As the first planned city in the United States, Savannah, Georgia is flush with abundant parks, pristine fountains and Spanish moss. Twenty-two impressive town squares are dispersed in a grid style throughout Savannah so there’s always plenty of opportunity to sit down, learn about the statue or fountain at the center of it all, and watch one of Savannah’s historic trolleys or carriage tours roll by.
While this may seem all prim and trim, Savannah is also home to a vibrant, young artistic community—many of whom were drawn to the town thanks to the presence and vision of Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). In this travel guide, we’ll explore a destination at the confluence of Southern hospitality and collegiate creativity.
WHERE TO STAY
The Alida, a Tribute Portfolio hotel, sits at this precise junction of budding creativity meets professional hospitality. Pantone, the color gurus of the world, even set up their experimental pop-up Pantone Pantry this year at The Alida to celebrate their 2019 Color of the Year: Living Coral.
In the pantry are coral jewelry and designer items by SCAD alumni artists Jocelyn DeSisto, Amiri Farris and Will Penny; coral designs flow into the hotel’s main lobby where they can be purchased from the Alida’s 24-hour design emporium, Keep Shop.
The weekend we visited Savannah, the Alida seemed like it was the most colorful and lively spot in town; many local artists converged at the hotel to luxuriate with cocktails around the pool deck or at the rooftop bar.
WHERE TO VISIT
Experience the role of SCAD in bringing contemporary art to Savannah by starting out at the SCAD Museum of Art, which features international artists while engaging the local community and SCAD students in their initiatives.
There are new exhibitions every academic quarter, and the 86-foot-high steel and glass lantern that sifts natural light through the SCAD Museum of Art has also become a defining feature of Savannah’s skyline.
If the idea of 20,500 square feet of space for fibers and paints excites you, you’ll have to head down to SCAD’s Pepe Hall for a tour of their fiber labs. Among others, there’s a room dedicated to handlooms, a dye kitchen with induction burners, two large format printers, a screen printing lab and a felting and paper-making workshop.
Every year, SCAD artists put on a Sidewalk Arts Festival at Forsyth Park, turning blank concrete into chalk masterpieces. It’s a perfect example of everything that Savannah is known for: colorful art, young artists, the city as canvas, and a strong community that shows up.
Collins Quarter is an Australian cafe styled after Melbourne’s historic Collins Street that’s become a mainstay on Savannah’s downtown streets. The menu serves both the traditional—think Southern breakfast of biscuits and gravy—as well as the innovative, from Lavender infused specialty coffees to bright pink Beet Hummus on toast.
So it’s no surprise that families and students love to hang out here; we even spotted a celebrity the last time we visited, thanks to Savannah being a go-to location for Hollywood films nowadays.
The Telfair Museums, spread across three buildings in Savannah, were built to connect three centuries of art and architecture. The striking and modern building known as the Jepson Center is my personal favorite: not only for the expansive glass windows and light-filled exhibitions, but because it showcased a remarkable Rembrandt exhibition earlier this year.
This summer at Jepson, you’ll find dreamscapes and paintings by American artist Suzanne Jackson (‘Suzanne Jackson: Five Decades’), river ambrotypes by Michael Koster (‘Michael Koster: Take Me to the River’) paper quilt installations by SCAD alum Jessica Pope (‘Boxed In/Break Out’) and painterly maps by Ansley West Rivers (‘Source to Sea: Ansley West Rivers’).
WHERE TO SHOP
shopSCAD isn’t just a typical campus store touting college hoodies and stationery; you can find photography books by portrait photographer Jonathan Becker, wall murals by Namwon Choi, a professor at SCAD, as well as end tables by Katy Skelton, a furniture and lightning designer based right here in Savannah.
Satchel, a craft store for sumptuous soft leathers, is your best bet if you’re looking to pick up a well crafted handbag or wallet here in Savannah and love it for years to come. SCAD Alumni Elizabeth Seeger Jolly founded Satchel on Savannah’s iconic Broughton Street; it’s been growing ever since, and in line with Savannah’s family-style hospitality, the staff love to cater to your wishes and make you custom leather pieces in a myraid of colors and offer you a glass of bubbles while you hang out.
If you’re interested in vintage finds, we spotted leopard printed raincoats, bell bottom pants and flowery tank tops at Civvies. As for furniture, Two Women and a Warehouse aspires to be the “funky alternative” to pre-owned homeware stores—they repaint furniture, work with over 200 dealers, and have a good eye for finding the perfect creative furniture with pops of color that look like they could be from an Anthropologie catalogue, but found here for a portion of the price.
Savannah will impress you with her town squares and her blue azaleas flourishing along cobbled pavements. It’s a city where nature isn’t as dramatic as a thriving coastline or a jagged cliff, it is more gentle, more elegant, teeming quietly and interspersed throughout. Locals in Savannah find joy in walking (or running) through the 30-acre Forsyth Park or going away to the Oatland Island Wildlife Center or the Skidaway Island State Park. It’s often a family style affair here, so if you’re intending to have a picnic on Savannah’s green lawns or modest beaches, and be ready to share your chomp, tell a good tale, and revel in hearty moments.
If you’ve traveled to Savannah, Georgia and have any favorite spots or recommendations for first time visitors, let us know below so we can share (and also check it out ourselves the next time we’re there).