10 of the Best Damn Things in Savannah

The Suave Brothas Blog

Although we planned our long weekend in Savannah to run our Georgia quest race, we found that in addition to the quintessential Savannah landmarks, we uncovered several slightly less well-known gems.   Here are 10 of the things that we loved about Savannah.

  1. The Best Damn Race 

Having run the Best Damn race in Safety Harbor, Florida we knew that the inaugural Best Damn Race in Savannah would absolutely live up to its superlative name. Plus, the opportunity to leave frigid Maine in February to travel to a semi-tropical locale (at least in our minds) seemed perfect.

We woke to gray skies and temperatures in the low 60’s on the morning of the race-my favorite running weather.  We followed the pumping music to the starting line and with an enthusiastic send-off from the race announcer we were on our way.  Our 5K route was flat and traveled past squares fringed with trees dripping with moss and through residential blocks of homes ranging from modest to stately. The entire race was heaven after running in single digit temperatures on snowy, hilly roads at home.  We crossed the finish line together feeling strong and pleased with our run.  We collected our medals…and were soon enjoying a hand-mixed cocktail for me and a beer for Mike. All by 8:30 in the morning.

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Apparently we haven’t officially completed a race unless I coerce Mike into taking what we refer to as our “awkward requisite selfie”. (Thanks for humoring me once again, Mike.)

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Savannah allows open containers throughout the city so post-race festivities were very lenient.

2. Meeting An Instagram Friend in Person

I was thrilled to meet Judy of Chocolate Runs Judy, who was running the half marathon. This was the first time I had the opportunity to meet one of my Instagram friends in person and it was a true delight to have a chance to chat with Judy and her husband, Lloyd.

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Judy’s husband, Lloyd, kindly took this photo of us.

3. Booking an Airbnb Three Blocks From the Race

Choosing an Airbnb just three blocks from the start of the race meant there was no need to arrange transportation or figure out where to park.  Instead we enjoyed a scenic three block warm-up on our way to the starting line at Forsyth Park.

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During our quest travels we have run the gamut (pun intended) of lodging to starting line distances.  The Best Damn Race in Safety Harbor absolutely wins the prize.  The starting line was immediately outside the front door of our hotel.  Having the opportunity to stay in our warm hotel room with our private bathroom until it was time to line up at the start was true bliss!  On several occasions complications with actually finding the race have made for a less than cheerful start to our morning.  Having learned the hard way, we now try to swing by the start the day before the race.

4. Rancho Alegre

The colorful, festive atmosphere of  Rancho Alegre  caught our eye as we strolled by on Friday evening in search of a spot for dinner.  After a wait of just a few minutes we were settled in, listening to a fabulous live jazz trio, and enjoying what is truly the best chicken I have ever eaten.  And I’ve eaten a LOT of chicken.

It was a wonderfully serendipitous dinner choice that was not originally on our Yelp-curated list of possibilities.  In fact, some of our most memorable dining experiences have occurred when we have literally veered off the beaten path and have chosen a restaurant that we have encountered by chance or that has been suggested by someone “in the know”.

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The music was fabulous although this photo is not.

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5. Rum Runners Bakery

Another lucky find was the Rum Runners Bakery which we walked past after the race as we returned to our Airbnb.  We were hungry, chilled, and ready for more sustenance than the post-race cocktails and bananas.

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The cozy interior was charming. Shelves filled with cake stands circled the shop. We sipped hot cups of coffee and tea as our quiche was heated and our turnover was packed up for us to bring with us.  Once again we had found just what we needed-without even knowing it was what we were looking for.

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6. The Squares and Architecture

Having visited Savannah once before we knew that we would be happiest if we avoided renting a car and relied on walking to get around.  Savannah is said to be the first planned city in America. The grid layout of streets and squares, designed by General James Olgethorpe, (I just love that name) makes Savannah a very pedestrian friendly city.  Strolling along the streets offers a chance to really take in the architecture.  The trade-mark squares that appear every few blocks, like little verdant oases of trees and flowers, are also absolutely packed with historical markers that tell the story of Savannah’s colorful past.

