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Socially distant adventures on the Carolina coast
It’s that time again. It’s been a week since you’ve left the house and it’s enough stir-crazy between your partner or your kids for a lifetime. Even the dog is sick of you. Here are ten things you can do in an expertly planned one day trip on South Carolina coast. Pack the day full, because even though it’s not a week in Cabo, it will make going home feel relaxing enough to mask the crazy. Kayaking at Sunrise in Charleston Plentiful waterways make up the iconic scenery of Charleston. What better way to enjoy what Charleston has to offer while remaining primarily secluded than kayaking at sunrise. Further out of town the top rated company Charleston Outdoor Adventures offers kayaking and paddleboarding to escape the city life. Make online reservations to plan ahead and stay distanced. As always, bring your own sanitizing wipes and sanitizer. ©f11photo/ShutterstockBreakfast Downtown Charleston Many of the restaurants in Charleston vary from dine-in to takeout only or closed all together. This is why we recommend heading downtown. This socially distanced option allows you to pick up whatever you want (we recommend Toast! a charleston breakfast hotspot) because there are several great outdoor picnic spots around. Just pick up your tasty treat and find yours. On a slower day mid week, you could even go to Joe Wiley Waterfront Park to find a picnic spot. This park offers a great look into historic Charleston. Cobblestone streets lead you to a scenic fountain and pier. The walk along the way is beautiful too. South Carolina Aquarium Get out of the heat, even though it’s morning, don’t doubt the East Coast humidity. The one indoor activity on here features the South Carolina Aquarium who takes social distancing very seriously. They believe “as a scientific organization, it is our duty to keep the health and safety of our guests and staff top priority.” Find more information on their FAQ page about safe visiting. The aquarium requires guests to purchase timed entries online to limit the capacity of visitors and to wear a face mask at all times. Beach Picnic in Hilton Head Take the day elsewhere by driving down to Hilton Head. Just two hours away travelers can make it for an afternoon picnic on the beach. On the main beach, many seafood restaurants offer outside seating or takeout. But who wouldn’t want to eat by the waves? All beach access and surrounding recreations restored to normal. For those searching for less crowds, you might have better luck finding a beach access point off of the main. Rent a Bike in Hilton Head Just like the Kayaks, make sure you bring hand sanitizing wipes. Even with sanitizing practices of their own, you can never be too careful. The options for rentals seem almost limitless. All across the island visitors can find beach cruisers. Biking around the beaches or the walk ways amongst the trees is a great way to spend the afternoon. You can do this alone or with a small group (we recommend nothing over six). When you get hot or tired, jump in the ocean. When it comes to getting out of the house, nothing beats a little bit of exercise to boost the seratonin. Golf in Hilton Head But if biking just isn’t your vibe, then try golfing. This is another outdoor, energy boosting activity with lots of walking and enjoyment (but none of the pedaling). Though, this is a little bit of a pricier option. Tee times run around $100 for the surrounding courses. The most expensive course looks out to the ocean. Golden Bear golf clubs hold one of the highest rating clubs in the area. This sport thrives through social distancing. As you know by now, it’s great as long as you bring some hand sanitizing wipes for the clubs and the cart. Sunset in Hilton Head, SC. Photo by Laura BrownWatch the sunset in Hilton HeadHilton Head has a plethora of fantastic places to sip a cocktail and watch the sunset. Our favorites are the Skull Creek Boathouse on the north side of the island, and the Sunset Grill on the Western side. The Sunset Grill is an upscale restaurant nestled in the Hilton Head Harbor RV Resort, for the RV enthusiasts. Margs at the Park in Savannah Once you’ve finished the afternoon in Hilton Head, drive on down to Savannah. Another short drive away, Savannah brings in visitors all over the state for the simple fact of open carry alcohol. While bars start to open their doors to guests, the numbers are already growing for tourists. If you are really looking for a way to travel away from the crowds, the best option is to head over to Tequila