There are many here in Savannah, Ga., who believe that there are only two kinds of people in this world: those who have been to Savannah and can’t wait to get back, and those who have never been and can’t wait to get here. We couldn’t agree more.
In 1773 General James Oglethorpe founded the Colony of Savannah, which was to become our great city and the state of Georgia. It quickly became a powerful Atlantic seaport—and today, the Port of Savannah is the fourth largest port in North America.
In December 1864, General William T. Sherman ended his famed “March to the Sea” here after local authorities negotiated a peaceful surrender, thus allowing Sherman to present Savannah to President Lincoln as a Christmas present. Sherman’s “gift” preserved the city’s architecture, for which it has become world famous. Much of Savannah’s appearance hasn’t changed from that time. Twenty-two parklike squares remain, populated with moss-covered live oaks, azaleas and magnolias. Cobblestones still pave River Street as it parallels the Savannah River.
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We think of Savannah as unexpected and evocative. Unexpected, because visitors who envision a sleepy, charming Southern city will instead find a dynamic and vibrant community—home, for example, to 11,000 Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) students and the 12,000 employees of Gulfstream Aerospace. And our Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport now has nonstop flights from 22 domestic destinations and Toronto. And evocative? Well, Savannah has been recognized as one of the top 10 cities in America to visit by numerous travel, lifestyle and culinary publications and websites. We offer some of the country’s finest examples of historic preservation. Infused with Southern hospitality, Savannah invigorates the senses. We hope you enjoy reading about Savannah, and we invite you to visit one day soon. Whether you’re returning for an annual stay or making your very first trip, we think you’ll like what you see.—Stephen S. Green, Chairman, Savannah, Economic Development Authority
—Brian Huskey, Chairman, Visit Savannah
A tourism hot spot, Savannah excels at creating jobs in the leisure and hospitality sector. In 2016, the city added 1,900 new jobs in the space—a meaningful number in a city of just under 150,000 people—and with several new tourism-related development projects nearing completion, that number will grow. But Savannah has other, lesser-known economic strengths: Gulfstream Aerospace, the Port of Savannah, an ambitious urban revitalization campaign from the Savannah College of Art and Design and its emergence as a lucrative location for the film industry. This is a small city with some big economic clout.
Gulfstream jets are renowned worldwide for their safety, elegance and envelope-pushing technology, but not everyone knows that the company has been based in Savannah for the last half century. Since launching its first flight in 1958, Gulfstream has become the largest aerospace manufacturer in the Southeast and, with about 12,000 employees, Savannah’s largest employer. The industry-leading company is a one-stop shop for business-jet aircraft customers in the U.S. and globally with facilities and sales and design centers across the U.S., Mexico and China and in London. There are now 10 aircraft flying in the concurrent Gulfstream G500 and G600 flight-test programs, a win not just for the company but for aviation in general. gulfstream.com
The Kessler Collection
With over 37 years of experience in hotel development and operations and an eye for the unconventional, Richard Kessler isn’t afraid to take chances or make statements. In Savannah, Kessler owns the Bohemian, with its breathtaking site overlooking River Street and the Savannah River, and the Mansion on Forsyth Park, a stunning property with its own remarkable location. Now Kessler is overseeing the development of Plant Riverside, his most ambitious project yet, the conversion of a 1930s-era power plant on the west end of River Street into a hotel, dining and entertainment complex. Sure to be a major job creator and driver of tourism, the Plant Riverside district is literally going to change the face of Savannah. kesslercollection.com
Savannah Airport Commission
Since 1955, the Savannah Airport Commission has led the operation and management of Savannah/Hilton Head International. The airport boasts 23 destinations with 49 daily nonstop departures and seasonal destinations to cities including Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Toronto via Air Canada, Allegiant, American, Delta, JetBlue, Sun Country and United. Savannah/Hilton Head is not just an efficient place for travel, but an enjoyable one—clean, attractive, even relaxing, it stands out amidst the crowded hubs of air travel as a place that’s actually a pleasant part of your journey. savannahairport.com
