Two Easy Walking Tours from the Hyatt
While it may be a good idea to plan on taking a guided trolley tour or walking tour of Savannah at some point, it is very easy to immerse yourself into the charm and flavor of Savannah as soon as you arrive in town. The Hyatt Regency is perfectly located one block from Bull Street (the main north-south bisector of the Historic District), sitting on both River Street (on the water) and Bay Street (about two levels up from the river).
If you walk out the front of the Hyatt, onto Bay Street, make a left and walk one block to Bull Street. Turn right, and you will be headed for a beautiful walk through several of Savannah's historic squares, towards Forsyth Park. It is slightly less than one mile to Forsyth Park. If you would rather explore the Riverfront first (or take a shorter walk), head out the back exit of the hotel to River Street. Head east (or, for my friend Perry, turn right), and the river awaits you.
Walk #1 - Bull Street
Exit the Hyatt onto Bay Street, turn left, walking past the gold-domed City Hall, to Bull Street. Make a right turn and head south across the street and towards the squares (away from the river).
The first square you reach is Johnson Square, one of the oldest squares in Savannah. It has a monument to Brigadier General Nathanael Greene, one of George Washington's right-hand men. He is buried beneath the monument. Across from the far left corner of the square is the Episcopal Christ Church.
Continue south for a few blocks until you reach Wright Square (named after New York Met third baseman David Wright). It is a public square - there are no private houses surrounding this square. To the immediate left is the Lutheran Church of the Ascension. To the right is the U.S. Courthouse. In the back end of the square is Tomochichi's Rock. Yamacraw Indian Chief Tomochichi is buried here. He, along with Oglethorpe, were responsible for years of peaceful co-existence in early Savannah. The rock is from a quarry in Stone Mountain, Georgia. To the left of the square is the Old County Courthouse.
As you head further south on Bull Street, you will pass the birth place of Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts, on the left side of the street, just before you reach Oglethorpe Street. Girl Scouts from all over the country come to visit this house. As you cross Oglethorpe Street, make sure you are on the right-hand side of the street (across the street from the Low House). In the median on Oglethorpe Street you will see a marker commemorating the burial site given by Oglethorpe to the Jewish community in 1733. About 40 Sephardic Jews were among the earliest of the settlers in Savannah. The marker names those who are actually buried at this site.
As you cross over Oglethorpe Street, you will pass the Independent Presbyterian Church to your right. As you approach the front of Chippewa Square, you may or may not recognize this to be the location of the famous bus stop bench scene in the film Forrest Gump. For whatever reason, the shot was filmed with the traffic going in the opposite direction of the actual flow around the square. Hollywood! The First Baptist Church is to the right of the square and the old Savannah Theater is to your left.
As your head south towards the next square, you will pass the Six Pence Pub on your right. It is worth a visit at some point. As you approach Madison Square, you will pass the Sorrel-Weed House (the Pumpkin House) on your right. The Green-Meldrim House will also be on your right as you make your way to the majestic St. John's Church. As you leave Madison Square, you will see the Gryphon Tea Room on your right and the SCAD Gift Shop on your left. Both are worth a visit.
As you proceed to Monterey Square, you will see the famous/infamous Mercer House towards the back right side of the square. It was made famous in the book Midnight in The Garden of Good and Evil. To the back left of the square is the very unique home of Congregation Mickve Israel. It is the third oldest Jewish congregation in the U.S. and the only Gothic style synagogue in the country. It is also worth a visit inside.
As you continue south, you will reach Forsyth Park. Continue inside to the iconic fountain. It's a beautiful park.
If you are interested in a different route back to the Hyatt, as you back out of Forsyth Park, turn right and go two blocks to Abercorn Street. Turn left and head back towards the river.
As you approach Calhoun Square, the Massie Heritage Center will be to your right before the square.
As you approach the next square, Lafayette Square, you can find the Flannery O'Connor childhood home to your right on Charlton Street. The Andrew Low House is to the left of the square. (If you are tired, there is a stop for the free DOT shuttle bus at Lafayette Square that will take you back to Johnson Square, the first square we visited and the one closest to the Hyatt.)
If you continue your walk, just past Lafayette Square on your right is the magnificent Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. It is worth a visit inside. Continuing north on Abercorn, you will pass the Colonial Park Cemetery. Burials were made here from 1750 to 1853. It is a popular stop on all of the many Savannah Ghost Walks.
At the far right side of the next square, Oglethorpe Square, is the Owens-Thomas House. It is from a balcony here that the Marquis de Lafayette came to dedicate the Nathanael Greene Monument in 1825.
As you approach Reynolds Square, you will pass the historic Lucas Theater, nicely maintained by SCAD, on your right. At the far left of the square is the Olde Pink House, one of the best restaurants in town - definitely worth a visit for a meal. You probably need to make a reservation.
Continue north for two short
blocks to Bay Street. Make a left and walk a few blocks until you
pass the gold dome of City Hall. The Hyatt is on the right. Time for
either a nap or a drink.
Walk #2 - River Street
You will need to take a separate elevator, to the rear and side of the Hyatt, in order to get down to River Street. When you exit the hotel, head east (to the right, in the direction of the riverboats). One of the first things you will see is the African American Monument, from 2002, depicting emancipation from slavery.
As you walk down the cobblestone streets, you will see the old factor buildings and Factors Walk to your right. You will also see the many restaurants and shops that line River Street. One of the hardest shops to pass by without stopping is the River Street Sweet Shop. You will also see many popular restaurants and gift shops.
You will see the Savannah Riverboats to your left. This year's Social Event will be a dinner cruise on the newly commissioned Georgia Queen.
As you continue along the river, past Lincoln Street, you will see the River Street Market Place on the river side of the street. There are lots of interesting little items for sale in there.
Keep walking along the river until you reach the Waving Girl. Florence Martus is said to have waved at every ship coming into or leaving Savannah for 44 years. Just past the Waving Girl is the Olympic Yachting Cauldron, commemorating Savannah's participation in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, as the venue of the yachting events.
On your return trip, you may
want to venture up the cobblestone walks of Factors Walk. Most of
the structures there date back to the 19th century and the days of
cotton factors and brokers.