Savannah, Georgia: it is a place where history sits alongside business alongside a vibrant music and arts scene. There is much to explore in Savannah. Here are several tips on ways to do that, in one day, or longer…
Walk along the river: Savannah has always been a port city, and still is. A walk along the river front will reveal some attractions focused towards tourists, but you will be walking over cobblestones made from ballast of seagoing ships that brought goods to Savannah centuries ago when it was a major player in the world’s trade in cotton.
The ships brought human cargo, too — slaves. As you walk the riverfront, take time to consider this statue…
and then make time to visit the First African Baptist Church. In Savannah, history is present in many ways. Many of its historic buildings were built by slaves. First African Baptist’s congregation began in 1773. The current building dates from 1859 and was a stop on the underground railroad where people were helped to escape from slavery. The ceiling of the church reflects that too — the waffle pattern, plain appearing at first, is what’s known as nine patch quilt, referencing a map to safe houses where escaping slaves could find help.
First African is on Franklin Square, which is near the riverfront. It is also near City Market, an interesting place to check out current day Savannah’s vibrant arts and crafts scene, and perhaps meet with some of the artists and craftspeople themselves. Photographers, sculptors, textile artists, painters, makers of sweetgrass baskets, and other creative folk all are at work in the market, and there are five art galleries with varied work on display as well. In addition, there are gift shops, a shoe store, a store focused on Haitian crafts, a bakery, and an outpost of the Savannah founded, internationally known Byrd Cookie Company. Elsewhere in the historic district you will find many unique shops to explore.
You can find places to eat at City Market, too. Savannah is a food town, though, with many eating places to explore — you will have seen some of them in your walk along the riverfront no doubt, and you have probably heard of Paula Deen’s The Lady and Sons. One of my favorites is Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room . Mrs. Wilkes dates back to 1943 and meals — mostly southern fare such as fried chicken, black eyed peas, mashed potatoes and the like — are served family style as all are seated at tables for ten, with bowls passed around among diners who soon strike up conversations over the meal. Mrs. Wilkes is only open for lunch; if you’re craving breakfast, Back in the Day Bakery in the Starland District is a good place to try. For something upscale, 22 Square, in the Andaz Hotel, does farm to table breakfast and dinner, specializing in locally sourced ingredients.
Mrs. Wilkes is on Jones Street, not that far from Forsyth Park. Forsyth Park has been inviting Savannah residents and visitors to enjoy green space since the early nineteenth century. It’s a fine place for just enjoying the day, and a great place for running, walking, pick up soccer, and having a picnic, too. It is the largest green space in Savannah’s historic district. The park itself was first laid out in the 1840s and its cast iron fountain dates back to 1858.
It wouldn’t be a visit to Savannah without music. Many genres converge in this port city, from gospel to Gullah, from country to swing to jazz, to folk, to classical to blues. You may find all of these — and more variations on these themes– in the city’s pubs, clubs, and bars, but take note that Savannah is also a city of festivals . Whenever you visit, there is likely to be one going on, perhaps in one of the city’s many squares. Many of these focus on music, and most all others, from book festivals to art to marathons to celebrations of food, include music in one way or another. Year round, the Savannah Music Festival partners with area schools to get parents, children, teachers, and musicians connected through their Musical Explorers program. In late March and early April the festival itself brings top international musicians who work in the the many stands of music that weave through Savannah’s history to town. This year the opening concert will feature two award winning contemporary bluegrass artists. More about the 2018 festival to come… and here it is, a preview of what to expect at the Savannah Music Festival 2018, and more on SMF’s education programs, too.
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