Stepping onto the streets of Savannah, Georgia, is like walking through a scene from John Berendt’s “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” — minus the murder scenes. Spanish moss hangs from beautiful live oaks, ornate ironwork graces homes and you can find plenty of green and lounge-worthy park benches in the city’s 22 stunning public squares.
There is a mature feel to Savannah, too, which is not surprising since the city was established in 1733 when General James Oglethorpe landed his ship along the Savannah River. Unlike many other territories in that era, Savannah maintained its glory largely due to the friendship officials struck with the Tomochichi tribe, thus saving the city from being sacked, burned or otherwise destroyed like so many places during the colonial times. Savannah was also spared during the Civil War after conquering general William Tecumseh Sherman decided the city was too pretty to burn (like he did Atlanta) and instead, on Dec. 22, 1864, he offered President Abraham Lincoln the land as a Christmas present.
Because of these two acts of mercy, the old-school charm of Savannah still radiates through, as well as–some say–the ghosts of the past. That’s right, this fair town is thought to be one of the most haunted cities in America, and with a handful of glorious graveyards to back up that thought, it’s not only a beautiful place to visit, but a spooky one, too.
Sleep: Because of the sheer charm that exudes from the many bed and breakfasts that dot this town, these are the best options for your stay in Savannah. For a dose of history, book at the elegant Gastonian (220 E. Gaston St., 912-232-2869; gastonian.com) downtown. This grand mansion was built in 1868 and today each of their rooms proves unique with touches of Victorian charm. Rates start around $170 and include a full breakfast.
Eat: Like many things in Savannah, the Olde Pink House (23 Abercorn St., 912-232-4286; plantersinnsavannah.com) is located inside what used to be a majestic southern mansion. As the name suggests, the exterior is a rosy hue, but inside you will find a maze of stairs, hallways and rooms, all equipped with tables and waiters eager to serve you classic low country she crab soup, shrimp and grits and blue crab beignets. For lunch, dine by the water at Vics on the River (26 East Bay St., 912-721-1000; vicsontheriver.com), a semi-fancy southern-style eatery serving a fried green tomato BLT, fries seasoned with Old Bay, collard greens and smoked cheddar grits.
See: Just walking around downtown Savannah offers plenty to see, from the numerous charming squares to the antique architecture. But for those seeking adventure, a ghost tour is one of the most exciting things to do. Many of them give you a sense of the town’s history while showcasing spooky sites. Sign up to take one of paranormal investigator Tim Nealon’s Ghost City Tours (ghosttoursinsavannah.com), such as the all-ages Grave Tales jaunt. This 90-minute tour takes off from Johnson Square every night at 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. and runs $19.95 for adults, $9.95 for kids under the age of 12.
If you are looking for action during the day, take a ride on the Georgia Queen (savannahriverboat.com), an old-fashioned riverboat that hosts sightseeing cruises, Sunday brunch complete with gospel music and a murder mystery dinner on Thursdays.
Shop: One of the loveliest places to stroll and shop is charming River Street, where dozens of shops line the waterway. Make sure to stop in the Savannah Bee Company (1 W. River St., 912-234-088; savannahbee.com) and stock up on local honey and honey-infused beauty products. Or satiate your sweet tooth with hand-crafted candy at the 40-year-old River Street Sweets (13 E. River St., 912-234-4608; riverstreetsweets.com). And don’t miss the four-block City Market (Savannahcitymarket.com), a pedestrian-friendly assembly of galleries, cafes, candy shops and novelty stores.