The Port of Savannah
Savannah is home to the largest single-terminal container facility of its kind in North America, surpassing other major ports such as Los Angeles, New York and Houston in terms of annual growth of container cargo volume. With immediate access to two major interstates and two railroads, the port has created some 369,000 jobs statewide. Four more cranes are coming online in the next year, so the port will be able to move more than 1,000 containers per hour. That’s not just impressive, it’s unprecedented. gaports.com
Savannah Economic Development Authority
An independently funded organization, SEDA is widely considered one of the most successful development organizations in the country. By providing professional site services and access to state and local resources, the organization works for the best interest of both the client and the community at large. Developments this year include a deal with Safavieh, a manufacturer and distributor of international home furnishings, which will create 200 new jobs and invest more than $60 million into a new 1.1-million-square-foot distribution facility in Savannah. seda.org
Savannah has a distinguished place in popular culture. It was the star of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (read the book, skip the movie) and a crucial scene-setter for Forrest Gump. Its St. Patrick’s Day celebration may be the biggest in the country, and it’s famous for its architectural tours and somewhat, well, deadpan ghost tours. But in recent years Savannah’s arts and culture scene has both broadened and deepened. Each month seems to bring a new event highlighting the arts, food, music and, of course, cultural and historic appreciation. Whether you’re celebrity-spotting at the SCAD-hosted film festival, paying a visit to year-round exhibitions like the recently opened American Prohibition Museum or celebrating the LGBTQ community at the Pride Festival in Ellis Square, there is always something going on in Savannah.
Savannah Food & Wine Festival
Fall in Savannah wouldn’t be complete without the week-long culinary banquet that is the Food & Wine Festival. It’s a well-deserved opportunity to showcase the city’s most elite chefs and exceptional cuisine with events like the Jazz and Bubbles brunch, River Street Stroll and the Secret Savannah Speakeasy. Attendees can expect celebrity chef dinners, wine tastings, cooking classes and samples that give a taste of just how good Savannah’s food scene has become. savannahfoodandwinefest.com
Savannah Music Festival
Founded in 1989, this festival distinguishes itself for the sheer variety of music it showcases; the 2017 festival offered up classical, jazz, country, folk, Cajun, rock and everything in between. There are high-profile artists—Jason Isbell, the Avett Brothers and Bruce Hornsby, for example—but there are musical gems throughout the lineup. The 2018 festival runs from March 29 to April 14. savannahmusicfestival.org
Savannah Book Festival
In its 10 years of existence, this celebration of the written word has become known for the caliber of its literary guests and the scope of its ambitions. Pulitzer Prize–winner Colson Whitehead delivered the keynote in 2017, while other speakers included James Patterson and Christina Baker Kline. The 10th-anniversary festival takes place February 15–18, 2018. savannahbookfestival.com
The Presidents’ Quarters Inn
Savannah is home to many landmark inns and B&Bs, but the Presidents’ Quarters Inn is exceptional. Housed in a pair of Federal-style mansions on Oglethorpe Square in the city’s historic district, the inn, with its ivy-covered courtyard and wrought-iron gates, strikes visitors as both central and timeless. Inside sit grand fireplaces, thoughtfully curated antiques and expansive suites named for every president to have visited the city. But it’s the unfailingly kind staff and proximity to the city’s renowned squares that make the Presidents’ Quarters Inn feel so special. Staying here, guests feel not only that they have access to Savannah’s storied history, but that they’re part of it. presidentsquarters.com
Savannah Voice Festival
Working with Savannah’s VoicExperience Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering the talents of young singers, the Voice Festival is a two-week musical celebration of “classical vocal excellence” featuring concerts, events and presentations. Held every August, it’s the brainchild of operatic power-couple Sherrill Milnes and Maria Zouves, both directors, educators, producers and writers. Their passion for promoting awareness and appreciation of both local and global performing arts, coupled with their expertly curated programming, have turned this 5-year-old festival
into a local institution. savannahvoicefestival.org
The Savannah Bananas
