Weekend Travel Guide: Savannah, Georgia
contributor Travel Editor Tracey Minkin shares a three-day itinerary of fun in our favorite destinations around the world. Find more travel inspiration in Jump of the weekend.
Is it time for all of us to get matching I STAN JE OGLETHORPE shirts? I say yes because James Edward Oglethorpe’s progressive colonial vision of how a city might be organized – primarily around plazas – forms the inimitable DNA of this ever-alluring Southern city.
For me, long weekends in Savannah revolve around these exquisite plazas, their landscaping and fountains, their historic homes and hidden gardens, and it seems like there’s always a new corner (literally !) to turn.
Here, for lovers of gardens and historic architecture like me, the formula for a perfect weekend. How many visits can be made in one visit? So much!
The pursuit of knowledge
To know Savannah is to visit it. Start with the very knowledgeable Jonathan Stalcup, whose master’s degree in architecture from the Savannah College of Art and Design informs his delightful and detailed walking tours under his banner of Savannah Architectural Tourswhich he runs almost every day at 10 a.m.
Visits to Noble Jones offers a solid tour of gardens and historic homes most afternoons at 1 p.m.; For a more personal exploration of the city’s private gardens, book horticultural guide Michael Mack of Noble Jones for a private tour.
And don’t miss Vaughnette Goode-Walker’s Walking tour of the footprints of the savannah, which centers the conversation on the cotton trade, the slave trade, and urban slavery in Savannah.
Additional Credit: Architectural Tours of Savannah’s Jonathan Stalcup shares his top three historic sites for weekend goers. First, he says, be sure to visit the Owens-Thomas House and slave quartersa Regency-style mansion circa 1819 with gardens, period rooms with decorative arts and the property’s slave quarters: “This is the 19andlast century property in Savannah,” he says.
Then it’s off to the Cathedral Basilica of Saint John the Baptist for Savannah’s thriving example of French Gothic architecture, which dates to 1874 (though a fire in 1898 inspired a consecrated reconstruction in 1900.) “It’s so easy to get in!” Stalcup talks about the building’s twin spiers, Italian marble and Austrian stained glass.
Stalcup’s last stop is Grey, the city’s art deco Greyhound bus station from around 1938, now home to James Beard Award-winning chef Mashama Bailey’s restaurant. Even a drink at the bar, Stalcup says, is worth taking advantage of the building’s painstaking restoration.
For garden lovers, Stalcup says, “I recommend taking a stroll along Jones Street (considered the prettiest street in Savannah) and peering into private gardens.” Stalcup also promotes William Scarbrough Gardens to Maritime Museum of Sea Vessels, one of the largest private gardens in the historic district and from a typical 19and century parlor garden. Don’t miss the property’s North Garden, which was added in 2012 and showcases historic plantings including a citrus and maple grove, a naturalist garden, and a gazebo with a view. Last but not least, of course, you just have to stroll Forsyth Park, Stalcup adds.
Sleep in splendor
Finally a hotel that rivals the beauty, charm and artistic allure of its hometown. Perry Lane Hotel is the perfect match for Savannah and the ideal base camp for all cultural explorations. Home to over 3,600 antiques and over 1,200 works of art (175 of which were created by local artists and 81 of which have ties to the Savannah College of Art and Design), Perry Lane is as much a museum where you can spend the night.
More to love staying in Perry Lane? It offers a superb menu of bespoke experiences, from private architectural tours with Jonathan Stalcup to bespoke designing a room in Satchel’s flagship handbag and leather goods store.
If you don’t make your own piece Backpack during an excursion to the Perry Lane hotel, you should at least visit the boutique and choose a new handbag – this season’s large Monte Carlo is the perfect weekend companion.
Now you need a kaftan, and Savanah’s Summer House the lightweight pieces are perfect for everything from rooftop cocktail parties to weekend getaways in the Caribbean (not to mention Sunday crossword puzzles) – find them at Tapley Mercantile and Backpack.
To bounce back from all that noise, pull yourself up Tea house and apothecary Yaupon for stimulating tea, skincare, and bath and body products made from the native Yaupon holly. Then go back into Salacia salts for salt baths, moisturizers, scrubs and more.
First, let’s establish that all good coffee breaks (and cafe-style meals) are centered around The Collins district, which has retained its chic and delicious allure since Aussie rules were introduced to Savannah’s café culture in 2014. Visit the original location on Bull Street and consider brunch at Forsyth Park.
If you eat gluten, do it at Big Bon Bodega on Bull Street (it’s bagels all morning and for lunch, then pizza in the evening). For cocktail up/down, press Peregrine, the chic rooftop bar at the Perry Lane Hotel, and/or Pinkie Masters, an iconic dive bar (circa 1953) on Drayton Street, with every wonderful vintage vibe.
And when it comes to dining, all roads still lead to this art deco (and formerly separate) Greyhound station, where Mashama Bailey rules the culinary perch at Grey. (Don’t miss Marcus Kenney’s painting of a bus with black passengers in the front and whites in the back.) For something on the water and rustic-fantasy, head out of town for The wild for elevated dock dishes like scallop corn fritters, shrimp rolls and fish tacos.
Before you leave
Visit the Savanna Botanical Gardens, 10 beautiful acres minutes from the historic district that include camellia, shade and fern gardens. Open seven days a week and free to enter, the garden represents a great collaborative effort by local garden clubs and a reminder of the power of these clubs to bring beauty and joy to the world.