Charleston and Savannah Week Trip Report


Nov 26th, 2017, 01:57 PM
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Charleston and Savannah Week Trip Report

Charleston and Savannah Trip Report

DH and I had a wonderful week’s vacation to Charleston and Savannah. Thanks so much for all of the info that I got on this board and from the Fodors books on the two cities. We are history nerds and big foodies. We had a great time. A note on time—we are from the Rocky Mountain Time zone and we sort of kept to that time—e.g. we didn’t get started till around 10 am and we usually finished up around 5 pm. Then went back and rested up a bit before dinner. Most museums etc closed by 5, so this wasn’t too much of an issue.

We started in Charleston. Flew in on Sunday and went to our VRBO:
This place is a superb location. We were a 15 minutes walk to the Fort Sumter Visitors Center and a 10-15 minutes walk to the Battery. It had a nice, small kitchen, a large bathroom, a decent living room and a good bed. Parking is in a garage at the back of the building. Very convenient and I think it was $16 a day. There was a small issue with the street noise—these are original windows and it can be noisy. We were there on Halloween, though, and it still wasn’t that bad. It’s not like there is a bar underneath—there is actually a catering/event place that sends its dishes up in the elevator, so you don’t know what will be there when the door opens! There is a great BBQ place on the bottom floor-you can smell its yumminess when you leave the building. The only other issue was that there wasn’t a dresser to put clothes into—plenty of closet space, but no dressers. I would absolutely stay there again based on location alone. It was very good.

Food—the best part!
The first night, we went to The Ordinary and had a great seafood dinner. We are landlocked, so we go for seafood whenever we are in a coastal town. The only issue was that we were in the upstairs “loft” area, next to some loud talkers and the noise level was high. I would suggest eating on the ground floor. Good service, nice wines, yummy food. Parking lot around the corner.
The next dinner was at the Charleston Grill. We did the chef’s tasting menu with the mid range wine pairing. That was up there with some of the most expensive meals we have ever eaten—and it was worth every penny. Seriously, amazing. The food was fantastic and LOTS of it—you often get tiny portions with tasting menus. The wines were superb. We both agreed that was one of the top 5 meals we have ever had. And—it was just around the corner from our lodging!
The last dinner in Charleston was at Fig—which is right across the street from where we stayed. It was good food but did not seem to live up to all the hype. We thought the meal at The Ordinary was better—it is owned/run by the same folks as Fig.
We got our coffee in the mornings from City Lights Coffee which is just a block away. Very good service and coffee! Lunches were really on the go and sometimes we didn’t even eat lunch because we ate so much at dinner, so no recommendations there.

Day One:
Charleston was having a cold spell so we decided to go to Fort Sumter in the afternoon. We started our day at the Charleston Visitors Center. We bought a walking tour guidebook and got tickets to Middleton Place. Then we went over to the Charleston Museum. This is a great way to start your visit. We learned about rice cultivation and the impact that system had on the political/economic/social issues of the city prior to the Civil War. We learned a great deal about Charleston in the Revolutionary War as well. We spent at least 2 hours here. Then we toured the Manigault House, which was lovely. We were the only people on the tour and we learned quite a bit. It is a small house, though, and a short tour. I sort of wish we had toured one of the larger mansions closer to the Battery. Then we grabbed quick sandwiches to go and booked it over to the Fort Sumter Visitors Center. We had a wonderful visit there walking around and looking at everything. We even saw some dolphins during the boat ride. The NPS Rangers were very helpful and answered lots of questions. All in all, a very full day.

Day Two:
We did the walking tour. We saw the Hugenot (sp?) Church and one of the Episcopal Churches. Both places had wonderful docents who gave great information and answered questions. It was really nice to see both churches. Our first major stop was the SlaveMart Museum. This is a must see. It is small, but packed with information. The staff answered all sorts of questions. We learned a lot about various aspects of the economics and the time line of slavery that we had not fully understood. It is a sobering visit but very important in order to fully understand history. Our next major stop was the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon. That was a fun stop and interesting to learn a great deal of info about Charleston. Then we grabbed a quick lunch and then walked through the residential neighborhoods, along the sea wall, through the Battery etc. The Walking Tour Guidebook was great, but even if you don’t have it, there are plaques on many houses that explain their significance. That tour plus the all the stops took us most of the day.

