walked that street into town and through most of the squares in my eight days there. Forsyth Square is the most famous. The Spanish moss hanging from the trees lends Savannah an air of romance and mystery, and the squares only amplify that feeling. It truly is lovely.
The Telfair Academy is a stately two-story mansion designed by William Jay and built in 1819 and is just three historic squares away from Jay’s other masterpiece, the Owens-Thomas House. The Telfair Academy contains three nineteenth-century period rooms and houses nineteenth- and twentieth-century American and European art from the museum’s permanent collection.
I wasn’t sure what to expect; honestly, I was killing time until my timed ticket to the Owens-Thomas house, and this was nearby, so I wandered in, as much for the air-conditioning as anything. It’s a beautiful building with some lovely rooms and art. I wouldn’t say it’s a “can’t miss,” but if you have the time, pop in!
The Owens-Thomas House, along with its adjacent gardens, carriage house, and quarters for the enslaved, allows visitors to explore the complicated relationships between the most and least influential people in the city of Savannah in the early 19th century.
It’s important to me to learn about our history, especially the stories of the enslaved, in any visit to the south. Touring homes where enslaved people were owned and reading their stories is gutting. I appreciated how they wove the stories throughout the house, and they didn’t shy away from the realities. It was sad. I cried. It made me wish humans were better.
The Jepson Center links the history preserved by the Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters and Telfair Academy to the future of art and architecture. The strikingly modern building, opened in 2006, is filled with art, activities and educational opportunities to encourage learning for generations.
I love a good art museum, and Jepson Center was no exception. I particularly enjoyed David Gumbs from Dust to Gold exhibit. This interactive, immersive video installation was fun and moving. I encourage you to read more about David Grumbs!
I highly encourage you to read about the history of the Telfair Museums and all they have to offer.
The Savannah College of Art and Design is impressive in and of itself as both a school and a campus. There is also an art museum on campus, and I was determined to go. So I walked through a rainy morning to the campus, fumbled around a bit and found the MOA. I didn’t even know who had exhibits up, and I was in for quite a pleasant surprise.
As I walked into the first section, I didn’t look to see who the artist was, and I was drawn immediately to two very different pieces. The first was gutting, the sculpture of a man running with bullet holes in his back. I read the plaque about the work. Sanford Biggers. Why did that name sound so familiar? As I moved on to the next piece that caught my eye, I stared, and it hit me! I had JUST seen his impressive piece Oracle, a 25-foot bronze sculpture at Rockefeller Plaza in New York City, just a few weeks prior! HOLY WOW! I worked my way back through his exhibit section again, SANFORD BIGGERS. Wow.
Then I made my way into another room and was visually overwhelmed but in an entirely different way. It was like being in a room with metal muppets but with penises. As I wandered around, I just kept thinking, “WHAT IS THIS?” It was fun! Whimsical! Lewd! My favorite things!
Hass Brothers. With the contrast between the deep meaning of Sanford’s work and the silly, fun, and also exquisitely detailed beautiful work of the Hass Brothers, I thought, “Well, nothing can beat these two.”
Next up was Paulina Olowska with a show called Mainly for Women, beautiful and moving. Carlos Garaicoa was also on display with ten or so tables of mini-installations that are too detailed and nuanced to describe, but look him up.
After the prestige of SCADMOA, mentioning Graveface feels a bit misleading, so let me set some expectations. Graveface is disturbing. I wandered past it when walking down by the river in the more touristy part of town, in what felt like an alley. The front of it intrigued me; I like weird things. So I paid my $15 and wandered in. Their website has almost no information, so let me do my best. Oddities. Shrunken heads. Taxidermy mice walk a tightrope in circus dioramas. There is a serial killer room full of art and letters from various serial killers like John Wayne Gacy and Charles Manson. I believe they have the most extensive collection of works by Charles Manson. There is also a pinball room. It’s odd. It’s uncomfortable. It’s kitschy. It’s weird. It didn’t make me feel good. But it was interesting.
I was in dire need of nature after six days of exploring Savannah, so I booked a kayak tour of Little Tybee Island. I had hired an Uber to take me to Tybee Island early on a Saturday morning. I learned on my ride that getting an Uber back is sometimes damn near impossible, especially later in the day. I was thankful for this tip and made sure I left Tybee earlier in the day, which allowed me to grab a ride back with a driver who had just dropped people off.
I was early to the meeting point for the kayak trip, so I wandered around on the beach for a bit, watching the kayak company get all the gear set up. I was, of course, the only solo person. So it was me and five couples for our tour. We took off, paddling across the Black River to Little Tybee. You can only access this nature preserve by boat. The guides were excellent, showing us all the sea life on this little island in the tide pools. The tour was about three hours, and I enjoyed the excursion into nature and its slow pace. I took the Little Tybee Tour with Savannah Canoe and Kayak.
What can I say? I like cemeteries, and this one is famous for being the setting of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, which I have not read. And the movie of the same name, which I have not watched. Why did I go? A chat with a bartender told me it was a beautiful spot, tree lined, quiet and full of great photo opportunities. There is also the legend of little Gracie Watson, and I wanted to see where she was interred.
I didn’t do the big party scene, which so many people head to Savannah for, but I met a lot of interesting people. I encourage you to check out my Savannah story for a glimpse into some of the characters I met that made Savannah a trip I’ll never forget. All of the costs for the trip are below!
Costs for my trip to Savannah, Georgia:
- Airfare — Fort Wayne to Savannah: $315
- Airbnb — Private room, shared bathroom: $725 for eight nights
- Food: $376
- Drinks: $300
- Souvenirs: $200
- Other: $160
- Ubers: $192 (the trip to Tybee was not cheap)
- Total: $2,268
As a side note, after this trip, I had a phone mishap and lost most of my photos. I had put quite a few on Instagram and Facebook while I was traveling and was able to salvage some of them. Julianne and I have both learned the hard lesson of not making sure your photos are automatically backing up. Julianne wrote a great piece about the importance of backing up your photos, I wish I had read it before this trip!
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