Did you know that the Savannah Visitor Center allows you to RV in their parking lot for up to 48 hours? That’s right, a convenient place to park your RV in the middle of the city within easy walking distance of nearly everything you want to see! Unheard of. Now before you get all excited and rush over there, here’s a few things to know. It’s not free. If you only want to spend the day you can park in the lot for up to one hour for free, after that they charge $1/hour. For an overnight pass go into the visitor center and purchase a 24 hour pass for $7, or a 48 hour pass for $12.
There are 15 designated RV spaces – they are on the small side. Probably only about 30 feet feet long. If you have a 45-foot motorhome I would stay away. If you have a 35 or 40-foot motorhome you may be able to squeeze in by backing your rear wheels all the way up to the sidewalk. If you have any combination of truck and trailer know that you will have to unhitch and pay for two spots. Also know that if you arrive in the middle of the day on a Saturday like we did the parking lot will be a complete zoo (these photos were taken first thing Sunday morning when things had quieted down considerably). Know that it may be difficult to maneuver around the parking lot, and like most public parking lots, chances are high that some jerk in a small car has parked in one of the RV designated spots, thereby reducing your chance of getting a spot. If you can get past all of this, this is a GREAT place to spend a night or two.
Once you maneuver yourself into a spot, you are in a prime location to explore the city. Either hop on one of the many trollies that tour around the city, set off on foot, or unload your bikes are spend a few hours cycling up and down the tree lined streets. We decided a self guided walking tour would be the best way to see as much as possible. Chances are we would have learned more about the city on a trolly tour, but the layout of the city is incredibly walkable, and we really prefer to explore at own pace. We also got in some exercise, allowing us to indulge a bit later in the day. Here are some of the highlights from our Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning walking tour.
Savannah was designed as a city of squares. When British General James Oglethorpe founded the city in 1733 he laid out a plan of four open squares surrounded by residential and civic blocks. As the city grew more squares were added, and by late 1851 twenty-four squares had been established. At some point two were lost to development, leaving 22 squares that serve as historical landmarks while showcasing the beauty and essence of Savannah.
Some of the squares hold statues, memorials, and fountains, while others simply provide a scenic green space filled with moss draped trees and blooming flowers. Somehow we got lucky and timed our visit to coincide with the colorful show of blooming azalea bushes and spring flowering trees. I tried to impress on Tim just how lucky we were to see these flowers in bloom. I’m not sure he shared my enthusiasm, especially after having to stop for the 50th time so I could take just “one more” flower picture. Despite my slow pace, we managed to walk through nearly every square.
A few days before we arrived in Savannah I asked for recommendations on our Watsons Wander Facebook page. A bunch of people mentioned Forsyth Park. After strolling along the wide, tree-lined paths watching kids playing on the playground, sunbathers enjoying the green grass, and sports enthusiasts using the tennis and basketball courts, it’s easy to understand the attraction.
In addition to places for play and relaxation, the park is famous for a landmark cast-iron white fountain modeled in 1858 after one that graces the Place de la Concorde in Paris. There is also a Spanish-American War memorial, and an imposing monument to the Confederacy built in 1875. Forsyth Park has long been the scene of Civil War re-enactments, and as the spot where famous movies have been filmed such as Forest Gump and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.
Colonial Park Cemetery
Another place highly recommended by our FB peeps was Bonaventure Cemetery. It ended up being a bit too far to walk there from the Visitor Center, so we left it for another day. We did, however, stumble across the Colonial Park Cemetery. We haven’t done a lot of cemetery exploration in our travels. I know many people love nothing more than strolling through a grassy lot filled with old graves, but I have to admit there’s something about reveling in the beauty of a person’s final resting place that has always felt a tad bit…disrespectful. But maybe I need to get over that since we’re now in the part of the country where old cemeteries play a huge role in learning about the history of an area.
Colonial Park Cemetery is one of those places where the history of the city comes alive. I mean…not alive because of course everyone here is dead…but, well, you know what I mean right? Founded in 1750, this is the second oldest cemetery in the city. It opened as city park in 1896. The cemetery used to cover more land than it currently does. In fact, there are over 10,000 burials at the cemetery, but only 600 gravestones remain today. Many famous citizens and war heroes are buried here. Famous people such as Button Gwinnett who is known for being one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence; Joseph Habersham, Postmaster General under three Presidents; Archibald Bulloch, the first President of Georgia; and many more.
Colonial Cemetery Park is also rumored to be one of the most haunted places in Savannah. It comes as no surprise that it’s a popular stop for the local ghost tours. We saw no sign of haunting or ghosts during our visit on this pleasant Saturday afternoon, but we’re considering one of the night time ghost tours so who knows what we might see…
Much of our walking tour was spent aimlessly wandering the pedestrian-friendly, quiet streets. We especially loved some the streets just north of Forsyth Park where old colonial style mansions are fringed with southern gardens and the ever present live oak trees.
In contrast to the peaceful residential streets and picturesque squares, River Street is a veritable carnival of souvenir shops and bars geared toward college age visitors. We enjoyed a quick stroll along the river, admired the old brick buildings and remnants of cobble stone streets, but overall felt this area paled in comparison to other parts of the city.
Food & Drink
As our first day of city wandering came to an end we found ourselves in much need of some refreshment. Following yet another recommendation (you guys are awesome) we headed up to the roof deck of the Bohemian Hotel for a drink and small bite. Unfortunately, we weren’t the only ones with this idea and the roof top patio was jam packed with people. After circling around a few times hoping someone would vacate their prime river view spot, we gave up and instead walked across the street to Moon River Brewing. We both had a beer and shared a plate of nachos. Neither were very good. The beer was boring and the nachos were covered with that nasty orange cheese product normally reserved for gas station nachos. And to make matters worse the beer garden was infested with sand gnats that would not leave us alone! Next time I would skip Moon River altogether.
After that unsatisfying experience we wandered back to Airstream for a small rest. Along the way we discussed dinner plans for later. Savannah has a lot of restaurants to choose from, but as usual we were in search of something ultra casual. Eventually we settled on the Green Truck Pub where they serve locally sourced, simple pub food. An hour later after some much needed rest, the trudge across town to our restaurant choice was not looking as appealing, so instead we walked across the street to The Distillery. Close proximity to the visitor center was a major factor in this decision. Turned out to be a pretty decent place. While the name is mis-leading (it is not, in fact, a distillery), they had a wide selection of craft beer and a pretty decent menu of pub food. Tim had a burger, and I went for the fried green tomato BLT. It was my first experience with fried green tomatoes, and while I’m not too proud of my new found love for this traditionally healthy vegetable trashed up with a coating of dough and dipped in the deep fryer, man they were good!
Even though we said that would be it for our eating out this week (gotta save room for our up coming visits to Charleston and Asheville), the next day after another morning of exploration on foot we found ourselves at the counter of Vinnie Van Go Go’s munching on a spinach salad and some giant pizza slices. Vinnie’s advertises a NY style pizza, and while we have found that claim to be a complete lie at so many NY style pizza places around the country, here it held true. Thanks Vinnie!
We’re hanging out in Savannah for the rest of the week at Skidaway Island State Park. The weather has taken a turn and it looks like we’re in for a week of clouds and rain. Hopefully it will remain dry enough for a bit more fun in the area because we still have a whole list of things we want to do and see.