Every time my mom and I visit Charleston, we always take a day trip to Savannah, GA. Situated 108 miles from each other, Savannah can be easily accessed by car if you take US-17 S to I-95 S for 2 hours. If you don’t drive, like me or my mom, another way to get to Savannah from Charleston is to take the Amtrak 97 Silver Meteor train.
To make this a solid day trip, you will have to wake up around 3 am to catch the 4:51 am train out of Charleston. Yes, that is an unholy hour to be waking up to catch a train, but it is worth it. The ride down is also approximately 2 hours.
The first time we made this journey, when we arrived at the train station, we could not believe how much it looked like we had stepped back in time. There were two classic x telephone booths with bi-fold doors and working phones. I hadn’t seen one of those in years.
As the trained pulled in, we realized two things: the train tracks were at street level and it was so dark on the platform that only a crazy person would wait outside for the train to arrive. Before the lights from the train illuminated the edge of the platform, there was nothing to see but pure darkness. Being a couple of brick and mortar gals, this was scary, but endure we did.
By the time the train arrived in Savannah around 6:34 am, the sun had risen and the train pulled into a naturally lit platform at the golden hour. We hop in an Uber and make our way to the historic district.
Having been to Savannah previously in 2008 for a “workcation” for me and a vacation for my mom, we knew where our first stop would be: Huey’s on the River for breakfast. Huey’s is not only the first restaurant that will open within a half-hour of arriving in Savannah, it is also our favorite breakfast spot.
Whenever we break our fast at Huey’s we always start with a cup of coffee and we split a plate of three beignets with powdered sugar and a side of their secret recipe pecan bourbon sauce. This is pure sweet heaven on a plate. We follow that up with the savory goodness of a shared plate of shrimp and grits.
There is no better way than this to start the day.
As we polish off our breakfast, the sleepy bucolic city wakes up. Fortified, we readily explore River Street. The stunning historic architecture and cobbled-stoned streets are bathed in light, while the plants are ripe with morning dew.
After watching the merchants open and other tourist flood River Street, we make our way up to East Bay Street. This is where the real adventure begins.
Savannah is one of the easiest city’s to navigate if you know the trick. The city is laid out in a grid pattern dotted with 21 squares. The city is bisected by Bull Street, which runs from the Savannah River at the north through Forsyth Park at the south. There are also two free dot shuttle buses that run in loops around the historic district in Savannah. Using the squares, the waterfront and Forsyth Park as landmarks can help you navigate the historic district by foot (I highly recommend this) and/or by shuttle bus.
Walking south on Bull Street, we explore the historic district on our way to shopSCAD. To get there, we pass through four squares: Johnson, Wright, Chippewa and Madison. I highly recommend spending a little time exploring all of these squares, however, if you are pressed for time, walk around Johnson Square (the oldest and largest) and Chippewa Square (which formerly housed the bench made famous by Tom Hanks in “Forrest Gump“).
At the corner of Bull and East Charlton Streets, we reach shopSCAD, an unique store that showcases works created and designed by Savannah College of Art and Design students, alumni and faculty. The constantly changing inventory of this boutique shop includes clothing, jewelry, shoes, bags, and products for the home.
I absolutely adore this store. Every time we visit Savannah, I make a point of visiting it to see what’s new and to take more pictures of the glorious light fixture that anchors the register area.
After thoroughly perusing shopSCAD, we visit other shops in the area, including: E. Shaver Booksellers, Harper Boutique, One Fish Two Fish, Saints & Shamrocks, George Davis Fine Art & Antiques Gallery, and V & J Duncan Antique Maps.
Next, we make our way Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room for lunch. This is me and my mother’s favorite place to lunch while in Savannah.
In 1943, Mrs. Sema Wilkes began operating this boardinghouse with the idea to offer comfortable lodging and homestyle Southern cooking in the downstairs dining room. Open only on Monday-Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., people began to form a line early to get a seat at Mrs. Wilkes.
