We added a stop in Savannah, GA to our southern tour after friends raved about its downtown layout. The houses are tightly packed together, but every few blocks, there’s a green square that serves as a general front yard and park. The streets are shaded by thick branches from nice, mature trees. But look up and you might glimpse a big, modern building through the Spanish moss-covered branches. It was beautiful, but I couldn’t help but compare it to Charleston.
There are many similarities: both cities are and were historically important ports on the Atlantic. Savannah’s downtown has also been designated a National Historic Landmark District, but the houses are newer than Charleston’s. In contrast to Charleston, though, Savannah feels more like a real city, a place where you could live in a historic home and work at a real job and actually make a living.
People seem generally dismissive of the dining scene in Savannah. On one my favorite tip sites for food, chowhound, people’s recommendations for Savannah food were to skip Savannah and go to Charleston instead. Strange. People we talked to in Charleston also were somewhat dismissive of Savannah in general, but I chalked that up to some kind of local rivalry. But it didn’t compare, and maybe it was unfair to think that it would. We’d probably have come away with a more favorable impression if we’d visited here first, then went on to Charleston.
One thing that Savannah does have is one of the best campgrounds we’ve visited in the south — Skidaway Island State Park. It’s just down the road from downtown, but it feels miles and centuries away from the city. It has Spanish moss-draped trees, large salt marshes crawling with fiddler crabs, evidence of Native American settlers and Civil War battles, and an old liquor still. And alligators.