SAVANNAH, Ga. -- For many people, planning a day or weekend trip to Savannah, Georgia, probably will conjure images of art and architecture, moss-covered oaks and cobblestone streets.
Just mentioning a Savannah trip also might make mouths water at the thought of world-class dining and give others the shivers at the thought of ghosts and spirits.
And if the lures of history, food, and art aren’t enough, consider the shopping, proximity to the ocean, and river gazing, where you can sit and watch tankers and cargo ships come and go on each tide. Arts and crafts vendors meet up along the riverfront with musicians and artists. There are bars and cocktail offerings, carriage rides, walking tours, and trolleys. And don’t forget: The city also has sidewalk Segway tours for those looking for a little something different, and boat tours for gaining a different perspective of the city along the Savannah River.
Savannah has a little something for everyone.
There are tours that focus on gardens or history, and tours that focus on ghosts and spirits. As with any good town with a past, the ghosts’ stories are plentiful, fanciful, fun, and spooky. Touted by some as America’s most haunted city, Savannah has tours available day or night.
Ghost tours allow visitors into homes where they can “feel” the spirits when the hairs on the backs of their necks stand on end. Stories and storytellers are on nearly every corner in Savannah. For those who don’t believe in the likelihood of a spirit from beyond visiting those in this present world, the tales told by tour guides are often entertainment in themselves, said Devin Worrell of Jacksonville, Florida, about one of her recent excursions. Besides, the ghost tours get you into homes you might not otherwise visit, she said.
A trip to the Georgia crown jewel is not complete until a visitor has strolled through the historic cemeteries. Downtown visitors can easily find the six-acre Colonial Park Cemetery, home to the remains of more than 10,000 people and about 1,000 headstones; it’s a perfect place for both picnics and wanderings.
Founded around 1750, it was the city’s main burial grounds into the early 1850s. Among those buried there were artists and Revolutionary War heroes.
Five miles east of the city is the world-famous Bonaventure Cemetery. Southern gothic in style, it is considered one of Savannah’s most celebrated sites. Free guided tours are offered, but the historical site that manages the cemetery has a schedule of tours. Be sure to check its website for the latest offerings. Savannah’s Johnny Mercer and Conrad Aiken are buried here.
Scattered among the chain stores along Broughton Street and its side tributaries are many boutique offerings. Tea stores, antique stores and more line the avenues.
One shoe store that Worrell, her sister, and cousin visited was Carlisle of York, owned by Mindy Carlisle. It has been open for only a year. The owner designs shoes for small runs and sells them alongside designer shoes. In addition to the unique ladies' shoes, the store also offers clothing and accessories.
In the mid-1980s, the city’s leaders began the redevelopment of about a four-block area. That area is now home to City Market, which teems with shopping and dining opportunities.
Wandering the city is free. Do your research. With a little planning before you take off south down I-95 for your two-and-a-half-hour road trip, you will manage to stay on track in having the adventure you are seeking.
For first-time visitors, a trip to the Savannah Visitor’s Center may be in order. The main Savannah Visitor’s Center (there are others scattered around the city) is in the old brick terminal for passengers of the Central of Georgia Railroad. The building is also home to the Savannah History Museum.
Savannah, as America’s first planned city of public squares and wards, had its beginnings in colonial America. Surviving through wars and the decades, reinventing itself along the way, Savannah offers much to see and do, by day and by night.
But without the execution of a proper plan, you may find yourself lost, in the present or even in the past.