Like a Southern belle with a split personality, this grand historic town revolves around formal antebellum architecture and unbridled public debauchery. It sits alongside the Savannah River, about 18 miles from the coast, amid Lowcountry swamps and mammoth live oak trees dripping with Spanish moss. With its gorgeous mansions, cotton warehouses and Colonial public buildings, Savannah preserves its past with pride, grace and a slight smirk. Unlike its sister city of Charleston, SC, which retains its reputation as a dignified and refined cultural center, Savannah revels in being the bad girl – the town has been described as ‘a beautiful lady with a dirty face,’ and in some ways it resembles a pint-sized New Orleans. Savannah loves its sinful pleasures, be they cheese grits, cocktails, or the bump and grind of partying local students.
Savannah has a somber side, but she never takes herself too seriously. Savannah College of Art & Design – which is known locally as SCAD – has a surprisingly strong presence that keeps the city from getting too staid. The city’s massive St Patrick’s Day celebration is a legendary rite of spring and there is an entire cottage industry catering to those tourists who have heard that Savannah is haunted – curious ghost-hunters are able to arrange to take tours of the city in a chauffeured hearse.