Don’t get us wrong — Savannah around St. Patrick’s Day is quite a scene (it’s one of the largest celebrations in the South and there’s an open-container law in the Historic District). But we’re at the stage in our sojourning lives where we’re more likely to sacrifice a few green-tinted cocktails for a bit more peace and quiet. That’s why you’ll find us in the charming coastal Georgia city (a four-hour drive from Atlanta) long after the leprechauns have left, somewhere between April and June.
Like a pot of travel gold, Savannah’s spring calendar runneth over with great events, good food and grand lodging. In fact, right now, there are so many desirable weekend options around the city that you’ll pinch yourself to ensure you’re not dreaming.
Whether it’s St. Paddy’s Day or Halloween (seeing as how the city dates back to 1733, there are bound to be a few ghosts lurking about), Savannah keeps its locals and visitors pretty busy. Springtime does its part with the fanfare, too, thanks in large part to a host of events that range from the cultural (Savannah Music Festival, through April 9) to the creative (the Savannah College of Art & Design-helmed Sidewalk Arts Festival, April 23) and culinary (River Street Seafood Fest, May 6 to 7).
Though musical headliners have yet to be named for this year’s installment of Savannah Blues, Jazz and BBQ (June 3 to 4), we’re sure the gathering will again somehow manage to combine all of the above elements across two jovial days along the picturesque waterfront.
If you had to capture Savannah into a single snapshot, the first image might be of a riverboat or a cobblestone street draped in live oaks. But we’d be willing to guess that one of the next pictures to pop into your head would be of Paula Deen smiling in the kitchen. The famed cook, though a native of Albany, Georgia, is as much a part of Savannah’s culinary backstory as shrimp and grits.
Through the good times and the controversial ones, locals and out-of-towners have shown their support for the 69-year-old matriarch of mac and cheese by flocking to her downtown restaurant, The Lady & Sons. Every night of the week, expect big helpings of fried chicken and lima beans and even bigger lines waiting to get a table.
But while the smell of Deen’s collard greens and cornbread might be the most fragrant around Forsyth Park, they’re far from the only aromas. Sitting so close to the Atlantic Ocean, the city sees seafood as a menu staple.
If you’re in the mood to have your crab cakes and pan-seared scallops served with a side of Southern elegance, reserve a table at A.lure. However, if you don’t mind the guy in the next table over singing along to Luke Bryan’s “Kick the Dust Up,” head to Huey’s along the water for a shrimp po’boy that’s as good as anything you’d find on Canal Street.
Savannah has welcomed a pleasant array of fairly new restaurants worthy of a visit, too. The Florence is acclaimed Georgia-based chef Hugh Acheson’s first foray into the city. Housed in a restored ice factory dating back to the 1800s, the two-floor Italian eatery is doing some amazing things with pastas (sweet potato tortelli) and pizzas (meatball and Calabrian chili-topped pies).
Not to be outdone, Green Truck Neighborhood Pub is a casual spot for lunch and dinner that takes as much pride in its relationships with local beef purveyors and small-batch coffee makers as it does in serving a one-third-pound burger so tasty you’ll begin questioning your loyalty to Shake Shack.
After sampling some of the above options, the only reasonable move for dessert is Leopold’s Ice Cream. A Savannah institution since the early 1900s, Leopold’s is the place that locals go to for relief from the Georgia heat. While it’s perfectly fine to cool off with traditional flavors like butter pecan and chocolate raspberry swirl, consider yourself lucky if you’re able to catch one of the seasonal treats — we’re still gushing over March’s Girl Scouts-themed Samoa milkshake.
Reserving a room along the Savannah River certainly has its perks — you’re likely to score spectacular views of passing boats and be in close proximity to some quality restaurants. Still, if you’re seeking the kind of overnight experience you’d imagine as a backdrop in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, the only sensible place to rest your head is Hamilton-Turner Inn, a place that literally plays a role in John Berendt’s timeless book.
A former private mansion and home for nurses, the Forbes Travel Guide Recommended property has Dixie charm coming from every corner. (While we’d have to ask Margaret Mitchell for certainty, it’s long rumored that the building’s original owner, Samuel Hamilton, was the inspiration for Gone with the Wind’s Rhett Butler.) Each of the 17 rooms has a unique feel, though you’ll find a mix of original antiques and newly renovated bath touches in every unit.
If the downstairs parlor doesn’t strike a turn-of-the-century chord with its daily wine and hors d’oeuvres presentation, the stunning mural painted by local artist Bob Christian surely will. Across the hall, you’ll find a dining room where a fresh, thoughtful breakfast (see: quiche, pastries, fruit) is prepared every morning.
Between bites, peer out of the window to your left and you’ll spot the childhood home of author Flannery O’Connor. Look straight across and you can’t miss Lafayette Square, a cute space with the obligatory fountain at its center.
Visit Savannah between April and June, when the blooming flowers and moss-dripped oaks are at their most photogenic, and you’ll have yourself the perfect setting for the next great novel or, at the very least, Snapchat story.