Who Knew Savannah Was The South’s Secret Urban Oasis?

Thanks to a new crop of young, creative minds setting up shop down in Savannah, GA, old world elegance is getting an urban facelift. Think Brooklyn, with better foliage and much better manners.

05.09.14 8:49 PM ET

What to Pack:

After a good sunscreen, the single most important thing you will need for a trip to Savannah, GA is a copy of John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. This fast read that will not only serve as your unofficial guide to the city, but is perfect airplane reading material as well. As you will quickly learn from Berendt’s addictive novel, what sets this city apart from all others is city planner General James Oglethorpe’s brilliant and beautiful inclusion of lush city squares, which function as mini parks dotted evenly every few blocks throughout the city.  This makes Savannah the perfect walking (or biking) burg. And if you happen to forget a good pair of shoes, well, now you have the perfect excuse to visit the enormous Marc Jacobs store downtown.

Where to Stay:

Part of the allure of Georgia’s oldest city is the gorgeous historic homes that have been carefully preserved and maintained. The Victorian-Romanesque hotel, Mansion on Forsyth Park, equipped with modern luxuries, offers the best of both worlds. While the five-star hotel itself is new, it has been meticulously constructed to match the adjoining building, built in 1888, which now houses the restaurant 700 Drayton. Here, you can enjoy a bowl of she-crab soup while overlooking majestic Spanish Moss-covered trees across the street in Forsyth Park.

Where to Eat:

Mansions and moss aside, there’s one other must-do in the South: eat. While the Paula Deen Empire seems to have penetrated nearly everything in town, from tours to trinkets, resist the silver steam tray buffet. Across the street at Circa 1875, Chef David Landrigan is whipping up haute French fare such as Jarret D’Agneau Braisé, all with a side of Southern hospitality (and a divine bread basket).  For dessert, locals and tourists alike congregate at Leopold’s, where the famed ice cream is made on the premises, one batch at a time.

Where to Shop:

Thanks in large part to the prestigious Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) infusing this historic city with thousands of creative minds, Broughton Street has become a main drag for eclectic boutiques and shops.  Edison-bulb chandeliers and other treasures tempt you from the display windows of The Paris Market. Satchel offers not only fine hand-made leather goods but a chance to watch the creators at work: the workshop is right there in the store, branding iron and all. Finally, when it comes time to stock up on souvenirs and head home, skip the signature praline-palooza at City Market and pick out a few of the exquisite chocolates and truffles at Chocola by Adam Turoni.