Savannah soothes the senses, tempts the taste buds

Posted June 13, 2009 8:00 a.m. EDT
Updated June 13, 2009 9:04 a.m. EDT

— There's something soothing about Savannah. Maybe it's the horse-drawn carriages that clip-clop nearby as you walk down cobblestone streets or the smell of the city's scrumptious food.

Either way, this Georgia city is full of secrets that sell. Thousands flock to the port city each year seeking solitude, scenery or just a spooky ghost tour. The city's visitors' bureau describes this place as "hip and historic, robust and refined" – a fitting portrayal, in my opinion.

My husband and I are among those thousands of visitors. We recently took a trip to the city to celebrate our second wedding anniversary. (We marked our first anniversary there as well.)

We made our grand entrance into the city by driving across the gorgeous Talmadge Memorial Bridge which spans the Savannah River. The cable-stayed bridge connects the city to the border of South Carolina. We snapped dozens of pictures of that beautiful bridge, as I'm sure many other tourists have done.

See pictures from our trip to Savannah!

What to do

By foot, boat, bike, horse-drawn carriage or trolley, there are many ways to see Savannah. The city, founded in 1733, is laid out on a grid system and features 21 square parks and open spaces, such as Forsyth Park.

If it's your first time visiting, I suggest taking a trolley tour. It's probably the fastest way to see the city and get a feel for what attractions you'd like to focus on during your trip.

Savannah also has several themed excursions, such as ghost tours, architecture tours, boat tours, etc. In 2002, the American Institute of Parapsychology named Savannah “America’s Most Haunted City" due to the city's history of fires, plagues, wars and voodoo.

"The Ghosts and Gravestones tour has exclusive access to the Sorrel Weed House, which was featured on SCIFI channel’s Ghost Hunters. The Ghost Hunters’ staff uncovered an abundance of supernatural activity in the house, including ghostly hand prints on a wall, invisible to the naked eye and a frantic communication from the other side, so beware!" according to Old Town Trolley Tours' Web site.

If ghosts aren't your thing, Savannah has a rich history with the movie business. Actress and singer Miley Cyrus plans to start shooting her new movie, "The Last Song," in Savannah and nearby Tybee Island in mid June.

Other movies that have used Savannah as a backdrop include: “Forrest Gump,” “Roots,” “Gator,” “Glory,” “Something to Talk About,” “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” “Forces of Nature,” “The General’s Daughter,” and “Legend of Bagger Vance."

Where to eat

As beautiful as the city is, I must confess that it was the food that drew us to Savannah initially. Does the name Paula Deen sound familiar, y'all? My husband and I are fans of her Southern-inspired cooking show on the Food Network and even bigger fans of her food now that we have tasted it several times.

Deen's restaurant, The Lady & Sons, is a mecca for eager tourists hoping to catch a glimpse of the silver-haired lady or get a taste of her buttery food. The restaurant, one of Savannah's most popular, does not take reservations over the phone (unless it's a holiday or a party of 10 or more) and those who show up at lunch or dinnertime hoping to get a seat right away are usually out of luck.

To get a seat in this three-story eatery requires some patience. Reservations must be made in person, usually several hours before you hope to eat. But, be warned, there is usually a line of people standing outside the restaurant trying to get their name on the list.

If you are able to make it in, I highly suggest the Lady's Southern Buffet, which is $17.99 per person. It includes: Southern fried chicken, low country boil, country fried steak and gravy, collard greens, creamed potatoes, mac and cheese, a salad bar, dessert and much more. If you are a calorie-counter, don't bother. As Deen proudly says, she's a butter-lover and it shows in her food.

Before leaving the restaurant, the waiters and waitresses typically ask if you have been to Uncle Bubba's Oyster House, another Savannah restaurant. Who is Uncle Bubba, you ask? He is Deen's brother and together they co-own his restaurant, which features delicious seafood and Southern staples.

If Paula Deen's buttery goodness isn't your cup of sweet tea, Savannah is full of other wonderful restaurants. The pedestrian-friendly city makes it easy to find eateries that will entice your taste buds.

Where to stay and more info

If you do decide to visit Savannah, you can expect about a five-hour drive from Raleigh. Make sure to bring a camera, lightweight clothing, sunglasses, super comfy walking shoes and an empty stomach. The city is also very dog-friendly, so don't be afraid to bring along your four-legged pals.

Once there, you'll find plenty of places to stay. The city has more than 12,000 rooms in a wide range of hotels, motels, inns and bed & breakfasts. I'd suggest staying in downtown Savannah so you have easy access to all the hot spots. Rooms overlooking the Savannah River are especially spectacular.

To help plan your trip, the visitors' bureau Web site and this WikiTravel article are helpful.

As the visitors' bureau says: "Savannah is where you'll find amazing architecture, spooky cemeteries and rich history – along with global sophistication, funky nightlife and fabulous food."

I couldn't agree more, and I can't wait to visit this beautiful city again.