Day Three:
We checked out and drove to Middleton Place. This is a lovely plantation. The gardens are really beautiful and the farm area was nice. We toured the house with a docent, which was very interesting and we walked all over the gardens using the self-guided map. We stopped in for a presentation on slavery, but it covered pretty much the same ground we had learned at our earlier stops in Charleston, so we stepped out. We did like the self-guided exhibits in the slave cabin—that was informative and interesting. I was NOT prepared for the fact that there are actual alligators in the ponds and that they come out to sun themselves on the lawn. I followed 5 steps behind by husband whenever we were near the water. We saw 3 gators—2 at a distance and one about 25 feet away. I don’t care if it was a small one—hello! They have big teeth! I think I will take our Great Basin Rattlesnakes over those things any day. Shudder. Then we drove to Savannah.
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Nov 26th, 2017, 01:57 PM
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We stayed at this VRBO on Columbia Square:
It was bigger than we needed (2 BRs) but it had off street parking right in front of our lodging, which was awesome. The owner greeted us a short time after we arrived and gave us a bottle of wine—nice! The apartment is big and has everything you need. The only thing is that it is in the basement. There is plenty of light but still. You also could hear the clop/clop of the carriage horse hoof beats as they went right by you at street level! The bathroom is accessed through the master bedroom so I wouldn’t recommend this place for couples. But for a family, it would be great.

The first night, we just grabbed food and wine from Whole Foods—it was maybe a 10-15 min drive.
The second night we ate at Elizabeths. What a lovely restaurant. It is in an old home and we ate on the old sun porch. The service was impeccable. The food was very good. We really enjoyed our meal.
The last night we had dinner at Local11ten. It was a very modern space and we had a great meal. It has a nice roof top bar that had lots of people on it.
We went to several coffee places, none of them were that great. Oh well. Lunch was on the go, so no reviews for that meal.

Day Four:
We started with a tour of the Owens-Thomas House. It was very informative and had some great exhibits in the slave quarters at the back of the house. We really enjoyed this tour. Then we walked down Bull street, passing through the various squares and checking out the monuments. We went to the Civil Rights Museum which was really interesting. I had no idea how active Savannah was in this movement. The museum is small but very informative. We liked it. Then we went to the Savannah History Museum, which is in the back of the Visitors Center. The museum is ok. BUT the real draw is the Revolutionary War history tour/reenactment. We had a fantastic guide and there were 6 adults on this tour. Kids would have a blast!!! First, we learned a great deal of the situation at the time of the Revolutionary War—it was very interactive. Then we all took up flags and wooden muskets and march across the street to reenact the battle! Yep, I marched in front of traffic doing this. I felt silly and it was one of the best history lessons ever! All in all, it took about 1.5 hours. It really was a highlight of our trip. They do this 2 or 3 times a day. This is a must do!!! After that, we wandered the streets back to our lodging and stopped in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist—very pretty.

Day Five:
We started the day at Fort Pulaski. Wow, that is impressive. The moat, the drawbridge, the porticullis. The exhibits inside were interesting. But it is really important that you walk around the outside and see the damage from the shelling. This was really interesting Civil War History. The visitors center was closed due to tornado/hurricane damage but they are rebuilding it and they had a great bookstore/gift shop inside the fort. The next stop was at the Pin Point Heritage Museum. This was such a treat!!!! You start by watching a really good movie about the community and the Gullah/Geechee(sp?) heritage/culture. Then there were about 6-8 of us who toured the oyster/crab processing plant with a guide. There were great exhibits/explanatory stands but it was fun to go with the guide. We learned a lot about how these animals are harvested and processed as well as the skill of the women who worked there. The last section of the tour was on the Gullah/Geechee community and culture. This was such a good stop. So many people I have talked to knew nothing about these communities that used to be on the barrier islands. It really is eye opening.

