I was 12 when My grandfather, Stanley Kiefski, passed away. A Navy veteran who was lucky enough to be on a boat returning to California shortly before Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor. I may have never met him. I don't remember a whole lot of the funeral, the day, or the weather. I think it was cold. What I do remember was taps playing, guns firing, and a folded flag.
It wasn't until I moved to Savannah that I began to recognize what "duty, honor, country", meant. More than words General MacArthur gave. It was real and whole. It has mass and body. Mass, of the many that hear the call to join our armed forces. Body, of those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty.
Fort Stewart, 20 minutes south of Savannah, is home of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division and is the largest military base east of the Mississippi.
Parris Island, 40 minutes north of Savannah, is a Marine training facility turning out nearly 17,000 recruits a year.
Kings Bay Navy Submarine Base, 100 miles south of Savannah, is the U.S. Atlantic Fleet's home port for the Navy's ballistic missile nuclear submarines.
FLETC (Federal Law Enforcement Training Center) ,70 miles south of Savannah, serves as an interagency law enforcement training organization for 91 federal agencies, partner organizations along with state, local, rural, tribal, territorial, and international law enforcement agencies.
All this, combined with Savannah's amazing military history, makes it hard not to notice the non-stop effort it takes to provide our nation's freedom.
Just about anywhere in Savannah you can find reminders, markers, and monuments honoring Savannah's importance to the very life of this nation. A visit to Bonaventure Cemetery you can find markers to veterans of the American Revolution, Civil War, Spanish American War, WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, and nearly every military skirmish in between.
For those visiting Savannah interested in honoring our military, I would suggest:
Bonaventure Cemetery. Go to the visitors center for a free map to find the military plot and also the somewhat hidden plot of the dead from the Spanish American War. I can't say enough of this cemetery. It's a must do!
The Mighty Eighth Museum. Located 1 exit south of the Savannah airport on I 95. It is a fitting place to honor this prestigious group of airmen and their place in military history.
Savannah's World War II memorial is a spectacular addition on the west side of River Street. Called "A World Apart" and shows a globe cut in half portraying the European and Pacific theaters. It features names of locals who lost their lives in that war. It's bigger than I imagined it would be, and rivals monuments in our nation's capitol.
locals insider tip ... Kevin Barry's Pub located on River Street. The second floor of this local and tourist favorite is called the Hall of Heroes and is a moving tribute to our military. I had the privilege to walk through this with one of the survivors of a little battle you may know as Black Hawk Down. He was visibly moved by this place as am I. I personally knew several soldiers that are on these walls. Can't believe they are gone. Guys I knew downtown. Drinking buddies. Friends. Immortally heroes.
I dedicate this blog to Sgt. Mason Lewis. A friend, a co-worker, an employee. Killed in Iraq on November 16, 2007 while helping train members of the Iraqi military. Mason was the first person I knew die in Iraq or Afghanistan. Remembering, honoring, memorializing. It's simply not enough for our bravely fallen, but it's all I can do today. I'm drinking a beer for you today Mason.
Spending anytime along River Street or even Tybee for that matter you will see some really amazing ships! Savannah is, just as it was during it's inception, a port city. I'm not sure James Oglethorpe (Savannah's founder) would have guessed his little city would become the fourth busiest port in the country. The very foundation of Savannah's infrastructure is rooted in shipping!
Many of the cobblestones found in coastal towns, like those that line River Street, were brought from Europe! An empty ship does not sail well. It's too buoyant and gets jostled around by wind and waves too much. The ships coming from Europe were mostly empty as they were coming to bring the riches of America back to europe. Before leaving Europe the ships ballasts were lined with cobblestones. When the ships arrived to our fair city the stones were removed from the ships and then the vessels were loaded with goods to be sent back. It's hard for me to imagine, in this age of instant news and communication, the excitement an incoming ship would bring to the settlers of Savannah. Friends, loved ones, supplies, news? All reliant on wind and current to get here.
Savannah has lent its name to several historic ships. Most notable are the SS Savannah (the first steamship to cross the Atlantic) and the NS Savannah (the first nuclear-powered cargo-passenger ship). These historic ships are dwarfed by what comes to the Savannah ports these days. Ships like the Roma and the Figaro, both at 1100 feet long, make the twenty plus mile long trek up the Savannah river to our port. They are here for a few days and are gone again. Where are they heading next? I don't know, but they are an important part of Savannah's past, present, future, and are always welcome to our little city.
