Photo of Fort Pulaski National Monument courtesy of Kaeli Conforti. Article by Kaeli Conforti of Budget Travel.
If you're looking for a fun, affordable Southern getaway, visit Savannah, where you'll find the perfect mix of Southern hospitality, nightlife, and enough action to satisfy every food lover and history buff.
Savor the tastes of Savannah
Although things may have gotten a little controversial recently, Paula Deen's restaurant, The Lady & Sons, is still one of Savannah's major attractions for foodies and fans alike -- folks have been known to make reservations online up to a year in advance or else risk waiting in a line that wraps around its home at 102 West Congress Street. For a more traditional southern dining experience, try Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room at 107 West Jones Street, where you'll share a giant table and make new friends as you chow down on fried chicken and cornbread dressing, sweet potato soufflé, okra gumbo, corn muffins, and black-eyed peas. If you're still not full after all that, head to Leopold's Ice Cream, a Savannah legend that's been serving the sweet treat since 1919 (212 E. Broughton St).
Check out the old forts
Make history interesting for your family by showing them around the places where it all happened. Fort Pulaski National Monument, located about 20 minutes from downtown Savannah, was pummeled by cannon fire during the Civil War and once served as a Union prison -- spend some time exploring the tiny tunnels built into the hillside that let you pop up at different vantage points around the fort. Just 10 minutes from downtown Savannah, Old Fort Jackson sits along the Savannah River and is one of oldest standing brick structures on the east coast. If you have time to take a drive, Fort McAllister Historic Park is home to 4.3 miles of hiking and biking trails, Fort tours, and historical Civil War demonstrations 45-minutes south of Savannah on the shores of the Ogeechee River.
Stroll around Savannah's great outdoors
Savannah is a great city to take a walk -- you'll be met with scenic squares and picturesque scenery at almost every turn, so don't forget your camera! Movie buffs will want to visit Chippewa Square, where Forrest Gump told the story of his fascinating life while waiting for the bus. If you're a Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil fan, make a pilgrimage out to historic Bonaventure Cemetery 15 minutes from Savannah's downtown and pay a visit to poet Conrad Aiken, singer-songwriter Johnny Mercer, and several of Savannah's most famous residents. You can also visit the grave of Danny Lewis Hansford, whose death was popularized by the book, next door in Greenwich Cemetery -- his gravestone is often covered in roses, cigarettes, cigars, coins, and sealed bottles of bourbon. Back in town, take a stroll or have a picnic in beautiful Forsyth Park, a gorgeous green space within the Historic District and easily accessible by Savannah's free DOT Express Shuttle. If you've brought your precious pup with you to Savannah, check out Oliver Bentleys Historic Dog Walk Tour, a tour led by the popular dog product company's mascot, Ollie B (and owner of course), that lets you and your furry friend "sniff out Savannah" and explore another, four-legged, side of the city ($20 for adults, $10 for children ages 9-17, children under 8 are free, limited to two leashed dogs per human).
Take a ghost tour -- if you're brave enough!
Pick a ghost tour, any ghost tour. Savannah is rumored to be the most haunted city in the U.S. so naturally, there are plenty of options to go with -- choose from the trolley-tour fun of Ghosts & Gravestones, gain some liquid courage during the Ghost City Pub Crawl by Ghost City Tours, or brave the streets at night while being led around town by your guide with Cobblestone Tours. Either way, you'll learn about the city's hauntings, tragic tales of unfortunate circumstances, and maybe even see a ghost or two. Anything can happen -- you'd be surprised how much of the city was actually built on the remains of its former residents!
Spend a day at the beach in Tybee Island
Craving some sun and sand? Tybee Island is only about a 20-minute drive from Savannah and is home to the Tybee Island Light Station and Museum, a 270-year-old site where you can visit historic buildings and see what it was really like to live on the property in 1732. The view from the top* is worth the $9 entrance price ($7 for children ages 6-17, seniors, and military members -- free for Coast Guard members with a valid ID). If all else fails, find your perfect spot of sand and spend a day in the warm waves of Tybee Island Beach. Mark your calendars -- Tybee Island Restaurant Week is happening Jan. 17-26, 2014, so don't miss this opportunity to sample some great seafood -- The Crab Shack is offering great prix fixe options from $25.
Stay in the heart of the city for less
Book your stay at the Best Western PLUS Savannah Historic District, located right along River Street, a five-minute walk from some of the city's best nightlife along the Riverfront, and across the street from Savannah Smiles Dueling Pianos, a legend of the Savannah late-night entertainment scene. Rooms are priced from $79 and include complimentary continental breakfast. Park your car at the hotel for $12 and take advantage of the city's vibrant nightlife options -- you can even get around for free via the DOT Express Shuttle, River Street Streetcar, or hop a free ride on the Savannah Belles Ferry to access the Riverfront area.
*Please note the Tybee Island Lighthouse will be closed for painting through Jan. 31, 2014, but the rest of the museum site is still open to the public at a discounted entry price.
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