Advice, please, for a visit to Savannah and Charleston

Ottawa, ON(Zone 5a)

I've heard wonderful things about the beautiful gardens in Savannah, and so I'm planning a trip from the frozen north of Ottawa, Canada (thawing rapidly now) to the delights of Georgia and Charleston, South Carolina. I'd love to get DG recommendations on places to visit, places to stay, and I hear the food is great!

I'm planning to travel around the 8th of June, after our Choir's concerts (of Shakespeare songs), and I might rent a car, unless travel by train or bus is better. If you know of a good B&B I would love a reference. Probably 3-4 days in each city.

Of course, you can expect the same attention to detail from me if you ever wish to visit Ottawa.

Regards, Andrew

PS Yes, I've actually grown Brugmansias here! Check my diary.

St. Simon's Island, GA(Zone 9a)

Well, Savannah, as far as my opinion, best places to eat are Harris Baking Company and Toucan Cafe. The entire campus of Armstrong Atlantic State University is an arboretum. I got a tour by their head landscaper a few years ago. There is a great garden center on Saint Simons Island, the Ace Garden Center. Not too far from Savannah, (about an hour) and worth a trip down.

Ottawa, ON(Zone 5a)

Thanks so much for your advice. I still have several weeks before I depart, so your help will be so useful in establishing where I want to go... and how. I'm not sure if I should rent a car or rely on bus or train transit.
Best regards, Andrew

Grantsboro, NC(Zone 8b)

Calaway Garden's is nice if you get very far into Georgia and Peanut Carter's Plains Georgia is nice also.

Lavina who is originally from Tallapoosa

Cleveland,GA/Atlanta, GA(Zone 7b)

This may be a bit off the wall but arguably the oldest synagogue in the US, established in the 1700's, is in Savannah and has a very interesting history. The architecture is incredible. They have great tours for $5. There is the Savannah Botanical Garden. Just walking around midtown is eye candy. I especially recommend the trolley tours for the history and tours of city scapes. You can always go back to spots that catch your fancy. Perhaps you would be interested in a Midnight Of The Garden of Evil tour if you have read the book or seen the movie.

If you go to Charleston visit one of the historic plantations. I think Drayton Hall is probably the most popular. Bring home tea grown there. Buy benne wafers for gifts. Make sure you splurge on a sweetgrass basket for yourself. Sweetgrass basket art is indigenous to this area alone and each piece is collectable. They are sold everywhere from highway roadsides to the highest end shops throughout Charleston to Savannah.

Savannah, GA

Regarding Savannah: It's slightly grittier and more exotic than Charleston, with a lot of local characters and layers of history. Charleston is three times the size and has more wealth and polish than Savannah. I live in Savannah, and, surprise, surprise, I prefer Savannah's slightly rougher edges.

This is one of the best local websites with under-the-radar (and not-so-under-the-radar) stuff to do here in Savannah:

Also the Coastal GA Botanical Garden will be a nice place to orient yourself about the coastal flora. It's about a 20 minute drive from downtown.

If I were wanting especially to focus on gardens, you might want to call them and ask their opinion of lesser-known options. I imagine some of the historic properties and museums have especially nice gardens that one might not figure out from just scratching the surface.

And you can't really go wrong just walking around downtown and through the two-three historic cemeteries and through Forsyth Park (big rectangular park in the Historic District). Downtown is an urban forest, and it's quite breathtaking when you see it for the first time.

By the way, Harris Bakery (which someone recommended above) is sadly out of business. But Back in the Day is a terrific bakery that celebrates butter and suger and always rivaled Harris. See the Savannah Off the Beaten Path website for more local food options. If you want nice meals, we have plenty of those kinds of restaurants and they won't be hard to fine (highly recommend Local). And if you're a little adventurous, I highly recommend the crab shacks (especially David Cha's downtown) and the BBQ joints for takeout. David Cha's has an amazing spicy crab boil that is a great example of local food. Re: BBQ, everyone has a strong opinion. I'm a northerner and have no vast experience or stake in the game, but a trusted friend who grew up here told me the only BBQ he eats is Babe's BBQ--and it IS very good. There's also a pop-up place that sets up a shot-gun barbecue in the parking lot of an old auto-body shop Wed-Sats on the corner of Bull Street and 41st, just two blocks south of Back in the Day Bakery. I recommend walking down Bull Street, through Forsyth Park, to the BBQ place from downtown (about a 30 minute walk, depending on your location and your physical condition), eating some ribs and the BBQ place (you'll have to find a place to sit), then walk back north a couple blocks for a cupcake at Back in the Day.

Saturday mornings there's a nice Farmer's Market on the south end of Forsyth Park. It's pretty much over by noon. You could visit it on the way to the BBQ place and Back in the Day!