Local tip: The north beach on Tybee, Fort Jackson, Fort Pulaski, and of course our historic River Street are all great vantage points to see ships coming in and out of Savannah. Being on River Street is absolutely the best spot and gives the observer a sense of the size of these ships.
I remember as a child, watching The Masters
on the television with my family in Pennsylvania. It was as much an art and nature spectacle as it was a sporting event. It was nearly impossible for us in central Pennsylvania to comprehend a place so green, so lush, and so fully in bloom anywhere in North America, seeing as we were still very much stuck in winter.
This is the primary reason I moved south nearly 20 years ago. I have zero interest in ice skating or skiing. I lived less than 10 miles from a ski resort and never went skiing there. ZERO INTEREST. I fish. I golf. I do neither in the snow. I often get asked why I moved south and my number one answer is, "golf year round".
There is just something about being out on the course, any time of day, any day of the week. Like so much of Savannah, golf here is so laid back. Probably because of the fact that we can play year round, we don't have tee times that start at 5:30am, and we don't have 5 months out of the year where our courses are closed.
Between Savannah and Hilton Head there must be thirty plus golf courses open to the public, all within a 45 minute drive of downtown Savannah!
Savannah is the home of many "firsts". Here is one many don't know. It's the birthplace of golf in the United States!
The Savannah Golf Club started in 1794! Civil war fortifications on the property were left in tact as part of the design of the course. Unfortunately this is a private course, but there are so many public and "semi-private" courses to choose from in the area.
For a little longer drive out of Savannah, the Bluffton/Hilton Head area is a virtual mecca of golf. While there are great choices on Hilton Head itself the best deals are located "off island" in Bluffton. My absolute favorite course in the area is Hilton Head National. Located Off island it rivals the quality of any of the semi-private resort courses on Hilton Head for much less money.
Insider tip: Use Golf Now to book your tee time. It's free to use and can save you over 50% on tee times.
The quality of golf in the Savannah area is recognized by the PGA Tour and the Champions Tour by back to back tournaments here in the area. The PGA's RBC Heritage visits Hilton Head the week after The Masters and the following week the Champions Tour visits Savannah with The Liberty Mutual Insurance Legends of Golf. This is a great time to be here as many of the professional golfers play both tournaments and stay in the area for both weeks. (Many can be seen in our restaurants and local watering holes)
With our warm climate and plethora of great golf courses, Savannah is a great place to visit for thegolfer and golf fan any time of year. While playing, keep an eye out for alligators and bald Eagles during your round. They can be found around the area year round!
Some local golf trivia:
PGA Tour Pros Brian Harmon and Gene Sauers hail from Savannah.
The movie The Legend of Bagger Vance was filmed in parts of Savannah.
It’s springtime in Savannah! It’s just a glorious time to be here. With our St. Patrick’s Day event, Savannah Music Festival, pro golf visits, endless flowers in bloom, not to mention PERFECT
WEATHER! Springtime also brings one of my favorite Savannah activities … Savannah Sand Gnat baseball!
The history of the Sand Gnats in Savannah dates back to 1904! Historic Grayson Stadium , the Savannah Sand Gnats home, was constructed the year Marilyn Monroe and Andy Griffith were born, 1926. A year that saw the first flight over the north pole, the first transatlantic phone call (from London to NYC), and the passing of Annie Oakley
After a hurricane leveled much of the original structure in August of 1940, a rebuliding effort began on the stadium in 1941 spearheaded by it’s namesake, Spanish-American War veteran, General William L. Grayson. Though the United States entry into World War II delayed the completion of the metal roof, play continued during the 1941 season as the rebuilding progressed.
Historic Grayson Stadium, like it’s home of Savannah, has seen history and made some along the way. It has had legends such as Shoeless Joe Jackson, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle and Jackie Robinson play on it’s turf. It also saw the South Atlantic League color barrier break in the with Al (Izzy) Israel and Junior Reedy in the 1953 Opening Day line up.
