Savannah, with its Spanish moss, Southern accents and creepy graveyards, is a lot like Charleston, South Carolina. But this city about 100 miles to the south has an eccentric streak. Savannah College of Art and Design students mix with ghost hunters and preservationists, while Southern-fried restaurants share street blocks with edgy cafes and restored theaters. The quirky characters in the true crime story, "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil," say it all. Yes, eccentricity is the name of the game, but if that's not your "box of chocolates," as Tom Hanks famously said in the Savannah-filmed "Forrest Gump," maybe history or nightlife is? Savannah's antebellum past seeps from nearly every corner but "The Hostess City of the South" abandons its genteel behavior by nightfall to prove it also knows how to show visitors a good time.
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Savannah is the model of the Southern city. The people here are well-mannered, polite and friendly. As with other Southern cities like Charleston, you should dress up a bit if you want to fit in. The city thrives in tradition and upholding its heritage, so you might encounter a slower pace than you are used to in a big metropolis. So slow down — everyone else will.
With the Savannah College of Art and Design here, there is also a younger, artsy demographic. Perhaps as a result of the large contingent of students, Savannah is also well-known as a party city, so be prepared to loosen up at night.
Yes, you're in the South. And yes, you'll find some fried food here, but if that's all you're expecting, then you've got Savannah all wrong. Thanks to its coastal location, Savannah offers a little bit of everything, and it's quickly becoming a formidable culinary rival to Atlanta.
If southern comfort food is what you're after, The Olde Pink House should be at the top of your list. Practically an attraction in itself, the restaurant is housed within a blush-colored stucco mansion built in the late 1700s for James Habersham Jr., one of Savannah's early cotton factors and founding-family members. Before becoming a restaurant, it was also the site of the First Bank of Georgia in the 1800s. Because of its unique history, eating here feels like taking a step back in time, with the whole house (both upstairs and downstairs) used for dining. After dinner, sneak down to the speakeasy-like cellar underneath the restaurant for a drink by the fireplace and to hear some tunes by a local pianist or jazz musician.
Next up on your list: Leopold's Ice Cream. Though this 20th-century soda shop isn't as ancient as The Olde Pink House, it's still considered a Savannah institution, featuring some of the same fixtures (including the black marble soda fountain) from the original store. Come here for an old-fashioned milkshake or a double scoop of one of the shop's original ice cream flavors like Tutti Fruitti.
Though Savannah has its fair share of deep-rooted eateries that act as the foundation of the area's dining scene, the city also manages to host a collection of more contemporary spots that receive just as much acclaim from visitors and critics alike. You'll be transported to Melbourne, Australia, at Collins Quarter, a casual cafe that features staples from the Australian owner's hometown (try Leo's Aussie breakkie). And for some Savannah-style barbecue, head to Sandfly BBQ. For a more contemporary take on Southern cuisine and farm-to-table menus, consider making reservations at Local 11 Ten or Cotton & Rye.
Savannah is home to a rollicking nightlife scene (in part because of its lack of open container laws), so plan to go for a pre- or post-dinner cocktail to sample some of the city's more unique venues. If beer is your drink of choice, head to Southbound Brewery, Savannah's first microbrewery. Audiophiles will especially enjoy the brewery's music theme (each of the brews is named after an album or song) and the chance to hear a rotating roster of local musicians. For inventive cocktails and indulgent small plates, try Treylor Park. Pair the PB&J chicken wings with The Recliner (bourbon sweet tea and muddled raspberries).
The best way to get around Savannah is on foot and by car. This compact city of 22 squares, filled with lively fountains, eclectic sculptures, shade trees and flowers, is most easily (and enjoyably) explored by walking. Driving will enable you to go where your feet can't, but be sure to come prepared with lots of quarters to feed the hungry parking meters. Savannah also operates a fleet of buses, which make stops throughout the city and its outskirts. Cabs are another affordable way to get around, and these can be hailed or called ahead. To get from the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport (SAV), located about 10 miles northwest of the city, you can take a shuttle, bus, rental car or taxi.See details for Getting Around
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