One of the must-see, must-do things in Savannah is the renowned River Street. The street sits idyllically along the beautiful Savannah River. Today it is a one-stop entertainment center. Shopping, dining, and bars can be found along this beautiful area. The area cover 9 blocks and is located in downtown Savannah.
The cobblestones streets are as old as the city itself. The port of Savannah was once a thriving major port. The wealthy plantation owners made their fortunes in cotton and tobacco and used the port to export their products. The street was once alive with produce vendors, shopping stalls, and bars and restaurants ready to serve the sailors coming into port. It was also once a very rowdy area. Skip ahead a few hundred years, and you will still find shopping, bars, and restaurants. And anyone who has been on River Street during St. Patrick’s Day can attest to the rowdiness factor. Today’s visitor to River Street can still feel like they have stepped back in time, but with all the modern amenities.
But somewhere in between River Street was almost a lost cause. Like so many areas suffering from the Urban Flight of the '70s, River Street was all but abandoned. In 1977, when the restoration wave began in Savannah, River Street got a new lease on life. The once-19th-century warehouses have been turned into trendy restaurants and bars. Today more than 80 stores and restaurants abound here. There are several hotels located directly on River Street, including the historic River Street Inn, which dates from the 1800s, and the Hyatt. There are a number of excellent restaurants, including Wet Willies, the Shrimp Factory, and my favorite, Huey’s. Stores range from upscale clothing and jewelry to locally-made-craft and souvenir shops. One of my favorites is Kandlesticks. They make beautiful ribbon candles, and you can watch the candle makers at work. Needless to say, I have a rather large collection of ribbon candles. At night, the bars and pubs light up the street. There are several older ships anchored in the bay that are open for climbing. In the spring and summer, open-air stalls abound.
There are a number of tours that start here and have River Street on their itineraries. Make sure to check out the Waving Girl statue. The statue, built by Felix De Weldon in 1971, pays homage to Savannah resident Florence Martus. There are several stories about Martus, including one that she waved at the passing ships, waiting for her true love to return. The Waving Girl and her dog have greeted more than 50,000 ships. River Street is reported to have two resident ghosts, so be on the lookout for strange occurrences here.
A number of festivals are held on River Street. For more information, go to www.riverstreetmarketplace.com or www.savannah-visit.com. No trip to Savannah is complete without a stop here.