River Street is overrated. Many of the shops have been overrun by tourist stores and cheap goods at escalated prices. Go for the view, the candy stores, and the people-watching, but save your money for stores further into the city. There are a few antique shops and boutiques along the waterfront worth popping into, but I didn’t find much at them that I didn’t see elsewhere in Savannah for less. The restaurants and nightlife along the Savannah River are still top-notch, but keep in mind that you are paying for location and experience so don’t expect to get anything cheap or quick here. You should still take the time to walk River Street, as you can imagine just how it would have looked when those shops were still cotton warehouses and the area bustled with commerce of a different sort.
Since you’re already dwelling on historic Savannah, it’s the perfect time to take a short trip out of the city to Fort Pulaski National Monument. I’ll admit, I hadn’t originally planned to visit a fort or a former fort. Fort Pulaski was built in the early- to mid-1800s at the mouth of the Savannah River to combat naval attack. The massive structure was meant to protect Georgia’s major port and was constructed as such with dikes, a moat, drains, a parapet, and a home for 146 individual cannons.
At the time, it was an engineering marvel that many thought could not be taken. This proved incorrect during the Civil War, however, when Union soldiers were able to bust 30-foot holes into the edifice of the fort after a day of rifle cannon fire. The Confederacy then surrendered and Georgia was left without a much-needed port (and the Union gained a place to hold Southern prisoners). The biggest lessons, though, to come from the battle were a new way of looking at both military strategy against forts and a new method for how they ought to be built.
Today the fort is well-maintained but still showing its age. The rooms of officers and generals are marked (striking differences, really) and many of the Union “prisons” remain intact. The architecture, brickwork, and views from the parapet are worth the trip alone, but if you’re a history lover it’s all the better.
– M. Ray Hall