Savannah, Georgia is a popular tourist destination. Located in the sunny south, the temperature ranges from blazing hot to pleasantly warm for most of the year. Savannah is also famous for its St. Patrick’s Day festival and parade, the second largest in the country after New York City. There are lots of things to do in Savannah, and much of it doesn’t require spending a lot of money, especially if you are visiting to experience the history of the city. Savannah is a walking city; you don’t really need a car to get around the historic district. You can easily walk all over the historic district in less than a day, although it takes much longer than that to take it all in.
Walking down River Street is like taking a step back into another age. The street is cobblestone, something that isn’t often found in the States, and the buildings are old, most dating from the eighteenth or early nineteenth century. There are a lot of pubs to choose from on River Street. This may be partly why the city is such a draw for St. Patrick’s Day.
Here you can watch the massive freight ships enter the port of Savannah with the Talmadge suspension bridge as a beautiful back drop. Some of the ships are so large that it doesn’t seem as if it should be possible for them to be in the river in the first place. There are many statues along the river. One of the most famous is the Waving Girl statue located at the east end of River Street. It commemorates a woman, Florence Martus, who came everyday for forty-six years to wave at the ships that came into the river.
Once long ago, pirates and sailors, fishermen and merchants, walked along this same street. There is an old Tavern, known as the Pirates’ House that is located near the east end of River Street at 20 E. Broad; it is now a restaurant. It was here that legend has it that pirates came and drank their rum, and abducted unwitting sailors, forcing them to sail as far a field as China before they were allowed to return home.
If pirate rum isn’t your forte, there are also plenty of candy shops on River Street. These shops too are located in historic buildings. Savannah Candy Kitchen and River Street Sweets are two of them. The candy is homemade and there is a lot to choose from. The candy isn’t very cheap because it is homemade (and oh so good!), but you may want to treat yourself to a piece or two, to fortify yourself before you attempt to climb up the extremely steep stairs to Bay Street. The steps up from River Street are treacherous and I recommend extreme caution when climbing them. If it is difficult for you to climb normal stairs, don’t even attempt climbing these. If so, I recommend entering and exiting River Street at either end of it, where there is level street access.
A big draw for tourists, City Market encompasses the blocks between Jefferson and Barnard St. on the east and west and W. Bryan and W. Congress on the north and south. City Market is very quaint and the horse drawn carriage rides begin and end there. You can often see the horses drinking water in the middle of the market, resting in-between rides. From City Market it is easy to walk either south or east and find yourself in many squares that run every other block for many blocks.
You can’t walk many places in the city without coming across very old houses, or brick sidewalks that look like a million people before you might have walked on them over the course of two hundred years. There are mansions with wrought iron railings covered with ivy and stairs that wind up to massive balconies.
The main entrance to Colonial Cemetery is located at the intersection of Abercorn St. and Oglethorpe Ave. right across from the fire department. This is one of the best cemeteries I’ve ever been in. It has some of the oldest grave markers that I have ever seen in the southern United States. For those of you interested in the masons or freemasons, I also noticed a lot of graves from the nineteenth century in the cemetery that have symbols of said organizations engraved in various headstones. Some of the images on the head stones are of pyramids and skulls with crossbones, and the common compass and square that is perhaps the most recognizable of Masonic symbols.
There is also a historical marker that recounts a duel. Two rather famous men, US Major General from the Revolutionary War, Lachlan McIntosh and signer of the Declaration of Independence, Button Gwinnett, decided that they wanted to duel but it was illegal in the city to do so. They went across the river and had their duel in South Carolina. Button Gwinnett lost the duel and is buried in the cemetery. There is a street named after him a few blocks south of the cemetery.
While you are at Colonial Cemetery, you may want to walk down Habersham St. on the other side of the cemetery. Here is where the old prison is. There is not much left of the old building that borders the Cemetery, except for the outer walls and some hints of the cells that once stood inside. The roof is completely gone, and the vegetation is taking over the inside of the space. You can walk up to the building and peer through the bars covering the windows.
Located south of Gaston Street, Forsyth Park covers many square city blocks. There are many festivals that are held here and also concerts. The most interesting thing about Forsyth Park is the mysterious buildings located in the park. They are white and appear to be rather old with no clear or easily recognized purpose. One seems to have a garden in it, blocked off from the public by a wrought iron gate. Another attraction in the park is the famous fountain. It is often used in brochures and advertisements about Savannah.
There is plenty to do in Savannah without spending any money at all. I’ve managed more than once to entertain myself for hours by reading the historical markers and wandering around the cobblestone streets. Savannah is one of the prettiest cities in the entire country and definitely worth visiting.