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Forrest Gump’s famous “Life is like a box of chocolates” scene was filmed in Chippewa Square.

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Virtually every block offered spectacular examples of a myriad of architectural styles which we happily perused as we traveled along Savannah’s streets.

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7. The Book Lady Bookstore

After walking several miles throughout the day we were ready to head back to our Airbnb for a break. Mike was in the market for a book so we were on the lookout for a second-hand bookstore.  We were thrilled to find The Book Lady Bookstore right off Chippewa Square.

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We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect spot.  Within minutes we had lost each other as we meandered from room to room each with ceiling-high bookshelves brimming with old and new books.

I purchased a copy of the quintessential Savannah book, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. As soon as we got back to our apartment I started reading and was soon captivated by the story as well as the fact that we were surrounded by the very places mentioned in the book.

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8. Mercer Williams House Tour

One of the most notable settings in the book is the Mercer Williams House which is an integral part of the story.  By the end of the first couple of chapters I had made tour reservations for the Mercer Williams House for the next day.

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The tour through the house was one of our absolute favorite parts of visiting Savannah.  The house itself has a fascinating history and if you were to simply walk through the house the architecture and antiques would be sufficiently enthralling.  But our engaging guide packed the forty minute tour with a multitude of mesmerizing details, secrets, and tidbits.  This included divulging that the dining room baseboards designed to look like marble were actually artfully painted wood  created by the owner, Jim Williams.  A famous statue in the hall has an unexpected feature. And a surprise behind a closed door was revealed.  If you visit Savannah I highly recommend this tour.

9. Soho South Cafe

After our tour we were ready for lunch and happened to walk by Soho South Cafe. We were delighted to have discovered this welcoming, whimsically decorated restaurant.

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We were serenaded by non-stop live piano music.

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The décor was ecclectically appealing.

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I ordered their signature combo-a grilled cheese sandwich with pimento aioli and a cup of Soho tomato basil bisque.  It was divine.  I think Mike ordered an equally regional  fried chicken sandwich but I was so engrossed in my lunch I didn’t pay much attention.

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10. The Flowers and Gardens

Coming from the frozen north we were desperate for a landscape that wasn’t monochromatic. As soon as we stepped out of the airport we breathed in that intoxicating scent of grass and vegetation that had been absent at home for months.

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The grass was green, flowering trees were exploding with blossoms, and colorful gardens popped up everywhere.

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A peek through an iron fence revealed this stunning landscaping that in a moment of  completely irrational fantasizing I fleetingly imagined recreating at home.

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Even the pansies surrounding this well-known fountain in Forsyth Park warmed my heart.

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We reluctantly left the color and warmth of Savannah but felt rejuvenated by this enchanting city.

State: Georgia

Quest Race #: 38

Date Run: February 16, 2019

Bottom Line:  Start with a well organized, scenic race paired with a chance to meet an Instagram friend, add in a taste of springtime and some scrumptious unexpected restaurant discoveries and top it off with a chance to learn some of the fascinating history of Savannah and you have the “best damn” trip to Georgia.

The Best Damn Race-Really!

As I write this, Maine and the rest of the northeast is in the midst of a blizzard.  The wind has been howling for hours and the drifting snow is creeping up the windows.   Although we are used to running in snowy and frigid conditions, we have embraced our running quest as an opportunity to head out of the cold for mini mid-winter breaks. It’s days like today that I really appreciate these little escapes.

Two years ago Mike advocated for a trip to Florida.  Once I read about the Best Damn Race in Safety Harbor, Florida, I knew that was the race for us. First of all, who could resist this race name? The race offers a 5K, 10K, and half marathon all on the same day. The 10K and half start early and the 5K begins slightly later.  The races travel over portions of the same course and end at the same finish line. We opted to take the easy way out and signed up for the 5K.

