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Tips on travelling to Savannah from Wayne Waters

Wayne Waters and his brother Cecil Waters both live in Savannah. Cecil Waters is a highly knowledgeable amateur historian of the city who has been conducting guided tours of his beloved Savannah for more than three decades. Wayne Waters is an experienced traveller and travel writer who finds Savannah's extraordinary beauty and southern grace irresistible. 

For more information on guided tours of Savannah check out Grits & Magnolia's Walking Tours.

As a resident, what makes you passionate about Savannah?

The undeniable beauty and historic ambiance of Savannah makes it an easy city to feel passionate about. Particularly for people (like us!) who live downtown right in the heart of its historic district. It is such a pleasure to walk out of our respective residences every day and stroll through Savannah's lovely squares, hear the birdsong coming from the live oaks draped in Spanish moss and the clop-clop of horse-drawn carriages going by, taking in the grand historic architecture. What a great way to live! Also, the people of Savannah make it a great place to be. Southern hospitality is alive and well here, whether you're a resident or a visitor.

Where is the first place you would send a visitor in the city?

River Street, Savannah's beautiful riverside walkway paved (partially) with ballast stones used to stabilise ships crossing the Atlantic Ocean in days of yore, though I could have named a half-dozen different places and felt right about it. River Street is lined with an eclectic mix of hotels, restaurants, bars and shops.

What would you consider Savannah's must-see tourist attractions?

River Street, City Market, Forsyth Park, Jepson Center for the Arts, Owens-Thomas House, Cathedral of St John the Baptist, Telfair Academy and the view from Rocks on the River, the rooftop bar of the Bohemian Hotel Savannah Riverfront.

What's the best way to get around in Savannah?

Walking. Savannah is a quintessential walking city with a downtown historic district of just over two square miles. Given its line-up of gorgeous squares and the perfect grid layout of streets, it's both exceptionally pleasing and easy to navigate.

Is it a safe city? Are there any areas you feel travellers should avoid?

Savannah's downtown historic district is safe, and if you visit Savannah this is where you want to be. Travellers might avoid much of the Victorian District and the northernmost section of Midtown. If in these areas it's wise to stay within the Bull Street/Abercorn Street corridor.  

Is there a particular neighbourhood where you would recommend visitors find accommodation?

Again, the downtown historic district is where you want to be. Why not stay in the district as well, and have the convenience of simply walking out your door in the morning or night to enjoy the best Savannah has to offer? Inns and BnBs in the historic district are the most appealing accommodations but there are also several chain hotels in the district that can be a little more economical.

Is Savannah a good city for eating out?

Yes! Savannah has long been a great city for down-home southern cooking, and thankfully still is, but in recent years the city has also seen a remarkable surge of top-notch chefs who are offering both creative takes on authentic southern dishes and focusing on various international cuisines. Numerous small high-quality cafes and coffee/tea shops also now dot the entire historic district.

Which restaurants would you most highly recommend?

For true classic southern cuisine and ambiance try Clary's Cafe (casual) and the Olde Pink House (upscale). For great seafood try Pirates House and Vicks on the River. For dinner, Elizabeth on 37th, 1790 Restaurant, The Public Kitchen and Bar and Alligator Soul are all great. For lunch, Mrs Wilkes' Dining Room (known to locals as Mrs Wilkes' Boarding House for its historical heritage) and The Gryphon are both musts!

Is Savannah an expensive travel destination?

Not really. Travel budgeting resource puts the average daily expenses in the US overall - including everything from accommodations to entertainment, meals and more - at just over $220. Savannah registers at about $123.

Are there exciting excursions out of the city for those who want to explore the wider region?

Yes! Tybee Beach on the Atlantic is a mere 20 miles (32km) eastward and there's a weekend shuttle. Everything from fishing charters to dolphin-sighting tours to a historic lighthouse and more are available here. Also nearby are the 18th-century Wormsloe Plantation; two forts, both of which saw action in the Civil War; guided kayak and canoe outings in swampy backwoods rivers, and lots more.

How long would you recommend spending in Savannah on holiday?

At least three full days. Anything less just doesn't begin to do the city justice.  

What is your favourite season in the city?

Spring. Savannah's historic squares are magnificently abloom with azaleas, dogwoods, magnolias, tulips and other floral grace notes. And it's not as hot as it is in the summer, nor are there as many tourists.

Anything else you would like to mention?

Savannah is perhaps the most charming and beautiful city in the US. It was named the third best city in the US and Canada in the Travel + Leisure 2016 World's Best Awards and ninth best in the world! Its main downtown thoroughfare has had a remarkable influx of new retailers open in the past two years, including upscale national retail operations, unique home-grown shops, and numerous cafes and coffee/tea establishments. Savannah is hitting a high note these days!

For more information on guided tours of Savannah check out Grits & Magnolia's Walking Tours.