Three years into the Civil War, Gen. Sherman embarked on a vicious 1,000-mile march across the South. Hoping to hasten the Union’s victory, he and 67,000 men destroyed barns, livestock, railroads and anything else in their path to devastate the Confederacy’s economy and morale. Luckily for us, a peaceful surrender was negotiated in Savannah, which Sherman presented to President Lincoln as a Christmas gift. Without the sudden onset of Southern hospitality, the world may never have enjoyed Savannahian Juliette Gordon Low’s Girl Scout cookies. It’s a gift that keeps on giving.
Only two-and-a-half square miles and divided into 22 grids, Savannah’s historic district is pedestrian-friendly—drivers happily stop to let passers-by cross the street—and easy to navigate. That’s what Gen. Oglethorpe had in mind when he founded the 13th colony in 1733. The general is cast in bronze in Chippewa Square, where Forrest Gump shared stories and his box of chocolates with strangers. It’s also the usual starting point for Jonathan Stalcup’s Architectural Savannah tour, a 90-minute walk showcasing the city’s nearly 300-year history and the evolution of architectural styles, from colonial to Victorian to art deco. One highlight is the Owens-Thomas House, with its original carriage house and intact slave quarters. The 1816 building is one of the first U.S. private residences built by a professionally trained architect, William Jay, and, with its attention to symmetry and neo-classical details, it’s considered a prime example of Regency-era architecture.
Two squares away, Jay also built the Telfair Mansion—now the oldest museum in the South—where visitors can view period rooms, sculptures and paintings. There’s no shortage of art in Savannah, and plenty of respect for preserving the past, but the city also maintains an appreciation for modern work. On the adjacent corner, the Jepson Center houses contemporary artists like Roy Lichtenstein and Jeff Koons, and the Savannah College of Art and Design has eight galleries featuring students’ work.
If walking becomes tiresome, there’s a free trolley service throughout the city, but guests at the Bohemian can also admire masterpieces from the comfort of their own bed. The boutique hotel displays original artwork and feels like a museum, down to the curated soundtrack that greets guests in the lobby and their rooms. Its sleek dark wood, exposed brick and campaign furniture add to its polished and relaxed vibe.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a trip to the South without indulging in some Lowcountry fare. The Bohemian’s Rocks on the River restaurant features a classic she-crab bisque. Just a short walk away, local favorite B. Matthews has plenty of brunch items, including eggs Benedict with crab and a side of house-made biscuits, while nearby Walls’ BBQ offers the requisite barbecue fare. Tucked into an alley, the soul food joint may be tricky to find, but the ribs and collard greens are well worth the hunt. The ambiance is humble, with plastic foam cups and menu items spelled out with letter magnets, but one bite will show why it has been an institution for 50 years.
For liquid meals, sample Moon River Brewing Company’s drafts in the beer garden, and get your sugar fix with pecan pralines at Savannah’s Candy Kitchen. Then take a Spanish moss-shaded stroll through City Market. The open-air courtyard is full of artisans’ shops, entertainment spots and plenty of places to grab a cocktail—but don’t worry about rushing to finish drinks to catch dinner reservations. While in the historic district, patrons can ask for a to-go cup à la New Orleans—one of seven U.S. cities that allows public drinking—and sip at leisure on the way to Garibaldi’s. The former firehouse turned social club’s crispy flounder dish has become the stuff of legend during the past 30 years.
Before turning in for the night, head back to the Bohemian’s Rocks on the Roof. Locals flock to the rooftop for its lounge atmosphere and live music. Oyster shell lampshades and an upturned kayak frame the square bar, where you can saddle up to savor tapas-style items and a seasonal drink menu. Step onto the outside patio for a look at the Talmadge Memorial Bridge that heads north to South Carolina. There’s a spectacular view of the Savannah River that can be enjoyed fireside. That being said, the city’s annual average temperature is a balmy 77 degrees. And for Bostonians, there’s not much more convincing needed for a long-weekend getaway.
-JetBlue now offers daily direct flights from Logan to Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport.
-Tour the Mercer Williams House, the setting of John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.
Architectural Savannah | 912-604-6354 | architecturalsavannah.com
B. Matthews, 325 E. Bay St. | 912-233-1319 | bmatthewseatery.com
Bohemian Hotel, 102 W. Bay St. | 912-721-3800 | bohemianhotelsavannah.com
Garibaldi Cafe, 315 W. Congress St. | 912-232-7118 | garibaldisavannah.com
The Mercer Williams House Museum, 429 Bull St. | 912-236-6352 | mercerhouse.com
Moon River Brewing Company, 21 W. Bay St. | 912-447-0943 | moonriverbrewing.com
Savannah’s Candy Kitchen, 225 E. River St. | 800-619-3993 | savannahcandy.com
Telfair Museums | 912-790-8800 | telfair.org
Walls’ BBQ, 515 E. York Lane | 912-232-9754