Savannah, Georgia is synonymous with Southern charm in the minds of many –maybe because of the city’s gardens, squares, historic mansions, Southern cooking, and cordial welcome to travelers. The city’s beauty may have actually saved it from destruction: during the Civil War, General Sherman was said to have been so impressed with Savannah that he could not destroy it. Hollywood has also taken note of this picturesque city: filming more than 40 movies in Savannah including “Forrest Gump” and “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”
Founded in 1733 by General James Edward Oglethorp, Savannah was planned around 24 squares (22 of which still exist). Among square must-sees are Calhoun Square, named in honor of John C. Calhoun, U.S. vice-president under John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson, and the only plaza with all its original buildings still intact. Also of great interest is Chippewa Square, dating from 1815 and known as the Forrest Gump Square as scenes from that movie were filmed here.
An ideal walking city, some cruise passengers simply put on comfortable shoes and wander independently from plaza to plaza in Savannah’s historic district enjoying its many architectural styles including Federal, Georgian, Gothic Revival, Greek Revival, Italianate, Regency, Romanesque Revival and Second French Empire. Many of the buildings boast elaborate ironwork in balconies, fences, scrollwork and railings.
A frequent stop on city tours cruise passengers can easily arrange onboard ship, is Forsyth Park, named for John Forsyth, a Georgia governor. A 30-acre park, it is one of the city’s most popular. Located on Bull and Gaston Streets and Park Avenue, it is filled with azaleas and oaks and has a fountain dating from 1858 that is a replica of the one in the Place de la Concorde in Paris. Among Forsyth Park’s many charms are monuments to the Confederate Soldier and the U.S. Marine Corps, as well as the Spanish American Monument. A highlight is the Fragrant Garden for the Blind. It is as if the city, conscious of its beauty has wished to give something to blind persons who cannot enjoy its visual feast.
Other points of interest include 40 cultural attractions, historic homes and museums. Among them is the Owens-Thomas House, 124 Abercorn Street. The house dates from 1816 and was designed by architect William Jay in Regency style –it is considered one of the best examples of this style in the U.S. The house is now a museum with some of few slave dormitories conserved intact in the country.
Another point of interest is the City Market, between Barnard, Congress and Bryan Streets. This market has been renovated to conserve the ambiance of Savannah’s old outdoor market. It extends for four blocks and features local artists, cafes, jazz clubs, restaurants and handicrafts.
River Street, below Bay Street, was in the 19th century a place of warehouses where cotton from local plantations was stored awaiting export to various parts of the globe. Nine brick blocks offer, from various vantage points, views of boats and ships entering and leaving the city and feature many shops, art galleries and restaurants.
Excursions to Tybee Island, Savannah’s beach, are popular among passengers who have already visited the city and its attractions. A nature lover’s paradise 20 minutes east of Savannah, it offers sand, sea and salty breezes as well as such points of interest as Fort Screven, used during the Spanish-American War. Just west of the island on U.S. Highway 80 is Fort Pulaski –it played a role during the Civil War.
The Tybee Lighthouse has guarded the Savannah River since 1736. The present 154-foot lighthouse was reconstructed in 1887. The Tybee Lighthouse Museum dates from 1897 and had its beginnings as an artillery post for the defense of the city. The museum offers exhibits on the history of Tybee Island, Civil War weapons, antique dolls and other objects. Sampling the local seafood, including crabs, shrimp and oysters is a “must” on a visit to Tybee Island.
Other local flavors not to be missed include Lowcountry boils including shrimp, potatoes, sausage, corn on the cob and onions all boiled together.
Cruise lines that visit Savannah include American, Azamara Club, Crystal, and Regent Seven Seas.
IF YOU GO – For additional information on Savannah, log on to www.savannahvisit.com.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun