10 Things to Do and Eat in Savannah
As a writer at a travel company, my bucket list has grown exponentially. Savannah has been pretty close to the top ever since I researched its long history and saw pictures of squares shaded by Spanish moss. So when I was given the opportunity to travel to Georgia for work, I made sure to stop in Savannah to take in the Southern sunshine. I had an exciting few days exploring the historic district's sites and restaurants, and narrowed my list of activities to my favorites below!
Five Things to Do
1. Forsyth Park
This is a must. If you've seen pictures of Savannah, you've probably seen the famous fountain that calls Forsyth home, protected by the idyllic Spanish moss. This park is so well-known, in fact, that we even stumbled upon a wedding here while we were visiting. It's also the largest park in the city, and perfect for sitting down with a book or kicking around a soccer ball.
2. The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist
You might think the South is full of grand churches, but there's really only one in the historic district, and that's the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. Donning a grand circular window akin to Notre Dame, this elaborate structure takes you back in time while in the lively city. After walking through the colorful interior, grab a delicious dessert waffle at Mirabelle across the street and enjoy some people-watching while taking in the beautiful view. You can take a self-guided tour Monday-Saturday from 9:00 A.M. – 11:45 A.M and 12:45 P.M. – 5:00 P.M
3. Enjoy a Drink in the Parks
Psst...did you know the historic district is open container? That means you can grab a drink to-go and sip it on the road! Or, my favorite way to enjoy a glass of wine, have yourself a picnic in one of the many green spaces throughout the city. Savannah is full of adorable green squares, and they're the best way to take a break from walking about. Grab a beer and some snacks, and experience the city like a true local.
4. Explore Historic Houses
Savannah was founded by General James Oglethorpe in 1733, and its history is alive around every red-brick corner. As you walk from square to square, you'll notice a plethora of historic homes beckoning visitors to learn about their past. It's a great opportunity to really understand the city as you take a step through time, and each house is so uniquely different. We explored two homes: Davenport House and the Owen-Thomas House. Though we stumbled on each of these coincidentally, they turned out to be two excellent choices because of how different they are. The Davenport House is more modest - he was a builder who did well for himself but wasn't among the incredibly wealthy. The Owens-Thomas family, on the other hand, were part of Savannah elite and had extravagant architecture, including an actual bridge going across their second floor. The Owens-Thomas House is also a great resource for learning about the local slave history, and you can explore the slave quarters to learn about their lives in Savannah.
5. Walk through City Market
If you've gotten your fill of history, stop by the City Market to see one of the busier parts of the city. This open-aired market is packed with shops selling everything from souvenirs to homemade dog treats, as well as plenty of restaurants. Pop in and out of the impressive art galleries or stop and listen to local musicians. It's a great way to immerse yourself in local life while feasting your eyes and ears on all this exciting city has to offer.
Five Places to Eat
Though I came to Savannah for work, I was lucky enough to be in the area on Mother's Day. My mom, who lives in Florida, drove up to meet me and out of all the restaurants in the city, Husk is where I chose to take her. The menu changes every night - and I mean truly changes, not just one or two dishes - but there's no need to worry because everything is exquisite. We enjoyed the flounder crudo, NC scallops, aged GA duck, and the carrot cake for dessert. I absolutely died over the duck, it was so soft and juicy, and was perfectly complemented by the blueberry sauce. But the true star was the carrot cake. It came with a side of turmeric ice cream (yes, turmeric!) which you wouldn't think would work, but it did. I loved this because it truly shows how impressive the kitchen is to have even thought of this combination. So take a leap of faith, trust the chef, and ask the server for recommendations, you really can't go wrong!
2. Olde Pink House
When researching the best restaurants in Savannah, the Olde Pink House came up on basically every list. And if you're even THINKING about going to Savannah, make your reservation now, because they fill up quick. Everything here is quintessential Georgia. From the historic home that houses the restaurant to the classic portraits that line the wall - you'll be saying "darlin'" and sipping sweet tea sooner than you think. I loved the unique take on shrimp 'n grits, with the grits being served in a block like classic polenta. You're probably going to want to try your fair share of shrimp 'n grits so this is a great opportunity to have them in a new and creative way. My mom also really enjoyed her seafood pasta, taking full advantage of this coastal city. Dining here is an entire experience that should definitely be added to your list.
Also on everybody's list is Leopold's, the top ice cream place in Savannah. It's hard to miss too, with a line down the street. My mom was shocked that I would wait 20 minutes in the heat for just a scoop or two, but I knew that a line this long couldn't be for nothing, and when would I ever be back? So I slathered on the sunscreen and took my spot. Once inside, there is a side for sitting but you'll be the luckiest person on Earth to find a seat. I recommend just ordering at the counter and taking your treat to the park to enjoy the beautiful weather. I got two scoops: butter pecan and lemon custard. I was convinced to get the Butter Pecan by the lovely woman ahead of me in line - she had gotten it the day before and just HAD to get some more before she left the city. And she was spot on, it was so smooth and not too sweet, yet chock full of pecans as well. For the second flavor I chose the lemon custard because it has been unchanged since 1919, and I trusted that history would be on my side. It also tasted like nothing else I've ever experienced. It's definitely not as overly lemony as a sorbet, and is more sweet than sour. It was impossibly creamy and perfect for anyone who truly wanted a desert they can't get anywhere else.
4. Little Duck Diner
As a native New Jerseyian, I love a good diner. And when you show up to a restaurant and there's a crowd of people waiting outside, you know you've probably made a good choice. But don't be fooled, the Little Duck Diner is in no way a dive. Instead it's an homage to the days of roller skates and retro jukeboxes while also serving delicious dishes. My mom and I are both huge fans of duck so we were very excited by this menu, and it's no surprise our favorite dishes were the BBQ Duck Egg Rolls and the Duck Dynasty Bowl. The egg rolls were a more savory version of the classic Asian dish and served with a deliciously spicy chipotle mayo. The Bowl was definitely more dynamic with BBQ duck, Japanese rice, daikon, pickled carrots, ginger pineapple sauce and kimchi. It was the hearty comfort food I was craving, yet taken to another level. And speaking of comfort food, there's a whole section of the menu dedicated to grilled cheese, so what more can you want?
Known for its elevated comfort food with an Aussie twist, the Fitzroy is a trendy restaurant with a beautiful rooftop to boot. The menu ranges from the best duck my mom's ever had (a true feat) to amazingly gooey potato chip nachos (featuring brie instead of the usual cheddar). This would be great for groups of friends on a warm summer night, and was one of my favorite spots of the whole trip. So much so, I even gave it a full review so check it out to see more of their amazing dishes.
Savannah is truly a Southern Belle of a city, with his verdant parks and historic homes. That being said, though I enjoyed my time there, I'm glad I only spent a long weekend as it isn't as big as the Boston I'm used to. Savannah is great for spending a few days on the road to other destinations, such as its big sister Charleston. However, its picturesque squares and tasty eateries certainly make it worth the trip.