Day Six:
We left Savannah and headed for Beaufort. Our first stop was the Santa Elena Elena History Museum in the old courthouse. What a fascinating story! I knew the Spanish had been in Florida but did not realize the extent to which they settled forts northward. Nor did I know about the early French forts in the area. It was really fascinating!! This is a great stop! Then we ate lunch at Q4U—which has a patio on the river—nice. We walked along the water a bit and then picked up a “tree walking tour” book at the Visitors Center. We wandered around looking at the houses and the trees, which was fun. We didn’t have time to do al of it because we had to drive back to Charleston, but it was a nice end to our visit.

All in all, we had a lovely time. I glad we went at the first of November—the weather was fantastic and was in the upper 70s to 80 by the middle of the week. Everybody lived up to the lovely stereotype of b
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Nov 26th, 2017, 03:34 PM
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Hi StantonHyde,

Thanks so much for this TR! I've been trying to get to Savannah and Charleston for years. Did you feel like a week was enough? Also debating about timing. Can't stand humidity, and don't want to hit it during hurricane season......I've always thought spring would be good (if I can arrange non-hurricane season), but were the garden nice in November?

I did a quick check on that vrbo and it looks very nice. WOW, do those vrbo costs add up now. Between cleaning, taxes and the "fee", it adds more than an additional night in cost!!

I think I'm done with vrbo. Especially when I don't plan to cook on my vacation time.

Did you fly into Charleston? Connect through Atlanta?
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Nov 26th, 2017, 05:36 PM
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Easy flight to Charleston through Atlanta. Didn't have to walk for miles. A week was plenty. The end of October/first of November was great. The weather was perfect. I do not do humidity--I melt--and it was really nice. However--the gardens were not in bloom like they could be. Everything is green but not in bloom.

The VRBO costs were high. Check airbnb. I agree that if you are not cooking, you don't really need a kitchen. I do need a fridge and a microwave. The other issue for us is that DH is a night owl and I am not. So if we have a walled off sitting area/hotel suite then that works. The hotel costs were high in both cities. I don't like B&Bs so we don't stay in those. Check around and see what you can do for less. The big deal with Savannah is getting off street parking.
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Nov 26th, 2017, 05:54 PM
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Ah, good tip on the parking. I do like B&Bs so will check those. I do remember when I first looked at these two cities years ago, the hotel prices were very high.
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Nov 27th, 2017, 03:54 AM
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I very much enjoyed reading your trip report to Beaufort, Savannah and Charleston as it brought back memories from my various trips to the area. Of the things we did in common (the wonderful boat ride to Fort Sumter, Fort Pulaski, the Owens-Thomas House), I was nodding in agreement at your appreciation. It's too bad the visitor's center was closed at Fort Pulaski, as I learned some surprising things about the Union-held fort from plaques there, such as, for example, the fact that the Union army had a theater troupe within those confines! The restaurants suggestions are also much appreciated for future trips to the region.

Best wishes, Daniel
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Feb 4th, 2018, 01:24 PM
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Great info, thanks, Stanton!
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Feb 4th, 2018, 04:08 PM
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Thanks for the TR. We've been to Charleston, but haven't gone to Savannah yet. We'll have to head south soon and will check out your recommendations.
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Feb 4th, 2018, 05:06 PM
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DebitNM and emalloy--hope you both have great trips. DH and I really enjoy getting to see places so unlike our desert home. The alligators though--shudder--give me a Great Basin Rattler any day
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Feb 5th, 2018, 07:03 AM
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Great trip report. Enjoyed very much, thanks for posting.
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Jun 9th, 2018, 09:28 AM
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Thanks for posting your trip report. We are headed to Savannah for a girls weekend in August and seems like so much to do. Your report helps narrow it down.
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