“We’re not like your typical baseball team,” the Savannah Bananas declare on their website. And it’s true: Playing in Savannah’s historic Grayson Stadium, this independent minor league team in the Coastal Plain League focuses on family-friendly entertainment. During the games, fans can expect to see good-natured interruptions like “grandma beauty pageants,” a Bull Durham parody or the dancing first base coach. The baseball’s fine, but it’s the spirit of community that really fills Grayson. One tip: Get tickets early. The Bananas sell out. thesavannahbananas.com
Hispanic Heritage Parade
Dancers, performers, local celebrities and droves of festivalgoers marched up Oglethorpe and Liberty streets during 2017’s first annual Hispanic Heritage Parade. A welcome recognition of a growing ethnic community in Savannah, the Heritage Parade brought music, dancing, authentic street food and colorful floats—all with a Latin twist. msavhcc.org/parade
A three-generation family business now run by Ruel Joyner and his wife, Delaine, 24e marries contemporary influences and traditional collectibles with a twist. 24estyle.com
The Salt Table
There are many reasons to pay a visit to one of the three Salt Table shops—over 200 flavors of hand-mixed salt, to be exact. salttable.com
A lifestyle boutique featuring vintage clothing, plush home décor accents and unique jewelry. terracottasavannah.com
The Book Lady
One of Savannah’s oldest and most romantic bookstores. Attend a reading or skim one of the many first editions in the reading garden. thebookladybookstore.com
The Paris Market & Brocante
Southern Living magazine voted Paris Market its 2017 “best shop in the South,” and as soon as you visit this charming and surprising collection of European goods, you will see why. theparismarket.com
Savannah Bee Company
Founder Ted Dennard is also the head beekeeper of this honey company, with products that include a signature raw honey selection and a growing collection of personal-care products including fragrances and skin care. savannahbee.com
In the summer of 1978, Atlanta-born elementary school teacher Paula Wallace hatched a plan. She decided Savannah, a city that’s historically celebrated and magical with its Spanish moss and cobblestone lanes, deserved an institution to revitalize all of its preexisting elegance and distinction. After selling their home, a beloved Volkswagen Beetle and many of their possessions, she and then-spouse and cofounder, Richard Rowen, purchased the Armory, a dilapidated fortress of sorts on Madison Square in the heart of the city. Thus, began the origin story of today’s world-renowned Savannah College of Art and Design.
In just 40 years, SCAD, a private, nonprofit university, has grown from a solitary building to 80 and counting in Savannah alone. Due to its immense success, it wasn’t long before a campus in Atlanta and two international outposts in Hong Kong and Lacoste, France, sprang forth. With 30,000 alumni worldwide and 13,000 current students from nearly all 50 states and 115 countries, SCAD is quickly establishing itself as an international force in fine arts and education and perhaps the most aesthetically pleasing campus in the country.
Students are able to choose from 40 majors and 60-plus minors for both bachelor’s and master’s degrees with certificates in programs like architecture, illustration, urban design and photography. SCAD’s mission touts a progressive, student-centered approach, with concentrated class sizes, an internationally recognized faculty and a comprehensive English as a second language program to aid in the adjustment to university life for international students. The school also maintains its own student-run media outlets which include District, an award-winning, editorially independent online news source; Port City Review, an annual arts journal; Honey Dripper, a comic and illustration blog; The Manor, the university’s official fashion blog; two radio stations and a literary journal. All of which act as venues for students to build their portfolios. scad.edu
The SCAD Museum of Art
Though a seemingly modern work of art in
its own right, the award-winning museum’s exposed gray brick reveals its past as the oldest surviving antebellum railroad depot in the country. Installing more than 20 exhibitions each year, it has welcomed acclaimed artists and SCAD alumni alike. New exhibitions like Jacob Lawrence’s Lines of Influence and Guo Pei’s Couture Beyond are well worth the visit. But it’s the permanent exhibitions, including the Walter O. Evans Collection of African American Art and the SCAD Costume Collection, that keep patrons coming back. scadmoa.org
In a study conducted by Appleseed in 2012, it was estimated that SCAD accounted for 4,415 jobs, $179 million in wages and $386 million in economic output and $499.5 million in statewide economic output. In 2017 that number has only spiked as SCAD continues to acquire and restore historic buildings for campus development. scad.edu
