© Photos by Sherri Tilley
Juliette Gordon Low, Founder of Girl Scouts USA
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Savannah, Georgia | Hostess City of the South
Born in Savannah just prior to the Civil War, Juliette Gordon Low was the remarkable founder of the Girl Scouts of the USA. Affectionately known as
Daisy, she reached across cultural boundaries to ardently nurture the youth organization that has since become an empowering global movement fostering the personal growth and leadership potential of millions of young girls. The authentically-furnished home of her birth, located on a prime residential corner and simply referred to as The Birthplace, was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1965 and now offers guided tours to the public.
Classically intriguing with a distinctly contemporary urban flair, the Savannah Historic District is nestled within easy walking distance from a number of hotels, restaurants, and transportation hubs. Upon arriving, we first set out by foot to explore downtown's City Market, the art and soul of Savannah where most of the city's visual artists set up shop like
Painter of Light Thomas Kinkade and the uber-talented Stephen Kasun who can be seen onsite most days executing his vibrantly-captivating paintings. Our extended meandering eventually led us on a whimsical adventure through the fantastically-retro Goorin Bros. Hat Shop, to the local institution Leopold's Ice Cream, over to the delightfully-curious Olfactory Company, and into the spectacular interior of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.
Additional exciting entertainment options include the high-energy Savannah Live at the Historic Savannah Theatre, the Telfair Academy of Arts and Sciences, Chef Joe Randall's Cooking School, Savannah Smiles Dueling Pianos, and Savannah Riverboat Cruises which take passengers on harbor sightseeing tours as well as two-hour evening dinner cruises. The uniquely personal narrations of Old Savannah Tours also bring history to life with re-enactors that just might jump aboard your trolley. We were indeed quite enthralled by the fierce-looking pirate declaring a wealth of historical information out in front of the world-famous Pirate's House.
The idea of taking one of Savannah's wildly popular ghost tours did not appeal to us personally, but we strongly suggest a trip to the transcendently-beautiful Bonaventure Cemetery. Despite our initial hesitation, we spent an entire afternoon exploring the 100-acre southern gothic-styled grounds, examining intricately-carved monuments, and reading sentimental stone-inscription testaments of honorable lives lived and incredible loves lost.
An early-morning drive out to Savannah's beach at Tybee Island put us in line at the award-winning Breakfast Club, a small no-frills diner which serves up rock ‘n’ roll tunes along with their locally-famous pecan waffles. Park in a head-in metered spot along the side street and then rent an umbrella with chairs on the adjacent beach where the lifeguards are on duty. At lunchtime, head over to Fannie's on the Beach, a funky little multi-story restaurant which features live music on the weekends, and afterward take a walk on the Tybee Pier and Pavilion. Before leaving the island, swing by the recently-restored Tybee Island Lighthouse, Georgia's oldest and tallest lighthouse.
Back in Savannah, the lunch line begins forming early at Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room where southern favorites are cooked up for a common-table environment; however, guests of Paula Deen's The Lady and Sons Restaurant can spend time perusing her flagship retail store before the dinner buffet gets started in late afternoon. For us, one of the main highlights of our entire trip to Savannah was having high tea at the elegant Gryphon, the premier cafe of the Savannah College of Art and Design where the Indian Spice Chai tea we selected was accompanied by a lovely tiered display of tea sandwiches, scones with Devonshire cream and jam, and assorted petit fours.
Near sunset, we carefully navigated a quick shortcut down an especially steep historical stairway to the River Street waterfront development where 200-year-old cobblestones pave a bustling street of once-cotton warehouses that have now been renovated into boutiques, galleries, brew pubs, and a variety of eateries. There you'll find chicken finger-originator Spanky's Pizza Galley & Saloon and the upscale Boar's Head Grill & Tavern along with Savannah's Candy Kitchen and Huey's southern cafe where you can sit on the patio sipping a mint julep while watching the ships pass by. Trendy hotspot Rocks on the Roof at the Bohemian Hotel Savannah Riverfront also offers tapas-style cuisine, a cozy fire pit, and breath-taking views of the Savannah River and the Historic District.
The Presidents' Quarters Inn, a centrally-located bed and breakfast on Oglethorpe Square, is one of many historic homes designed to provide luxurious overnight accommodations in Savannah. The city's most recognized and iconic hotel is the 125-room Victorian Romanesque Mansion on Forsyth Park which features onyx and Verona marble, a Lalique chandelier, one-of-a-kind Versace furniture in the lobby, and over 400 original pieces of art. The full-service Cotton Sail Hotel also offers picturesque views of the Savannah River, while the exquisite Marshall House, one of Savannah's oldest hotels, exudes quintessential Southern charm.
For help getting around, accessible modes of in-town transportation include the Express Shuttle, River Street Streetcar, fairy-tale-like Savannah Carriage Tours, pedal-powered Slow Ride, and Old Town Trolley Tour. The Savannah Belles Ferry also traverses the river every 30 minutes or less connecting visitors to Hutchison Island where The Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa provides a tranquil oasis with estate-styled guestrooms as well as a top-ranked Heavenly Spa, PGA Champions Tour golf course, automotive road course, sporty ElliptiGO rentals, river cruise excursions to secluded island beaches, and much more.
The distinctive Savannah Music Festival, which occurs for three weeks each spring during peak azalea season, is Georgia's largest musical arts festival and one of the most distinctive cross-genre music festivals in the world. SMF presents a collection of classical, folk, country, jazz, rock, and other musical performances at venues scattered throughout the city. The organization is dedicated to presenting a world-class celebration and stimulating an appreciation for the arts.
One of the distinguishing features of Savannah is its collection of 24 conveniently-spaced city squares, the largest of which is Forsyth Park where you'll find a beautiful Parisian-styled fountain, memorial monuments, and huge live oak trees strung with Spanish moss. To leisurely enjoy these parks, rent a bicycle from Sekka or Perry Rubber Bike Shop and make a point to visit Morrell Park where a prominent statue commemorates
the Waving Girl Florence Martus who was known to be a consistently-present greeter of all ships pulling into port between 1887 and 1931.
Some of the extravagant mansion homes that stand along the edges of these green spaces include the 19th-century Italianate Andrew Low House, landmark Owens-Thomas House, Harper Fowlkes House with its stunning garden, and the nationally-significant Mercer Williams House which is considered one of the most beautiful homes in all of Savannah.
Our full review of the Toyota Avalon Hybrid Limited, which was driven on this 3,000-mile trip through six southern states, examines ten unique aspects of the practical yet elegant upscale sedan.
Although the lightweight Avalon Hybrid is unassumingly quiet at lower speeds and perfectly adequate while cruising along scenic roadways, the car's responsive performance quickly provides acceleration from 0 to 60 mph in a snappy 7.6 seconds. A 2.5-liter I-4 engine paired with a battery gives the hybrid system a total of 200 horsepower which is manipulated by selecting one of three different drive mode buttons located near the leather-wrapped shifter. Eco offers softer shifts and consistent acceleration for maximum efficiency, Normal is great for everyday driving, and the livelier Sport mode increases throttle response and additionally quickens the electric power steering for twisting roads.