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Trip Report Savannah & Charleston Trip Report – April/May 2011

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My wife and I went on a great little trip to Savannah and Charleston at the very end of April and beginning of May.

We arrived in Savannah in mid-afternoon to drizzle that turned to rain and stayed that way for the rest of the day. We tried to walk some of Savannah’s squares and then went over to River Street to see what it’s all about (not much – some tourist souvenir stores, mid to low level restaurants and bars).

Eventually we gave up, had some dinner and went back to our room. We almost felt like we could have left town. Bad weather can do that to a trip.

We got up the next morning to sunny, warm weather and it stayed that way for the rest of the trip. What difference weather makes.

The plan was to fly to Savannah, drive to Charleston with a possible stop in Beaufort and a couple of plantations, return the car in Charleston and fly home from there.

As it turns out we had two excellent choices; In Savannah the Planters Inn located in Reynolds Square right next door to The Olde Pink House and in Charleston the Andrew Pinckney Inn.

Both are in great locations, have very nice lobbies, immaculate rooms, modern bathrooms, very helpful staff and good breakfast. If I want to be picky, most of the rooms in the Planters Inn face a parking garage and the Andrew Pinckney Inn is a block down a dark street. And that’s being really picky. They were both excellent choices. I would stay there again and highly recommend them.

Breakfast was included at both hotels. We don’t normally eat a full lunch when on a trip and the breakfasts definitely carried us thru.

While on trips we like to have a good meal but food is not the focus of our trips. However, Savannah and Charleston’s reputations preceded them and we planned dinners into the trips as part of the event.

In Savannah we ate at the Cotton Exchange (ok) on River Street, the Olde Pink House (excellent) and Bistro 45 on Braughton (excellent).

In Charleston we ate at Sticky Fingers (only ok), Hank’s (excellent) and Fleet Landing (on the water and very good).

After having rain on the day we arrived and seeing sun on our first full day, our old instincts (walk all day) kicked in. It wasn’t until the last day or two in Charleston that we learned to relax, do less in a day and soak it up.

We walked Savannah’s famous squares from north to south and east to west. This city really has a unique and pleasant feel to it. We stopped by the market area (a two block pedestrian street full of bars and entertainment. We don’t drink but it was still fun to wander thru the crowds.

My wife cannot pass up a library so when she read that the Savannah Historical Society located on a corner of Forsyth Park was having a book fair she was in heaven.

We knew we’d o.d. on historical homes in Charleston (more on this) so the only home we visited was the Andrew Low House. A very interesting walk thru history.

By the end of the first full day we felt like we’d seen all there was of interest to see in Savannah (we just have to learn to slow the pace).

On our second day we walked up to Forsyth Park and beyond into the Victorian district. Did I mention libraries? We went until the library that was unfortunately closed (Saturday). On the way back my wife couldn’t resist stopping at the Historical Society again to buy more books.

While wandering thru the squares we saw two weddings taking place. At one the bride arrived in a horse-drawn carriage. After this I didn’t mind that our invitation to the Royal Wedding got lost in the mail.

The next day (Sunday) after breakfast I picked up our rental car (Budget provides free pickup within 5 miles of there office and in the Historic District), loaded our luggage and we were on our way by 11AM.

We decided to stop in Beaufort enroute to Charleston. A cute town with historic homes and a very nice waterfront park. However, if you’re pressed for time Savannah and Charleston will do just fine on their own.

While doing my research on Charleston I came across something called a Heritage Passport. For $45 per person it includes Middleton Place, Drayton Hall, the Charleston and Gibbes Museums and five historic Houses (three South of Broad and two up north near the Visitor Center). The passport is valid for two days or for another $20 is valid for a year. It would have been nice if they had a three-day option for $55. But they don’t. The passport is sold at the Convention Center up north near the Visitor Center.

Since I wanted to stop at the plantations on the way from Savannah to Charleston (before we got into Charleston) I had to be creative. I called the Convention Center and arranged to purchase the passport over the phone and had them mail it to me.

The passports served several purposes. It’s a good deal. Also, it encouraged us to see quite a few local sights.

After reading about the two plantations, it appeared that Middleton Place should be visited first as it appeared to have much more to offer. We figured we’d make a short stop at Drayton Hall on the way back to Charleston.

Well, Middleton has more in the way of grounds but there didn’t appear to be much in bloom. The grounds were very pleasant but didn’t have the lushness we expected. Since there is no main house, we decided to pass on the house tour of one of the minor houses to allow more time at Drayton.
Drayton Hall turned out to be a very pleasant surprise. While all that exists is the main house without any furniture or electricity, the setting of the house is amazing and the house tour very interesting.

I’m glad we saw both.

For our first day in Charleston I had printed a self-guided walking tour of South of Broad. This was a very interesting introduction to this beautiful part of town. Along the way we made stops in three historic houses (the Heritage Passport). This also got us out of the hot sun for a while.

Had we known there are absolutely no restaurants or stores of any kind South of Broad we would have taken with some water and a snack. Eventually we worked our way back up into commercial civilization.

South of Broad is absolutely beautiful.

On our second day we started with a visit to the Synagogue. The only thing I really remember (in addition to a little bit of history) was being told (jokingly) that the war between the North and South was not the Civil War but either the War Between the States or the War of Northern Aggression. You learn something every day.

From there we went north. Somebody had mentioned that the campus of the College of Charleston is beautiful. Well, that it is.

After spending some time wandering around the campus we walked over and took the tour of the Aiken-Rhett house. Another interesting walk thru history. We decided to either pass on the Joseph Manigault house or leave it until day three.

As we wandered back south we passed the Convention Center office. I went in and asked for the fellow from whom I had purchased the Heritage Passport. We talked for a while and I told him my wife had been a librarian and we try to visit libraries wherever we go. He told me not to bother with the Charleston Library (new style) but that there was a private library down King Street. The Charleston Library Society. Possibly they’d let us in.

The next day we took a buggy ride (somehow we had a coupon for this). While we passed many of the streets we had visited on our South of Broad walking tour, the narrative was very interesting and it was great not to be walking in the sun.

After that my wife went to the Gibbes Museum while I took the Charleston Downtown Shuttle up to the beautiful Joseph Manigault house.

After I met up with my wife we decided to give the Charleston Library Society a try. What a beautiful place!!! They let us walk around, take photos and my wife bought a book bag. An unexpected surprise.

All in all a great visit to two cities with beautiful, historic areas.

Go to www.travelwalks.com to see my photos of the trip.

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