Town, or any other bar, and grab an open cup margarita. Then find yourself a nice, lonely park bench to enjoy it on. The evenings start to cool down and what better way to cap off a day of fun. ©Sean Pavone/ShutterstockHorse Drawn Carriages in Savannah Traveling historic Savannah is the second best part to the city, so do it in style. You know, it also keeps you several feet above everyone else (probable a six foot distance if you know what I mean). Horse drawn carriages are back in business and taking riders in fewer quantities with more time in between. Beach Under the Stars at Tybee Island Tybee island is a local favorite for anyone in Savannah. The best times to go are for sunrise and the stars. Bring drinks, dessert and a blanket. You’ll find good company among some of the others who come out, but mostly with the crabs. There isn’t much light pollution in Savannah to begin with, but there is hardly any in Tybee. On a clear night, you can see everything and listen to the waves. Enjoy the Road Lastly it’s about enjoying the road trip. These days, just getting out of the house is an adventure, even if you spend most of your time in the car listening to your favorite songs driving from place to place. A trip from Charleston to Hilton Head to Savannah might not seem like a typical day trip, but why not rise to the challenge? Where else can you drive in a day? (P.s. we highly recommend the new Taylor Swift album Folklore for your road trip tunes.)Kylie Ruffino is a Budget Travel intern for Summer 2020. She is a student at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD)
The 6 wildest New Year’s Eve celebrations in the US
Finding the perfect place to celebrate New Year’s Eve is always a little stressful. Whether you’re looking to party hard, bring the kids or just chill out, there’s no doubt expectations run high. To help settle your holiday anxieties, we’ve picked the best places to ring in 2020 around the country. So, make those reservations, mark your calendar, kick back and relax. New Orleans, LA Music! Food! Cocktails! Culture! Party it up in this happening southern city, where the weather is mild enough to celebrate al fresco, but there’s plenty to do inside. Jackson Square is where the big action happens, with the Fleur De Lis drop at midnight, but you can make reservations at music venues like Tipitina’s and the House of Blues if you prefer to boogie down. The Big Easy is also known for its over-the-top cuisine and favorites like Galatoire’s and Café Degas do stunning special menus. Got kids? The Louisiana Children’s Museum does a New Year’s countdown at noon for those with early bedtimes and the Audobon Zoo does a family-centric celebration in the morning. Football fans get an extra-added bonus and you can nab a ticket to the New Year’s Day Allstate Sugar Bowl here. New York, NY If you can make it there, you really can make it anywhere, because New Year’s Eve in New York City is a wild ride. If you’re willing to brave the crowds, and the temperatures, you can join the festivities in Times Square, which starts at 6pm and culminates in the Waterford Crystal Ball dropping at midnight. This year, performers include Sting and Christina Aguilera. Want to stay close but warm? Get your cocktail on, tiki-style, at The Pod Hotels 42’s The Polynesian. Celebratory fireworks are also part of the NYC NYE and you can watch them explode in downtown Manhattan’s South Street Seaport or Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. For a high-end culinary tour de force, make reservations for the tasting menu at Eleven Madison Park or book a room at 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge and nab two tickets to spectacular views of the skyline at Brooklyn Heights Social Club’s Classic NYE Celebration. Las Vegas, NV In a town where every night feels like New Year’s Eve, it may be hard to choose how you want to celebrate. Thankfully, the city makes it special by closing the entire strip down for traffic, so there really is dancing in the streets. And, come midnight, you’ll be treated to a stupendous fireworks display coordinated by the casinos. If you’re looking for something with less than the approximately 300,000 guests on the strip, you can grab tickets for parties Like Nas New Year’s Eve at Tao or the family-friendly party at Hofbrauhaus, which starts at 3pm to celebrate alongside its original beer hall in Munich. If it’s music you’re after, there’s much to choose from, like Calvin Harris at Omnia, Drake at XS Nightclub, Lady Gaga at Park MGM and Maroon 5 at Mandalay Bay. Savannah, GA Dripping with as much southern