Since 1996 the Savannah Sand Gnats have placed 62 players into “the show” (the major leagues)! It’s what I love about seeing minor league ball. The chance to see someone play that, in a few years, will be building a hall of fame resume.
The opening day game for the Gnats this year is April 4th and the regular season runs into September. That gives us plenty of opportunities to enjoy a day at the park. Different days mean different things at Grayson and my favorite, “Thirsty Thursdays”, appeal to many Savannahians need for beer and drinks. Nearly every night features some sort of promotion including many nights of fireworks! Enjoy a day at the park during your visit! Watch the future visit the past during the present!
(insider tip) Bring bug spray!
Evidently actual sand gnats enjoy warm still nights and baseball fans of Savannah. Also, enjoy the antics of Gnate the Gnat! of sports BEST mascots! Gnate has his own Facebook page and has been featured on ESPN!
Savannah has several nicknames and probably the two most fitting are “The Festival City” and “Hostess City of the South”. Savannah hosts over 200 festivals and events year! Our biggest event, Saint Patrick’s Day, is just around the corner and needless to say it’s a huge event for our little city. Depending on what day of the week St. Pats falls on determines how many people come to share in our party. The range of out of town visitors can vary from 300,000 people to over one million (if the holiday falls on the weekend). For a city of 140,000 people, that’s a big jump.
Without some planning ahead, trying to navigate your way around Savannah can get pretty tough. If I could give visitors one tip, it would be this jewel of wisdom handed down from my father, early is on time and on time is late.
This year’s parade will be on Saturday, March 16thstarting at 10:15am. If you are looking for a comfortable spot to sit and watch the parade, you will want to arrive much earlier than that. The popular squares of Savannah along the parade route are roped off to everyone the night before the parade and aren’t opened up until 6am the morning of the parade. Do Savannahians actually set up their viewing spots four hours before the parade starts? YES WE DO! Does this mean you have to wake up at 5 am to enjoy your day? No. Our parade is nearly 4 hours long and can feature over 20,000 participants in the parade itself. I personally have sat on a square from 7am to about 2:30 in the afternoon and took in the entire parade. I’ve also spent a day just walking along the parade route stopping in available spots to catch bits and pieces of the parade and I’ve come to this conclusion … There is no wrong way to enjoy the day!
The winter doldrums are upon us. That stretch of time, from the excitement of the fall/winter holiday seasons until St. Patrick’s Day (our unofficial start to spring), where Savannahians can get out and enjoy the great outdoors. Savannah and its neighboring towns are dotted with community parks, state parks, and many different parks managed by the National Wildlife Refuge System. Within 40 miles from downtown Savannah are 5 National Wildlife Refuges. They are; Pinckney Island NWR, Harris Neck NWR, Tybee NWR, Wassaw Island NWR, and Savannah NWR.
Savannah National Wildlife Refuge is free for all to enter though our four legged family members are not allowed. It is located about 7 miles from downtown Savannah, and was founded on April 6th, 1927 on what was a rice plantation started in the mid to late 1700’s. Inside it’s nearly 30,000 acres you will find a new visitors center, miles and miles of cycling/walking trails, and Laurel Hill Wildlife Drive. Laurel Hill Wildlife Drive is a 4 mile drivable loop, open daily from sunrise to sunset, that makes wildlife viewing accessible to all from the comforts of their own vehicle. It features many pull off areas as it winds through tidal creeks, lowland hardwood swamps, and freshwater impoundments utilizing earthen dikes from the original rice plantation.
Warm winter days are my favorite time to roam the refuge. These days are prime for seeing alligators, the refuge’s most popular guest! On a warm day, particularly after a cold front has blown through, it is not unusual to see over 30 alligators during your visit. In addition to alligators visitors can see migrating waterfowl, wading birds, song birds, turtles, raccoons, osprey, bald eagles, owls, other birds of prey, deer, fox, coyotes, and bobcats. The cooler months of winter also provide relatively bug free outdoor enjoyment, though I would suggest taking some bug repellant with you.
I would definitely suggest stopping by the new visitor’s center located at 694 Beech Hill Lane.
It is open Monday through Saturday from 9am to 4:30 pm and is closed for all federal holidays. It features an exhibit area with historical information about the area and its wildlife, a gift shop with everything from tee shirts, hats, posters, toys, and many books on birds, nature, and local history.