So in February 2013 we flew to Tampa and drove to Safety Harbor, which was just across the causeway over Tampa Bay, in our spiffy Fiat 500 rental car.

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We had made reservations at the Safety Harbor Resort and Spa which is the hotel affiliated with the race.  The packet pick-up and expo were located right behind the resort at the Safety Harbor Marina Park.  But most amazingly of all, the starting line for the race is directly outside the front door of the resort!  Having run dozens of races that involved locating the race (which I’m sorry to say has occasionally involved some heated “discussions” about driving directions),  as well as parking, standing in port-a-potty lines, checking gear, etc, etc, this bonus cannot be over-emphasized! Besides the fact that the resort is lovely, we had the unbelievable luxury of staying in our room until we were ready to head out to warm up for the race and then leisurely join the other runners at the starting line.

We arrived the day prior to the race so we were able to soak up the incredibly therapeutic sun and warmth as we slowly removed layers of clothing.  As I lounged by the pool another woman sat next to me dressed in a turtleneck sweater. We looked at each other and I asked if she was from up north.  She admitted that she was and we commented on how amazing it was to feel warm. After spending months in bone-chilling temps at home it was difficult to believe we really could shed our layers.

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The resort is on the west shore of Tampa Bay.  There is a long wooden pier beside the resort that you can stroll down and get wonderful views of the bay.

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We spent some time exploring the quaint town.

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We found this sign that says, “Danger Do Not Feed or Molest the Alligators” humorous.

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The first night we came across a small but perfect southern restaurant called Southern Fresh.

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The food was fabulous.

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Mike had a great local beer called Florida Cracker, a Belgian-style wheat beer.

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We wished we’d had a chance to enjoy the outdoor fire pit.

The next morning we very leisurely prepared for our race.  We ventured out to watch the early start of the half and 10K and assess the temperature.  It was cool by Florida standards and not yet very sunny.  We spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to decide on attire for the race.  Long sleeves? Short sleeves? Long sleeves over short sleeves? I eventually settled on short-sleeves with a long-sleeve top.  We were almost giddy with the wonder of having our room steps from the starting line.  We felt like VIPs with access to our own private bathroom just minutes before the race! We did a little warm up run and then lined up and waited for the gun to go off. I suddenly realized it was warm and quickly pinned my number to my short sleeve shirt, tied my other shirt around my waist and we were off!

As we took off along the palm-tree lined coast past stately homes overlooking Tampa Bay I could hardly believe it was February.  I was in heaven.  But I was also seriously trying to finish with a good time.  The course was flat and I had been running well at home. Mike was ready to pace me so we really pushed hard (for me) along the route.  The course is virtually flat so that was a huge change from our very hilly routes at home.  We crossed the finish line together and I was thrilled to have beaten my goal time.

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We joined the huge after-race festivities where the beer was flowing freely and chatted with other runners.  I was amazed and thrilled to see that I had placed in my age-group. This truly had been the Best Damn Race!

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We savored our after-race high as we had lunch with Mike’s sister and her husband.  Later we soaked up some more sun and a few cocktails beside the pool, not wanting to waste a single drop of either before heading back up north the next day.

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That evening we came across Green Springs Bistro.

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Although we didn’t have a reservation they fit us in at a perfect little table in the bar.  Live guitar music was playing.  The food was extraordinary and the service was stellar.

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We had truly had a fabulous day.  The Best Damn Race had absolutely lived up to it’s name and given us an opportunity to thaw out for a few days.

If you have a chance to travel to Florida, I strongly urge you to try the Best Damn Race.  As of this post, there are still openings in all races which is February 7 this year.  I can assure you, you won’t be disappointed.

Have you traveled to warmer climates to race in the winter? Do you have any suggestions for winter races in warm states?

State: Florida

Quest Race #: 12

Date Run: February 2, 2013

Bottom Line: The Best Damn Race is a fabulous, well-organized race in Florida that offered us a perfect mid-winter break from the cold and snow. And if you want to feel like a VIP, check into the resort for amazing starting line amenities.