Greetings Internet Stranger and welcome to a perfect One Day in Savannah! Savannah, Georgia is famous for many things. Ice cream, genteel living, upper-crust murders, etc. But arguably the most famous attraction in the city is Bonaventure Cemetery, located just outside Savannah proper. If you want to know all the local lore and legends, this cemetery is the perfect place to start your One Day in Savannah.
But Savannah is much more than just a glamorous place to put dead people. It also has exquisite seafood, one of the best art schools in the country, and totally random places like an Australian-style cafe. You could spend your entire One Day in Savannah just wandering around purpose-lessly and still have a blast. But we’re going to be wandering with purpose, which means we’ll have ten times the blast. Allow me to prove it!
One Day in Savannah
Where to Stay?
Now we are talking! Savannah, Georgia is home to some of the finest hotels and bed and breakfasts in the country. I recommend the Justine Inn for some serious Southern charm on your One Day in Savannah. There’s a full breakfast every morning, a huge wine and cheese spread each evening, and a delicious baked treat with your turndown service at night. (And I guess there’s nice fluffy beds or something. I just care about the food!)
The location is in a beautiful, safe neighborhood which is just a short drive from every attraction, including the pick-up point for the Bonaventure Cemetery tour we’re taking today. And if you don’t drive, like me, Uber is everywhere in Savannah. You see! Now you have no excuse not to stay here.
One Day in Savannah
What to Pack
You’ll need comfy shoes for all the walking we’re going to do today. If it’s summertime, I love my special pink Birkenstocks. These aren’t your grandpappy’s Birkenstocks anymore. They come in every shade, and I always get compliments on my electric magenta shoes.
Georgia is hot in the summer, so don’t forget the sunscreen. My favorite is the Neutrogena spray bottle because it’s so easy to apply. And as a solo traveler, I can actually use it myself on my own back. I just put it in my purse and re-apply throughout the day.
Finally, since we’re going to be out all day, you’ll want a battery for your cell phone. I always use the Anker charger. It’s light enough to fit in even a small purse. Plus the Anker lasts for several full charges of a phone, so I’ll never run out of juice!
One Day in Savannah
Morning: Bonaventure Cemetery
Once upon a time, most people outside of Savannah hadn’t heard of Bonaventure Cemetery. Then a little book called Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil came out, and suddenly everyone wanted to go drinking in Bonaventure Cemetery just like the characters in the book. Or they wanted to see the Bird Girl statue featured on the book cover.
In fact, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil was such a big driver of tourism in Savannah that some locals just call it The Book. But Bonaventure Cemetery has a lot more to offer than just tales of Kevin Spacey murdering someone. And I wanted to know all of Bonaventure Cemetery’s secrets.
That’s why I booked a tour with Bonaventure Dash. Their tour, which is run by a guide named Timothy whose family has lived in Savannah for six generations, was affordable and convenient. Plus it managed to be entertaining without filling us full of made-up ghost stories. I won’t spill all of Timothy’s secrets here, but I hope to get you excited about the tour with…
approximately top 5: bonaventure cemetery
1) sad little girl (aka little gracie)
One of the most remarkable things about Bonaventure Cemetery is the many statues, ornaments, and adornments that decorate the tombs. It almost feels more like an art museum than a cemetery. You could spend all day in Bonaventure Cemetery admiring the beauteous tombs. But this list will point you towards the Can’t-Miss Graves. Just remember the Bird Girl isn’t here anymore because people kept messing with her.
This Sad Little Girl is more properly known as Little Gracie. Gracie Watson was the daughter of the manager of a posh hotel in Savannah. Apparently she entertained the guests by being so cute. It’s just like a Shirley Temple movie, if Shirley died of pneumonia at a tragically young age, and then her parents left her dead body and went off to get buried in New England.
Now many people who come to Bonaventure Cemetery leave Little Gracie a present, since she is all alone. I gave her a dime. That might sound cheap, but a dime went a lot further in Gracie’s day.
2) johnny mercer
The Mercer family has lived in Savannah for ages, though they were in Princeton, New Jersey during the American Revolution. Traditionally most of the Mercer men have been lawyers who ended up going to prison.
So it was something of a disappointment that little Johnny Mercer wanted to go neither to law school or the federal penitentiary. Instead, he wanted to express himself…IN SONG! Of course, Johnny Mercer became one of the most successful American songwriters in history. He even won four damn Oscars for writing songs, like “Moon River”. Do you have even one Oscar, Internet Stranger? I thought not.
Mercer is buried in Bonaventure Cemetery with his family. You can easily tell which family plot is his because there’s a bench with his most famous songs written on it. When I die, I hope someone puts a bench with my most famous blog post titles next to my tomb.
3) carrie theus….or carrie theus?
