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To Savannah, with Love: The Creepy, Cool,
Romantic Magic of This Southern City

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“People come here from all over the country and fall in love with Savannah.” John Berendt pointed this out in his novel Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. (If you haven’t read it, stop reading this and go pick it up.)

Savannah is one of those places that gives you a cool, creepy vibe even if you’ve never set foot inside the city limits. It’s gorgeous. It’s hauntingly gorgeous. Neoclassical homes with tall, shuttered windows; grand entryways; and cracked brick sidewalks. Impeccably manicured public squares, stately mansions that speak to its storied past. Gnarled oak trees that stand watch like wise old men. And veils of Spanish moss hanging over it all.

Savannah has a long, often sordid, history. Tales of death and mystery date back to the city’s founding in 1733, adding layers of darkness to its beauty. The American Revolution, slavery, the Underground Railroad, the Civil War—they all had a stake in Savannah. The second half of the nineteenth century was a period of reconstruction: Residents rebuilt this city into one of the most enigmatic, revered, and eclectic in the country. The city’s idiosyncrasies, locals will tell you, are inextricably linked to its identity. It’s a place where fifth-generation Savannahians live cheek by jowl with hipsters and college students (many of whom are here to study art at SCAD, the Savannah College of Art and Design).

To visit Savannah today is to take a trip to the past and the present—in a single breath. You can jet back to the eighteenth century over dinner at the Olde Pink House (the restaurant is housed in a 245-year-old home), then have a late-night Sazerac at the newly built Peregrin rooftop bar. You can view two-month-old art sculptures in 300-year-old buildings. And because Savannah is so easy to navigate, you can experience it all (mostly) by foot.

In other words, as Berendt tells us, Savannah is a place where “the ordinary became extraordinary.” A place where every “nuance and quirk of personality achieved greater brilliance in that lush enclosure than would have been possible anywhere else in the world.”

STAY

  • PERRY LANE HOTEL

    When Savannah’s founder, General James Oglethorpe, planned the city, he designed it to be an immaculate urban grid. This layout created two things: a town that’s easy to navigate and a centuries-old reverence for the urban design, which became known as the Oglethorpe Plan. It’s still so respected that the founders of Perry Lane, a Luxury Collection Hotel, created it to be two buildings—one on each side of the lane—so as not to disrupt the grid. Call it Southern charm or deep-rooted respect. Or maybe it’s grace. Which abounds in this gorgeous hotel.

  • Perry Lane Hotel
  • Perry Lane Hotel
  • Perry Lane Hotel
  • Each of its 167 rooms is decorated with unique art and antiques, part of the hotel’s incredibly extensive and impressive collection, and finished with plush Frette sheets. And because it’s located seconds from some of the city’s best restaurants, parks, and sites, it’s tempting rush around and explore. But before you do: Indulge in a few of the hotel’s perks—in-room massages, house-made pappardelle at the Emporium Kitchen and Wine Market, maybe shopping at the impeccable Andie Kully Boutique. And before you call it a night, grab a whiskey at Wayward, the hotel’s underground watering hole, a place that’s dim and cozy and has a motorcycle suspended from the ceiling.

  • THE WINDROSE

    Our Charleston-based design friends at Basic Projects (the masterminds behind greats like the Fat Radish and Basic Kitchen) have headed farther south—and we’re following. Their latest project, the Windrose, is a set of boutique apartment-style hotel rooms (kitchens included) located in two stunning historic buildings: one in the southern historic district and the other a bit north in Yamacraw Village. The spaces are absolutely gorgeous, painted in clean white and done up with colorful vintage accessories and fun collectibles, like city maps and a copy of The Fat Radish Kitchen Diaries cookbook (which you can buy), a nod to what’s in the works at the hotel. (For another totally lovely boutique place to stay, look to the nearby Grant Hotel.)

  • The Windrose
  • The Windrose

    Photo courtesy of Maggie Armstrong

  • THE ALIDA

    Another new addition to Savannah’s growing hospitality scene, the Alida is a modern hotel on the city’s riverfront, a bustling, up-and-coming neighborhood. It’s efficient, with considered little luxuries you’d never think of (they bring you coffee within ten minutes and put a filtered and sparkling water tap on every floor). But you don’t have to book here to enjoy this hotel. Make a reservation at Rhett, the darky, moody, cozy downstairs restaurant, for perfectly crisp fried catfish and creamy mashed potatoes.

  • The Alida
  • The Alida

EAT

  • COLLINS QUARTER

    For over seventy years, people have been waiting in line at Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room—for hours at a time. And they don’t mind! The crispy fried chicken and al dente butter beans are that good. And the same accolades go for the Collins Quarter, a lively, bright bistro that draws the crowds all day long. But for our money, we’d go for brunch (and a lavender mocha and French toast). You’ll need a few hours to digest a bit, so walk south along Bull Street to Chippewa Square, the setting of the bus stop scene un Forrest Gump. (We learned the bench was a prop, but the scene’s setting is still magical.) Once you’re hungry again, take a three-minute walk north to Husk to lose your mind over the pimento cheese (a token of pride in Savannah) and local shrimp and grits.

