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Travel, Savannah Style

Savoring the Deep South classic



 

Savannah is where Georgia began – with James Oglethorpe and prospective colonists on the ship Anne. They landed in February, 1733, at Yamacraw Bluff, site of an Indian village. Oglethorpe arrived with an idyllic idea of a colony established for the working poor of England in which there would be no liquor, no slaves, no lawyers and no Catholics. Those goals didn’t last long. Today, three out of the four prohibitions have long since disappeared. What is here now is one of America’s most beautiful and historic cities.

Savannah is notable for its geometric layout, with wide streets, parks and public spaces. Some of its squares sport fountains or statues, and many are surrounded by elegant old homes and grand churches.

I’m a big believer in the hop-on-hop-off narrated tours offered in many cities, although I’m not a hopper – at least on the first pass. I ride the entire route, getting an overview of the area and taking notes on sites I want to revisit. Passes are usually good for all day, so sometimes I catch the trolley to get from place to place later, but only if I’m tired. I hate wasting my time waiting for transportation. Fortunately, Savannah is easy to walk.

My home base in Savannah was the historic Marshall House Hotel in the historic district. Built in 1851, it served as a hospital for soldiers near the end of the Civil War, and during two later yellow fever epidemics. It’s supposedly haunted, but I entertained no ghosts. Wine, cheese and history are served up in the library on Thursday and Sunday afternoons, but more importantly, the hotel’s location is perfect for exploring Old Savannah.

The local Yamacraw Indians – particularly Mico (Chief) Tomochichi, who became good friends with Oglethorpe – helped the young colony survive and, ultimately, thrive. Upon Tomochichi’s death in 1739, colonists erected Georgia’s first monument: a stone pyramid in Wright Square.

A hundred years later, citizens decided to replace the monument with a tribute to a railroad tycoon. It was reported that they scattered the chief’s bones over the square

Later, the Georgia Society of the Colonial Dames of America erected a rugged granite monument with an encomium to remind visitors of the help and hospitality of Mico Tomochichi.

Johnson Square, the first of Savannah’s squares, is also the largest. It was a place where settlers came to get water, observe the time of day on a sundial and bake their bread in communal ovens. Today the ovens are gone; replaced by fountains.

You might assume that a statue of James Oglethorpe would stand in Oglethorpe Square, but it doesn’t. It’s in Chippewa Square, built around 1815 and home to the statue since 1910. The sculpture was created by Daniel Chester French, who, ten years later, would sculpt the monumental statue of Abraham Lincoln for the Lincoln Memorial. Chippewa Square was also the movie location of Forrest Gump’s bench – the square’s still there but the bench is in the Savannah History Museum.

Any exploration of the squares will reveal the variety of architectural styles in the city. One of the most elegant structures, the 1819 Regency-style Telfair Mansion (by Telfair Square), houses the oldest art museum in the South. To see what life was like in the 1820s, head north of Columbia Square to visit the Davenport House Museum, a Federal-style home restored and furnished with pieces appropriate to the period.

West of Monterey Square is the Mercer-Williams House. Made notorious by the book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, the Italianate-style house was built for the great-grandfather of singer, songwriter and Savannah native Johnny Mercer.

 

 

Legends and truth are hard to distinguish about Pirate’s House near Washington Square. A seaman’s tavern, it was built before 1800 … but stories differ about the exact details. It now houses a restaurant with good food and a fun atmosphere where they play up the pirate connection – as did Robert Louis Stevenson, who described it in Treasure Island.

This is a great foodie city – super Southern food and great seafood, but also a lot of other choices. I can highly recommend Savannah Taste Experience food tours. I took the First Squares tour, which dished up not only fine food samples, but a hefty helping of history. We got great variety from shrimp and grits and pork belly sliders to Cornish pasties. Savannahians like to top off meals with a stop at Leopold’s, which has been treating the town to wonderful homemade ice cream for 99 years. Prepare to wait in line.

 

 

The north edge of the historic district is defined by the Savannah River. Along the river below the bluffs, you’ll find a substantial row of 19th-century buildings known as Factors Row. These were warehouses and offices for cotton brokers, as cotton had become the backbone of the economy. Iron walkways bridged the top of the bluff with the upper stories of the buildings – and still do. The ramps leading down from Bay Street atop the bluff down to River Street below are paved with cobblestones left by ships that departed loaded with cotton.

In the 1800s, Savannah was one of the most important cotton markets in the country, and the magnitude and grandeur of the 1886 Romanesque Revival Cotton Exchange building reflect the primacy of the commodity. The arrival of the boll weevil around 1920 all but destroyed the industry; the fight against the pest lasted almost 70 years, but today, Georgia is again a leader in cotton production, second only to Texas.

But the days of the riverside warehouses are gone. The buildings now are occupied by a number of shops and restaurants. If you’re looking for souvenirs, River Street has plenty.

The old city market is gone, too. Today the City Market area features pedestrian walkways, shops and attractions – which brings me to one of the biggest surprises I had in Savannah: the Prohibition Museum. It looked like a tourist trap to me. I never would have gone in, except I had a pass and I was right there.

