No Ghosts, but Plenty of Charm: Hitting the Haunts in Old Savannah
By Jeff Koyen
They say Savannah is the most haunted city in America, and that may be true. But no matter how plentiful they are, those Southern ghosts sure are shy. Or, maybe bars weren't the best places to be looking for them.
I took my wife to Georgia's coolest city for her birthday. It was a short weekend trip, but the mild weather, laidback vibe, and friendly folks were exactly what we—angry, anxious New Yorkers—needed to forestall winter's icy lockdown. If you've never been to Savannah, I can't recommend it highly enough.
We spent the weekend at the Mansion on Forsyth Park, arguably the city's best hotel (above), where the service and room rivaled any number of Four Seasons and St. Regis properties we've enjoyed over the years. Though it was built within the last 10 years, the 126-room red brick building fits seamlessly in the historic district. Which didn't come easy: the bricks, we were told, were sourced at great expense to match the existing namesake structure, a 19th-century turreted mansion overlooking, yes, historic Forsyth Park. That original building now houses 700 Drayton, an exceptional "low country" restaurant serving up modern twists on classic Southern favorites under the direction of executive chef Michael Semancik (who actually did a stint at New York City's Blue Ribbon Bakery).
But back to the ghosts. We spent most of Saturday acting like tourists. Which is to say, exploring Savannah's famous squares and wandering through quiet graveyards thick with Spanish moss. (But no, for the love of god, nothing associated with Paula Deen.) After sunset drinks and snacks at the Bohemian Hotel's airy, jazzy rooftop bar, we ambled to the Moon River Brewing Company to join a haunted pub crawl. The first stop was, conveniently enough, Moon River's second floor, said to be haunted by ghosts that regularly pester the employees. Truth be told, it was spooky. But no sightings.
The second and third stops were a basement-level sports bar and a Scottish pub, respectively. The former once served as slaves' quarters, and now proudly features not one, but two beer pong tables (and the first cigarette machine I've seen in a decade). The latter is said to be haunted by... Oh, someone. Honestly, I don't remember the details—only that we didn't see any spooks, ghouls, wraiths or spirits. It didn't much matter. By the fourth stop on our pub crawl, we were convinced that Savannah was the greatest city in America. If not for its timid ghosts, then for its legal to-go cups. Plastic only, 16 ounces or less, try not to wander into traffic.
We had every intention of visiting Savannah's greatest ghostly attraction, Bonaventure Cemetery, on Sunday morning—but we'd had enough exploring for one weekend. Instead, we booked a couple's massage at the Mansion's Poseidon Spa and followed that with a delightfully boozy brunch at 700 Drayton. Even with a connecting flight through Atlanta, we were back in Brooklyn with enough time to get a full night's sleep.
Photos, top to bottom, courtesy of: Jeff Koyen, Mansion on Forsyth Park.