charm as Spanish moss, pedestrian friendly Savannah is the perfect home base for NYE festivities. Spend the day exploring the 22 different squares, antebellum mansions and cobblestone streets in the Historic district, including Forrest Gump’s infamous bus stop in Chippewa Square. Then head to City Market, where you can grab some grub, walk the market and catch live music all night long. Next, wander down to the hopping River District for a countdown to the Up the Cup ball drop, which is a six-foot to-go cup ringing in 2020. If you’re looking for something more elegant, you can make reservations at the Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa for dinner followed by a rocking dance party or keep closer to the festivities with a meal from the four-course tasting menu at Vic’s on the River. Midnight fireworks will explode over River Street as well, but you can also catch them at the city’s Tybee Island beach. Honolulu, HA Most people don’t need a reason to visit paradise, but if you’re heading to Honolulu for the holidays, there’s plenty of things to do if you can scrape yourself off the close to perfect beaches. The Party of the Year is in its 10th iteration and though the location and headliner hasn’t yet been announced, you can buy your tickets now. Tiki’s Waikiki is also hosting a massive blowout Soiree Dinner & Party, with a four-course dinner, flowing cocktails, live bands, a DJ and of course, dancing. For a family-friendly option, check out Moana Surfrider’s around the world-themed celebration, with DJ Baby G, kid’s activities and an oceanfront seat for the massive fireworks show over Waikiki Beach. The Hilton Hawaiian Village will also have its own fireworks over the lagoon. Of course, it wouldn’t be Hawaii without a luau, and you can enjoy all the local food and fun you and the kids can handle at the Halekulani and Rock a Hula. Phoenix, AZ Want to stay dry and warm this New Year’s? Phoenix is a fine bet. And in addition to having a number of all-inclusive hotels, like the spacious and family-friendly Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch, located just east of the city limits, you can also grab a ticket for the Crescent New Year’s Eve 2020 Block party, which gives you access to four of the biggest parties in the downtown area. If you’d rather stay in one place, check out the arts-and music-heavy Flannel Ball NYE Party and Art Show or book the accompanying Cloth & Flame five-course dinner, all happening at the Roosevelt Row Arts District. Or bring the whole family to the Medieval Times celebration and enjoy a two-hour tournament and a four-course feast as well as music, dancing and of course, admission to the Museum of Torture.
Affordable American Winter Beach Escapes
When the mercury drops a little too much and the snow piles up a little too high, it’s time for a winter escape. We’ve rounded up some of America’s finest winter beaches, each with its own distinct flavor at a price that’s right. THE GEORGIA COAST When it comes to warm beaches, great price, and convenience, Georgia should spring to mind this time of year. The barrier islands of the state’s southern coast offer some of the best stretches of sand, great weather, and the welcoming vibe every vacationer craves. We love St. Simons Island for its incredible white-sand beaches, history, and ample golf courses, but we also love that the best way to get around the island may be on a rented beach cruiser bike, giving you the opportunity to leave your car behind and truly disconnect from all the stuff you went on vacation to escape. Points of interest on the island include a charming lighthouse, a 19th-century church, and ancient oak trees with their distinctive moss drapery. Grab a plate of shrimp and grits at Crabdaddy’s Seafood Grill and grab an affordable room (well under $150/night) at the Village Inn & Pub and other hotels on the island. To learn more about St. Simons Island, visit exploregeorgia.org. An easy day trip from St. Simons Island, Jekyll Island is relatively wild (more than 60 percent of its land is protected from development) and home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Georgia. Just drive back to the mainland from St. Simons and over the bridge to Jekyll, where you’ll find 10 miles of beach (including favorites Driftwood and Glory), the 250-acre Historic Landmark District, the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, a water park, and four golf courses. To learn more about Jekyll Island, visit exploregeorgia.org. Tybee Island is a 20-minute drive from Savannah, making it one of the most convenient winter