This is one of the oddest coincidences I have ever heard. A Savannah gentleman married a woman named Carrie Theus who died tragically young. So after a decent interval, Mr. Gentleman married another woman…who was also named Carrie Theus. And she was not even related to the first Carrie Theus! What are the odds of this happening? It must be a googolplex to one.
4) conrad aiken
Conrad Aiken was a Pulitzer-prize winning writer who was born and raised in Savannah. His daughter Joan Aiken wrote the beloved Wolves of Willoughby Chase series. (If you didn’t read these books as a kid, stop reading this blog and go read them now.) Aiken’s tomb is famous for two reasons.
First, it’s where the characters in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil go drinking in Bonaventure Cemetery. I’d say it’s discouraged to bring vodka into the cemetery, but this is Savannah. Vodka is never discouraged.
But the second reason is because of Aiken’s parents, who are buried near him. Aiken’s father, who was a respected doctor, began behaving violently and strangely. Then one morning, while Aiken was in the house, Aiken’s father murdered his wife (Conrad Aiken’s mother) and then killed himself. 11 year-old Aiken was the one who discovered his parents’ bodies. I feel like if that happens to you, you need to either be a writer or a serial killer.
5) corinne lawton
That name shouldn’t sound familiar to you, unless you are a historian of Savannah. But when you get close to the statue of Corinne, you can see it’s almost unbearably creepy. You see…she has no pupils! Her eyes are just creepy blank balls. Timothy told us that Corinne has the most made-up stories about her of any statue in the cemetery.
Some people say that she committed suicide in disgrace because of a tragic love affair and unwanted pregnancy. That’s why her father, a former Confederate General, placed her tomb so her back was to the tomb with Heaven’s Gate on it. But absolutely none of that is true. All that happened is that Corinne died tragically young from pneumonia and then demons stole her eyes and ate them. That’s the straight poop.
6) dr richard arnold
Dr. Arnold wasn’t most famous for being a doctor. He was Mayor of Savannah during the Civil War, which was an exciting time to be mayor of a city in Georgia. After all, the Union general William Tecumseh Sherman was leading his charge through the state, burning every city in Georgia between Atlanta and the coast.
But when General Sherman arrived at Savannah, which is the last city in Georgia before the ocean, Dr. Arnold realized that the city couldn’t stand up to the mighty Union forces. So he decided to surrender without bloodshed. (Sherman was charmed by the lovely city and decided to give it to Lincoln as a present.)
Some southerners at the time were angry at Dr. Arnold for surrendering and started calling him Benedict Arnold. But nowadays everyone loves him for saving the city from getting burned straight to the ground. I mean, Atlanta did get burned to the ground, and no one thinks the rebuilt ATL is one of the prettiest cities in the country. “Wow, I sure wish Savannah looked more like Atlanta,” says no one ever.
One Day in Savannah
Afternoon: SCAD Museum of Art
You’ll see this abbreviation SCAD a lot in Savannah. It sounds like a grievous insult, or perhaps an evil organization from a James Bond film. But SCAD just stands for Savannah College of Art and Design. And you can’t have a decent SCAD without a SCAD Museum of Art.
When you visit this museum on your One Day in Savannah, you’ll be supporting the school and up-and-coming artists, as well as having a great time. Because the exhibits at the SCAD Museum of Art change often, I can’t promise you’ll see anything I saw when I was there. But I can promise you…
three fun facts: scad museum of art
1) won’t you please feed me?
OK, fine. I guess after seeing all those corpses in Bonaventure Cemetery, you’re going to be hungry. One of the hippest places to get lunch in Savannah is the Australian cafe Collins Quarter. Some might wonder what an Australian restaurant is doing in Georgia, but remember that Australia and Georgia are united because they were both British penal colonies. Live your best Aussie life and get a filling avocado toast topped with an oozing poached egg.
And nothing says Australian-Southern fusion like this drink, which is a cross between a flat white and a mint julep. It’ll wake you up, then knock you out.
If you want something sweet, stop at Leopold’s Ice Cream, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. Johnny Mercer even got ice cream here, when he wasn’t busy writing songs or being buried. I recommend the house specialty: Tutti Frutti. It’s made with Georgia pecans, candied fruit, and RUM! Do you really need rum ice cream just after drinking a mint julep? If you have to ask that question, you are living life wrong, Internet Stranger!
2) what sort of artists are at scad?
SCAD usually exhibits artists who are not incredibly well known, but still worthy of attention. When I went to the SCAD Museum, I saw an exhibition called “Cutting Out CONYT” by Lorraine O’Grady. These works are made by cutting out words and phrases from The New York Times and turning them into poetry-like things.