Upon request the visitor’s center also features a very well done short film on the refuge system and on the Savannah refuge in particular.
The refuge is a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy nature at your own pace. Whether you are nature nut like me, a photographer, a bird watcher, looking for some fresh air, or a quiet picnic spot Savannah National Wildlife Refuge is well worth the time.
Black Friday Can you believe Thanksgiving is already upon us? While some have been carefully planning the
dinner menu and preparing a grocery shopping list, others have planned their
itinerary with a different type of shopping list … A “Black Friday” shopping
list; the un-official beginning of the holiday shopping season - and the
busiest shopping day of the year (at least since 2005).
For those of you brave enough to go out amongst the crowd in hopes of a good
deal - don’t forget about our local businesses.
If you’re looking for that unique, unusual, “perfect” gift, they’ll always
remember, check out the local stores and boutiques first. Savannah is full of so many wonderful local
retailers, offering a variety of things to choose from for everyone on your list;
clothing, jewelry, handmade trinkets and baubles, music, collectibles … all
sorts of one-of-a-kind finds that you won’t find at the big retailers.
Tucked away on Bull Street, just north of Forsyth Park is Folklorico; full of
fair trade finds from around the world. Have
an avid music collector on your list?
You won’t want to miss the extensive collection of albums (and other
curiosities) at Graveface Records in
the Starland District. Wander around the Design District on Whitaker
Street where you’ll find Custard, One
Fish Two Fish, and La Paperie (perfect
for the stationery lover on your list).
If you’re shopping Historic Downtown Savannah and haven’t stopped by 24e recently, check out the newly remodeled
store – more than the coolest furniture in town, they also have groovy household
accessories, custom kinetic leather cuffs made from reclaimed upholstery
leathery and the newly introduced Salacia Salt scrubs – made right here in
Savannah! You never know what one-of-a-kind
favorites from around the world that you might find at Paris Market, another local favorite; jewelry, candles, décor, bath
products, baby items, books – a special something for that special someone on
your list that will become a treasured favorite.
Looking to stuff some stockings? Do it
with gifts that have soul; handmade soaps from Nourish,everything honey from Savannah
Bee Company, seasonings and salts from The
Salt Table … just to name a few!
Just don’t know what to get, or don’t like to shop? Give the gift that everyone loves – a Gift
Card to a favorite restaurant or local store.
To really sweeten the downtown shopping deal, the city is offering FREE PARKINGdowntown every Thursday –
Sunday from this weekend through the end of the year!
By shopping local, you’re investing in your community; creating more jobs, promoting
entrepreneurship, and investing in neighborhood improvement by keeping the
character and charm of Savannah.
Whether you’ve made making a “Black Friday” shopping
list, a grocery list, or both – Savannah Getaway wishes you and yours a Happy
Savannah has been rumored to be the most “Haunted City in
America” and 3-D Ghost Hunters is
here to prove it. Originating in
Savannah in April of 2010, this young group is quickly gaining local popularity
and national recognition. They recently
negotiated being a regular feature every few months on WJCL/Fox 28 News, in a "Spooky Town" segment and one if its’ founders, Ryan Dunn, was also
included on “My Ghost Story” on the
A&E Biography network where he discussed their findings at The Savannah Theatre. (October or November air date to be
They have also caught the
attention of some national production companies and recently met with one to
show them around some well known haunted places in Savannah for consideration
in two episodes of their 2013 line up.
The details can not currently be discussed at this time, but the team is
extremely excited for the opportunity.
Everyone in the group
has always had an interest in the paranormal, having encountered unexplained
experiences themselves prior to its’ forming, and each of them are always eager
to share their stories. The group is
dedicated to learning more about these phenomenon and sharing their findings
with those who have also had other worldly experiences of their own.
Having investigated several places in Savannah, their main priority is to ensure all information when
conducting an investigation is as accurate as possible, including a full
historical time line of every location.
