Savannah, the first city in Georgia has a recorded history which dates back to 1733. It had been 20years since I last visited this coastal city and last month we had the opportunity to visit Savannah for a junior USTA tennis tournament on a 3 day weekend. Savannah has such a charm and historic vibe as evidenced from the old oak and magnolia trees to the Spanish moss. Visitors come to check out this scene unique for its architecture, the parks and squares not to mention the southern cuisine. With only a few hours in a day and several children of varying ages we chose to visit Forsyth park and the Telfair museums in between tennis matches played at the Savannah Yacht club.
Named after the 33rd governor of Georgia, John Forsyth, this 30acre park has something for for every age and interest. We were fortunate to visit on a Saturday morning when it hosts several vendors and artists during its farmers’ market hours. Food vendors from meats, to coffees and artists from painters to violinists gave a park a more than lively atmosphere as we walked through. The center of attraction for us was the water fountain not to far from the playgrounds. On first glance, this water fountain looks like one you would see in a European promenade but the striking difference was the water was green. After a lot of scientific guesses involving algae and bacteria we learned the simple reason was every year in celebration of St. Patrick’s day the water is dyed green! There is a restaurant on park property, Collins Quarter at Forsyth, which is very popular with indoor and outdoor seating available. It is located in the same building where there are public restrooms. Recreation is the name of the game with basketball courts, wide open fields where one can play football, practice yoga or have a picnic spread. The girls immediately took to the tennis courts which did not require any reservations but limited use to an hour in the event all courts were in use. Details about the park can her found here.
The Telfair museums was our pick for learning the most and maximizing our limited time while in Savannah. This 3 part museum is in 3 separate locations and we started at the Jepson Center and then the Telfair Academy and last but far from the least, The Owens-Thomas House and slave quarters. One can purchase a ticket to access all 3 locations and the tickets are valid for up to 7days after purchase. These museums are self guided with the exception of the Owens-Thomas House and slave quarters which requires same day reservations only accompanied by a tour guide. Tickets can be purchased online or in person.
Jepson Center – Located adjacent to Telfair square, this was a great place to start especially with children. The museum is comprised of 3 floors and we started on the 3rd floor where most of the exhibits were kid friendly and interactive. Concepts of symmetry and architecture like tabby are demonstrated in hands on exhibits. Lighting, music, glass, ceramics and several other mediums of art are on display in this section. There is a hallway exhibit on the art of printing paper and communication. On the second floor is an auditorium where presentations can be made even though we did not observe one. On the first floor is a restaurant and restrooms. The overall design of the entire building utilizes a lot of natural light and vibrant colors giving a playful yet clam atmosphere.
About a 7 minute walk from the Jepson Center is the former home of Mary Telfair, now the Telfair Academy. We could have definitely could have spent more time here walking through a timeless collection of art, sculptures and style that dates back to the 1800s. Mary Telfair was the daughter of former Governor Edward Telfair and heiress to the family fortune which she shared with the city of Savannah toward various buildings and endeavors as stipulated in her will upon her death in 1875. Her home with its art collections became the Telfair Academy of Arts and Sciences which opened in 1886. The architecture of the building, the sculptures, and art collection are captivating and sure to spark a lot of questions and give a peak into life of the affluent during this era. An hour and a half should be enough time to explore this home, there are different featured exhibits during the year and we were surprised to find the complete skeleton of a whale on display on the 3rd floor!
Owens-Thomas House and Slave Quarters
Located across from Oglethorpe square, our tour of the Owens-Thomas house and Slave quarters was the highlight of the Telfair museums. Reservations are only taken in person at this site on the same day as your tour. We were received by the most gracious tour guide, Tyrone, who was very aware of the limitations we may have with all the 9 children ranging in age from 1-12 between our 3 families. The tours are 45-60minutes long and are staggered among a few guides. It begins in what used to be the horse stable and the slave quarters which housed 14 enslaved people on the property by 1840. The children had several questions for our tour guide who not only set the scene of life of a slave back in time but also shared the unique features of the design and architecture at the time. In the Owens-Thomas house, set across the slave quarters beyond the garden and promenade, we came to ponder the complex nature of the master-slave relationship, the differences between the lives of slave and master as well as those differences in the upbringing of the sons and daughters of the wealthy at that time. The house is well preserved and has been modified to highlight certain aspects and inner workings of a home at that time such as an ice chamber, pipes with water for the washroom and the kitchen. This antebellum house was designed in Victorian renaissance style with emphasis on symmetry, small windows and limited ornamentation.
Savannah Yacht Club
This family friendly private club is located on the Wilmington River on Whitemarsh Island and was host to the SATA junior winter tournament in which our girls played. The facilities were excellent with both hard and clay courts which the girls loved playing on while in between matches we all found ourselves on the playground under the moss trees.
Our trip to Savannah was primarily to play in the tennis tournament and we made the most of our time on and off the courts. After taking a day to learn about the very wealthy and very poor of Savannah’s past, we have other ideas of what to explore on our next visit. I am not sure about all the details but I do know my next trip to Savannah must involve a culinary tour of its southern cuisine!
For more scenes from out trip, check out our YouTube pic log here.