The meal is served family style at large tables that seat 10 people. The main meat, and the one that everyone waits for, is the deliciously moist southern-style fried chicken with perfectly crispy skin and juicy meat. Accompanying the meat is a selection of sides which includes cornbread dressing, sweet potato souffle, black-eyed peas, okra gumbo, corn muffins and biscuits. Other sides, such as mac-n-cheese and candied yams, can also make an appearance on some days. The selection of sides changes daily, but a visit will always guarantee that you will be able to enjoy some of the finest fried chicken that will ever touch your lips.
I cannot stress enough that Mrs. Wilkes is a must visit whenever you find yourself in Savannah. It is worth the wait on the line that will probably wrap around the block if you arrive anytime after 11:15 a.m. It goes fast and you will find yourself hard-pressed to leave not feeling the warmth from Mrs. Wilkes intent when she took over the boarding house in 1943.
We leave Mrs. Wilkes with the biggest smiles and full bellies. We make our way to the Owen-Thomas House. This English Regency style house, completed in 1819, is considered one of the finest examples in America by architects. The unique features of this home includes a decorative arts collection comprised primarily of Owens family furnishings, an English-inspired parterre garden, and an original carriage house-which contains one of the earliest intact urban slave quarters in the South.
The Owen-Thomas House is now part of the Telfair Museums. One ticket to any of the three museums grants the ticket holder same-day entrance to the others. It was because of this that we only walked around the gardens; we didn’t have the time to visit the other locations during this day trip. We reserved a visit to tour the interior of the house and slave quarters for another trip to Savannah where we would have the time to fully take advantage of visiting the other Telfair Museums’ locations.
Our next afternoon stop in Savannah was West Broughton Street for more shopping. Contained between Bull Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, West Broughton Street is a continuous cornucopia of shopping. Both sides of the street are lined with big box clothing and shoe stores, local boutique shops, and restaurants.
Besides shopSCAD, Our other favorite shop to visit was the now closed Sylvester & Co. Modern General. This store operated like a general store with a selection of items in which a person could completely design and fill their entire home.
I adored the products and the visual design of this store. To get our next fix, we may have to plan a visit to the Sylvester & Co. Modern General location in Sag Harbor, NY.
After an afternoon of shopping, it was time to take a break. My mom and I headed over to Ellis Square to rest, but before we took a brief break, we walked over to the City Market to grab a drink and to stop in the Savannah Candy Kitchen to grab some souvenirs.
After resting and enjoying the beautiful weather, we hopped on the purple dot free shuttle bus, which acted as our chariot to Forsyth Park. This is another location that I like to revisit every time I am in Savannah.
Walking through this park is very soothing. As we walk toward to the Forsyth fountain, the Spanish moss on the trees rhythmically sways with every breeze. The sound of the water in the fountain reminds me of the sound of a cleansing rain. It is almost like the park is setting a peaceful and inviting cadence that one would be hard-pressed to ignore. It is the perfect spot to end our exciting day to trip to Savannah.
Before we make our way to the Savannah Amtrak station to catch the Silver Meteor train back to Charleston, SC at 7:31 pm, we head back to the City Market to pick up some wings for dinner from Wild Wing Cafe. The goal was to pick up the wings and to eat them on our train ride back to Charleston. This was the only part of our day trip that did not work out well. I won’t bore you with the infuriating details, but we wound up waiting almost an hour and never got our wings.
In order to catch our train, we had to improvise. Our dinner consisted of snacks from a little grocery store located in the City Market.
The moral of the story is: NEVER order take out from Wild Wing Cafe in Savannah when you have a train to catch.
Overall, our trip was successful. To help you plan a day trip to Savannah, I’ve provided a map with all the locations my mom and I visited during this day trip in 2013.
If you take the train, you will have approximately 10.5 hours to explore Savannah during your day trip. That is a respectable amount of time to get a feel of and to fall in love with the city.
I hope this post inspired you to take a day trip to Savannah, GA if you are visiting Charleston, SC. You won’t regret it.
Winter S., Savory Sweet Neat