The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness
Skip to main content
By The Way
Detours with locals. Travel tips you can trust.
ChevronDown
Iconic Spanish moss hangs from a tree downtown.
Iconic Spanish moss hangs from a tree downtown.
CITY GUIDE

A local’s guide to Savannah

Iconic Spanish moss hangs from a tree downtown.
Iconic Spanish moss hangs from a tree downtown.
  • By Ariel Felton
  • Photos by Eva Verbeeck
StayChevronDown
EatChevronDown
DoChevronDown
Share

Tourists often come to Savannah expecting one of two things: a sleepy old town with Spanish moss and horse-drawn carriages, or a place where they can indulge in debauchery in the name of St. Patrick’s Day. The truth, as usual, is somewhere in between.

Dubbed the “Hostess City of the South,” Savannah is also Georgia’s oldest. Remnants of its role in the slave trade, the Civil War, Reconstruction and the civil rights movement are everywhere — in statues, houses, museums. But over the past few decades, a younger vibe has settled in here, thanks in part to the Savannah College of Art and Design (or SCAD). And creative communities are thriving as more artists open boutiques, restaurants and galleries.

Add flavor to your trip by venturing to the east and west sides of the city and visiting black- and immigrant-owned restaurants and bars. That’s where you’ll truly find our famous hospitality.

Meet Ariel Felton

A born-and-raised Georgian, Ariel was lured to Savannah by memories of family vacations spent feeding birds in the squares, the promise of art school and the dream of writing in the city where Flannery O’Connor was born.

Want to get in touch?

MailSolidEmail bytheway@washpost.com
Read more about ArielChevronDown
StayChevronDown
Top
ArrowUp

Stay

IN THE ACTION
Historic District
The Historic District is what most folks envision when they think of Savannah. With 22 picturesque squares, Civil War-era architecture and countless granite and bronze monuments, it’s the largest National Historic Landmark District in the United States. There’s also plenty of modern fun to be had: Alongside the quaint carriage tours, you’ll find “slow rides” full of bachelorette parties, as well as options for shopping, dining and entertainment. Lodging accommodations vary from historical and cozy (like the Savannah Bed and Breakfast Inn) to elegant and modern (like Perry Lane Hotel). Find this neighborhood.
LOW-KEY
Starland District
New, and growing rapidly, the Starland District is known for its creative atmosphere. Bright murals decorate the public walls of the old Starland Dairy, and you can often catch a thesis exhibition by SCAD students at one of the art galleries. Explore quirky gems like Graveface Records & Curiosities and biscuit havens like Back in the Day Bakery, as well as two-story breweries and coffee shops. Hotels haven’t quite reached Starland, but there are plenty of Victorian-houses-turned-Airbnbs. The best part? Everything is walkable. Find this neighborhood.
0

