Week Trip to Savannah, Georgia to Ring in the New Year | VanLife

Returning to a place you’ve already visited might seem like a waste of time if your superficial goal is to see as many places as possible. Admittedly, as I get older, I’m enjoying returning to places I’ve only briefly visited before on a weekend trip, and trading that in for a longer stay to really experience a place. So when Courtney’s family picked Savannah to celebrate her father’s 70th birthday, I couldn’t have been more excited to get back to that charming, little southern city. Over that week, we did a lot of walking, a lot of working, a bunch of celebrating, but when we weren’t working, we really got have a blast taking in everything Savannah had to offer. And because this was a big group, we did not stay in the van, but rather got an AirBnB to fit everyone and the dog! And that worked out so well to really experience the city!

Savannah is the oldest city in Georgia, built right on the Savannah River in 1733, is home to cobblestone streets, and homes that have been standing since before the Civil War. And though the city has an immeasurable amount of historical significance and interest, Savannah was ultimately decided on for this trip because it was going to be very warm in January and plenty of places to walk and get a drink. And in addition to the four of us, Courtney’s parents’ friends also joined us to celebrate birthdays as well as the new year! Plus we got to link up with Courtney’s best friend and stop by all their favorite bars like The Rail! Did mention the proximity for a quick walk to Leopold’s Ice Cream on Broughton Street, which is a must-stop when passing through.

Personally, I love all of the squares that break up the development of the grid-style city. When you can’t have sprawling open spaces or mountains, a park is the next best thing. And in this city, you’re never more than a block or two away from one of the 22 squares which serve as memorials, monuments, statutes and parks. Originally built to be open spaces for militia training in the 1700s, now find themselves full of tour groups, tourists passing through, and a great place to walk our dog. Throughout the squares, and even down the major streets, massive candler, live, or even majestic oak trees tower overhead. They create a forest like feel within a city that’s wall-to-wall townhomes, and give Savannah setting to feel like it’s straight out of colonial times.

Beyond the many squares, the city is unbelievably walkable. We stayed on Jones street, which is roughly 1 mile from the river and all the popular areas in Savannah for bars, restaurants, and shops. But between our place and the main strip, there was so much to see. A city that has prioritized beautiful architecture in all its buildings over the past 300 years, from the smallest of shapes, to the grandest of churches. And as you get closer to the river, you can really see the history. Stone stairs that definitely wouldn’t meet any standard of today take you down to river street where tourists flock to go into one of the many taffy stores, knick-knacks, seafood restaurants, or to pop in for a drink and watch the ferries and container ships pass up and down the river. And that barely touches on the great breweries and restaurants found on Broughton street, Congress Street, or in the historic City Market.

Seeing as this was just the beginning of the “Escape from Winter 2024” trip, I was shockingly excited to be able to go for runs and bike rides without bundling up or worrying about snow. And for me, runs and bikes are the best way to explore a city and town. We were able to reach far corner corners of the historic downtown Savannah on our runs, especially through the incredible Forsyth Park. And on my bike, I was able to reach the Old Fort Jackson, out past the Army Airfield, and every street in between. Being able to go out for 32 miles on my birthday, in 50F degree weather, is something I’ve wanted to do for a while, but never really lined up with a January Birthday. Especially after ringing in the new year with everyone down on River Street! Crazy to think we had three birthdays to celebrate (Joanne’s 31st, mine on the 1st, and Jim’s on the 3rd).

Just before we left, the group of us all went to a glass blowing class at Blown Studios, where we had the opportunity to make a glass cup or Christmas ornament. The only thing I knew before this, was how difficult they made it look on that Netflix show, Blown Away, and they weren’t wrong! With some significant assistance from our teacher, and I do mean some real hand holding, we walked through all of the steps from getting the molten glass, to rolling the shape, to blowing the glass. It was such a unique experience. To see a small ball of near liquid glass turn into a functional and beautiful piece of art was amazing. Throughout the evening, the 6 of us created our own pieces and learned so much. The experience gave us all a whole new appreciation for how much effort goes into every sing piece of glass that we normally took for granted. Not to mention, that glass blowing studio was an incredibly hot place to work in.

Though we lacked the free time to be able to join Courtney’s parents and their friends most days, we still had a fantastic time in Savannah. I wish we had been able to do more historic tours and ghost tours, but that will just have to wait until we come back for another visit. Is Savannah a normal spot I would plan to visit, not really, but when the plans align I couldn’t have been happier to spend our week working and celebrating all our birthdays in such a fun place. And being in a warm part of the country in January for the first time in my life was such a relief, getting a break from all the snow we got back home. But this was just the start of our journey over this winter, where we still had plenty more states to go!

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