Exploring Savannah

I had the opportunity to visit Savannah a couple of weeks ago, as we begin to roam around again. (Thank you vaccine).  Ostensibly the reason for the trip was to take my daughter on a tour of SCAD as she begins to prepare to make decisions on which college to attend next year.  Whatever, the reason I am always up for a trip to Savannah as it’s a fantastic city to spend a long weekend, and it had been about a year and a half since my last visit.  The best part of staying in Savannah is that no matter where you stay in the historic district you can simply park your car and just walk everywhere.  Sure, it can get a little humid and muggy, but that’s just more reason to stop for intermittent cold beverages or some of the best “popsicles” ever (more on those later).

For the trip I rented a nice little house by Forsyth Park and one of the main buildings for the Savannah College of Art and Design.  This was convenient for the college tour, but also allowed us to be close enough to the action, while still enjoying a quiet neighborhood.  The weather was perfect, as while it had forecasted rain each day, it only rained a bit the first night and after that was sunny and warm the rest of the weekend.  The trick is to bring an umbrella with you, as if you are prepared for rain it will rarely come to pass.  Savannah is a city that I have visited four or five times in the last few years, but for some reason I have few “go-to” places so it generally involves some exploring and trying new things with each visit.  However, after this trip there are probably a few places that will require a follow up visit on the next trip to the city.

Fun Things to Do:

  • Walk and Take in the Sights – as I mentioned earlier, it’s one of the most pedestrian friendly cities I have been to in the South.  With a relatively small amount of physical space, it is easy to criss-cross the historic district moving through all of the famous squares (never hurts to get the obligatory Forrest Gump pic) and wandering the shopping and entertainment districts.  There is also a great riverfront that has recently expanded with the completion of the JW Marriott Riverside – but more on that later.  All of the walking will help you build up a thirst and appetite to take in a good number of the great restaurants spread across the city.  If you get tired you can hop on some of the various bus/trolley tours to soak up some of the history, and there are some great ghost tours as you are in one of America’s most haunted cities.
  • Savannah Plant Riverside District – enjoy a stroll along the river, watching boats & ships of all sizes make their way back and forth.  Enjoy the stalls of the River Street Marketplace and take your pick from a large number of restaurants.  The highlight has to be the newest area that just opened around the new JW Marriott hotel.  Along the walkway are unique shops, set up in glass cubes, areas for live entertainment and an extended “food hall” spread over the course of the walk.  We tried a few places for various snacks, and you have to love an area where you have a great view of the river while enjoying a mini German biergarten, or some fresh sushi, high end pizza or even some BBQ.  Take an energetic stroll, or just sit in the shade and watch the boats go by with some great food and the drink of your choice.  Bonus – walk through the lobby of the hotel to get a look at some great artwork and some giant dinosaur skeletons suspended right in the lobby.  I’m not sure how it all tied into the hotel theme, but it was a lot of fun to look at.
  • Nerd Heaven – as a card-carrying nerd, it’s great to see a number of options for great shopping.  For the art nerds there is a great Blick’s art store, which we visited for my daughter, and which has to have just about anything an aspiring artist could want to drool over.  There are some great furniture and design stores, including 24e Design Co which has convinced me that our next place definitely needs to have an industrial feel to it.  And finally, for the comics, gaming nerds in all of us, there are a couple of great options.  For straight up comic book needs, you have to check out Odin & Sons, for a great old-school comic book store.  Hey, with that name you know the Free Range Viking is going to enjoy himself.  Follow that up with a trip to Nerdheim, which has a great mix of comic merchandise, games, Star Wars, Harry Potter, etc..  Needless to say I ended up spending some money on this trip.
  • Savannah College of Art & Design – this one might be a bit more difficult for everyone to pull off, but if you can manage a tour of the campus and buildings you will be amazed.  Each of the buildings we visited on the tour had its own theme, and you were left with no doubts that you were in a design school.  My absolute favorite was the building whose entire lobby was set up as a campground.  You have to see it, to believe it.

Where to Eat:

  • Crystal Beer Parlor – order the onion rings, they have been making them for decades and are some of the best I’ve ever had.  Everything we had was good, but get those and anything with the blackened shrimp.
  • Funky Bunch Cafe – a go to place for breakfast.  If you are an OJ fan, get the fresh squeeze juice, as my wife said it was life changing.  The andouille scramble was immense and delicious and you won’t go wrong with any of the egg dishes.  However, if you are feeling a bit more adventurous for breakfast, grab a seat at one of the cooking tables and make your own pancakes.  We have done it before, and not only are the pancakes great, but it’s always entertaining to watch someone invariably completely embarrass themselves with some pancake flipping mishaps.   I don’t care how talented you are with a spatula, when it feels like you have an entire restaurant watching you, everyone caves to the pressure.
  • Coco & Moss – found this place just by walking by it, and being intrigued by the look of the restaurant.  If you are into sushi, poke and rice bowls, this is your place.  The food was a work of art and tasted as good as it looked.
  • Sly’s Sliders – perfect little burgers and mini hotdogs.  Mix and match and try a sampling of their great combinations.  Plus, may be the best french fries in the city.  A little out of the way, but totally worth it.
  • Flying Monk Noodle Bar – we have walked by this place on at least three different trips without getting an opportunity to try it out, but this time we made a point of grabbing some lunch.  Noodle dishes inspired by different asian cuisines and cooking styles in a funky little place.  Between the three of us, we covered Vietnam, Singapore and Japan.  If you like Asian food, this place is a must.
  • Grafito Pizza – outside of the new JW Marriott waterfront, amazing thin crust, coal fired pizzas and salads.  The aroma of the restaurant alone is worth the visit, but if you like pizza you will be in heaven.
  • Rise Biscuits and Donuts – another staple place for breakfast.  If you like biscuit sandwiches, this is your place.  Or if you are like me, and just really like donuts you won’t be disappointed either.
  • Savannah Candy Company – this becomes a daily visit whenever we are in Savannah.  My go to is dark chocolate covered Oreos or Nutter Butters, but if you like chocolate this is your place.  From chocolate encased Rice Krispie treats to mind-boggling candy apples your sweet tooth will be sated.  Plus, free praline samples that were just made in front of you, just for walking in the door.
  • Savannah Pops – to call these popsicles is probably an insult, but I’m not sure how else to describe them.  The flavor selections will have you staring at the menu board for way too long, struggling to decide, but it is unlike anything you will get anywhere else.  The tart lemonade pop was the perfect mix of sweet and tart and was the perfect refreshment on a hot day.  I would need to be in the city for weeks to try all the flavors I would want to..  Bonus – they are available to purchase at Sly’s Sliders too.

Like I said, you can really fill up a long weekend in Savannah, and there are so many great places to shop, eat, or just look around.  If you get a chance to check it out, you won’t be disappointed.

The Free Range Viking

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