What do Forrest Gump, Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil, the Girl Scouts and Gulfstream jets all have common?
Historic Savannah on Georgia’s sleepy coast is setting and inspiration for many books and movies, the home of Juliette Gordon Low – founder of the Girls Scouts of America -) and the headquarters of Gulfstream Aerospace Company, makers of luxury aircraft for the rich and famous.
Savannah is Georgia’s oldest city in this southern state. It is also famed for its manicured parks, cobblestone streets, horse drawn carriages and pre civil-war architecture.
Unlike many cities of the south, Savannah was spared burning to the ground in the US Civil War.
Rather, General Sherman offered it to Abraham Lincoln as a Christmas gift; though some say it was really due pleas from Sherman’s favourite Savannah mistress to leave the city unharmed.
Whatever the reason, visitors are unanimous that, Savannah’s 6.5 km2 historic precinct with 2,300 protected buildings and 24 beautifully treed city squares, is spectacular.
Whether you prefer to stroll, ride in a bus, trolley, Segway, or horse drawn carriage, a tour of the city’s historic district is how to begin your Savannah experience.
Those that were given King George’s royal charter for the establishment of the Colony of Georgia chose James Oglethorpe – a surveyor – to plan the city.
His 1733 city plan allowed for four public buildings and 40 residential lots to be constructed around or connected to each of six park squares.
The plan was followed for the next 100 years resulting in the 24 squares that house residents, restaurants, theatres and museums today. The parks at the centre of the squares are home to hundreds of live oak trees draped in Spanish Moss.
Oglethorpe had prohibited slavery in the new colony though this would be overturned less than 20 years later.
Mercer-Williams House – the setting for much of the book and movie Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil – is right on Monterey Square.
Chippewa Square was made famous by Forrest Gump sitting on one of its park benches to recount his life story and by America’s oldest playhouse, the Savannah Theatre.
Green-Meldrim House – where Sherman bunked during his occupation of Savannah – is on Madison Square.
Strolling towards the Savannah River and its lively Riverfront. Savannah is one the busiest ports in America.
Cobblestoned River Street is home to a 19th century cotton exchange, a bleak reminder of the city’s slave trade past.
Many of the city’s hotels, restaurants and bars are to be found on nearby Bay Street.
Within the restored centuries’ old buildings, visitors will see antique shops, art galleries, quaint pubs, lively nightspots and elegant inns.
Stop in at Wet Willies and try one of their famous frozen daiquiris chosen from a wall behind the bar lined with what look like Slurpee machines. Beware, these cocktails are about 4x what you are probably used to in alcohol strength.
Savannah’s open container law permits alcohol to be consumed from a plastic cup anywhere in the historic district.
For a more refined dining experience, first get rid of the plastic cup and then head to Vic’s on the River. This classic Southern restaurant is housed in a restored 19th century cotton warehouse which once served as a hub for General Sherman’s troops. It has sweeping views of the Savannah River and good old local favourites like fried green tomatoes, she-crab soup, crawfish beingnets, shrimp & cheddar grits (ground corn meal similar to polenta), crab, shrimp & oyster stew, pan seared redfish and buttermilk fried chicken.
Step out onto the balconies to watch the many cargo vessels cruising under Talmadge Memorial Bridge towards the largest single ocean container terminal on the US Eastern seaboard under the.
Savannah has accommodation to suit all budgets from quaint B&Bs located inside beautifully restored mansions – try the Eliza Thompson House, the Hilton Turner Inn or the Planters Inn on Reynolds Square – to the more budget friendly chains like the Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton Inn, Embassy Suites by Hilton and Holiday Inn.
A tour of the Gulfstream factory at Savannah Hilton head airport is available – but only if you register interest to as a jet buyer. The current flagship model, the G 650, goes for $66 million!
Other destinations within close reach are the beaches of Tybee Island and just across the South Carolina state line, the world renowned golf courses and beaches of Hilton Head.