Your Next Weekend Escape: Savannah, Georgia
For a dose of culture, great eats and fresh air, head south to the Port City, aka Savannah, Georgia, just a two-hour flight away. Oak-lined streets, breezy city squares and, of course, ghost stories all make up the history of the place. And like many Southern cities, Savannah is undergoing something of a renaissance. The city’s open-container law means you can explore with an artisanal cocktail in hand, and the local Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) means the arts take center stage. Oh, and that famed Southern hospitality is very much alive.
Plan to sip iced tea (or many a cocktail) at one of the trendy boutique properties—the city has no shortage of enticing accommodations walkable to the attractions. The brand-new Perry Lane Hotel (from $239) has Savannah’s best rooftop bar, complete with a pool and live music, plus a well-curated collection of objets displayed around the hotel. The recently renovated Andaz Savannah (from $139) offers suites with balconies overlooking the huge Ellis Square and lines the walls with one-of-a-kind art from SCAD alums and students. For a hip and budget-friendly option, the Thunderbird Inn (from $89), located in a reimagined roadside motel, exudes retro vibes and bubbly personality. Plus, the staff places a MoonPie on your pillow and the hotel stocks colorful beach cruisers for pedaling around the city.
The South is known for rib-sticking eats—shrimp and grits, fried chicken, okra, succotash—and Savannah certainly delivers. While there are several tried-and-true spots (many in haunted old buildings, if you’re into dining among ghosts), newer arrivals to the scene are dishing up contemporary twists on the classics. Kick off your foodie tour with the lunch deal at Husk, the latest offshoot of chef Sean Brock’s Charleston flagship where he focuses on resurrecting old Southern dishes and sourcing ancient ingredients. For $14, you’ll get a choice of the popular hot chicken or fried catfish along with two daily sides. The Grey might be the hottest restaurant in Savannah, if not the country. Housed in an art deco Greyhound Bus Terminal, chef Mashama Bailey puts a modern spin on regional ingredients, including local oysters, fresh fish and country meats. No trip is complete without a sweet ending, so stop into the famed Leopold’s Ice Cream, which has been making some of the same flavors—like Chocolate Chewies and Cream and the bourbon-and-pecan-swirled Savannah Socialite—since 1919. On hot days, the line can extend around the block, but it’s worth it.
Savannah has a long-established drinking culture, one that has led to today’s open-container policy and an upswing in craft cocktails from impressive mixologists. To learn about Savannah’s obsession with drink, take a tour at Ghost Coast Distillery, Savannah’s only craft distillery, and learn why Savannah tried to secede from Georgia during Prohibition. Then, take a seat at the cocktail bar to sample liquors, liqueurs and bitters, all of which are made on site. In the evening, stop by Artillery, often considered the city’s best cocktail spot for its innovative concoctions, like the Fay, a savory mixture of muddled bleu cheese and tomatoes with white balsamic and gin (trust us, it works). The Andaz Savannah’s lobby bar is a locals’ hangout as much as it is one for the guests. Beverage Director Jane Fishel has been leading the charge on thoughtful mixology in Savannah for years, and many of her famed drinks, like the tequila-based Modern Love, are standbys on the menu. For a late-night hangout with stellar beverages, stop by AlleyCat Lounge. The subterranean speakeasy has a multipage menu of classics and signature drinks, but it’s easier to tell the bartenders what you like and let them perform their magic.
While you can take a trolley tour to learn the points of interest or a pedal pub to get sloshed, the real way to see Savannah is on foot. Stroll among the large open squares canopied by oaks and Spanish moss, and quaint streets filled with boutiques. Grab a cold brew from the Sentient Bean, then wander around Forsyth Park to find a shady spot to read or people-watch. (FYI: The best Instagram op is by the fountain.) Contemporary art is scattered about the city, but if you happen to be in Savannah on the first Friday of the month, head to the Starland District, where artists keep their studios open late and local eateries offer food and drink to go. Movie buffs will likely recognize various backgrounds from movies (like Forrest Gump’s famed bench), as Savannah is a popular filming location. Be sure to get out of downtown for an afternoon and head to the Wyld Dock Bar, where you can admire the marshland grasses and breathe in fresh delta air.
Savannah has long been a craftsmen’s town, so the history of makers still reigns among the city’s modern artisans. Boutiques like Red Clover stock Savannah-based fashion and jewelry designers, many of which also attended SCAD. Satchel, a local leather goods company, employs locals in their workshop to keep the tradition of sewing alive for the production of their cow-hide purses, coasters and even leather koozies. The Chocolat by Adam Turoni shops whip up museum-worthy confections, while the Savannah Bee Company offers tastings of its rare and local honeys, including Tupelo honey, considered the “Queen of the honey world.” If fine and rare is your thing, also pop into the Book Lady, a used book shop that has a great collection of first edition books like Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, which is based on true events that occurred in Savannah.