As we speed toward Halloween, there’s one town with a fairly spooky reputation that deserves our attention more than most. Savannah is Georgia’s oldest and arguably most charming city and is known for its coastal scenery, vibrant history, incredible antebellum architecture, and the many, a lot local spirits. Savannah, known by some as America’s “Most Haunted City,” is an ideal Halloween getaway destination, especially for the history buffs among us or those who just love a good scare. Of course, Savannah has so much more to offer than just its haunted history; with thrilling rides, beautiful parks, art museums, eclectic shops, waterfront views and delectable food, there’s never been a better time to plan your visit to this all-American Southern Belle.
Any great trip to Savannah should revolve around the historic downtown area and riverfront. It is a very walkable city, so let yourself get lost in time as you wander the ancient cobbled streets. But don’t worry, as the United States’ first planned city, Savannah is a perfect grid, so it’s highly unlikely you’ll actually get lost. Stroll down famous Broughton Street, enjoy the shops on Bull Street and have your camera ready for Jones Street, known as Savannah’s most beautiful street. However, if there’s one street you absolutely can’t miss, it’s historic River Street, overlooking the Savannah River. From here you can really begin to understand the city as you watch the riverboats or the immense freighters pass by, enjoy street performances and view the waterfront and the famous Talmadge Memorial Bridge. (It’s long past time to rename that bridge, by the way.—Ed.)
Explore the city’s 22 peaceful park plazas, including Chippewa Square, where Forrest Gump’s famous park bench scene was filmed, and find incredible mansions, monuments, and museums on every corner. House museums are particularly popular here, so visit Mercer-Williams House Museum, Owens-Thomas House and Slave Quarters, and the Andrew Low House, which was home to Girl Scout founder Juliette Low. As expected, all three houses have their fair share of notable historical moments, and are rumored to be haunted. For something different, check out the American Prohibition Museum, the only museum in the country dedicated to preserving the stories of the Prohibition era. The Telfair Academy is another museum must, as it is the oldest public art museum in the South and the first art museum in the US founded by a woman. If contemporary art is more your style, check out SCAD Museum of Art.
Be sure to also spend some time strolling through Forsyth Park, the city’s oldest and largest public park. Snap some photos in front of the park’s fountain, one of Savannah’s best-known icons, and swoon over the giant oak trees covered in Spanish moss that make the city look like something out of a fairytale. If you happen to be in town on a Saturday, be sure to check out the Farmers Market, held in the park.
If you want to learn more about Savannah’s eerie history, Bonaventure Cemetery should be your first stop. Designed as a traditional Victorian cemetery, it is a labyrinthine maze of ancient oaks and overgrown Gothic-style tombstones. So, as with many Savannah attractions, it is known as one of the most beautiful of its kind in the country. There are also plenty of ghost tours available for anyone hoping to meet the undead, including Hearse Ghost Tours, who, you guessed it, take their clients for a spooky nighttime ride in one of their funeral vehicles. However, if all that seems a bit too scary, opt for the Haunted Savannah Pub Crawl or the Boo Y’all Comedy Ghost Tour. If you want a real scare, check into Marshall House, a hotel that was used as a hospital during outbreaks of yellow fever and the Civil War.
Rest assured, Savannah also has plenty of tour options that aren’t designed to rush you out of town. Discover the city on foot with a wide variety of walking tours, or if you’re tired of walking, don’t miss the iconic “hop on, hop off” trolley tours. Sightseeing is thirsty work, but luckily Savannah’s food and drink scene has everything you need to refuel or enjoy yourself. For breakfast, visit the adorable Mirabelle’s or the Australian-style Collins Quarter at one of their two Savannah locations. For unbeatable Southern fare, such as fried green tomatoes or shrimp and grits, try The Olde Pink House, a colonial mansion with live music and a romantic atmosphere, or for something more casual, don’t miss The Public Kitchen and Bar. If you have a sweet tooth, you absolutely must visit Leopold’s Ice Cream Shop, the coolest place in town. People have been known to queue here for up to an hour, so you can bet it’s worth the wait. Finally, for dining, shopping, entertainment, and a great atmosphere, be sure to check out Savannah’s City Market, an open-air market that dates back to the 18th century. While you’re there, try a slice of New York-style pizza from popular eatery Vinnie Van Go-Go.
With less than 200,000 residents, Savannah is a relatively small city; two or three days is the perfect amount of time to explore what this city has to offer. You may even have enough time to run out of town and enjoy one of the many nearby islands or beautiful beaches, such as Hilton Head, Tybee, or Cockspur Island. Whatever you decide to do, a trip to Savannah, with all of its delicious food and beautiful sights, is never one you will regret. Perhaps the reason so many of the dead have decided to stay is simply because of how much this charming town has to offer. So don’t wait, try Savannah while you’re still alive and kicking.
Bryony Parker is a writer and artist currently living in São Paulo, Brazil and working on her Masters in International Affairs. You find her @par666ker on all social media.