This museum is so well done – providing professional displays, lots of information about going dry without being dry, even a ’20s-style speakeasy serving Prohibition Era craft cocktails. Exhibits include lifelike wax figures, vintage vehicles and costumed docents. Subjects range from moonshine to mobsters. The museum is run by the same company that runs the Old Town Trolley Tours, so consider a combo ticket.

I only spent three days in Savannah – just hitting some highlights. I could have spent three weeks exploring this fascinating city and the nearby barrier islands. And if I’d had more time, I would have gone back to Chippewa Square and tipped my hat to James Oglethorpe for a job well done. 

 

 

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Calendar

November 2018

Visitors to Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary will be able to let their imaginations run wild as they travel back in time with life-size animatronic dinosaurs along a half-mile...

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1 Nature Place
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Sponsor: Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
Telephone: 972.562.5566
Contact Name: Stephanie Jennings
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1700 Northeast 63rd Street
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Don’t miss this timely exhibition charting the development of contemporary Indigenous art from the US and Canada. Presenting over 80 artworks including paintings, photography, video,...

Cost: Free

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Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
600 Museum Way
Bentonville, AR  72712
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Telephone: 479.418.5700
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Cost: $150

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Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
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Sponsor: Artspace at Untitled
Telephone: 405.815.9995
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Andy Alligator's is honoring Veterans Day with a free All-Day Pass to all active and retired military with a military ID. Family members will save $5 on an All-Day pass. An All-Day pass...

Cost: Free

Where:
Andy Alligator's Fun Park
3300 Market Place Dr
Norman, OK  73072
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Sponsor: Andy Alligator's Fun Park
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Sandi Patty is globally known for her incredible voice and passion for music. In addition to her musical gifts, she is a talented, prolific author - including her newest book, called The Voice:...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crossings Community Church
14600 N Portland
Oklahoma City, OK  73134
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Sponsor: Crossings Community Church
Telephone: 405.302.1233
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Where:
Civic Center Music Hall-Thelma Gaylord Theater
201 N Walker
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
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Don’t miss this timely exhibition charting the development of contemporary Indigenous art from the US and Canada. Presenting over 80 artworks including paintings, photography, video,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
600 Museum Way
Bentonville, AR  72712
View map »


Telephone: 479.418.5700
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More information

The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum is proud to host an exhibition by members of the Traditional Cowboy Arts Association (TCAA).   The Traditional Cowboy Arts Association...

Cost: 12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
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Oklahoma City, OK  73111
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Contact Name: Jenni Shrum
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Where:
Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
1 Nature Place
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View map »


Sponsor: Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
Telephone: 972.562.5566
Contact Name: Stephanie Jennings
Website »

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Cost: Free

Where:
Hopdoddy Chisholm Creek
1316 W Memorial Rd
Ste. 100
Oklahoma City, OK
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More information

Don’t miss this timely exhibition charting the development of contemporary Indigenous art from the US and Canada. Presenting over 80 artworks including paintings, photography, video,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
600 Museum Way
Bentonville, AR  72712
View map »


Telephone: 479.418.5700
Website »

More information

The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum is proud to host an exhibition by members of the Traditional Cowboy Arts Association (TCAA).   The Traditional Cowboy Arts Association...

Cost: 12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni Shrum
Website »

More information

To celebrate the recent arrival of Hopdoddy Burger Bar in the Oklahoma City area, the from-scratch burger and beer joint is giving away burger “Season Passes” to the first 100...

Cost: Free

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Hopdoddy OKC Nichols Hills
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The ultimate love story continues in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s spellbinding sequel to The Phantom of the Opera. The year is 1907. It is 10 years after his disappearance from the Paris...

Where:
Civic Center Music Hall-Thelma Gaylord Theater
201 N Walker
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Where:
Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
1 Nature Place
McKinney, TX  75069
View map »


Sponsor: Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
Telephone: 972.562.5566
Contact Name: Stephanie Jennings
Website »

More information

The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum is proud to host an exhibition by members of the Traditional Cowboy Arts Association (TCAA).   The Traditional Cowboy Arts Association...

Cost: 12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni Shrum
Website »

More information

Don’t miss this timely exhibition charting the development of contemporary Indigenous art from the US and Canada. Presenting over 80 artworks including paintings, photography, video,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
600 Museum Way
Bentonville, AR  72712
View map »


Telephone: 479.418.5700
Website »

More information

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Sponsor: Innovation Arts & Entertainment
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Where:
Civic Center Music Hall-Thelma Gaylord Theater
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Oklahoma City, OK  73102
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Sponsor: OKC Broadway
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Where:
Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
1 Nature Place
McKinney, TX  75069
View map »


Sponsor: Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
Telephone: 972.562.5566
Contact Name: Stephanie Jennings
Website »

More information

The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum is proud to host an exhibition by members of the Traditional Cowboy Arts Association (TCAA).   The Traditional Cowboy Arts Association...