O’Grady said she was inspired by the Dadaists who used to make random poems by pulling words out of a hat. But she wasn’t trying to be random in the same way they were. This would make a good excuse if you were ever caught cutting letters out of a newspaper to make a random note. “It’s for my contemporary art installation!” you would squeal, as the fuzz carted you off to the slammer.
3) are there larger exhibits?
Do eyeless ghosts haunt Bonaventure Cemetery at night? The answer is of course! I saw a sizable exhibition called “I See You”, about the gaze and the body. I’m not sure what that means. Are you trying to encourage me to leave the lights on once in a while during sex, SCAD?
This exhibition contained works from a wide range of artists and in many different styles. One of the most famous is Cindy Sherman, who photographed herself dressed as Madonna. (The mother of Jesus, not the pop star.)
If you’re looking for something more classic, here’s a painting of a man fishing by famous 19th century African-American painter Robert S Duncanson. Even though Duncanson was hugely famous in his day–he even went to England to meet with Alfred Lord Tennyson–he has been too forgotten in the present times. Let’s rectify that situation! Share this blog post as much as you can so all will know the wonders of Robert S Duncanson.
Finally we have this chair, which I can only assume was made by Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs. (It puts the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again…)
One Day in Savannah
Late Afternoon: Wine and Cheese at The Justine Inn
When you only have One Day in Savannah, you can overdo things. That’s why I’m a big believer in doing something restful and relaxing in between the hours of 5 and 7. I suggest going back to your hotel. Many hotels in Savannah offer a complimentary wine and cheese plate at this time. I was lucky enough to have mine at the Justine Inn.
But even if you don’t stay at the Justine Inn, I advise solo travelers to take advantage of cheesevenings whenever possible. They are a good way to meet other voyagers and alleviate the loneliness of the open road. Also cheese is delicious.
One Day in Savannah
EVENING: DINNER AT ELIZABETH’S ON 37th
I knew that I was in for a treat when I dined at this place because just about every guide to Savannah recommends Elizabeth’s. This felt like such a special occasion that I thought it called for a class of rosé champagne, which has been classified as the world’s fanciest beverage by the Michelin guide. The restaurant is in a bit of a remote area. You’re fine walking around if it’s light out, but don’t walk around after dark. Just get a cab/Uber.
Savannah is on the water, so it’s famous for its seafood. Please eat as much as you can while you’re here. You’ll thank me later. For an appetizer, I selected a cornmeal and Parmesan shell filled with shrimp, crab, and farmer cheese. The shrimp was so fresh, I could practically hear it singing “Kiss the Girl”. It’s a little unusual to put cheese on seafood, but southerners have never met anything that didn’t taste better with cheese.
24 hour treat: herb salad
Some restaurants force you to make do with a one-bite amuse bouche. Elizabeth’s on 37th gives you an entire free salad from their herb garden. It was possibly the freshest thing I have ever eaten. One time, after I ate the salad, the waiter told me that I looked like I really enjoyed myself. He asked if I wanted another. Oh I did! I did! (“Two! Two free salads!” as the Count might say.)
This green dream is flounder on Gullah rice. Never, never pass up the chance to eat Gullah food when you can. The Gullah culture is the culture of an African-American community largely located between Charleston, South Carolina and Savannah. They developed their own foodways and language. Probably the most famous Gullah is Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who grew up speaking Gullah as a first language.
In Savannah, Gullah rice is similar to jambalaya. It’s also sometimes called red rice because you cook it with tomatoes and bacon. My basic rule of cooking is when in doubt, add bacon or cheese. Or bacon and cheese. Because Elizabeth’s is a fancy restaurant, they also add crab and halloumi cheese. Bacon + shellfish + cheese? It is literally not possible for a dish to be less kosher than this one.
24 hour treat: savannah cream cake
For dessert I got the house specialty, the Savannah cream cake. No matter what else on the menu changes, I can pretty much guarantee you’ll be able to order this fancy trifle. It was not too sweet or overloaded with cream–the perfect end to a light and elegant repast.
While I was wrapping up my meal, I saw one of the waiters attending on a family that appeared to be regular customers. He was recommending wines and dishes based on their usual preferences.
For the first time, I felt a slight pang and a momentary desire to move to Savannah and become a regular at this restaurant. But tragically, my 24 hours in Savannah had come to a close. At least I hadn’t been murdered and turned into an eyeless ghost or a skin chair! Be thankful for small victories.
That’s a Perfect One Day in Savannah!
What would you with One Day in Savannah? Is that skin chair the scariest thing you’ve ever seen? And if I change my name to Carrie Theus, will it be easier for me to find a husband? Please leave your thoughts below!
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend One Day in Savannah. If you want to spend One Day in Savannah with some fine art, click here. If you’d like to try One Day in Savannah in Savannah with the Prohibition Museum, I’ve got this itinerary. And if you have One Day in Savannah with the “Murder House”, start exploring here.