During our recent tour of the Atlantic coast from Northern Florida to South Carolina, we were lucky to spend a couple of days in the beautiful Savannah, Georgia. This was my first time visiting Savannah, and I absolutely fell in love with its architecture, history, and sweet southern charm! It was also helpful that we found good vegan-friendly restaurants to dine in.
During our stay in Savannah, we spent countless hours walking in the historic downtown area, visited art museums, enjoyed food at a few vegan-friendly restaurants, and even took a tour of the famous Bonaventure Cemetery that was featured in the 1994 novel Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and later in the movie directed by Clint Eastwood. We took lots of pictures – too many to list here! – to capture the city’s spirit and beauty. If you’ve never been to Savannah, I hope that you get a good idea of what it’s like after reading this post!
Savannah’s Historic Downtown
The city of Savannah was founded in 1733 by general James Oglethorpe. He proposed the original town plan that is now known as the Oglethorpe Plan. Some of the details of this city layout can be traced back to the Roman times and the Renaissance concepts of the ideal town.
The statue of James Oglethorpe in Chippewa Square
The famous Southern live oaks grow all over Savannah, adding to the unique ambiance of the city. These oaks are called live because they stay green all year round, never going bare or yellow. You can see a lot of them in numerous park-like squares in the downtown, and of course in the famous Forsyth park and Bonaventure cemetery.
A cobblestone-paved street in downtown Savannah
Statue of William Jasper, a Revolutionary War hero, in Madison Square
The downtown area is divided by Bull Street into the East and West parts. A beautiful City Hall building is located at the head of Bull Street. Built in 1906 as the first building for the exclusive use of the municipal government, City Hall boasts a dome that’s plated with 23-catat gold leaf:
We learned on our tour of downtown Savannah that back in the day a lot of new buildings were constructed on the sites of old cemeteries, which produced a lot of legends about ghost sightings. The American Institute of Paranormal Psychology named Savannah the most haunted city in America. A lot of historic homes have their own ghost stories, and tourists are offered a number of nighttime ‘haunted tours’ by local tour operators.
Did I just see a ghost?!
Savannah is the home of SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) – one of the best-known design colleges in the world! The numerous college kids on the streets added a nice hipster touch to the city – and also made me feel old! (Oh well.) The students are lucky to have access to a number of art museums and historic buildings in their college town. We visited three art museums under the Telfair Museum system – Telfair Academy, Jepson Center for the Arts, and Owens-Thomas House. The latter was built around 1819, and its indoor plumbing system that collected rainwater for household needs was considered a breakthrough innovation at the time.
With my love for everything historic and old-timey, I really wanted to visit this cemetery that was made famous by Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. I find it that old cemeteries can tell us a lot about the lives of people who lived a long time ago. Plus, there’s always an opportunity to reflect on our own lives and realize that all of the daily trouble and fuss don’t matter when put in perspective…
Bonaventure Cemetery is known for a number of beautiful monuments. It’s possible that rich families of those days just wanted to show off by installing these majestic sculptures on their family plots, but we sure have a great opportunity to enjoy the architecture of the yesteryear by walking through the cemetery today!
Gracie is one of the best-known monuments of Bonaventure Cemetery
Despite my expectations of spooky cemetery vibes, I was surprised to experience a very peaceful atmosphere throughout our visit. We saw a few groups of people accompanied by tour guides, and got some pointers on the best monuments from a volunteer passing by. All in all, I highly recommend visiting Bonaventure if you find yourself in Savannah – it’s not scary at all!
Jepson Museum for the Arts
Savannah has quite a few spectacular art and history museums, and since Rob and I are big on museums, we visited three of them that form Telfair Museum system. Telfair family was one of the most prominent and influential families in Georgia in 18th and 19th centuries. A few members of Telfair family served as congressmen, and one of them was a governor of Georgia in 18th century. Mary Telfair, the last to bear the family name, had a large art collection from all over the world. She never married and had no children, so she arranged that the family mansion in downtown Savannah and her vast art collection were donated to Georgia Historical Society after her death in 1875. This is how the Telfair Academy of Arts and Sciences was founded. It now has three museums under its wing: the Telfair Academy itself, Jepson Museum for the Arts, and Owens-Thomas House.
Naturally, visitors are not allowed to take pictures of museum exhibits, but we were lucky to witness a few Buddhist monks working on an art project in the foyer of the Jepson Museum for the Arts. Pictures were allowed at this event, so we didn’t have to break the rules 🙂
The technique they were using was quite interesting: one person was outlining the pattern, and the other one followed the design with a flute that was filled with very fine colored sand. To make the sand come out, the guy rubbed a metal stick on the ribbed surface of the flute. The vibration caused the sand seep out of a tiny opening at the tip of the flute. It was quite impressive to see how at ease these artists were with their technique.
The monks also had a lovely installation of traditional Buddhist arts and crafts. I especially liked this part (above) that showcased the staples of their diet – rice, beans and fruit. I’m not a Buddhist, but I completely agree with their food choices! I could eat that stuff every day!
Speaking of food…
Places to eat in Savannah if you’re looking for plant-based food
Before we headed out on our trip, I did some research to find veg-friendly restaurants in Savannah. It might not have worked out seamlessly every time (my tofu scramble turned out to be scrambled eggs once!), but it sure took some stress out of our dining experience.
We had two lunches and two dinners during our visit. The first lunch consisted of veggie paninis (hold the cheese) at Café GelatOhhh at the City Market; the second one happened at the Sentient Bean – a pretty cool place to the south of Forsyth Park where I had that unfortunate tofu/egg scramble experience, but Rob was satisfied with his barbecue tofu wrap (below).
Barbecue tofu wrap at the Sentient Bean
Dinner options were not plentiful, but decent. Our first dinner of a black bean burger and a Hummus-Amongus wrap happened at a restaurant called The Distillery. Notably, this place had a very large selection of craft beer, but none of the mass-produced commercial brands! The second restaurant we had dinner at was called Green Truck Pub, and it turned out great! They can put a veggie patty in place of a beef patty on any of their burgers, and they even went so far as to serve a vegan chili! (If you’re a vegan living in the South, you know how rare it is in this area!) I ordered a veggie burger with sautéed mushrooms and onions, and Rob had a veggie reuben.
Why no more food pics? Well, there are at least two reasons: first, the food was so delicious that it was consumed too quickly for a camera to even appear; and second, DID YOU NOT HAVE ENOUGH PICTURES IN THIS POST YET? 😉
So here we go… Savannah, GA is an absolutely beautiful place to visit, especially if you enjoy history, architecture, and Southern charm (and occasional ghost encounters?). A lot of restaurants in this city embrace the meat- and dairy-free movement, so vegans can feel quite welcome during their stay!
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