Stumbling Upon Sweet Savannah

Savannah, the city known for its elegant haunted houses and Spanish moss, was surprisingly never on my to-visit list. Somehow I ended up in the Historic District on a road trip in Georgia this past December. The oldest city in the Peach State immediately became one of my favorites. As a tree lover, I was enthralled by the giant live oaks with their hanging moss shading the squares that dotted the area. I was elated to wake up to 80 degree weather, which allowed me to explore the city’s popular spots on foot.

From the Hilton Savannah DeSoto hotel, I meandered through the streets, took pictures at Colonial Park Cemetery, and made it to Forsyth Park, where I thoroughly enjoyed dog watching (so happy to see so many people walking their dogs), and one woman who had her pet pig on a leash. Now, that’s a sight you’d never see in New York. Or at least not in the places I roam.

Oak tree
Oak Tree in North Historic District Square

Onwards, I walked to River Street overlooking the Savannah River, which I expected to be a tourist trap of souvenir shops and chain restaurants, but true to Savannah style, the stores were small businesses like the Peanut Shop (which sells more than 50 varieties of hand-roasted peanuts), and an open-air market that was perfect to meet local vendors. There were several different cuisines to choose from, and I gladly picked the newest restaurant on the block: the Olympia Cafe, where I had the best couscous. Ever. My mouth is watering just thinking about that dish.

Waving Girl, near River Street
Waving Girl, River Street

Speaking of food, I was pleasantly surprised to find that this old town was in with the new trend of vegan dining, and the proof was in the pizza I devoured at Mellow Mushroom, made with yummy vegan cheese and tempeh. Although I didn’t make it to The Sentient Bean for dairy-free coffee, I did enjoy some vegan daiquiris at Wet Willie’s. Although not entirely vegan, the Olde Pink House, with its spooky history and rumors about visits from the spirits, had great food and a friendly staff, who are never shy from sharing their ghost encounters.

No Savannah visit is complete without a ghost tour. While I could’ve gone on a vehicle tour, I opted for a more spookier experience with Sixth Sense Savannah Ghost tours (after my friend Beverly gave it a high recommendation) that took folks on an after hours walking tour. With the temperatures now in the 30’s (or it may’ve been 40’s but felt much colder after the warm weather of the day), everyone in the group huddled around Dawn, who called herself “Dawn of the Dead,” and listened attentively to true stories about the ghosts of Savannah. The best part was realizing how close I was staying to some of the creepiest homes in the district (turned out that I parked the car in front of one of these the night before without realizing its past). The Mercer House, from the popular book, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, which we visited last, didn’t disappoint. I am curious to see who will buy it from Jim Williams’ sister for nearly $9 million.

The only part I could’ve lived without was having to watch poor horses drawing carriages. These rides seem pleasant for tourists, but they are very unpleasant for the animals, who are subjected to breathing car fumes and work long hours to make their drivers money. If there’s one thing I hope Savannah does, it’s to get rid of these rides all together. The forlorn faces of these beautiful animals will definitely haunt me for months to come.

Tybee Island Pier
Tybee Island Pier

Even though I could’ve stayed an extra day or two enjoying Savannah, I took short drives to Tybee Island (a great place for dolphin watching), Fort Pulaski on Cockspur Island, and Hilton Head Island in South Carolina (which was only a 45 minute drive from Savannah). I kept the best for last– Isle of Hope, an historic island located in the Southeastern portion of the city. The long winding road of Bluff Drive had spectacular views of antebellum-style mansions and quaint cottages on one side and the Intracoastal Waterway on the other. The sun was shining, the trees were singing in the wind, and my heart was full of joy. Savannah is a place I will be returning for sure.

Bluff Drive Isle of Hope
Bluff Drive, Isle of Hope

My road trip also included a tour of The Walking Dead filming sites in and near Atlanta, and a wonderful animal-filled visit to the Proud Spirit Horse Sanctuary. Stay tuned for posts about these adventures.

Until then, stay warm and think sunny Savannah thoughts!

Published by Lavanya

Lavanya Sunkara is a writer, animal lover, and globetrotter based in New York City. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Travel + Leisure, Architectural Digest, Fodor’s, Forbes, USA Today and many more in a career spanning ten years. She covers travel, eco-lifestyle, culture, pets, and wildlife conservation.

4 thoughts on “Stumbling Upon Sweet Savannah

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed this post, and you’re deeply envied. I am a ghost man in the sense I like anything ghostly. Your ghost tour sounds interesting, but what will haunt you are the forlorn faces of the animals. I agree.

    I once did a ghost tour at Grand Central and sadly it was a flop show. The guide told us “stories” and we followed him around in the ever-crowded station, that after a while we were forcing ourselves to see ghosts in poor travelers. In a nutshell, nobody panicked after paying $30.

    Next day I was at Central Park and I felt bad for the horses there. I could relate to your post. And I’m glad you could go to the filming sites of The Walking Dead as I am a big fan of the show.

    Keep writing! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s