By Sandy Traub
Photos by Will A. Davis
The solo traveler will find the Southern gem of Savannah to be a welcoming city eager to share her treasure trove of attractions. Its old world meets new, a town vibrant with the creative, youthful energy of Savannah College of Art and Design students who study within the walls of centuries-old, architecturally elite buildings. World-class museums, fantastic restaurants, art galleries galore, and the meticulously maintained parks and squares keep visitors coming back for more.
Telfair Academy of Arts & Sciences
You’ll need a few hours to absorb the riches of the fine art housed in Telfair Museum of Art, the oldest art museum in the South and the newly-constructed, Jepson Center of the Arts. Built 1818-1819 for Alexander Telfair, son of the Revolutionary patriot and Georgia governor Edward Telfair, the mansion was home to the Telfair family until 1875. Mary Telfair, an early patron of the arts, bequeathed her house and its furnishings to the Georgia Historical Society to be opened as a museum. Many dignitaries, including Jefferson Davis, former President of the Confederacy, attended the formal opening in 1886 of the Telfair Mansion and Art Museum.
The Jepson Center for the Arts is just across the way, a state of the art construction built to accommodate the expansion of the Telfair’s needs. Don’t miss the Telfair Cafe at the Jepson Center they serve up a killer lobster salad! If you must eat and work, Wifi at the Jepson can make that happen. On the second Friday afternoon of each month the museum hosts a cocktail reception with live music.
The Telfair also operate the tours of the nearly 200-year-old Owens-Thomas House. The very affordable admission for all three sites can be purchased at each museum. (Telfair Museum of Art, 121 Barnard Street, 912-790-8800; Jepson Center for the Arts, 207 W. York St. 912-790-8800; Owens-Thomas House 124 Abercorn Street 912-233-9743. Check www.telfair.org for current days and hours of operation).
J. Christopher’s offers a feast for the eyes, from SCAD student art gracing the walls to the cheerful Crayola box colors of mugs and napkins. Booths allow ample space for spreading the pages of the Savannah Morning News or book. The menu offers an interesting array of breakfast items, burgers and dynamite salads. (122 East Liberty Street).
A few blocks away, the cheery Soho South Cafe attracts an eclectic crowd, drawn to a menu that boasts Belgian waffles piled high with warm berries and whipped cream, silky quiches and perhaps the best crab cakes in Savannah. A year-round Christmas tree resides atop a vintage piano, with decorations that change accordingly. (12 East Liberty Street, 912-233-1633).
Over at the Firefly Cafe, happy patrons dine beneath umbrella-covered sidewalk tables and enjoy the sun-dappled view of Troup Square. Dogs laze tableside. Fresh-squeezed Granny Smith apple juice arrives, emerald green and tart. The Shrimp and Grits are divine and omelets are fat and fluffy. Vegan options are available. An excellent choice for dinner as well. (321 Habersham Street, 912-234-1971).
A sentimental favorite for lunch, and arrive early (around 11:15 a.m.) to avoid lines is Mrs.Wilkes Boarding House. Here you enjoy old-time family style dining hosted by Mrs. Wilkes great grandson, Ryan Thompson, who carries on the family tradition. It began as a 1940s boarding house where soldiers began taking their plates to the kitchen, a ritual that diners continue today. (107 West Jones St., 912-232-5997).
A grab and go picnic options starts atParkers Market Urban Gourmet is an odd and interesting combo gas station and gourmet eatery. You can top off your tank, order a custom sandwich to go, pick up an interesting bottled tea, and you’re good to go. Don’t miss the freshly baked jumbo cookies! Head over to a nearby square to relax on a park bench and watch the world of Savannah go by. (222 Drayton St., 912-233-1000).
Garibaldi’s Cafe offers great Italian fare in an elegant atmosphere. Bold murals and an original pressed-tin ceiling make this former fire station a cozy spot for enjoying oysters on the half shell, crispy calamari, and almost a dozen kinds of pasta. Expansive windows allow a view from the bar of all the happenings on Congress Street. (315 West Congress Street, 912-232-7118)
Built in 1771, The Olde Pink House has functioned as a private home, a bank, headquarters for a Civil War Union general, and is now one of Savannahs most popular dining spots. The parlor level dining is elegant and candlelit. Solo travelers may prefer to dine in the downstairs Planters Tavern, cozy and friendly with live music and a fireplace sure to stave off the chill. Cuisine features Low Country favorites, including sautéed local shrimp with country ham and grits cake, crispy scored flounder with apricot sauce, and blue crab-stuffed black grouper. (23 Abercorn Street, 912-232-4286).
Head over to the Sweet Leaf Smokery and Eatery for some of the best bar-b-que to be found in Savannah. Meaty, succulent ribs, pulled pork or beef and a side of grilled vegetables will tide you over until breakfast. It’s a funky little place, with original art-covered walls and delectable smells coming from the kitchen will make your mouth water. Sidewalk seating is perfect for enjoying a warm Savannah night. (606 Abercorn Street, 912-447-5444).
Drinking Before Dinner or After
Jazz’d Tapas Bar (52 Barnard St., 912-236-7777) showcases the areas best musicians and offers a fun atmosphere, along with appetizer-size cuisine. Along the riverfront harbor, nightly entertainment is abundant, especially on the first Saturday of the month.
Where to Stay
The Presidents Quarters Inn offers an ideal location for exploring Savannah on foot. Here in the historic district location it’s a quick jaunt to historic River Street or along Broughton Street (the town’s main business, theatre and shopping artery) and many of Savannahs famous and beautiful squares. Constructed in 1855, the Inn features overly spacious suites with fireplaces, balconies, and an expanded signature breakfast best enjoyed in the front parlor or the pretty little outdoor courtyard. Safety is paramount with lobby doors locked at night and lock boxes for valuables available at the front desk. Full service concierge services assure a pleasant stay. (225 East President Street, 912-233-1600, Toll Free 800-233-1776, www.PresidentsQuarters.com).
Connect Savannah, a comprehensive weekly publication, lists musical and cultural happenings taking place all over town. Look for the latest issue in paper boxes and eateries.
The Savannah Convention and Visitors Bureau (www.SavannahVisit.com) provides a calendar of top events in the area.
Savannah is a five-hour drive from Atlanta. The Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport is only twenty-five minutes away from the hub of the city and is served by major airlines. Taxis can be pricey. Check www.lowcountryadventures.com for inexpensive airport shuttles to the city center. Amtrak makes a stop at the Savannah train station.