Gay Savannah in a nutshell:
The jewel of Georgia’s lazily charming coastline, Savannah was founded in 1733 by British General James Oglethorpe, who designed the perfect grid of shady tree-covered streets and squares that this city of 130,000 is still famous for. This has long been a place where eccentrics, artists, and traditional Southerners mix with ease, but John Berendt’s 1994 publication of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil especially increased the city’s popularity with gay travelers. who appreciate its countless impressive inns. restaurants, beautiful museum houses, a handful of gay bars, and a rich arts scene.
Savannah, like its sister Charleston, which is a two-hour drive northeast, draws crowds on weekends virtually year-round, but sweltering (i.e. humid) summers tend to be more sleepy, and beautiful springs, when the gardens come to colorful life, attract the largest number of visitors. Fall is also very popular. Average high temperatures in January and February are about 62 degrees F, with nightly lows plunging into the upper 30 degrees. During the slower summer season, June through September, highs average in the low 90s, with overnight lows in the low 70s.
Savannah receives a lot of rain throughout the year.
It is a busy commercial port that lies about 15 miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean, along the Savannah River, which forms the border between Georgia and South Carolina. It is the center of a larger tourism-driven region that spans Hilton Head, SC, to the east and the Golden Isles of Georgia (including Jekyll Island, St. Simons Island, and Cumberland Island National Seashore) to the south. Most visitors spend their time in a historic quadrant that is about a mile wide and stretches for a mile south of the Savannah River.
Tybee Island is a small but popular beach resort town heading east, about 15 miles away.
Driving distances to Savannah from major cities and points of interest are:
- Amelia Island, FL : 130 miles (2 hours)
- Asheville, NC: 310 miles (5 hours)
- Athens: 220 miles (3.5 to 4 hours)
- Atlanta: 250 miles (3.5 to 4 hours)
- Charleston, SC: 110 miles (2 hours)
- Charlotte, NC: 250 miles (3.5 to 4 hours)
- Columbia, SC: 160 miles (2.5 hours)
- Fort Lauderdale, FL: 460 miles (7 to 7.5 hours)
- Hilton Head, SC: 40 miles (45 min)
- The Golden Islands: 80 miles (75 min)
- Jacksonville, FL: 140 miles (2 hours)
- Orlando: 280 miles (4 hours)
- Pensacola, FL: 320 miles (5 to 5.5 hours)
- Raleigh, NC: 320 miles (5 to 5.5 hours)
- Tallahassee, FL: 300 miles (4.5 hours)
- Wilmington, NC: 280 miles (5 to 5.5 hours)
Flying to Savannah:
The Savannah / Hilton Head International Airport, located a 10-mile drive northwest of downtown, is served by American, jetBlue, Delta and United. Unfortunately, due to a relative lack of competition, rates for some destinations can be quite expensive.
Savannah Events Calendar 2016-2017:
- Mid-January: Pulse Art + Technology Festival at the Jepson Center.
- Mid-March: St. Patrick’s Day celebrations (this is the rough equivalent of Mardi Gras for Savannah, a wild and exciting weekend celebration that draws at least 250,000 visitors to the city).
- End of March: Annual tour of houses and gardens.
- Late March to early April: Savannah Music Festival (a major cultural giveaway lasting 21 days).
- Early May: Tybee Island Gay Days.
- End of September: Savannah Jazz Festival.
- Mid-late October: Savannah Gay Pride (this event has grown tremendously over the years, attracting many thousands).
- End of October: Savannah Film Festival.
- Early November: Telfair Art Fair.
- Early to late December: Southern Lights Christmas Celebrations
Things to see and do in Savannah:
In addition to just strolling through the leafy Savannah squares and dining at fabulous restaurants, there are a handful of key attractions here to visit.
The city has a number of historic homes open to the public, including the Andrew Low House, the Davenport House Museum, the Georgia Historical Society, and the Owens-Thomas House.
In addition, the charming Telfair Museum of Art, which occupies a stately 1818 mansion and is the South’s oldest art museum, opened its striking and contemporary Jepson Center for the Arts in 2006. Other worthwhile stops include the Home of Childhood Flannery O’Connor and Juliette Gordon Low Place of birth.
A side trip to Tybee Island:
It’s just a 20- to 25-minute drive from Tybee Island, Savannah’s beach community, which generally feels distinctly more family-oriented and less gay-popular than the city itself. With that in mind, it is worth coming here, especially on a warm day, to walk or lay on the beach, tour Fort Pulaski National Monument, or have a bite to eat. There are several dining options here like the Sundae Cafe and the famous Crab Shack, fun and fun to dive in. The GLBT Tybee Gay Rainbow Fest, takes place in early May and includes a number of events and parties.
A handful of resources provide information about the city in general and, to some extent, the local gay scene. These include the Savannah Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the city’s best online resource, GaySavannah.com, which has details on gay-friendly businesses, including restaurants and nightlife, as well as gay-friendly accommodations.
After its founding in 1733 by James Oglethorpe, Savannah prospered as a silk exporter during its first century, before becoming one of the world’s leading cotton suppliers, as well as a major participant in the Southern slave trade. Much of the downtown architecture predates the civil war, but only for a couple of decades: A fire in the mid-19th century destroyed many beautiful timber-framed colonial houses, and the city was quickly rebuilt with elaborate brick and stucco. Victorians. If General Sherman had not saved Savannah during his notorious “March to the Sea” from Atlanta, most of these structures would have been destroyed as well.
Perhaps the greatest threat to the city’s architectural heritage, however, occurred when the thriving cotton industry bottomed out around the First World War. Because of the depression, Savannah’s economy had come to its knees. During the 1950s, the national trend toward urban renewal reared its ugly head. It was only the courageous lobbying of several preservation-minded locals that saved many specific structures from the wrecking ball. The drive to keep Savannah intact grew steadily, culminating in a 2.5-square-mile chunk of downtown that was designated the largest National Historic District in the country.
The draws in the city are many. Architecture buffs come to explore the city’s abundance of beautifully preserved buildings, many of which are open to the public. If this topic interests you, consider taking one of the magnificent tours offered by Architectural Tours of Savannah, whose charming and knowledgeable guide, Jonathan Stalcup, can also tell you a thing or two about Savannah’s gay scene.
One factor that contributes to the presence of gays and lesbians here is the Savannah College of Art and Design (also known as “SCAD”), whose campus is located in the heart of the historic downtown district. Savannah is an appropriate place for an art school, given its considerable appreciation of the arts. There are numerous galleries and performance halls here.
And then there’s the resulting buzz from John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil . The author himself is gay, and several key characters in his book were gay, including Lady Chablis, the drag queen who still continued to perform at the city’s best gay bar, Club One, until she passed away in the summer of 2016. Various tour companies. provide hikes and bus tours that mark the sites featured in “The Book,” as it is known, sometimes proudly, sometimes mockingly, here in Savannah.