Arts Events and Festivals
With events including SCAD deFINE Art, an annual presentation of lectures with world-renowned artists; the Sidewalk Arts Festival, in which Forsyth Park becomes miles of sidewalk chalk artwork by SCAD students and alumni; and SCAD FASHWKND, an annual showcase of SCAD School of Fashion’s senior and graduate student collections that has been recognized by Vogue, Women’s Wear Daily and the New York Times, Savannah has its share of creative festivities. But it’s the annual SCAD Savannah Film Festival, a week-long celebration of cinematic achievement featuring panels, premieres and exclusive screenings held in Trustees Theater, that draws visitors to Savannah in droves. Since 1998, this festival—the largest university-hosted event of its kind—has attracted world-famous filmmakers, industry insiders and remarkable talents like Jeremy Irons, Sir Ian McKellen, Debbie Reynolds, recent Academy Award–winner Mahershala Ali and more. scad.edu/calendar/events; filmfest.scad.edu
Downtown Savannah is so vibrant, it’s hard to believe that many of the city’s hot spots stood vacant only 10 or 15 years ago. Between the sophisticated boutiques and coffee shops on Broughton Street, the hidden gems along the perimeter of Forsyth Park and the funky businesses founded by SCAD alumni, Savannah has become a haven for experimentation and creative expression. Reflecting a mixture of meticulous craftsmanship and inspiration from their environment, Savannah’s makers have not just emerged from their community, they’re helping to redefine it.
SCAD grad Elizabeth Seeger founded handbag store Satchel 11 years ago because, she half-jokes, she was afraid of “getting a real job.” It seems to have worked out for her: Since then the “Satchelettes” (now a team of five women) have painstakingly hand-cut and sewn clutches, duffels and exclusive items like guitar straps, tassels and cuffs. Satchel produces two seasonal lines, which you can customize, or they’ll make one-off pieces for you. shopsatchel.com
Bronx-born jazz lover Robert Benedetto founded this now iconic company in 1968 after experimenting with wood taken from his family’s kitchen table. In the 50 years since, Benedetto guitars have earned a reputation as the gold standard for jazz musicians. That’s largely because the guitars are meticulously made by hand by a small team that shares the founder’s passion. It’s a painstaking process, so Benedetto makes only a few hundred guitars a year, but the results justify the scarcity: Hearing these guitars will make you feel like you’re in a smoky club off a dark alley listening to the music of infinite invention. benedettoguitars.com
Nine Line Apparel
In the military, nine line refers to a medevac request for a wounded soldier. But in Savannah’s case, it’s a self-proclaimed lifestyle brand. Created in 2012 by a pair of “relentlessly patriotic” military brothers, Daniel and Tyler Merritt, along with Daniel’s wife, Angela, Nine Line was originally a promotional-products company. But with the addition of SCAD student Myles Burke, the company successfully pivoted to clothing “through which patriotic Americans can make themselves heard.” They’ve also launched the Nine Line Foundation to raise funds for veterans through community initiatives such as road races and individual campaigns for fellow soldiers and friends. ninelineapparel.com
Leopold’s Ice Cream
After immigrating from Greece, George, Peter and Basil Leopold opened Leopold’s Ice Cream in 1919. Over the decades it built a loyal following thanks to its handcrafted ice cream in a wide range of flavors. Now led by Stratton Leopold—Peter’s youngest child and a producer of movies such as Mission: Impossible III and Paycheck—Leopold’s is starting to grow. You can find it at the Savannah/Hilton Head airport, in a few restaurants, or online. But there’s nothing like visiting the Broughton Street store. leopoldsicecream.com
Savannah’s Candy Kitchen
When Stan “the Candy Man” Strickland opened his first store on Savannah’s River Street, he could barely afford the $50 rent. But with his recipe for the perfect praline and a parade of tasty confections that followed, Savannah’s Candy Kitchen has become a River Street institution, while the company has grown to include 17 stores and a wildly popular online business. savannahcandy.com
Much like the city itself, Savannah’s culinary culture has managed to find its sweet spot somewhere between the traditional and the modern. Home to influencers like chef Joe Randall, architect of the first African American Chefs Hall of Fame, and Jesse Blanco, host of the Emmy-nominated food show Eat It and Like It, as well as Low-Country icons and high-profile newcomers, Savannah’s food scene is establishing the city as a foodie destination. You can feel the energy in Savannah’s kitchens and dining rooms and the excitement that they’re generating throughout the town.