Cost: 12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni Shrum
Website »

More information

Don’t miss this timely exhibition charting the development of contemporary Indigenous art from the US and Canada. Presenting over 80 artworks including paintings, photography, video,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
600 Museum Way
Bentonville, AR  72712
View map »


Telephone: 479.418.5700
Website »

More information

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Cost: General Admission, $10; Students & Seniors, $7

Where:
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132 Seretean Center for the Performing Arts
Stillwater, OK  74074
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Sponsor: OSU Symphony Orchestra
Telephone: 405.744.6133
Contact Name: Thomas Taylor Dickey
Website »

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The ultimate love story continues in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s spellbinding sequel to The Phantom of the Opera. The year is 1907. It is 10 years after his disappearance from the Paris...

Where:
Civic Center Music Hall-Thelma Gaylord Theater
201 N Walker
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: OKC Broadway
Website »

More information

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Visitors to Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary will be able to let their imaginations run wild as they travel back in time with life-size animatronic dinosaurs along a half-mile...

Where:
Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
1 Nature Place
McKinney, TX  75069
View map »


Sponsor: Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
Telephone: 972.562.5566
Contact Name: Stephanie Jennings
Website »

More information

Don’t miss this timely exhibition charting the development of contemporary Indigenous art from the US and Canada. Presenting over 80 artworks including paintings, photography, video,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
600 Museum Way
Bentonville, AR  72712
View map »


Telephone: 479.418.5700
Website »

More information

The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum is proud to host an exhibition by members of the Traditional Cowboy Arts Association (TCAA).   The Traditional Cowboy Arts Association...

Cost: 12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni Shrum
Website »

More information

In honor of Yellow Submarine's 50th anniversary - as one of its animators, as well as the director of the 1960's Saturday morning Beatles cartoon series - Ron Campbell will make a rare...

Cost: Free

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Framed in the Village
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Oklahoma City, OK  73120
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Telephone: 610.389.1807
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Cost: $25

Where:
Crossings Community Church - OKC Campus
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OKC, OK  73134
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Sponsor: Crossings Community Church
Telephone: 405.302.1208
Contact Name: Sheila Urton
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Cost: Free —Donations are greatly appreciated and accepted at the door.

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First Christian Church
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Sponsor: Scissortail Productions, Inc.
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Where:
Rose State College Hudiburg Chevrolet Center
6000 Prosper
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Cost: $5 - $15

Where:
OKC Improv
1757 N.W. 16th St.
Oklahoma City, OK  73106
View map »


Sponsor: OKC Improv
Telephone: 405.456.9858
Contact Name: Kate McLain-Snipes
Website »

More information

The ultimate love story continues in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s spellbinding sequel to The Phantom of the Opera. The year is 1907. It is 10 years after his disappearance from the Paris...

Where:
Civic Center Music Hall-Thelma Gaylord Theater
201 N Walker
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: OKC Broadway
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Visitors to Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary will be able to let their imaginations run wild as they travel back in time with life-size animatronic dinosaurs along a half-mile...

Where:
Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
1 Nature Place
McKinney, TX  75069
View map »


Sponsor: Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
Telephone: 972.562.5566
Contact Name: Stephanie Jennings
Website »

More information

The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum is proud to host an exhibition by members of the Traditional Cowboy Arts Association (TCAA).   The Traditional Cowboy Arts Association...

Cost: 12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni Shrum
Website »

More information

Don’t miss this timely exhibition charting the development of contemporary Indigenous art from the US and Canada. Presenting over 80 artworks including paintings, photography, video,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
600 Museum Way
Bentonville, AR  72712
View map »


Telephone: 479.418.5700
Website »

More information

In honor of Yellow Submarine's 50th anniversary - as one of its animators, as well as the director of the 1960's Saturday morning Beatles cartoon series - Ron Campbell will make a rare...

Cost: Free

Where:
Framed in the Village
10631 North May Avenue
Oklahoma City, OK  73120
View map »


Sponsor: Rock art show
Telephone: 610.389.1807
Contact Name: Scott Segelbaum
Website »

More information

Join us for a holiday card-making workshop with our Fall Artist in Residence, Allie D. Caesar. Allie has just returned from an almost decade-long professional practice as both a printer and artist...

Cost: $40

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Sponsor: Artspace at Untitled
Telephone: 405.815.9995
Contact Name: Meredith Zerby
Website »

More information

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Cost: $10

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Calvary Chapel of Norman
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View map »


Sponsor: 107.1 KOUJ
Telephone: 405.310.2418
Contact Name: Stephen Herrell
Website »

More information

Come enjoy live, local comedy in Oklahoma City's Plaza District. Shows are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m., and the 2nd Saturday of every month also has a family -friendly show...

Cost: $5 - $15

Where:
OKC Improv
1757 N.W. 16th St.
Oklahoma City, OK  73106
View map »


Sponsor: OKC Improv
Telephone: 405.456.9858
Contact Name: Kate McLain-Snipes
Website »

More information

The ultimate love story continues in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s spellbinding sequel to The Phantom of the Opera. The year is 1907. It is 10 years after his disappearance from the Paris...

Where:
Civic Center Music Hall-Thelma Gaylord Theater
201 N Walker
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: OKC Broadway
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
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