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Countdown to Savannah: Savannah's Waterfront
Kathy Wood (kaydee)
In early 2007, we started our official Countdown to Savannah. Each Sunday, we posted a different topic about this special city where we met for our first Great Slow Travel Gathering in Spring 2008.
With 63 posts over 14+ months, we learned a lot about the many facets of this historic, hospitable and intriguing American city. Our weekly posts touched on Savannah's history, famous people, architecture, food, culture, surrounding area and much more. We hope this information acquaints you with Savannah, entices you to visit this historic city, and prepares you for a very memorable trip.
Most visitors to Savannah eventually find their way to River Street, a busy nine-block stretch of restaurants, nightclubs, galleries and shops along the Savannah River between the Hyatt Regency and the Waving Girl statue in Morrell Park.
The popular waterfront area is another example of urban redevelopment in Savannah. Most of the buildings between Bay Street and River Street were constructed mostly as prosperous cotton warehouses, but in the years after the Civil War, the area fell into disrepair. River Street was renewed in the mid 1970’s and today those old cotton warehouses are home to about 80 restaurants, pubs, night spots, hotels, shops, galleries, and boutiques. The area is especially lively after dark.
Although the city seems flat, Savannah is actually built on a 40-foot bluff overlooking the Savannah River. So River Street sits below the rest of the city, and is reached by several steep sets of stairs and cobblestone ramps located along Bay Street. (Note: River Street itself is wide and flat, but the cobblestone access ramps are a bit tricky difficult to navigate. Walking shoes are recommended.)
There is a wheelchair-accessible elevator between City Hall and the Hyatt Regency. At the base of the elevator are public restrooms, a small Visitors Center, and a water fountain. There’s another elevator inside the Hyatt Regency which can possibly be used by non-guests. Both elevators provide a way to avoid the cobblestone ramps.
The waterfront area on River Street also hosts a variety of events and festivals, including the “First Friday Fireworks” and “First Saturday on the River,” both of which will take place during our Gathering weekend in April 2008. The First Saturday festival includes a regional arts and crafts fair and free entertainment.
Directly across the river is Hutchinson Island, which includes the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center and the lavish Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort and Spa. Two ferries make this route every 15-20 minutes, leaving from a couple of spots along the waterfront. The ride is less than five minutes each way and it's free!
If you’re interested in exploring more of the river, you might be interested in a Savannah Riverboat cruise in a big old-fashioned riverboat. This company offers a one hour sightseeing cruise as well as other special packages, including combination packages with trolley tours.
Slow Travelers will gather on River Street for the last event of our Gathering weekend, a brunch at Vic's on the River. Vic's occupies a five-story restored cotton warehouse with entrances on both Bay Street and River Street. (There is an elevator, and our group will find it easier to enter from Bay Street.) During the Civil War, General Sherman’s staff used part of this building. Our large private room on the 5th floor has fabulous views overlooking River Street and the Savannah River (see below, taken after lunch on a quiet January Monday).
Take a Virtual Tour of River Street. (Enjoy several different vantage points)
All About Savannah: Links to many information pages about Savannah (where to eat, where to stay, places of interest, getting around town, and more)
Woods Family Grand Tour of Europe: List of articles and photo albums by Kathy Wood
© Kathy Wood, 2007
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