Southern Family Comfort in Savannah, GeorgiaJuly 30, 2011 No Comments
We love the South-east in the summer. Not everyone does of course, it’s humid, it’s hot, and the beautiful beaches that offer a cooling breeze and comfortable water can be crowded.
But those are small caveats to what we think is a wonderful season for exploring a region of the U.S. as different from our Los Angeles home as, well, tacos and grits. Savannah is home to many mansions worth touring, fine restaurants, and nearby Civil War ruins. But you’ll also find the adjoining beach community of Tybee Island to be accessible and not too busy; galleries and shops that are friendly to all ages, and streets that are easy to walk and explore, making this historic town eco-friendly, too.
And speaking of going green, the Savannah historic downtown area is full of green space – there are over twenty public squares lush with emerald grass, towering oak trees, and statues. If you’re feeling particularly energetic, you can explore by bike, we saw families with a two-child trailer in tow biking all over. Not much of a rider myself, we preferred walking, but you’ll find the streets stroller friendly, too.
If you want to get in out of the Southern heat, one great choice is to check out the Jepson Center for the Arts. Young children will love the state of the art ArtZeum, a very cool two tiered area that children can explore, including a glass house they can walk through and various interactive displays. There’s a massive wall where graffiti making is allowed, and interesting architecturally themed building blocks for the smallest visitors.
Kids of all ages – and train buff adults – will enjoy the Roundhouse Railroad Museum. An excellent collection of train passenger cars, engines, and other machinery is on display. We spent a long time at the Museum, a local grandfatherly visitor took our kids in tow to explain the different types of trains and point out steam driven farming equipment. He also recommended a stop at the beautiful Forsyth Park, which I had inadvertently left off our itinerary. This lush park is well worth a stop, Spanish moss hangs from elegant trees and pleasant walk ways abound over a full thirty acres, all luxuriously ripe with tall oaks and fragrant magnolias. It’s a Southern nature extravaganza, and shady, too. While we relaxed on a perfectly placed park bench, the kids were free to roam. There are playgrounds for both very small and older children, and a beautiful fountain with intricate statuary.
We found many a cool breeze and shops that everyone could enjoy along the river. Water taxis and river boats are available for the riding, and at the River Street market place vendors sell wares from around the world at reasonable prices. Street musicians made the scene lively, and it was great fun to stroll with sweet Savannah style treats from the nearby Savannah Candy Kitchen in hand. The heat just made it a little more okay to quickly devour the delicious freshly made pralines and pecan clusters.
Not in downtown Savannah but easily accessible to it you’ll find the historical Fort Pulaski National Monument, a large Civil War era fort that once served to guard the city, but now makes for some interesting exploring of the barracks and grounds. We learned some interesting facts at the Fort, too – it’s the last of it’s kind. Apparently up until the Civil War, brick forts were commonplace, but when the Union army fired cannons at the fort to demand a Confederate surrender, brick became instantly obsolete as a fort construction tool.
At twilight, we took a short walk along the old rail road bed that makes up the McQueens Island trail, near the entrance to the Fort. We were told we could spot pelicans and dolphins in the Savannah River from here. While we didn’t see any wildlife, we had a wonderful walk as the evening cooled the warm southern air. One caveat: do wear insect repellent for summer evening walks in the south.
We spent the night at The Inn at Ellis Square, which features a small pool – for a little further evening cool down in the form of a swim. Conveniently located near downtown’s attractions, we enjoyed the quiet setting and friendly staff. Rooms are well appointed and pleasant, if not huge.
We spent our second day in this gracious southern town mostly out of it, twenty minutes away on Tybee Island. We loved the Tybee Island Lighthouse, and climbed its one hundred and seventy eight steps eagerly, arriving panting at the top with the reward of a vast view. Although the climb would be too much for the smallest children, the beach itself is perfect for the entire family, and we were told the southern end of the island was the least crowded section of soft white sand. The waves were gentle and we found some shells strolling on the beach. It was fairly busy while we were there but not uncomfortable.
We had a wonderful lunch on Tybee too, at AJ’s Dockside. And yes, our taco loving children enjoyed the shrimp and grits. At dinner time, there’s live music and crab stew.
We enjoyed Savannah so much we’ll be back to stroll its historic streets again this summer, and take a drive over to those lovely beaches, too. Wading in foamy surf, with a praline melting in your hand you may very well ask, heat? What heat? It’s pretty cool to be in coastal Georgia in the summer time.