Savannah’s restaurants are a compelling reason to visit the city, and now a developing craft beer scene is adding another draw. Service Brewing, launched in 2014 by military veteran Kevin Ryan after his wife, Meredith Sutton, gave him a home-brewing kit as a gift, offers year-round and seasonal beers, as well as anniversary ales and small-batch beers inspired by local farmers, chefs and retailers. A portion of Service Brewing’s proceeds goes to support service men and women and first responders; since opening its doors, the company has raised over $30,000 for local, regional and national organizations. Tours are available Wednesday through Saturday. servicebrewing.com
The Collins Quarter
When the Collins Quarter owner and proprietor Anthony Debreceny and his wife, Rebecca, first moved to Savannah from Australia, they longed for a coffee spot that would remind them of home. Not finding it, they launched the Collins Quarter, Savannah’s go-to “coffee-centric café,” which also happens to play host to power lunches and candle-lit evenings spent with a glass of wine or a grapefruit Moscow mule. Expect them to know your name by the second visit. thecollinsquarter.com
First the site of a filling station in the 1930s then later a dentist’s office, the corner of Drayton Street and Victory Drive is now home to Atlantic, a self-described “laid-back neighborhood eatery” opened last November by the husband and wife team Jason and Jennifer Restivo. The atmosphere is unpretentious, but the food is ambitious, with inventive small plates like kimchi pancakes, ratatouille kebobs and duck breast in a turmeric vinaigrette. There’s also an expertly curated wine list. All laid-back neighborhood eateries should be this good. atlanticsavannah.com
B. Matthew’s Eatery
A neighborhood favorite in the historic district, B. Matthew’s appeals to both locals and tourists thanks to its fresh, seasonal ingredients and welcoming environment. Weekend brunch is a treat, offering inventive classics with a twist like fried green tomato Benedict or French toast with coconut cream cheese filling, raspberry coulis and candied almonds. bmatthewseatery.com
The Olde Pink House
On one of the many oak-lined streets in the historic district sits the city’s only 18th-century mansion, the Planter’s Inn, where the Olde Pink House continues to charm guests and amateur ghost-hunters alike. Executive chef Vincent Burns serves up Low-Country favorites like she-crab soup and shrimp and grits in a sophisticated yet warm setting. It’s quintessential Savannah. After the meal, stay for the live music in the cellar. plantersinnsavannah.com/olde-pink-house-restaurant
Moon River Brewing
Centrally located on Bay Street, Moon River is a fully functioning brewery paired with a pub and beer garden. The beers are inspired by local history and culture: an IPA called Slow-vannah, another IPA called
Swamp Fox, after Revolutionary War officer Francis Marion, and Ogeechee Riverkeeper pale ale. The dog-friendly beer garden feels like a relaxed neighborhood party with exceptional food and drink. wordpress.moonriverbrewing.com
Ghost Coast Distillery
Just across the street from craft beer shop Service Brewery, entrepreneurs Chris Sywassink and Rob Ingersoll launched Ghost Coast, Savannah’s first distillery since before Prohibition, in 2016. While they’re busy aging their bourbon, you can visit for a really interesting tour of the facility and try their Vodka 261 and orange-flavored Vodka 261. (The name refers to the number of years from when liquor was legalized in Savannah in 1755 to when Ghost Coast opened.) The vodka, crisp and fresh tasting, is excellent. The cocktails you’ll sample at the end of your tour are equally good. ghostcoastdistillery.com