Escape to Georgia’s oldest city for boutique hotels, fine dining, exquisite architecture and haunted stories.
Whether you’ve been to Savannah numerous times or this is your first time, get ready to fall in love with one of the South’s most charming cities. Savannah is constantly changing, with new hotels and restaurants opening and the riverfront being revitalized, yet some things never change here. You can count on the dreamy period architecture and the rows of garden squares always being there for daylong strolls. The same goes for the cuisine and the spirits that linger in this almost 300-year-old city.
Savannah’s juxtaposition of old and new is perfectly showcased at The Alida Hotel, named for Alida Harper Fowlkes, an entrepreneur and preservationist. Located in the revitalized entertainment district along River Street, the hotel feels like a luxury haven from the outside world but also offers unfettered access to Savannah’s many attractions.
You could just as easily enjoy a glass of champagne and play a board game in the lobby as you could stroll the shops along the river or take a short walk over to City Market. Rooms and suites offer exceptional views from plush window seats and local craftwork. Besides the spacious lobby, there are numerous other spots to hang out, including the Cabana Club by the pool, The Lost Square rooftop bar, The Trade Room lobby bar and Rhett, The Alida’s coastal cuisine restaurant.
You’ll need to head down to the river level to enter Rhett, which overlooks West River Street and has the feel of a bustling Paris bistro. The raw bar here is the star, and the “ber” months are the time to visit. Executive Chef Alex Bollinger is running a special oyster menu in October that features oysters from Canada, New England and locally.
“Oysters have been a huge part of the history of the lowcountry, providing a source of income for local oyster farmers and truly being a staple as an abundant source of protein that is easily accessible to all levels of society,” Bollinger says. “Oysters traditionally have been a staple for lowcountry boils and oyster bakes going back to the first people who decided to settle here.”
Of course, he recommends pairing them with champagne or a crisp Chenin Blanc. Some other standouts on the Rhett menu include the She Crab Soup (a Savannah staple), BBQ Octopus with baked Sea Island peas and the Low Country Cioppino (Bollinger hails from San Francisco, so he knows what he’s doing).
After a good night of rest in a comfy king-sized bed at The Alida, you’ll be ready for a day of exploring Savannah’s many squares and art museums. The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) looms large over this city, and that’s a good thing. It gives Savannah a creative, artsy feel no matter where you are.
Start at the Jepson Center, where you’ll be greeted by the “Earth Angel” sculpture in the atrium. This reflective butterfly invites each visitor to see themselves anew. Head upstairs for more modern exhibits and the new Telfair Children’s Art Museum. Your ticket gets you entry to the Owens-Thomas House and Slave Quarters and Telfair Academy, where you’ll want to see “Before Midnight: Bonaventure and the Bird Girl.” This is where the iconic sculpture made famous in the movie “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” lives.
From there, take a stroll through some of the city’s 22 park squares (you can pick up a map at the Jepson Center), making stops along the way. There’s Jones Street, dubbed “the prettiest street in Savannah,” but really this goes for most every street draped with oak trees and lined with historic homes. Don’t miss Chippewa or the “Forrest Gump” Square; Lafayette Square with Flannery O’Connor’s Childhood Home and Cathedral of St. John the Baptist; Monterey Square with the famous Mercer House; and, of course, Forsyth Park and its beautiful fountain. Stop for lunch at The Olde Pink House and have a bowl of Low Country She Crab Soup or try The Wildflower Cafe inside the Jepson Center (the Spicy Peanut Noodles are delicious).
There are plenty more restaurants and shops along the way. Don’t miss the SCAD Museum or Art and shopSCAD in the historic district. Back at The Alida, there’s lounging by the pool or happy hour to consider before dinner and a ghost tour in a haunted hearse. With a tagline “We Know Where the Bodies Are Buried,” Hearse Ghost Tours is a fun, spooky and educational way to see the city at night. Tours are offered at 6, 8 and 10 p.m., so you can plan dinner either before or after.
Vinnie Van GoGo’s pizza on City Market is one of the meetup spots for the tour and a Savannah institution. Dine outside when the weather is nice and enjoy huge New York-style pies. Get a glass of wine or cocktail to go, because you can bring it on the tour. Savannah has numerous other options for dinner as well, from haunted restaurants to rooftop bar menus.
Hit up Rhett’s coffee bar the next morning before checking out of The Alida and making two pitstops on the way out of town. E. Shaver Booksellers is worth a visit for the cats as much as the books. You’ll need at least an hour to browse the many rooms filled with books and pet the four felines. Finally, no visit to Savannah is complete without a glimpse of Bonaventure Cemetery. One of the world’s most beautiful cemeteries, Bonaventure embodies everything there is to love about Savannah: moss-draped oaks, Victorian details, lush gardens and plenty of lingering spirits.
We’d like to thank The Alida Hotel and Rhett for hosting us this past summer. Their hospitality is exceptional.