When packing for a trip to Savannah, don’t forget your camera: A toothless pirate, a famed Southern belle or even Forrest Gump might join you on your tour.
“Those characters are sometimes part of a trolley tour,” said Sandi Smeltzer, group tour and travel sales manager for Visit Savannah. “Perhaps the best introduction to our city, trolley tours can include 16 stops and are totally entertaining with guides who are so well versed on the fabric of Savannah.”
Visitors can be assured that no matter where they turn in Savannah, they will be surrounded by history. The oldest city in Georgia, nicknamed “the Hostess City of the South” and often described as a sparkling jewel on the Savannah River, Savannah was established in 1733 and was a strategic port city in the American Revolution and during the Civil War.
“Our downtown area includes 22 parklike squares,” Smeltzer said. “Each square has a story that includes churches, theaters and residential homes.”
While exploring those squares of downtown Savannah via trolley or simply by foot — as Smeltzer added that Savannah is an extremely walkable community — the highlights are often in the Historic District and the Victorian Historic District.
“Our historic houses include the birthplace of Juliet Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts. Today, this Regency mansion is owned and operated by the Girl Scouts,” said Smeltzer.
Other homes that are must-sees for those who love architecture are the Sorrell-Weed home, considered one of the city’s most beautiful and once the home of a hero in the Confederate army; the Mercer-Williams home, best known for the role it played in “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”; and the Owens-Thomas house, which consumes an entire block and is considered one of the finest examples of English-Regency architecture in the country.
Among the museums that proudly showcase the area’s culture is the Savannah History Museum, conveniently located at the Savannah Visitor Center. This museum boasts 10,000 artifacts that take visitors from the city’s founding to the present day.
Occupying buildings that bridge centuries of architecture, the Telfair Museums include the Owens-Thomas house, a world-famous art collection, a rare urban slave quarters and a historical garden.
Smeltzer said that the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum, dedicated to perhaps the greatest air armada in history, is a most powerful experience.
“The Eighth Bomber Command was activated in Savannah to conduct aerial missions against Nazi-occupied Europe,” she said. “From aircraft to the most poignant combat memorabilia, I don’t know of anyone who has left there that hasn’t been deeply moved.”
This history and art buff also described the new Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) Museum as “fabulous.”
“Located in the historic district, the SCAD Museum is a contemporary venue that features new exhibitions of all genres of art every academic quarter,” she said.
Also new in Savannah is the Pin Point Heritage Museum. Once an oyster and crab factory, this venue on the banks of the Moon River highlights the work and history of the surrounding Gullah/Geechee community, founded by first-generation freedmen.
“These folks have been celebrated in the media, thanks to their lifestyle, food and more,” said Smeltzer. “This is where you can really experience their culture.”