Using scientific methods and equipment, they will always try to find a
reasonable and rational explanation as to why something is happening or
occurring. The evidence that they share
in video, EVP’s and photos are, of course, open to interpretation and a
paranormal explanation is their last conclusion. They are hosting a Haunted Scavenger
Huntthis Thursday (September 27th), where teams of five will
work together to answer clues along a pre-determined route that will include stops at some of Savannah’s most
famous Haunted Places like Savannah Theatre and Colonial Cemetery; along the way will be included some haunted
Savannah history and a lot of fun. The first Team to submit their entry – with the most
correct answers - will be locked down with 3-D Ghost Hunters in Moon River Brewing Company for a
To learn more about the Scavenger Hunt - or if you are
interested in having 3-D Ghost Hunters investigate your location - please
contact them at email@example.com.
There’s no denying that Savannah loves to eat and drink. We’re home to so many wonderful local restaurants and eateries, it’s hard to have an overall favorite! While the tourists look for seafood on River Street, the locals head over to the Starland District for locally grown, organic, goodness.
On Bull Street, just south of 35th, Foxy Loxy has become a favorite coffee house and gallery with locally
brewed Perc coffee, made-from-scratch desserts (scones, kolaches, brownies and vegan cookies), and a fresh gourmet menu of daily soups, salsas and Tex-Mex inspired tacos. Browse the (mostly local) art work as you make your way out back to the courtyard, which is host to marshmallow roasts, half price bottles of wine and live music on cooler Saturday nights. On Friday nights, enjoy a Taco and a Tecate for $5, or give one of their craft brews a try. If you need to connect to wifi it’s a much more relaxed atmosphere than some of the (ahem) national chains.
For out of the ordinary Panini’s, give the Starland Café a try. Not only are the ingredients fresh, local and organic; some of them are grown right in their own garden. Their unique combinations like Greek Asparagus, Green Goat and Turkey Hummus will have you coming back to try them all. It’s a little tricky to find; from downtown take Bull Street south to 41st Street and turn left (it’s a one-way street) – and Starland Café will be on your right.
Over on Habersham between 32nd and 33rd, Sol always has a packed house. A renovated gas station, it does have limited seating, but is well worth the wait; try one of their specialty cocktails - the Caipirinha is a favorite and the fresh shot of pepper juice in the Hot Shot Margarita gives it quite a unique taste. International-spicy-fusion is the best way I can describe their menu. Fresh, natural ingredients combine to deliver beautiful presentations and fantastic flavors. Vegetarian and pet friendly (your pets are always welcome in theoutdoor seating area) it’s no wonder Sol is a local favorite.
If you’re looking for one of the best burgers in town, look no further than Green Truck Pub. (Also on Habersham, just south of 40th at Maupas). All of the burgers are 1/3 lb. of grass-fed, all-natural beef with local and organic toppings, homemade ketchup and house-canned pickles; no wonder they were recently voted one of the “Best Burgers in Georgia” by Southern Living Magazine. (Get any of their tasty combinations made with free-range chicken or a homemade veggie patty).
There are also several local shops, boutiques and art galleries to browse in the Starland District – check them out on the First Friday of every month during the “Forsyth to Victory Art March” when a lot of the businesses stay open later.
It’s hard to believe it’s already September and that the
lazy days of Summer will soon be turning into crisp Autumn nights. The kids have gone back to school, and the
days are already starting to get a little shorter … but we still have one more
weekend to celebrate Summer and there will be plenty to keep you outside and
busy this holiday weekend!
The Savannah Craft Brew Fest is in
full swing all weekend with tastings and seminars throughout the day, where beer
connoisseurs (and novices) will have more than 45 breweries to toast, taste and
The fest wraps up on Sunday with the Rhythm & Brews Concert at the
International Trade & Convention Center (just across the Savannah River)
where you can bring your blankets and enjoy one last sultry, Savannah, Summer
night. Check out their website for all
of the details and times.
If you’re not a beer drinker, that’s ok – grab a glass of your favorite
concoction (a Wet Willie’s perhaps) –
and spend the afternoon dancing on River
Street. Free and open to the public,
there will be arts, crafts, music and entertainment for all ages.
Don’t be surprised when you see 100’s of bicyclists riding through town on
Saturday night; it’s the 4th Annual Midnight Garden Ride. Another
family fun event, this 10 mile ride through Savannah’s downtown streets
benefits the Savannah Bicycle Campaign and their on-going effort to make
Savannah a safe, bicycle friendly community.
