Credited as being the first planned city in the United States, Georgia's city of Savannah is positioned on a bluff above the Savannah River, a few miles upstream from the Atlantic Ocean state coastline. This Southern city is filled with old-fashioned hospitality and a small-town atmosphere. Savannah invites visitors to stroll back in time, right to 1733 when the city was first founded by British General James Oglethorpe with the permission of native Yamacraw Indian chief Tomo-chi-chi.
Savannah contains one of the country's largest preserved historical urban areas, where visitors can explore grandiose mansions and Spanish moss-covered oaks. The city's legacy as a major player in the cotton industry is still evident in the Savannah Cotton Exchange.
Apart from hundreds of architecturally significant buildings, Savannah is also not lacking in restaurants, shops (particularly fine antique stores), Civil War forts, museums, galleries, quaint squares, and lovely beaches. This all rightfully earns it the nickname, 'the Hostess City of the South'.
Strategically positioned on the north of the Georgia coastline, Savannah serves as an excellent starting point for exploring the scenic barrier islands, resort towns, and inlets found along the coast. And of course, it is imperative one try the region's world-famous shrimp that is caught and cooked to perfection.
The characteristic pink homestead at the heart of Savannah's historic district was the first of the city's architectural treasures to be saved for posterity. Visitors to the house can tour the building both day and night, and partake in high tea at Mrs Davenport's.
The house was built between 1815 and 1820 by Isaiah Davenport, a master builder. It features a semi-circular staircase with wrought-iron trim leading up to the recessed front door. Inside the polished hardwood floors gleam and the mansion is furnished befitting the period with Hepplewhite, Chippendale, and Sheraton pieces.
The Savannah History Museum gives an excellent introduction to the city, its exhibits reflecting the city's history from its founding to the present day. The museum is housed in a restored railway station that dates from before the Civil War and is one of Georgia's 43 National Historic Landmarks. Visitors can enjoy an exhibit on Girl Scout founder Juliet Lowe, as well as sit on the bench used for the filming of 'Forest Gump'. Just across the street in the Battlefield Memorial Park, a memorial to the second bloodiest battle of the American Revolution.
The Telfair Museum of Art is the oldest public art museum in the South, fittingly housed in an important historic building, the Owens-Thomas House. The house, overlooking Oglethorpe Square, was designed by William Jay, a young English architect, who introduced the British Regency style to America.
The art museum's permanent collection includes paintings, works on paper, sculpture, and decorative arts by both American and European artists. The museum encompasses the art gallery, restored rooms in the historic house, and the Jepson Center for the Arts. Guided tours are offered daily, included in the admission price.
A short distance to the east of central Savannah stands Georgia's oldest standing fort, surrounded by a deep tidal moat. The fort was preceded by a mud battery, the brick fort having been built in 1808. It was the headquarters for the Confederate river defences during the Civil War, when it was enlarged and strengthened. The fort today contains numerous exhibits about the war. Live historical re-enactments and cannon firings are staged daily in spring and summer. The fort also offers picturesque views of Savannah's skyline, and the grounds are a good place for a walk on a pleasant day.
Savannah enjoys a humid subtropical climate that makes outdoor activities possible year-round. Summers (June to August) are hot, though the heat is often moderated by thundershowers, with August usually receiving the most rainfall. Average temperatures in summer hover between 70°F (21°C) and 92°F (33°C). Winters (December to February) are short and fairly mild, with temperatures averaging between 38°F (3°C) and 64°F (18°C), and snow is rare. Savannah is at risk for hurricanes, though less than most other cities on the Atlantic coast. To avoid the extreme heat and muggy, rainy weather, try visiting in September or October when the days are balmy and not stiflingly humid.
Savannah's historic district is best explored on foot. But visitors should note that paths and steps down to the waterfront can be steep. There are countless walking and biking tours on offer. Savannah's CAT (Chatham Area Transit) provides a convenient shuttle service operating throughout the historic district, connecting shops, hotels, attractions, and other bus routes. CAT also provides a fixed route bus service throughout the city and surrounding county. Old Town Trolley tours allow for self-paced sightseeing on and off the orange trolly buses. The free Belles Ferry connects downtown to Hutchinson Island at regular intervals. The city has numerous car hire companies and several taxi companies. Cycling is also a popular means of taking in the city.
Savannah is the oldest city in the state of Georgia and a favourite among visitors to the old South. Known for its eccentricities and its old-world style, this coastal city promises hundreds of hours of entertainment and culture.
Established in 1733, Savannah is rich in history. For those with a keen interest in the history of the city and one of the largest National Historic Landmark districts in the US, there are many wonderful museums and galleries. The Savannah History Museum gives visitors an excellent introduction to the city of Savannah, while Fort Jackson, Georgia's oldest standing fort, offers historical demonstrations and cannon firings for a dynamic historical experience. Savannah is home to some historic homes, with stand-out favourites including Owens-Thomas House. The Cathedral of St John the Baptist, constructed over many years beginning in 1873, will also delight architecture buffs. Lovers of the arts should definitely visit the Telfair Academy and the Jepson Center which both house highly renowned art collections.
History, culture, and architecture aside, Savannah is also known for its exciting nightlife, with the streets being filled with restaurants and jazzy entertainment. River Street is a great place to start for those in search of historic charm as well as a good selection of restaurants, bars, and shops.
The Okefenokee Swamp comprises of 700 square miles (1,813 sq km) of marshy wilderness stretching across the southern part of coastal Georgia. The largest peat-producing bog in North America, Okefenokee provides a refuge for thousands of animals and plants that thrive in its lakes, islands, and wetlands.
The park consists of different environments, from towering cypress stands in still waters to vast prairie grasslands in other areas. Visitors have four parks to choose from: three of the parks are on the east side of the swamp and one on the southwestern side. All three offer sightseeing, boating, and fishing opportunities. The southwestern park is Stephen C. Foster State Park, featuring cypress swamps, at the headwaters of the Suwannee River.
South of Waycross Okefenokee Swamp Park contains alligators, snakes, and other swamp wildlife in easy-to-see captivity for a quick swamp experience. And the Suwannee Canal Recreation Area near Folkston provides access to the prairie environment of the swamp, offering nature boardwalks and historic sites.
A short drive south of Savannah lies the charming old town of Darien, established in 1736 on the banks of the Darien River as a military outpost.
Today it is a favoured tourist attraction. Its historic shopping enclave specialises in unique gifts and antiques, and the picturesque waterfront is filled with shrimp boats. A series of walking and bike paths, lined with Spanish moss-draped oak trees, connect the downtown waterfront with Fort King George, which houses a museum and plays host to living history pageants.
Other diversions include paddling the river and tidal creeks in kayaks or canoes, and dining on shrimp. The area around Darien in McIntosh county particularly scenic, dotted with quaint fishing villages like Valona and Shellman Bluff. Just offshore, accessible by ferry across Doboy Sound, is the pristine barrier island of Sapelo, which boasts one of Georgia's most beautiful beaches and a restored lighthouse.
The small barrier island of Tybee, 18 miles (29km) east of Savannah, is a popular seaside resort. The three-mile (5km) long beach has rolling sand-dunes,with a pier and pavilion at the south end of the island that offer a pleasant stroll, usually accompanied by live band music.
The island also has sightseeing opportunities including Fort Screven, a historic Tybee lighthouse dating to 1773, and Fort Pulaski. There is a selection of restaurants, hotels, motels, inns, and cottages available.
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