by Sid Watson, 2014 Convention Chair
Savannah, Georgia, the site for the 2014 Sigma Tau Delta International Convention, combines a beautiful locale and temperate weather with a rich sense of history and a strong heritage of Southern hospitality. The convention hotel, the Savannah Riverfront Marriott, is located on the riverfront, and connects to Savannah's famous River Street via the Riverwalk. Many of Savannah's delights are within walking distance of the hotel. Others are just a short trip by trolley or by car.
The Historic District is a wonderful location for a walking adventure. Typically late February is mild in Savannah, with highs in the mid to upper-60s and lows in the 40s. River Street is a nine-block brick avenue lined with more than 75 shops, galleries, restaurants, coffeehouses, and pubs housed in restored cotton warehouses from the antebellum era, as well as the open air River Street Market Place. At night, join the partygoers along River Street or seek out one of the many ghost tours in the Historic District.
Savannah is also renowned for its 22 beautiful, historic squares. All are lush and lovely and reward a visit. Standouts include Lafayette Square, location of the childhood home of Flannery O'Conner, and Chippewa Square, also known as Forrest Gump Square, the location of the bus stop scenes in that Oscar-winning film. The Historic District also is home to a number of parks. A favorite of outdoor enthusiasts, the 30-acre Forsyth Park (at Bull and Gaston Streets) is home to the Fragrant Garden for the Blind and the Forsyth Park Fountain, modeled after the grand Parisian fountain at the Place de la Concorde. The riverside Morrell Park hosts The Waving Girl, Savannah's symbol of Southern hospitality, and the Olympic Flame, marking Savannah's role as host of the 1996 Olympic yachting events.
Even a short history of Savannah suggests the variety of experiences in its past and the richness of the city landscape. A few of the historic buildings that have been restored include The Pirates' House (1754), an inn mentioned in Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, and the birthplace of Juliette Gordon Low (1821), founder of the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A.
Remember reading The Little Engine That Could when you were little? Indulge your nostalgia and visit The Historic Railroad Shops complex. A National Historic Landmark, this Victorian-era complex includes a railroad museum, a collection of locomotives and cars, and an operating turntable for the engines.
If nostalgia isn't to your liking, try "The Contemporary Southern Landscape" exhibit at the Jepson Center, part of The Telfair Museums. The permanent collection at The Telfair includes 18th-20th century visual art from around the world and has especially strong holdings in American Impressionism and Ashcan School paintings. It also includes over 80 paintings and drawings by Kahlil Gibran, author of The Prophet. Sylvia Shaw Judson's Bird Girl, which appeared on the dust jacket of John Berendt's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, is on long-term loan to the museum.
If your desire for sightseeing is stronger than your feet will tolerate, Savannah also offers a fare-free transportation system in the Historic District, including express shuttles, the Savannah Belles Ferry connecting downtown to Hutchinson Island, and the River Street Streetcar, an authentic 1930s era 54-passenger streetcar updated with green technology. Or get a different perspective on the city from a horse-drawn carriage or a riverboat cruise.
For those with time to see a little more of the area, Tybee Island is just 18 miles east of Savannah. February will be too cool for swimming, but Tybee's five miles of beaches will still offer wildlife from pelicans to bottlenose dolphins, the Tybee Marine Science Center, and the Tybee Light Station, the first lighthouse built on the South Atlantic Coast.
For more information about things to do in Savannah, browse the extensive Visit Savannah website.