Eat

BREAKFAST
Foxy Loxy Cafe
A coffee shop meets an art gallery meets a Tex-Mex pit-stop at this two-story cafe in the Starland District. Owner Jennifer Jenkins has a background in fibers and printmaking, and she keeps the walls decorated with original prints for sale by both local and national artists. Order a bacon cheddar kolache or breakfast taco, and take a moment to mingle at one of the sun-soaked tables in the courtyard out back.
BTW: Stop by in the evenings to enjoy one of Foxy’s fire and wine nights, Vinyl Nights, or live music events.
1919 Bull St., Savannah, Ga. 31401.
BREAKFAST
Big Bon Bodega
Hand-rolled, boiled in honey water and wood-fired, the bagels at Big Bon Bodega run out quickly, so get there early if you have a strong preference. The shop offers a variety of spreads, from classic cream cheese and jams to vegan tofu spreads and kimchi cream cheese. If you’re on the hungrier side, try a bagel sandwich. Favorites include the 912 (bacon, fried egg, cheddar and herb butter), the Boutique (chicken salad, tomato, avocado and arugula) and the Luigi (salami, turkey, ham, provolone cheese, arugula and pepper jelly).
BTW: Check out their Ghost Kitchen Instagram for pop-up kitchens and events.
2011 Bull St., Savannah, Ga. 31401
LUNCH
520 Wings
In 2011, Gary Gordon opened this quick and casual spot in the same Savannah neighborhood he grew up in. 520 Wings offers 15 flavors of chicken wings, as well as a host of chicken, fish and shrimp sandwiches and gyros. The service is fast and friendly, and the wings are well seasoned before any sauce is added — as they should be.
BTW: Walking here or ordering on Uber Eats is better if you can. The parking lot is small and opens up into a busy intersection.
2705 Bull St., Savannah, Ga. 31401.
LUNCH
Fork & Dagger
Although this bright diner also serves breakfast staples, Fork & Dagger’s a local favorite because of its lunch menu, quick counter service and family cheesecake recipe. The chipotle barbecue pork sandwich and the Fork & Dagger Cuban are popular picks for entrees, while the extensive, inventive cheesecake roster has everything from blue cheese and honey to hazelnut with fig and port wine.
BTW: Fork & Dagger now occupies what was once Bobbie’s Diner.
1402 Habersham St., Savannah, Ga., 31401
DINNER
The Vault Kitchen and Market
This popular Asian-inspired eatery in the Starland District pays chic homage to the building’s former life as a bank, with an open kitchen, where tellers used to stand, and rows of lockboxes hanging behind the bar. The Vault specializes in sushi, offering the classic varieties alongside house rolls, such as the Local Red (tempura shrimp, asparagus, avocado, tuna, red tobiko) and the Bank (baked eel, tempura shrimp, asparagus, avocado, chipotle, eel sauce). But the tacos, curry dishes and stir fry are worth trying as well.
BTW: Don’t leave without sampling the signature blood-orange martini.
2112 Bull St., Savannah, Ga. 31401.
DINNER
Rancho Alegre Cuban Restaurant
It’s fitting that this family-owned restaurant is nestled along MLK Jr. Boulevard, a Savannah street that has long supported family-owned immigrant businesses. Owner Juan Manuel Rodriguez and general manager Pablo Rodriguez work side-by-side to give Savannah a taste of Cuban culture, as well as cuisine from Venezuela, Puerto Rico and Spain. Started in 1999, Rancho Alegre is famous for its lechón asado (roasted pork with mojo sauce), paella Valenciana, mojitos and sangrias, all from family recipes.
BTW: The atmosphere is colorful, family-friendly and buoyant with live music, and the space is often packed on weekend nights.
402 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Savannah, Ga. 31401.
LATE-NIGHT
Lone Wolf Lounge
One of the Starland’s District’s newer bars, Lone Wolf Lounge, from the outside, looks more like a small apartment. But inside, the atmosphere is what the owners call “Milwaukee bar vibes mixed with a sense of Caribbean escapism” — think wood paneling and vintage ads, with an extensive rum selection and overgrown greenery. Lone Wolf caters to locals, offering a range of cheap beer, shots and fine cocktails. (One menu item, dubbed “the Young Savages,” is simply a can of Hamm’s and a shot of Old Grand-Dad for $5.)
BTW: Some nights, you can catch one of Savannah’s food trucks parked in the grassy lot out back.
2429 Lincoln Street Ramp, Savannah, Ga. 31401.
LATE-NIGHT
Lulu’s Chocolate Bar
Voted as having the best dessert in Savannah for 12 years straight, this is the essential late-night spot for locals and tourists with a sweet tooth. Owners and best friends Rebecca Radovich and Janine Finn say Lulu’s is meant to be a “community of adventurous self-indulgence.” Between the “Lulutinis” (chocolate vodka, two chocolate liqueurs and homemade chocolate sauce), triple-chocolate mousse towers and other decadent desserts, it’s tough to choose which adventure to take.
BTW: If you’re coming with a party of four or more in the evening, you can “get in line” with the Yelp app. Everyone has the same idea, so Lulu’s can be packed post-dinnertime.
42 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Savannah, Ga. 31401.
(Alex Allen for The Washington Post)
LOCALS THINK YOU SHOULD KNOW
  1. If you come for St. Patrick’s Day, be warned: Locals are serious about securing good seats for the parade. Move a lawn chair at your own risk.
  2. If you want to see the prestigious Savannah College of Art and Design, there is no traditional campus. Its buildings are across the city, but your best bet is to start at Poetter Hall.
  3. You can find a “First Friday” sale, art show, or live music show at most local businesses. The Starland District also throws the De Soto Street Market on Saturdays in warm weather.
(Alex Allen for The Washington Post)