Riders will be in costume and the event concludes with a concert in
Telfair Square with Atlanta based, Ponderosa.
Looking for something a bit more low-key to celebrate the last days of
Summer? Then head out to Tybee Islandfor a weekend of sun and
fun. Kick back and stay cool with the ocean
breeze while you listen to music at the Pier and Pavilion. Savannah favorites, The Swingin’ Medallionswill take the stage at 7pm on Sunday and fireworks
will follow at dark.
No matter how you choose to spend the holiday weekend, Savannah Getaways wishes
you a safe and happy Labor Day Weekend!
lived in Savannah for 11 years, and one thing I’ve heard time and again (I’ve
even often said it myself), is that there is no music scene in this town.
Apparently Amanda Hollowell felt the
same way. So she gathered some other
like-minded folks and
decided to do something about it. Thanks
to their dedication and perseverance, we have the First Square Fest event
hitting Forsyth Park this Saturday for an afternoon – and evening – full of
FREE music! That’s right; I said FREE.
There’s something for everyone; acoustic, folk, jazz, funk, MC’s, DJ’s, hip-hop
and grunge. This all day music festival is
meant to unite the music lovers of the community and showcase the music that is
alive in Savannah. With music, food,
vendors, and local artisans, there will be plenty of fun for the whole
This might be the inaugural event for Square Fest, but they have done a
phenomenal job in getting the community excited and raising awareness about the
need for a music scene in Savannah; and they intend to make it an annual event. In the theme of giving back to the community,
Square Fest will be donating a percentage of the donations received at this
event to the Ronald McDonald House of the Coastal Empire.
Bring your lawn chairs, a blanket, pack a basket of goodies and make it a
day. The event kicks off at 2pm, but you’ll
want to get there early to make sure you secure a good spot; it’s sure to be a
packed event, especially as night time falls across Forsyth Park and the music
plays on into the dark.
Here’s the Line Up:
2:00pm – 2:05pm Opening
2:05pm – 2:25pm Sunglow
2:30pm – 3:00pm Lyn Avenue
3:15pm – 3:35pm Sincerely, Iris
3:45pm – 4:15pm Listen 2 Three
4:30pm – 4:50pm Steve Cantrell
4:50pm – 5:20pm Dope Sandwich
5:30pm – 5:50pm Elephant Talk
5:50pm – 6:10pm Emoticon
6:25pm – 6:55pm Kota Mundi
7:05pm – 7:35pm The Royal Noise
7:45pm – 8:15pm KidSyc@BrandyWine
8:25m – 8:55pm Sav”h Party Starters
9:15pm – 9:45pm Word of Mouth
9:45pm – 10:00pm Closing Remarks and Thank You
You can’t take a stroll through downtown Savannah without passing through some of the 22 squares, which were quite lively back in the days of old. Each of these squares was built at the center of a “Ward” to be gathering places where the community could come together for activities, celebrations, and protection. One of the last squares to be established in 1851 - Whitefield Square – was in the center of “Wesley Ward,” named for John Wesley, who is often referred to as the father of Methodism. As is quite customary for Savannah, several of the named monuments are located in different squares. (In this case, the monument for John Wesley can be found in Reynolds Square.) The square itself was named after an early minister, the Reverend George Whitefield, who founded the Bethesda Orphanage in 1740, which is still in operation today as the Bethesda Home for Boys. While Whitefield Square might be one of the lesser known squares, it might also be one of the most beautiful. Located on Habersham between Taylor and Gordon Streets, just one block south of Gaston, its standout feature is the beautiful gingerbread style gazebo in the middle of the square. Shaded by the age old trees, with an occasional gentle
breeze, it’s a perfect place to spend a lazy afternoon getting lost in a book, flipping through the pages of your favorite magazine, or getting away for a lunch break. Most of the houses surrounding the square were built after the Civil War in the Victorian style and it shows in the architectural details of big porches, wrap around balconies, gothic windows, and turrets. You’ll also find the First Congregational Church on this square that was built in the late 1800’s. It will take the afternoon to meander through all of Savannah’s squares, but it’s definitely worth it. So grab a drink to go and enjoy a leisurly stroll through the squares.