The Club at Savannah Harbor, with the Talmadge Memorial Bridge in the background.

Southern Comfort

June 19, 2017 | Tampa Magazine | Activities,Culture,Travel

Only in Florida must you go north to go south.

Written By: McKenna Kelley  |  Art Director: Scott Tennant

The rich history and traditions of the American South are alive and well in Georgia, though an influx of business, art and innovation has helped cities like Atlanta and Savannah explode onto the national stage. Few states offer more depth and breadth of old and new culture than Empire State of the South.

For the state’s visitors, that means an almost overwhelming amount of things to see and do. In the next few pages, you’ll find a collection of sights, sounds and tastes specifically tailored by interest. Whether you like arts and culture, consider yourself a foodie or history buff, or just enjoy the finer things in life, Georgia will stay on your mind this summer.

If You’re Artsy

The city is home to two of the Southeast’s most renowned museums, and they’re just across the street from one another. This summer, catch the largest Andy Warhol exhibition in the U.S. at the High Museum (1280 Peachtree St. N.E.) and an inside look at the design of Luba Lukova’s social justice posters at the Museum of Design Atlanta (1315 Peachtree St. N.E.). A few blocks south, grab a sophisticated Southern lunch at South City Kitchen (1144 Crescent Ave. N.E.).

Also in the arts district, visit the legendary Fox Theatre (660 W. Peachtree St. N.W.) for a tour or to see The Avett Brothers, Sturgill Simpson or Idina Menzel, all playing the venue this summer. The Variety Playhouse (1099 Euclid Ave. N.E.) functions as both a small concert hall and a nightclub, while the Shakespeare Tavern Playhouse (499 Peachtree St. N.E.) puts a Middle Ages spin on traditional dinner theatre.

Movie and TV buffs shouldn’t miss the Atlanta Movie Tours (327 Nelson St. S.W.) to see where films like “Captain America: Civil War,” “The Hunger Games” and “The Blind Side” were filmed. For sci-fi fans, the tour company has four different “Walking Dead”-themed tours of sets from all seven seasons of the show, and it is creating a tour based around the hit Netflix show “Stranger Things.”

Atlanta’s art is centered in Midtown, so a suite at the Loews Atlanta Hotel (1065 Peachtree St. N.E.) or a room with a view of Piedmont Park at the W Atlanta Midtown (188 14th St. N.E.) will put you within walking distance of museums and theatres.

Savannah & Augusta
The Savannah College of Art and Design is spread out across the city, so you’ll find students’ work in a variety of shops and restaurants. Purchase some of these pieces at ShopSCAD (340 Bull St., Savannah), and stop by the SCAD Museum of Art (601 Turner Blvd., Savannah) to see cutting-edge contemporary art exhibits that change quarterly. Its sister museum, the SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film (1600 Peachtree St. N.W.), is located just north of Midtown Atlanta.

Spend the night at the historic, AAA four-diamond rated Hamilton-Turner Inn (330 Abercorn St., Savannah) in Lafayette Square and take a day trip to Augusta for the Saturday Market (8th St., Augusta) along the Riverwalk’s Artist Row. Make time to tour the Morris Museum of Art (110th St., Augusta), the first museum dedicated to art from the American South.

If You’re A Foodie

The quality of Atlanta’s restaurant scene is proven in the city’s four 2017 James Beard Foundation Award nominees and six semi-finalists. Miller Union (999 Brady Ave.) received the Outstanding Wine Program nomination while its executive chef, Steven Satterfield, won the award for Best Chef in the Southeast. Joining him in that category this year was Ryan Smith of Staplehouse (541 Edgewood Ave. S.E.). Finally, St. Cecilia (3455 Peachtree Road N.E.) serves up coastal Italian with a Southern flair in a dining room that won for Outstanding Restaurant Design.

The Federal (1050 Crescent Ave.) was an immediate hit when it opened in late 2016 thanks to Chef Shaun Doty’s recreations of some of the dishes, like steak frites, that have earned him a following during his illustrious career as an Atlanta chef. Another favorite Atlanta restaurateur is Eddie Hernandez of Taqueria del Sol (1200 B-Howell Mill Road and 2165 Cheshire Bridge Road), a simple operation that offers just six kinds of tacos, four kinds of enchiladas and a handful of sides and specials with delicious results.

Atlanta Metro
A stone’s throw from Downtown Atlanta, Decatur is home to two James Beard semi-finalists. Kimball House (303 W. Howard Ave., Decatur) was nominated for its bar program, which includes traditional cocktails (French 75), twists on old favorites (blood orange daiquiri) and absinthe service. Around the corner, regional best chef nominee Billy Allin has crafted a small, rotating menu that focuses on vegetables and just four main dishes at Cakes & Ale (155 Sycamore St., Decatur).

In Duluth, Chef Ri Liu’s Masterpiece (3940 Buford Highway, Duluth) doesn’t even have a website, yet his authentic Sichuan Chinese cuisine made him a James Beard semi-finalist. Similarly unassuming, Chef Brian So’s New American farm-to-table dishes at Spring (90 Marietta Station Walk N.E., Marietta) have won raves, including from the James Beard Foundation.

