Savannah: Like No Place Else
The Lady & Sons
Where there’s a line of hungry tourists with cameras around their neck snaking around a downtown corner you can bet they’re waiting for a seat at Paula Deen’s restaurant, The Lady & Sons (102 W. Congress St., 912-233-2600). This family-run restaurant has gained national recognition for the Food Network star's larger-than-life personality and colloquialisms like “hey, y’all!" Visitors feast on the all-you-care-to-eat buffet of regional staples like fried chicken, collard greens, yams, lima beans and peach cobbler. And while some locals begrudge the success they feel came at their expense with Deen’s exaggerated drawl and stereotypical offerings (deep-fried butter balls, anyone?), most still appreciate her rise. After all, they were the ones buying her lunches first (and can still bypass the line by calling in an order).
Situated on a quiet corner on Troup Street, Firefly Cafe (321 Habersham St., 912-234-1971) keeps locals in the love but away from anglers with a much-buzzed-about weekend brunch. Locals crave the Memphis-style pulled-pork sandwiches at Angel’s BBQ (21 W. Oglethorpe Lane, 912-495-0902).
Plenty of companies offer nightly tours of haunted old Savannah. Hearse Tours (912-695-1578) picks you up at your hotel in a convertible hearse, and Savannah Haunted Pub Crawl (912-604-3007) is a bar-hopping, story-swapping tour of the historic district that stops at bars along the way for cocktails. Sixth Sense Savannah (866-666-DEAD ) offers cemetery strolls and ghost walks at midnight.
This public cemetery built on a bluff overlooking the Wilmington River is city's more notable residents, including the songwriter Johnny Mercer, are buried. More recently Bonaventure (entrance at 330 Bonaventure Road, 912-651-6843) was made famous when featured in The Book. The now-famous Bird Girl statue that graced the book’s cover was originally located in Bonaventure but in 1997 was relocated for its protection to Savannah’s Telfair Museum of Art (207 W. York St., 912-790-8800).
Colonial Park Cemetery
This cemetery (entrance at corner of Abercorn and Oglethorpe, 912-944-0455) opened in 1750, and many of Savannah’s earliest residents are buried here beneath the live oaks. It was closed to burials in the 1850s, so its graves and ghosts date to the Revolutionary War era. This is the final resting place of Button Gwinnett, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. He died in 1777 after a duel with Lachlan McIntosh, a major general in the Continental Army (McIntosh is buried here too). The cemetery is also (allegedly) haunted by the ghost of Renee Rondolia Asch (or Rene Asche Rondolier), a disfigured orphan who lived in the cemetery in the early 1800s and was lynched after he was accused of murder.
The Pirates House
Only a block from the Savannah River, this tavern (20 E. Broad St., 912-233-5757) was a favorite place in the 18th century for pirates and ne’er-do-wells who shanghaied unsuspecting men to sail their ships. Today, it’s a themed family restaurant, and the entrances to the secret tunnels through which unwilling sailors were dragged to the harbor are on display. It’s the most touristy place in town, but it’s fun to take your out-of-town guests there for a taste of Savannah, the Legend. Longtime employees report seeing ghosts of all sorts (of course). It’s also said that old Captain Flint from the classic novel Treasure Island died here in an upstairs room and that his ghost still treads its boards.