On a recent week-long trip to Savannah, my family group indulged in a number of interesting walking tours. Not only were they a good way to explore this beautiful city, they helped us stave off any extra pounds we might have put on, thanks to this city’s fabulous food! One of us wore a fitbit, which provided electronic validation of the more than 16,000 steps we accomplished on our most ambitious day, but 14,000 was not unusual.
It’s hard to believe that at one point, developers wanted to destroy the system of squares that make the city so unique, as the nation’s first “planned city.” Each square has different features—statues, fountains, styles of benches—and most are filled with live oaks draped in Spanish Moss.
How much you enjoy walking tours depends a lot on the personality of your guides and what they choose to highlight. Maybe we were just lucky, but all our tours were great. In addition to several house tours—including the Mercer Williams mansion on Monterey Square, featured in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and the tiny early childhood home of author Flannery O’Conner—we especially enjoyed:
- The “Savannah Walks” one-and-a-half hour Civil War walking tour (912/704-1841). We heard the story of how Savannah wasn’t burned by General Sherman—the precise reason depending on the guide—probably some combination of: the Confederate forces had already abandoned the town, Sherman was set up in the beautiful and comfortable Green Meldrin house on Madison Square, and he had friends who lived in the city.
- The “Southern Strolls” history walk (912/480-4477). I wasn’t particularly looking forward to this, as we’d already done so many, and maybe others felt that way, too, as only three of us showed up at the Johnny Mercer Bench in Johnson Square at the appointed time. The guide gave a very quirky, personalized tour, and while we saw a few of the same sights, his interpretations were so entertaining, we all agreed it was the best tour of all!
- To explore some of the area’s African-American history, we took the Freedom Trail Tour led by Johnnie Brown. While not strictly speaking a walking tour, this minibus excursion does let passengers out to visit the Civil Rights museum and the First African Baptist Church—organized in 1773—whose upstairs pews, made by slaves, retain markings indicating which African tribe the congregants came from.
For a general orientation to the city, the hour-long carriage tour that leaves from City Market provided a good overview (912/236-6756) at a pace slow enough to absorb the stream of information. We did that one our first morning. Later that day, we also took one of the many trolley tours. Although it covered a wider area, the presentation was canned, and added little to what we had already learned. There are several trolley tour companies and you can’t walk a block without seeing one pass.
So, going to Savannah? Pack your walking shoes!
Your Travel Circles:
Although Savannah is well worth a visit on its own, you can add on a couple of days there pretty easily if you’re traveling to:
- Charleston, South Carolina (106 miles)
- Jacksonville, Florida (139 miles)
- Atlanta (250 miles)