All decked out to the nines with vintage pink, red, and blue homes, the charming city of Savannah embodies the ideal of fine Southern living. Explore historic mansions, live oaks draped in Spanish moss, and sip on mint juleps on the verandah. But there’s plenty of free spirit in this Southern Georgia city, too, a fact underscored in John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. The blockbuster book has drawn thousands of visitors to Savannah’s ghost tours and Bonaventure Cemetery. Savannah is a 2 hour drive from Charleston (100 miles) and a 2 hour drive from Atlanta (100 miles).
Top 10 Attractions
1. Ghost Tours – There a number of ways to tour and possibly even see one of Savanah’s ghouls first hand, here in “America’s Most Haunted City” with one of the most popular being Haunted Savannah. Or try my favorite–the world famous Hearse Ghost Tours, which allows you to ride in real Hearses that were in service for more than 15 years with actual funeral parlors. Cruise over the cemeteries and through the beautiful streets of the Historic and Victorian districts. Hear of the spirits and ghost that are believed to haunt Savannah. You will see striking buildings where strange energies linger and you will hear the dark stories of the cities past on a potential paranormal journey you will never forget. As featured on the Travel and Discovery Channels and voted the #1 Ghost Tour In America by TripAdvisor, this truly ranks among the best. The Hearse Ghost Tour can hold up to 9 guests and admission is $15 per adults and $10 per child. Haunted Savannah is $20 for adults and $10 for children.
Another favorite is Blue Orb Savannah Ghost Tours, which was named “Best Savannah Ghost Tour” by The Destination Guide. It’s featured in our list of 13 Bone-Chilling Haunted Tours in the US. Blue Orb Tours offers 3 ghost tours in Savannah, Ga. They have two adults only Savannah ghost walks (The Modern Hauntings Tour and The Uncensored Zombie Tour) as well as a family friendly ghost tour (The City of the Dead Tour). If you are a fan of Haunted Savannah, hags, shadow people, secret cemeteries and all things strange then Blue Orb Tours is going to be a home run for you and your family. Evene if you don’t believe in ghosts ,this is a very entertaining way to see the city. Reservations are required. Consider taking part in their upcoming special event, My Bloody Valentine Ghost Tour—on February 14th, which will be centered around tragic deaths, suicides and murders in the name of love, from 8 to 10 pm. The adult ghost tours cost $30 per person and the family tour is $20.
2. Telfair Mansion and Art Museum – The oldest public art museum in the South, housing a collection of both American and European paintings, the Telfair Mansion and Art Museum was designed and built by William Jay in 1818. He was a young English architect noted for introducing the Regency style to America. The house was built for Alexander Telfair, son of Edward Telfair, the governor of Georgia. A sculpture gallery and rotunda were added in 1883, and Jefferson Davis attended the formal opening in 1886. William Jay’s period rooms have been restored, and the Octagon Room and Dining Room are particularly outstanding. Admission is $10 for adults and $4 for children.
3. Owen-Thomas House and Museum – Famed as a place where Lafayette spent the night in 1825, this house evokes the heyday of Savannah’s golden age. It was designed in 1816 by English architect William Jay, who captured the grace of Georgian Bath in England and the splendor of Regency London. The place has been called a “jewel box.” You can visit not only the bedchambers and kitchen, but also the garden and the drawing and dining rooms. Adapted from the original slave quarters and stable, the Carriage House Visitors’ Center opened in 1995. Admission is $9 for adults and $4 for children.
4. Davenport House museum – This is where seven determined women started the whole Savannah restoration movement in 1954. They raised $22,500, a tidy sum back then, and purchased the house, saving it from demolition and a future as a parking lot. They established the Historic Savannah Foundation, and the whole city was spared. Constructed between 1815 and 1820 by master builder Isaiah Davenport, the Davenport House is one of the truly great Federal-style houses in the United States, with delicate ironwork and a handsome elliptical stairway. Admission is $8 for adults and $5 for children.
5. Andrew Low House – After her marriage, Juliette Low lived in this 1848 house, and it was here where she actually founded the Girl Scouts. She died on the premises in 1927. The classic mid-19th-century house facing Lafayette Square is made of stucco over brick with elaborate ironwork, shuttered piazzas, carved woodwork, and crystal chandeliers. William Makepeace Thackeray visited here twice (the desk at which he worked is in one bedroom), and Robert E. Lee was entertained at a gala reception in the double parlors in 1870. Admission is $8 for adults and $4.50 for children.
6. Savannah History Museum – Housed in the restored train shed of the old Central Georgia Railway station, this museum is a good introduction to the city. In the theater, The Siege of Savannah is replayed. An exhibition hall displays memorabilia from every era of Savannah’s history. Admission is $4.25 for adults and free for children.
7. Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum – This museum has intricately constructed models of seagoing vessels, from Viking warships to nuclear-powered ships. In models ranging from the size of your fist to 8 feet in length, you can see such famous ships as the Mayflower and the Savannah, the first steamship to cross the Atlantic. More than 75 ships are in the museum’s ship-in-a-bottle collection, most of them constructed by Peter Barlow, a retired British Royal Navy commander. Admission is $8 for adults and $6 for children.
8. Cathedral of St. John The Baptist – The oldest Roman Catholic church in Georgia began construction in 1873 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1966. Admission is free.
9. Bonaventure Cemetery – Savannah’s most famous cemetery happens to be haunted It was developed on the historically-significant site of Bonaventure Plantation on the peaceful setting rests on a scenic bluff of the Wilmington River, this site became a public cemetery in 1907. Citizens and others can still purchase interment rights in Bonaventure. This charming site has been a world famous tourist destination for more than 150 years due to the old tree-lined roadways, the many notable persons interred, the unique cemetery sculpture and architecture, and the folklore associated with the site and the people. Admission is free.
10. First African Baptist Church – The “oldest black church in North America” was organized in 1773 Andrew C. Marshall, who also organized the first black Sunday school in North America and changed the name of the church from “First Colored Baptist” to “First African Baptist”. The sanctuary was completed in 1859 under the direction of the 4th Pastor Reverend William J. Campbell. The ceiling of the church is in the design of a “Nine Patch Quilt” which represented that the church was a safe house for slaves. During the time of segregation the church served as the largest gathering place for blacks and whites to meet. Tour rates are $7 for adults and $6 for children.
Moon River Brewing Company – Originally built in 1821 as the City Hotel, is considered by many to be the most haunted spot in Savannah. The basement is home to a malevolent spirit the staff has named ‘Toby’. The upper floors are inhabited by an equally forbidding ghost that work crews attempting to renovate dubbed ‘Mrs. Johnson’.
3.5 Star- Marshall House – Also haunted, this hotel was built in 1851 and is the home to several strange paranormal happenings. Taken over by Union General William T. Sherman’s men in December of 1864, this hotel was used as a hospital for the Federal troops. In addition to several sightings of Union soldiers, guests also report hearing and seeing the ghosts of children in the hotel, some of whom like to tickle the feet of sleeping patrons.
4 Star- The Hamilton Turner Inn – Have you ever wanted to stay somewhere that was haunted? was built in 1873. Originally constructed by Hamilton Turner after the Civil War, this house is now an elegant inn. According to this collection of haunted Savannah stories, the sounds of children laughing are coupled with the sound of billiard balls rolling around on the upper floors. A strange, cigar-smoking man has also been seen on the roof by the staff.
4 Star- Bohemian Hotel -Voted as one of the “top 30 hotels in the South” by Conde Nast Traveler,” this historical hot spot is really a true modern gem that offers all of the amenities you could ever ask for and more.
Day Trip To St. Simons
Those looking to get away will want to consider taking the 1½ hour (80 mile) drive to St. Simons Island. It has become extremely popular for it’s scenic golf courses, abundance of tennis courts, and beautiful beaches. The island’s biggest attraction is Fort Frederica National Monument. Go first to the National Park Service Visitor Center, where a film and displays explain the role of the fort, which was constructed in 1736 by Gen. James Oglethorpe.
Also see Christ Church, which was built in 1820 and then virtually destroyed when Union troops camped here during the Civil War, burning the pews for firewood and butchering cattle in the chapel. In 1886, Anson Greene Phelps Dodge, Jr., restored the church as a memorial to his first wife, who had died on their honeymoon. Stop by for a look around; it’s free of charge.
St. Simons Island Lighthouse Museum, is a restored light keeper’s house from 1872. You can climb its 129 steps for a panoramic view of the Golden Isles. Inside are exhibits devoted not only to the lighthouse, but also to the Golden Isles in general. But you go more for the view than the nautical exhibits. Admission is $6 for adults and $3 for children 6 to 12, free for children 5 and under.
If you can afford it, I highly recommend staying at St. Simons renowned Cloister at Sea Island resort, which Travel and Leisure considers to be the best hotel in America. Featuring 1,000 acres of a barrier island beach, this golf resort features the convenience of a salt marsh fishing trip, snorkeling along the South Georgian coast, or board the Cloister Belle, a restored vintage yacht, for a sunset ride. The Beach Club Suites (with a kitchen, a fireplace, and a balcony) are close to three pools, an ice cream parlor, a movie theater, and the children’s center.