And I second MaypopLaurel's recommendation about the synagogue, Congregation Mickve Israel. It's worth a visit. I also recommend the First African Baptist Church, a stop on the Underground Railroad. If I were going to see two historic buildings in town, these would be the two. There are others, though, that may be more to your liking.

And, yes, a car might be a good option. You could just stay downtown and wander the antebellum squares for 3 days and probably be happy. But if you want to get out off the tourist track (like to the Coastal GA Botanical Garden) a car will be essential.

Finally, if you're interested in the handful of urban gardens around town (not the antique and highly coifed gardens, but the gardens folks have planted in empty lots for vegetables and native plants), I could point you in the right direction of a couple interesting ladies. One is Jane Fishman: She's a wonderful writer, journalist, and gardener who runs a plant-swop every year that all local gardeners look forward to. And she makes amazing compost that she gives away for free. And the other woman's name Kelly Lockamy. She runs SUGA (Savannah Urban Garden Alliance). Their website is here: Jane wouldn't be a bad person to get in touch with to ask about gardens to visit. She might even have recommendations on someone who might give walking tours specific to gardens. She's a generous soul.

And finally, finally, if you're driving between Savannah and Charleston, please take route 17 (not Interstate 95). It's a very pretty drive, and only about 10 minutes longer than the 95 route. It combines with 95 for about 10 miles, but other than that it's all local and very pretty, especially if your unused to the local flora. And if you do, stop at this place and eat some pie: I avoided it for years because I assumed it was bad touristy food. But the goods and food they sell are all local (great place to buy presents for people back home), and the pies are some of the best I've ever had. And you'll find kinds there (like chess pie) that are nearly impossible to find outside of the Southern US. And don't be confused by the fact that there are two stores, both identical, about 10 miles apart on opposite sides of the road. Either one will make you happy (unless you get there late in the day and they've run out of pie).

Feel free to message me if you have more questions.


This message was edited May 10, 2013 10:21 AM

Grantsboro, NC(Zone 8b)

OK who forgot the Angel in the grave yard in Savannah from the Garden of Good and Evil?
And Paula Dean's restaurants and more


Ottawa, ON(Zone 5a)

WOW! Thanks for all your great advice, and time spent to type it all in. I'm close to finalizing my itinerary, a little concerned about the heat, and no hotels secured yet. I'm thinking a rental car is the way to go. This is exciting!

Cleveland,GA/Atlanta, GA(Zone 7b)

Dedukes, your description of Savannah is perfect along with your suggestions and advice.

Pack heavy duty sunscreen, a water bottle and a hat. Being both a native of Miami Beach and a nurse I saw many a Canadian tourist in the E.R. after a day of sightseeing. Dehydration and sunburn can wreck your otherwise great vacation. I concur you need a car. Hoping you report back to us in regards to your experience with Southern hospitality.

Ottawa, ON(Zone 5a)

I had to postpone this trip, alas! But I am not abandoning it. I have been looking at the middle of March, 2014. Springtime there, I hope. Our Choir is so busy this season, I have only two windows for travel.

Donna in Douglas, GA(Zone 8b)

Coming by and see us in Douglas GA....Love to have ya!!

Donna Vincent

Ottawa, ON(Zone 5a)

I'm just reviving this thread,because I didn't didn't make it at that time, but I am hoping to do this visit sometime this spring. Things are so confusing right now with border security weirdness that I think I should stay away from the US altogether. But I want to see the gardens!

Cleveland,GA/Atlanta, GA(Zone 7b)

One of the Canadian quilters makes frequent trips over for sewing and craft supplies. She says the prices are bargains and apparently has not had border problems.

Savannah is stunning in spring. Charleston is not far. We have split trips to spend several days in both places. The above recommdations would make a memorable trip. Noted Charleston chef, Sean Brock is opening Husk in Savannah. That would be on my to-do list. He is quite famous for locally sourced ingredients and supporting growers by using heritage meat and vegetable varieties that almost became extinct. So you not only get an authentic food experience but one that reflects the history of the area.

Grantsboro, NC(Zone 8b)

Andy as long as you have a visa or pass port or what ever you should have no fear. The news Media has hyped the stories way over board. So many untrue stories just sad.

Powder Springs, GA(Zone 7b)

As long as you are not Hispanic or Muslim or from any of the "banned countries", you shouldn't have any problems. Else you might consider another friendlier country to visit for the next four years.

Cleveland,GA/Atlanta, GA(Zone 7b)

I intend to stay friendly to all and ignore the rest. True, it's a sad, sad situation but I'm a Southerner and that's how we roll. I'm not at all hopeful about what will happen four years from now. At the end of the day, a Canadian's view of the South can and should be an amazing experience. As long as visitors realize the reason why historic renovations involving stonework have come to a screeching halt and appreciate the silence brought about by the absence of leaf blowers they'll be fine. Maybe not if they need a bathroom.

Post a Reply to this Thread

You must log in and subscribe to Dave's Garden to post in this thread.