The Calandrinos’ Guide to Savannah

As many of our friends know, my husband Phil and I have essentially become part-time residents of Savannah.

We get asked often where to go and what to do.  We put together a Savannah guide email some time ago but my husband updated and revamped it for another friend this morning so I thought I would share with the world.

When to Go:

You can go anytime of the year. But Savannah is a walking town. From mid-March to early-June and late September through mid-November is best for good walking around weather. Avoid the summer if you can’t take the heat. The winters are hit or miss.

Savannah turns into a giant party town for St. Patrick’s Day. If you want to go, book way in advance. It’s a blast. The crowds are usually pretty docile too considering everyone’s feeling good.

The same is true for Halloween. It’s not quite as big of a draw as St. Pat’s, but it’s still something you have to see. If you don’t wear an elaborate costume you will look out of place. Imagine 5000 people in Ellis Square all dressed up in their costumes for bar hopping.

If you stay at the Andaz during one of these holidays it will be noisy out your window until 3 am.

What to Do:

You’re going to stay in the historic district most of the time. Except for a few out-of-the-way stops, there’s no reason to leave there on your first trip. And plan on doing a lot of walking. Catch a pedi-cab if you get tired. It’s the best way to get around the district. We only Uber when the weather is bad, if we have to go far, or if it’s very late at night.

When you first get to Savannah, we recommend taking the Old Savannah Trolley (a few dollars more than the other tours but worth it) and taking the full 1.5-2 hour loop around the city so you can decide which places you want to visit and learn more about the history. When you go by Whitefield Square look for the gazebo. That’s where we got married.

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There’s a good museum, the Telfair, that’s worth checking out. Buy a pass that also gets you into the other, smaller museums and house tour.  The Williams-Mercer house tour is neat, especially if you’re into Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and the story of Jim Williams.  There’s also the Sorrel Weed House and the Andrew Low House. We really liked the house tours, but you have to be into that stuff.

You also have to, have to, have to, go to Forsyth Park. It has a huge fountain in the center that’s the iconic symbol of Savannah (and where Phil proposed).

If you want to explore the outskirts, check out the beach at Tybee Island about 20 or so minutes away. You might also like the Bonaventure Cemetery (really interesting) just outside of town about 10 minutes away. We usually recommend that you stay to the main part of the historic district on your first trip though.

On that note, we have one word of caution. Be alert and don’t walk around at night, except in the busier tourist areas closer to the river, staying far north of Forsyth Park. Once you’ve been a few times, you’ll get a feel for where to be and where not to be. During the day you’re good almost anywhere.

Where to Eat:

Savannah is a foodie town. You have to eat dinner at the Olde Pink House. It’s a landmark.  And ask for our friend Sidra to sing for you.  Be sure to tip her kindly too.

sidra

Elizabeth’s on 37th is also good for a traditional southern dinner. Ask for Gary or Greg the proprietors while you’re there.  For something more modern, we love Local 11 Ten. That’s our favorite place to eat. They have a great roof top bar for before dinner.  Don’t miss it.  The Grey is a new restaurant in the old Greyhound Bus station. It has a really cool, retro 60s atmosphere, and great food too.

Our favorite lunch places: Sorry Charlie’s Oyster House (across from the Andaz on Ellis Square). Crystal Beer Parlor or Green Truck Pub for burgers. Public Kitchen is great for any meal (breakfast, lunch or dinner) http://www.thepublickitchen.com/. Stay away from the chains, and for that matter, most of the touristy places on Bay Street or River Street.

And the lunch buffet at the Pirate House is good. But the best part is the building. It’s really an old pirate house. Ask for the free tour. Don’t miss it. One of the good touristy bars to hit too.

For brunch/breakfast, you can’t go wrong with B Mathews (even though it’s on Bay Street). The other breakfast places we have been to are “meh.” We usually eat at the hotel too. For coffee, we like the Sentient Bean (south end of Forsyth near Local11Ten) or the Coffee Fox on Broughton.  Also have an ice cream at Leopold’s on Broughton.

There’s lots of other decent places to eat. Check TripAdvisor or just walk around and see what looks good. Just be sure to avoid the tourist traps, especially Paula Deen’s.

Recreation:

After you take your trolley tour, you’ll have a good idea of places where you will want to walk around. Explore the shops on Broughton street and the antique stores near City Market and Bay Street. Go to the SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) store and City Market for art. A lot of people like to walk up and down the cobble-stoned River Street. Do it once just to do it (we find it a little too touristy). There are some decent bars and restaurants along Bay and River too.

There’s all kinds of great dive bars around Savannah. They are all very tourist friendly. Have a beer at the Six Pence Pub on Bull Street. Check out 17hundred90 bar. And have a drink in the basement bar at the Olde Pink House. Get a Pickleback shot at O’Connell’s Irish bar (42 Drayton Street). Whiskey with a pickle juice chaser. (We know, it sounds gross, but just try it, you’ll be surprised). And you must chill for an hour on the rooftop bar at Local 11Ten, preferably before you eat there. There’s also a nice rooftop bar at the Bohemian on Bay Street that’s worth your down time. Check out the City Market too. It’s a little touristy, but has good live music most of the time.

For something to do at night, try a ghost tour. There’s three kinds, the driving tour, the walking tour, and the ghost hunter tour. Skip the driving tour. The walking tour is the way to go the first time out unless you’re really into this stuff, then go on both the walking tour and on one of the ghost hunter tours. You can also mix it up with a pub-crawl ghost tour, which is a lot of fun too.  Go to our friend Greg’s company Creepy Crawl if you do a pub-crawl.

 Where to Stay:

We always stay at the Andaz.  It’s nice, reasonable, and in the perfect location. The front desk manager is Jessie Williams. He will take good care of you if he knows we sent you. If you want fancy, stay at the Mansion on Forsyth Park. We haven’t stayed at the Bohemian, but it’s nice too.

If you want to do the bed and breakfast route, there are several good choices. Just pick one of the top ones on Trip Advisor. We’ve stayed at the House on Gaston Street and at the Hamilton-Turner House. Both are really good and give you that authentic antebellum Savannah feel.

You can also rent a historic house on Airbnb. But we say save that for your third or fourth visit after you get to know the town better.

Savannah’s addictive. As soon as you get back, you’re going to starting planning your next visit.  And, soon you’ll be an unofficial tourist guide like we’ve become.

 

 

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