Travel guides, and even locals, will typically (and rightfully) direct you to the highly popular Olde Pink House (23 Abercorn St.) for elegant Southern cuisine. Get a similar experience a little more off the beaten path at Elizabeth on 37th (105 E. 37th St.). Open since 1981, the restaurant sits in a traditional 20th century mansion and offers a seasonal menu to guests each night.

Savannah’s most-talked about restaurant is likely The Grey (109 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.). Housed in a former Greyhound station, the restaurant marries high and low cuisine, resulting in dishes like sirloin and oxtails alongside a raw bar and duck liver.

If You’re A History Buff

The linear Freedom Park connects two of the city’s preeminent historical sites. The King Center (449 Auburn Ave. N.E.), houses exhibits about the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr. On the other side of the park, the Carter Center and Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum (441 Freedom Parkway N.E.) features an exact replica of President Carter’s Oval Office and the gifts presented by foreign dignitaries during his administration.

Adjacent to Centennial Olympic Park (265 Park Ave. W. N.W.) downtown is the Center for Civil and Human Rights (100 Ivan Allen Jr. Blvd. N.W.), which recognizes the civil and human rights struggles from the 1960s to today. Don’t leave Atlanta without swinging by the world-famous Varsity (61 North Ave. N.W.) for a Combo No. 1 and F.O. (that’s Varsity lingo for two chili dogs and an orange milkshake). Give in to your chili dog-induced drowsiness at the century-old Georgian Terrace (659 Peachtree St. N.E.), a hotel that has hosted Walt Disney, F. Scott Fitzgerald and the cast of “Gone with the Wind” for their premiere gala.

Considering almost the entire city is a National Historic Landmark District, Savannah is the place to be for amateur historians. Between Atlanta and Savannah, stop in Macon to see the Tubman Museum (310 Cherry St.), the largest African-American art and culture museum in the U.S.

Savannah’s grid layout makes it easy to wander from square to square and take in sites like the fountain at Forsyth Park (Drayton St. and W. Gaston St.). At Oglethorpe Square, you’ll find the Owens-Thomas House (124 Abercorn St.), a historic English Regency mansion and one of the three institutions of the Telfair Museums.

Open since the 1880s, the Telfair Museums also include the Telfair Academy (121 Barnard St.), a former mansion that features 18th and 19th century American and European art, and the Jepson Center (207 W. York St.), a contemporary art museum that houses works like the famous “Bird Girl” statue featured on the cover of the Savannah-set book “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”

Book fans can tour the Mercer-Williams House (429 Bull St.), a Civil War-era home that served as one of “Midnight’s” main settings. Stay nearby in one of the luxurious guestrooms of the Mansion on Forsyth Park (700 Drayton St.) where you can visit the in-house Grand Bohemian Art Gallery and take a cooking class right in the restaurant’s kitchen.

If You Like The Finer Things

Near Atlanta
A suite at The Ritz-Carlton, Reynolds at Lake Oconee (1 Lake Oconee Trail, Greensboro) is just minutes from the six golf courses of Reynolds Lake Oconee (100 Linger Longer Road, Greensboro), designed by the likes of Bob Cupp, Rees Jones and Tom Fazio. The Jack Nicklaus-designed Great Waters course sits beside Lake Oconee, surely helping its ranking as one of Golf Magazine’s 100 best public courses in the U.S.

Château Élan Winery & Resort (100 Rue Charlemagne Dr., Baselton) features two 18-hole courses and a 9-hole executive par-3 course for resort guests. Take an afternoon away from the links to get an up-close look at the winemaking process, followed by a wine and cheese tasting, during the winery’s Elite Tour.

In the city, Buckhead is the place for upscale shopping. Lenox Square Mall (3393 Peachtree Road, N.E., Atlanta) offers retailers like Cartier and Prada, while The Shops Buckhead Atlanta (3035 Peachtree Road N.W., Atlanta) houses Christian Louboutin, Dior, Hermés and Tom Ford, among others. Unwind after a long day of shopping with a Peaches and Cream massage treatment at The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, Atlanta (3376 Peachtree Road N.E., Atlanta) and a night in a Midtown Suite at the Four Seasons Atlanta (75 14th St. N.E., Atlanta).

Near Savannah
Sea Island Resort’s (100 Cloister Dr., Sea Island) Seaside course, a Scottish-style course along the Atlantic Ocean and one of three courses at the resort, was also named one of Golf Magazine’s best public courses. Rooms are spread out across the resort in in four unique areas, including along a private beach, adjacent to the golf courses and in private cottages.

In the city, The Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa (1 Resort Drive, Savannah) conveniently faces the shopping, dining and entertainment of Savannah’s River Street while also providing the seclusion of a golf course and private beach. The Club at Savannah Harbor (2 Resort Drive, Savannah), located just across the street, hosted a PGA TOUR event for 10 years and features 18 holes designed by Robert Cupp and Sam Snead.

Hop the Savannah Belles Ferry to visit the historic district’s hidden gems, including the local shops and boutiques of the Downtown Design District (around Chatham and Monterey Squares) and the Milan Day Spa (10 E. Broughton St., Savannah). Broughton Street is also home to the European-style Paris Market and Brocante (36 W. Broughton St.) and the quirky thrift shop Civvies (14 E. Broughton St.). End your day at the Bohemian Hotel Savannah Riverfront’s (102 W. Bay St., Savannah) rooftop lounge for Southern-inspired tapas and handcrafted cocktails.

Do you want to see more of this or similar features?