Savannah is just as beautiful as it looks in pictures. Since Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil — both the book and the movie — came out in the 1990s, tourism has ramped up in this Southern town known for its 22 park-like squares, sultry summers and Spanish moss dripping from trees. But Savannah also has a modern overlay, thanks in part to the Savannah College of Art & Design, or SCAD, which has renovated deteriorating buildings and attracted talented youth from around the world since its founding in 1978. Today, this Georgia city of 145,000 appeals to visitors who appreciate history, art, ghosts, romantic architecture, Southern culture and a bit of quirkiness. Here are some sustainable stops throughout the city.
The pace is slow in Savannah, especially if you visit in the summer. Walking around town, reading historic plaques in the squares and on the Savannah River waterfront, wandering into shops and talking with people is probably the best way to get a feel for the town. If you like a more structured outing, Savannah has a plethora of walking tours, with history, architecture and paranormal activity topping the list. It’s no wonder — Georgia’s oldest city, Savannah was established in 1733 and endured fighting in both the Revolutionary and Civil wars.
In keeping with the paranormal and historical themes, Savannah has some of the country’s most beautiful graveyards. Bonaventure Cemetery, located on a bluff overlooking the Wilmington River, has the grandest monuments. The wide paved lanes are a nice place to stroll.
Those who prize cardio workouts will enjoy an early morning visit to 30-acre Forsyth Park, where you’ll encounter locals running and doing walking lunges around the shady, 1.8-mile, figure 8-shaped loop. Historic mansions and monuments ring this flat course with a lovely fountain in the middle. Great Runs has also mapped a 6-mile running tour that hits every square and Forsyth Park.
If you like to see places from the water, Savannah Canoe and Kayak offers tours of Little Tybee Island, or they’ll take you inland to see the forested creeks and wildlife of Skidaway Narrows.
Because Savannah is only 18 miles inland from the Atlantic coast, many people also visit Tybee Island. This barrier island has wide beaches, a lighthouse and a fort. The League of American Bicyclists deemed Tybee one of the most bike-friendly communities. Several rental shops let you explore the island on two wheels.
Wellness in Savannah
Savannah’s many yoga studios include friendly Dancing Dogs Yoga right on the main drag downtown. Savannah Yoga Center offers events like learning to read tarot and pendulums, as well as a full schedule of yoga classes.
Those who appreciate the healing power of felines will enjoy Pounce Cat Café and Wine Bar, where you’ll find approximately 20 adoptable cats cavorting or napping on any given day. If you’re pressed for time, you can get a 10-minute pass for just $5.
Roots Up Gallery is an inspiring place to delve into Southern folk art. As the gallery’s website explains, the self-taught painters, jewelers, sculptors and potters they represent “possess a soulful style that is borne from within.”
Vegan restaurants in Savannah
The Fox and Fig Café is Savannah’s leading plant-based restaurant. The raw lasagna is deliciously flavorful, and the shakes, made with local favorite Leopold’s coconut ice cream, are very popular. You can even get a vegan truffle flight here.
People come to the Sentient Bean for espresso drinks and vegan chia yogurt in the morning, and plant-based dinners and local musicians at night. Wednesday nights, the Sentient Bean hosts meetings of the Psychotronic Film Society.
Getting around Savannah
When your feet get tired, you can hop on the DOT, a free bus that serves 24 stops in the Historic District and the Savannah Belles Ferry. It runs until midnight every day but Sunday, when service stops at 9 p.m.
The Savannah Belles Ferry connects downtown with the convention center and Hutchinson Island. If you’re going farther afield, Chatham Area Transit serves Savannah and Chatham County. A shuttle bus service runs from downtown Savannah to Tybee Island in spring and summer.
Uber and Lyft both operate in Savannah.
How you feel about spectral visitors might drive your Savannah lodging decisions, because many of the hotels claim to have resident ghosts. The Marshall House generally wins accolades for being the most haunted, while the 1960s restored retro Thunderbird Inn might be the least.
The Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort and Spa follows a long list of sustainability practices, including irrigating with gray water, organic waste composting and salt water pool and hot tub systems. The Kimpton Brice offers guests free use of bikes and supplies a yoga mat in every room.
Images by Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat