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Holiday in Savannah

A new promotion invites visitors to spend a few days in the first state capital of Georgia wearing their pajamas. 
by Sherry Jackson

Savannah may be known as a city of elegance and mystery, but this Southern belle also knows how to celebrate the holidays. Established in 1733, Savannah is known as America’s first “planned” city, with founder James Oglethorpe laying out the streets with 22 tree-filled squares. This bustling port was the place to export cotton, and visitors can still stroll down cobblestone streets under century-old live oaks dripping with Spanish moss.

Only this December, they can do it with a few Christmas trees thrown in and wearing their pajamas. Savannah is offering an unusual holiday shopping experience all month long that invites you to cross off those items on your Christmas list while wearing pajamas and a pair of slippers. Over 60 stores, galleries, restaurants, bars and tours are participating and offering discounts to shoppers. Sponsored by Savannah Inns, a collection of four bed and breakfasts, this brand-new event only has two requirements: you shop in your p.j.’s and have an “official” Pajama Shop Hop Passport.

“We’re excited to offer both visitors and locals a fun and festive way to celebrate our city,” says Teresa Jacobson, owner and innkeeper at Azalea Inn and Gardens. “The Pajama Shop Hop is a great way to showcase Savannah, a city we all love, at the most wonderful time of the year. By partnering with local businesses, we also look forward to continuing to present the historic district as an epicenter of economic development, business growth and entertainment.”

Your first stop is to pick up your Passport at one of the four inns. If you’re not staying at one of the inns, they’ll trade you a passport for a new, unwrapped toy, but each is still worth a visit. The Dresser Palmer House, built in 1876, is the largest with 16 rooms and was originally two separate homes. Green Palm Inn was originally a duplex built in 1897 by two sea captains and has four rooms and a carriage house down the street. Azalea Inn was built in 1885 and is the only one of the four inns that has a pool. It has eight rooms and a carriage house. Ziegler House Inn is the oldest of the four, built in 1856. All seven of the rooms at this former bordello and boarding house are suites.

Once you have your passport in hand, it’s time to get down to business. Savannah offers charming local boutiques, antiques stores with one-of-a-kind treasures and an eclectic assortment of everything from wine to apparel. While there are shops tucked away on every square, the main shopping area is Broughton Street.

The first must-stop is Nourish, a natural bath products company that began 13 years ago in Florida. Here, owners Shoshanna and Corey Walker sell soaps Shoshanna’s mom has perfected using only natural ingredients. The company has three locations (the other two are in Hilton Head, South Carolina, and Melbourne, Florida) and while they have expanded their product line to include soy candles, moisturizers and other bath products, the bar soaps are still their most popular. Soaps in scents of chocolate, vanilla coffee and ginger lime smell as good as they look and make great stocking stuffers.

Another must-do on your shopping itinerary is the Savannah Bee Company. Owner Ted Dennard has had a passion for beekeeping and honey since his neighbor introduced him to it when he was 12 years old. Ted’s mission is to “redefine honey” and share his passion through both education and the bottling of his premium products. The company’s flagship store is also located on Broughton Street and has an amazing selection of honey products, ranging from teas to moisturizers and lip balm. There’s also a honey tasting bar where you can experience the flavors of more than 10 different honeys like Tupelo and Sourwood.

Before leaving Broughton Street, stop in for a tasty treat at Leopold’s Ice Cream. Founded in 1919 by three immigrant brothers from Greece, Stratton and Mary Leopold are continuing the family tradition of “sharing a little bit of frozen happiness with everyone.” They make everything from scratch, including the chocolate syrup. Their signature creation, tutti-frutti, a rum-based ice cream, is a local favorite, and seasonal flavors range from eggnog to cinnamon and Sugar Plum Fairy right now.

Next, head over to the Downtown Design District for some antique and boutique shopping. C.H. Brown Antiques has a small but great collection of 18th and 19th century American and English silver and crystal, while the Savannah Shoe Company has a an interesting selection of locally designed custom shoes, like the Telfair Boot and Forsyth Flat. ShopSCAD features artwork by local SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) students and staff, and E. Shaver Booksellers has 12 rooms full of both hardback and paperback books.

After you’ve shopped ’till you’re near ready to drop, jump on an Old Savannah Tours trolley to ride around for a while and learn about the city’s history. It’s the only locally owned and operated trolley tour company in Savannah and has been in business for over 30 years. You’ll learn about Tomochichi, a 17th century Creek Indian leader who is credited with establishing peaceful relations between the Georgia settlers and his tribe, more about founder James Oglethorpe and drive by Chippewa Square to see where Forrest Gump sat and ate his box of chocolates. The most popular tour is a hop-on, hop-off version, which has 15 stops around the city. (Trolleys come by about every 15 minutes.)

When you’ve worked up an appetite, don’t miss the famous Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room at 107 Jones St. This former boarding house has been open since the 1940s, and visitors line up on the sidewalk every day to get a spot at a family-style table for Southern comfort food. Mrs. Wilkes is only open for lunch from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday through Friday and only accepts cash, so plan accordingly.

Stores tend to close early in Savannah, which means your evenings will be free. Dinner options include The Pirates’ House, which has been welcoming diners since 1753. Of course, in the early days, those were mostly pirates who came to drink, and the downstairs rum cellar is considered to be haunted. Today, a sampling of their famous pecan-crusted fried chicken with honey might be more in order. Or, if you’re looking for something a little more upscale, Vic’s on the River on East Bay Street was a former cotton warehouse and now has a two-level dining room with spectacular views of the Savannah River.

After dinner, visit Mata Hari’s. You must have a special key to gain entrance to this by-invitation-only underground speakeasy. (Hint: If you stay at one of the Savannah Inns, each innkeeper has an exclusive key to give you). The underground nightclub offers classic cocktails, such as absinthe (served with melting sugar over the glass), old fashioneds, or try a Mata Hari Martini. Sultry jazz singers and entertaining burlesque shows will make it a night to remember.

Savannah Shop Hop is going on now through December 31, and proceeds benefit Toys for Tots. Locals can pick up their passports at one of the four Savannah Inns from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. through December 24. Passports will be stamped with each purchase, and participants with 10 or more stamps will be entered to win a New Year’s Day drawing for a two-night stay at at Savannah Inn bed and breakfast. 

Photo credits, from top: From left, Diane McCray, owner of Green Palm Inn, Jackie Heinz, owner of Zeigler House Inn, Teresa Jacobson, owner of Azalea Inn, and Shannon Blackburn, general manager of Dresser Palmer House Inn, courtesy of Savannah Inns; Forsyth Park courtesy of www.SavannahVisit.com; Azalea Inn from savannahinns.com; chocolate soap, Savannah Bee Company and Mata Hari’s by Sherry Jackson. 

Sherry Jackson is a freelance writer living near Greenville, South Carolina. She owns and maintains four websites, www.seethesouth.comwww.dragonflyventures.comdvtravels.net and www.rulesforeveryday.com
and her articles have been appeared in USA Today, Blue Ridge Country and Foothills Spotlight Magazine.


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