Savannah will make you smile
Crossing the stunning white cable-stayed bridge into the city of Savannah, you get a quick view of what you’re going to see when you reach the other side. Tall church steeples and old buildings line the bluff overlooking the river where massive cargo ships make their way up and down the Savannah River.
Exiting off the bridge onto Oglethorpe Avenue, you quickly fall into the spell of Savannah’s Southern charm. That charm is draped over every oak tree covered in Spanish Moss, the dozens of stately homes lining the street, and the quirky bright colors of the Thunderbird Inn, a retro motor lodge where you get hot popcorn when you arrive and Krispy Kreme doughnuts and coffee in the morning.
James Oglethorpe had an elaborate plan for Savannah when it was established as part of the British Colonies in the 1730’s. The city streets run in a grid, making it easy to find your way around the city. Within that grid are nearly two dozen public squares and the larger Forsyth Park, home to the city's most famous fountain. On our first day in Savannah, we parked in front of a house that was home to Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston, just one of what seems like a countless number of homes with a story to tell in this National Historic District.
Once you’ve found a place to park, start heading toward River Street where most of the action is concentrated. You’ll definitely find a lot of things to see along the way including magnificent churches, those charming squares and newer buildings that definitely have benefited from the creative touch of the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD).
The main part of Savannah sits well above the Savannah River, so getting down to River Street can be a bit of a challenge. Signs warning of the dangers of “Historic Steps” can be found along many of the paths down to the river. (An elevator is available near the Visitor Center.) At the bottom of each stairwell, the cobblestone streets remind you of old Europe and you quickly get the feeling you’re in a different era, that is until you glance out toward the river and see a towering cargo ship filled with hundreds of containers.
River Street takes on an aura all its own. This historic thoroughfare is wedged between a long row of buildings and a riverfront plaza that takes you to the edge of the water. While this is definitely an area catering to tourists, it is filled with the same Southern Charm and odes to the city's rich history.
While monuments play a big role in the city’s many public squares, you’ll also find them along the Savannah River. One of the most notable is large granite globe split in two, a World War II monument called “Cracked Earth.” A few hundred feet down the river, standing in the shadow of the magnificent, gold domed City Hall is the African-American monument, which depicts a family standing with the chains of slavery at their feet. There are also monuments dedicated to Merchant Marines and one to the Waving Girl of Savannah (which we did not see on our recent trip).
Savannah is a city where you can get around on foot easily, but if you need a lift, there’s a free trolley to ride. Street parking prices were reasonable, but there are a number of parking garages closer to the river. Be sure and pace yourself, there is a lot to see and do. I’m sure based on my family’s reactions on this first visit, that we’ll be back again as soon as we get the chance.