We spent some time in Savannah with the kids late last week. I grew up in Georgia and have fond memories of family visits there as a child so I was eager to return. Plus, I knew the city’s British influence would be of great interest to my English husband. Savannah is truly one of America’s most beautiful and historical cities and after a day spent touring around, I can honestly say that I have to go back. Maybe without the kids, so I can truly experience as much as I want to see, and it’s certainly a romantic city so it might warrant a visit with my husband one of these days.
We spent our first night exploring the waterfront on River Street, orientating ourselves to the city. We watched artists drawing portraits of passer-bys, strolled through the shops and stopped for the obligatory piece of fudge and water taffy.
We toured the majority of these squares and toured the city via OLD TROLLEY TOURS ($25 per adult, $10 per child), learning about how during the American Revolution, the British took Savannah in 1778 and held it into 1782. A land-sea force of French and Americans tried to retake the city in 1779, first by siege and then by direct assault, but failed. After independence was secured, Savannah flourished. After enduring periods of slavery, the Civil War including devastating fires and the Great Depression, the city bounced back and is quite glorious. The ride around town took us past the squares, elegant architecture, ornate ironwork, fountains and historical landmarks. We really appreciated the conductor’s narration filled with tid bits and facts about the city’s history. We never had to wait more than 15-20 minutes outside a stop on the tour and when it started to rain, there was no better to way to see the city.
Its history begins in 1733 when General James Oglethorpe and the 120 passengers of the good ship “Anne” landed on a bluff high along the Savannah River in February. Oglethorpe named the 13th and final American colony “Georgia” after England’s King George II. Savannah became its first city and is known as America’s first planned city. Oglethorpe laid the city out in a series of grids that allowed for wide open streets intertwined with shady public squares and parks that served as town meeting places and centers of business. Savannah had 24 original squares; 22 squares are still in existence today. The architecture is stunning, and it felt really good to show my kids such old buildings. It also has its share of film history, and I believe this is one of the benches used in the film “Forest Gump” – please correct if I’m wrong.
Given the choice of stops along the way, we opted for a few that had appeal to children. We stopped at the Ship of the Sea Maritime Museum (Adults $8, kids under 7 are free, students and seniors $6), which exhibits ship models, paintings and maritime antiques, principally from the great era of Atlantic trade and travel between England and America during the 18th and 19th centuries. We’ll be renting Titanic when we get home as my kids have a renewed interest in learning about sinking ships.
At the Visitor Center, we learned about the bloodiest battlefield in the War of Independence. On October 9, 1779 American, British and French armies clashed on the west side of Savannah, Georgia. The armies included soldiers from modern-day Haiti, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, Great Britain and Poland. African-Americans and Native American soldiers also participated in the deadly conflict that proved to be one of the costliest for the Americans in the American Revolution. Savannah contains the forensic evidence of this battle, as unearthed by Coastal Heritage Society archaeologists in partnership with Lamar Institute. First we viewed artifacts from the Revolutionary War era in the Savannah History Museum, then we crossed the street with our guide to explore Battlefield Memorial Park, which is the site of one of fourteen earthen fortifications from the Battle of Savannah. My kids held fake guns and stormed the grounds just like a soldier would have 200 years ago. They were all over this.