Savannah's enduring charm is a direct result of the city's respect for its past. Nowhere is this more evident that in the many small neighborhoods, which often seem more like pictures from a storybook than the corners of a 21st century city. With no skyscrapers, few modern-looking structures, and the shopping malls placed mercifully, inconveniently on the periphery of town, this burg of 150,000 souls keeps the soul of the Old South alive for residents and guests alike.
This two-and-half square mile district serves as the functional heart of Savannah, and the historic status is not self-decreed. Bordered by the Savannah River to the north, Montgomery Street to the west, Price Street to the east, and Forsythe Park to the south, this area represents one of the largest National Historic Landmarks in the nation. Here is where you'll find the picturesque civic squares—23 of them—that make Savannah famous as well as street after tree-lined street of ancient churches, monuments and museums, including the Telfair, which now houses the famous “Bird Girl” statue featured on the cover of John Berendt's “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”
The historic district includes the festive shops and restaurants of River Street at its northern extremity, as well as the stately businesses and churches that line Bay Street on the palisade above. Here, at the terminus of Bull Street, sits the golden dome of Savannah City Hall, the site where General James Oglethorpe first set foot on Georgia clay. As you wander south, you'll pass the verdant city squares that have played host to such Hollywood notables as Forrest Gump and Kevin Spacey's Jim Williams. As you move farther south through the oldest part of the city, you'll discover more than 2300 historic buildings—about 80 percent of which have been restored—representing architectural influences that range from Federal to Italianate, Regency to Victorian. Among the notable residences are the family estates of singer-songwriter Johnny Mercer, and Girl Scouts founder
The historic district is also home to many of the city's seasonal festivals, the Savannah College of Art and Design, and a good number of Savannah's most revered restaurants and inns. Favorites include the ritzy
As suggested by the name, this area runs along the length of the Savannah River, the city's northern border. Once the nerve center of Savannah's booming cotton trade, the neighborhood began to deteriorate after the yellow fever quarantine and subsequent depression of 1818. Abandoned for over a century, the riverfront was resurrected in 1977, as the sprawling brick warehouses and merchant buildings were transformed into a parade of shops, restaurants and art galleries.
Since then, the area has developed into the most popular destination for visitors, and maintains a festive atmosphere that lasts well into the night. Such popular restaurants as
Once the bustling center of Savannah culture, commerce and gossip, City Market also sits on the river, a bit north of River Street at Jefferson and West Julian. Like River Street, the brick warehouses of this small area languished in disrepair after the death of King Cotton, but have been reclaimed by the city and now host droves of tourists. Shops, restaurants and some of the Savannah's coolest clubs draw daily crowds, with frequent live music and performance artists lending a festive atmosphere to this busy corner of the city.
This 50-block neighborhood is situated just south of the historic district, between Martin Luther King Boulevard and East Broad Street. Also listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this area represented the first suburb of Savannah as the city spread out in the late 1800s. Largely residential, the neighborhood features examples of many architectural styles, with an unsurprising abundance of Victorian structures.
Midtown is a large area that incorporates the Victorian District and points south as far as DeRenne Avenue. As the neighborhood progresses southward along Abercorn Street, the residences become more modern, businesses appear, and the charm of old Savannah fades rapidly. One exception, however, is the tiny town of Thunderbolt, a quaint fishing village just to the east on the Wilmington River. Midtown is home to much of Savannah's medical community, as well as Armstrong Atlantic State University and Savannah State University. Sports fans will want to visit Grayson Stadium, home to the city's minor league baseball team, the Savannah Sand Gnats.
It's hard to say where Midtown ends and Southside begins, but DeRenne Avenue is considered a fair mark. This is where the suburban sprawl of the 1950s and 1960s really hit, as evidenced by the uninspiring residential neighborhoods intermingled with countless strip malls, fast food joints, and car dealerships. Hunter Army Airfield, from whose enormous runway the US Army deploys servicemen worldwide, anchors the area.
The low country surrounding the city harbors many small islands, including the residential boom areas of Wilmington and Whitemarsh, and the touchingly quaint Isle of Hope, whose antebellum homes and verdant lawns are the stuff of Dixie dreams. Nearby, Skidaway Island is the site of golfing communities, marinas, and miles of biking and nature trails. Skidaway is also home to the
Savannah's seaside playground, however, is Tybee. Just 15 miles east of downtown past