  • Collins Quarter
  • THE GREY

    Dinner at the Grey, Savannah’s scorching-hot dining destination from John Morisano and chef Mashama Bailey, is so good, you’ll forget your own name and that you’re eating in a revamped Greyhound bus terminal. The menu is the deep South by way of New York: seared rib eye with herbed butter and roasted chicken with curry, almonds, and currants.

  • The Grey
  • The Grey

MIDDAY SNACK

  • You’re in the South, which means something carb-heavy, buttery, and sweet is as much part of your day as smiling. Go big. Which means the buttery, airy, crispy maple wafers at legendary Byrd’s Famous Cookies. (The gluten-free Key Lime Coolers rival them for first place.) Or for a little more butter, grab a homemade biscuit at Back in the Day Bakery—a crumbly, edible piece of art where butter is immured between the layers of flour. Or a blueberry lemon crepe topped with creamy ricotta at nearby Vedette. But if you’re really looking to go big, head straight to Chocolat by Adam Turoni. There are Georgia peach cream truffles here. And bacon pecan butter toffee. And lovely little trays at the door to help you…help yourself. There’s no shame here. Enjoy.

  • Byrds Famous Cookies
  • Byrds Famous Cookies

DO/SHOP

  • Shopping in Savannah isn’t like shopping in most cities. The grid of stately homes is interspersed with lovely boutiques, cafés, and galleries, so you never really feel like you’re going from store to store. Until you get to Broughton Street, a bustling thoroughfare packed with mostly larger-scale household names. Except for the Paris Market and Brocante, where the best of Southern flea markets meets a global bazaar. It’s incredible. It’s overwhelming. And it’s the best place to find a set of rose-pink Victorian glass tumblers.

  • Shopping in Savannah
  • Shopping in Savannah
  • Shopping in Savannah
  • When you’ve found your way out of the Paris Market labyrinth, head south on Whitaker Street for a
    ten-minute break to the downtown design district, a neighborhood of beautiful homes and just as beautiful boutiques. Swing by the modern-day general store PW Short for great vintage furniture, affordable art, collectible tableware, and local jams and jerkies. Across the street is Number Four Eleven, a goop favorite for bedding and monogrammed linen napkins. And around the corner is Julia Christian Art Gallery: Look up the staircase for the sign or you’ll miss this jewel box boutique and gallery, elegantly stuffed with local art and vintage keepsakes. Depending on where you head next, try to make your way past E. Shaver Bookseller, one of the few truly old and timeless bookstores left.

ART

  • The art scene in Savannah is enough to rival any of the great art cities anywhere in the world. Which is why collectors from New York, Los Angeles, and farther afield head here to add to their private collections. You’ll find works by local artists like Katherine Sandoz and Abstract Expressionists like Mark Rothko. Ask a local about their favorite gallery or art shop, because there are many. (One goop editor’s favorite: Laney Contemporary Art, about a ten-minute drive from downtown.) But there may not be a more auspicious place than SCAD, the Savannah College of Art and Design. Visiting the campus is like a B12 shot to your creativity. Students are running around, portfolio bags slung over their shoulders. And many are docents to the SCAD Museum, a world-renowned museum of vibrant, progressive, soul-stretching work by artists from everywhere. To bring home a bit of this talent, go to ShopSCAD to buy pieces by students and alumni.

  • Savannah Art

DON’T MISS

  • WORMSLOE HISTORIC SITE

    Trails, acres, forests, ruins, paths of solitude, and history you feel like you can touch. Block off at least half a day to explore Wormsloe’s wide avenue, thickly lined by emerald grass and regal oaks, all dripping in Spanish moss. But beyond its beauty—and there’s a lot of it—Wormsloe has a deep, mired history, much like everything else in Savannah, that dates back to the colonial era. You can tour a small museum, theater, and visitors’ center to get a better understanding of the origins and owners of this plantation, the oldest in Georgia.

  • Wormsloe Historic Site
  • Wormsloe Historic Site
  • GHOST TOUR

    Savannahians are close to their ghosts. Plenty of locals aren’t shy about telling you that yes, in fact, they keep sage their home. Just in case. But its hauntedness makes it a thrilling city to explore, especially at night. And if there’s anyone who makes it even more exciting, it’s TC at Genteel and Bard Ghost Tour. A historian and former radio personality, TC gives fresh blood to old stories. Is it campy? Sure. But get into it and you won’t be sorry. You’ll follow him through several city squares and along neighborhood blocks and hear stories of inexplicable creepiness. You’ll get a full history lesson, be thoroughly entertained, and maybe even lose a night’s sleep. (One editor deemed it a most entertaining two hours—until she heard scuffling in her bathroom later that night.)

  • Savannah Ghost Tour

WHAT TO PACK

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