Do

Forsyth farmers market
With 30 acres of green lawn and sidewalks, Forsyth Park is a popular location any day of the week. But every Saturday year-round, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., the southern end hosts the Forsyth farmers market, a market that can attract about 4,000 people each week during the summer. Pick up fruit, veggies, cheese, flowers, or even tasty baked goods and homemade jams and preserves. In addition to supporting local farmers, Forsyth farmers market helps fight food insecurity in the city.
BTW: No need to hit the ATM ahead of time. The market accepts cards and cash.
13 E. Park Ave, Savannah, Ga. 31401.
Starland Yard
Food trucks are relatively new in Savannah, with businesses and chefs hopping on the bandwagon after the city started allowing them in 2016. Guy Davidson and Niko Ormond capitalized on the surge by creating Starland Yard, a family-friendly place with a rotation of trucks, music from DJs and a play area (and a bar). Chef Kyle Jacovino added his thumbprint to the space with his Pizzeria Vittoria, a casual wood-fired-pizza joint.
BTW: Enter at the corner of 40th and De Soto Avenue and swipe your card at the check-in booth. All your purchases will be added to your tab.
2411 De Soto Ave., Savannah, Ga. 31401.
Savannah Bananas baseball game
When Savannah’s new collegiate summer baseball team announced its name in 2015, a lot of people thought it was a joke. But although a Savannah Banana game is full of laughs, the team has since won attention from ESPN and Sports Illustrated — and eventually a place in the hearts of residents here. Even if you don’t like baseball, there’s plenty of entertainment, from the senior citizens dance team (the Banana Nanas) to pie tosses, impromptu dance parties and music videos, and a mostly fake rivalry with the Macon Bacon. As a result, on summer evenings, historical Grayson Stadium is packed.
BTW: Bananas games can sell out quickly. Try to get tickets a few weeks in advance.
1401 E Victory Dr., Savannah, Ga. 31404.
Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum
History buffs must visit this museum, which chronicles the struggle of Savannah’s African American community from the era of slavery to the present day. The Civil Rights Museum offers three stories of interactive exhibits, historical photographs and book collection by and about African American writers. Its namesake, Ralph Mark Gilbert, was an early leader of the city’s branch of the NAACP and the 13th reverend of the nearby First African Baptist Church (established in the 1770s, making it one of the oldest black churches in the United States).
BTW: One of the museum’s guides, Vaughnette Goode-Walker, also hosts “Footprints of Savannah,” a walking tour that details slavery’s effect on the city.
460 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, Savannah, Ga. 31401.
Temporarily closed
Sulfur Studios
The brainchild of three local Savannah artists, Sulfur both provides creatives with studio spaces and presents solo and group exhibitions featuring a range of media and themes. In 2019, the Sulfur gallery featured internationally recognized sculptor Kench Lott and painter Axelle Kieffer.
BTW: Every first Friday of the month, Sulfur hosts an open studio event for the public to view the work of artists in residence.
2301 Bull St., Savannah, Ga. 31401.
Book Lady Bookstore
Started in 1978, this cozy store is a bibliophile’s dream, snug with wooden shelves, plush antique furniture and a tome resting on just about every surface. It’s also the only full-service independent bookseller in Savannah: Book Lady appraises collections, repairs and rebinds old books, curates personal and professional libraries, sells books online and hosts events with local and international authors, not only within the shop but throughout the city.
BTW: Ask to look in the special cases behind the counter. Highlights have included a collection of first and early editions signed by science fiction icon Philip K. Dick and a first printing of “Jumanji” with an original signed drawing by Chris Van Allsburg.
6 E. Liberty, Savannah, Ga. 31401.
Ariel Felton
A born-and-raised Georgian, Ariel was lured to Savannah by memories of family vacations spent feeding birds in the squares, the promise of art school and the dream of writing in the city where Flannery O’Connor was born.
Eva Verbeeck
Eva is a contributing photographer for The Washington Post based in Savannah. The Georgia city, with its oak trees draped in Spanish moss, old houses and cobblestone streets, always felt mysterious and magical to her; its food scene and creativity make it feel alive. She loves Savannah for how it constantly reinvents itself while keeping its charm.
Instagram
evaverbeeck

CITY GUIDES