When I visit a city for the first time, I find that taking a hop-on/hop-off bus tour is a great way to orient myself. It allows me to identify the places I want to visit during my stay, along with some ideas about how best to get around.
Savannah, Georgia, has several choices for tours. I decided on Old Town Trolley tours. They are a national company, with a great reputation and a high rating on several different travel web-sites. They also offer free parking if you get there before their lot fills up. Their buses wind their way through Savannah’s Historic District, making fifteen stops along the way. One loop of the tour takes approximately one-and-a-half hours, and it passes by fourteen of Savannah’s twenty two shaded squares, and about a dozen of its historic homes. The Old town Trolley Tour also offers combination tickets with the Prohibition Museum, and other local attractions.
I arrived early, and scored a coveted indoor spot, really important on a day when the temperature crashed into the 90º’s. Catching the first bus of the day was also my goal, as it would give me more time to explore the city. Our driver gave a running commentary of the sights we passed, from the famous houses to the churches, museums, and beautiful squares. I enjoyed the ride, and began planning my day.
After completing my first lap on the bus, I decided to head to the American Prohibition Museum. It is at the City Market at Ellis Square, the only open space that is not tree covered. The old market served Savannah for many years, but was torn down in 1954, and replaced by a parking garage. In 2005, the garage was replaced by an underground facility that restored a public space above. Today, the area around Ellis Square is home many shops and restaurants that cater to Savannahians and the tourists that visit.
The American Prohibition Museum offers a look at a truly unique time in U.S. history. It explores the forces and movements that led to the country banning alcoholic beverages. The museum uses posters, wax figures, displays of old newspapers, and news reels to bring that history to the present. The journey through the museum ends at a speakeasy, where period cocktails are available for purchase.
Leaving the American Prohibition Museum, I took a 0.75 mile stroll through town as I headed to the Andrew Low House. This wonderful little museum, on Lafayette Square, was built in 1849 by local business man Andrew Low II (1812-1886). Andrew was born in Scotland, and, following in his father’s footsteps, started a dry goods business in Savannah. By the 1840’s he was one of Savannah’s largest store owners and importers of dry goods. His household included five children, from two wives, and the enslaved family of Thomas and Mosianna Milledge. The Low family is probably best known for Andrew’s daughter-in-law, Julliette Gordon Low (1860-1927), the founder of the Girl Scouts. The house remained in the family it was bought in 1927 by the National Society of Colonial Dames of America in the State of Georgia. As a result, most of the Low family belongings are still present, giving an authentic look at life in the mid-19th century.
After this very busy morning, I went to J. Christopher’s on Liberty St. for lunch. J. Christopher’s is a Georgia chain that serves breakfast and lunch. I enjoyed an excellent Bistro Salad with grilled chicken.
I spent the afternoon at the Davenport House Museum, on Columbia Square. This 1820 federal style house was built by Isiah Davenport who owned a local construction company. When he died in 1827, he left his family with a mountain of debt, and his wife, Sarah, turned to house into a boarding house. She sold the building in 1840, and over the next 115 years it served as private home, and then again as a boarding home. In 1955, a new owner planed to tear it down to build a parking lot. This prospect, so soon after losing the City Market, galvanized a number of important locals. They formed the Historic Savannah Foundation, and raised the money to buy and preserve the Davenport House, opening it as a museum in 1963.
A hop-on/hop-off tour is a great way to explore a new city. It offers a way to find out what a city has to offer, and to help decide what you might was to see.
Nuts and Bolts
Old Town Trolley Tours: 7 days a week, from 9:00 AM - 6:00 PM. Adults $37.40/ Children $15.20. On-line discounts are available.
American Prohibition Museum - every day: 10:00 AM - 4:15 PM. Adults $16/ Children $10.70. Speakeasy cocktail. -$10
Andrew Low House - Mon-Sat 10 AM - 4 PM, Sun 12 noon - 4PM. Adults $12/ Seniors $11/ Students $10
Davenport House Museum. - Mon - Sat 10 AM - 4 PM, Sun 1 PM - 4 PM. Adults $10/ Children $5.