escapes in the U.S., not to mention one of the most affordable. Here, you’ll find classic beach activities like a boardwalk, pier, and souvenir shops, low-key restaurants like the Crab Shack (yu must try the steamed oysters and Low Country boil with shrimp, sausage, and potatoes), and comfy motels, the beachfront Hotel Tybee (well under $150/night) and others. What’s not to love? Don’t miss the Tybee Island Light Station and Museum, a 270-year-old site with historic buildings that visitors can tour and the Civil War-era Fort Pulaski National Monument on nearby Cockspur Island. To learn more about Tybee Island, visit exploregeorgia.org. MOLOKAI, HAWAII No traffic lights. No resorts. The world’s highest sea cliffs. Volcanoes (don’t worry they’re extinct). If you can’t relax on Molokai, the least-visited of the major Hawaiian islands, it’s possible you’re just not trying hard enough. Seek out the gold sand of Papohaku beach, visit the island’s biggest town (a whopping 7,000 people live there), and head to downtown Kaunakakai for local Hawaiian favorites such as mahi-mahi. CATALINA ISLAND, CALIFORNIA For anyone who has visited Los Angeles and complained about the traffic (aka, everyone): We love the fact that cars aren’t allowed on Catalina, just 22 miles off the Southern California coast, unless you count golf carts, which you can rent if you really need to. Yes, this is a place to really get away from it all. After the 90-minute ferry ride, you’ll enter another world, where bicycles are the best way to get around, and exploring the island’s interior in search of birds (you may even see a bald eagle), is one of the prime activities. The town of Avalon is where you’ll find charming shops, restaurants, and affordable lodging. PUERTO RICO Besides being a quick flight from many U.S. cities, no passport required, Puerto Rico can also use your help: Tourism dollars help fund the island’s recovery from hurricane damage sustained in 2017. You’ll love the beaches, great food, and natural beauty, typified by El Yunque National Forest, a rainforest (bring a poncho!), perfect for a half- or full-day guided tour of sites such as La Coca Falls and the Yokahu Lookout Tower. Feast on traditional local fare such as arepas and plantains, washed down with a pina colada (the drink was invented in Puerto Rico in the 1950s), and tour charming Old San Juan, one of the oldest and most historic city centers in the U.S. For great views, visit El Morro National Monument, a 16th-century Spanish colonial fort that offers some of the most Instagrammable moments in the Caribbean. ST. CROIX, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS The easternmost point in the United States is in the Caribbean, in the U.S. Virgin Islands: St. Croix may be small as far as islands go, but when it comes to winter getaways, it sure reminds you that good things come in small packages, with great opportunities for swimming, snorkeling, eating Caribbean favorites such as conch and snapper, and acres of golf for those who define “vacation” as time on the links. We love historic Christiansted, where you’ll find reliable hotels and restaurants at good prices.
Take an Eating (and Drinking!) Tour of Georgia
It’s no secret that Georgia’s cities boast some of America’s tastiest plates, with cool multicultural riffs on traditional favorites and fresh, locally sourced ingredients. But we’re here to tell you that you’ll also find good eats in the mountains, along the coast, and in small towns you’ll love discovering along the way. Here, your road map to discovering the best foodie finds in Georgia. SAVANNAH There may be no city in Georgia more “foodie” than Savannah, with soul food, seafood, Asian, Italian, and more - including the distinctive local “red rice.” - cooking in kitchens across the city, especially the revitalized River Street warehouse district. Start your day at B. Mathews for their great breakfast sandwich, and basically keep eating all day long. We love Old Pink House for shrimp and grits, especially the “Southern sushi,” which is smoked shrimp and grits rolled in coconut-crusted nori seaweed. Head to Pacci for contemporary riffs on Italian recipes and its gorgeous interior design. Bernie’s is the place when you just want fresh oysters and shrimp in a laid-back environment; and Collins Quarter serves up some of the city’s finest hamburgers. When evening rolls around, wet your whistle at Savannah Taphouse and tuck into their sweet tea fried chicken (yes, marinated in the iconic summer beverage - it doesn’t get any more Southern than that), or raise a glass and take in some live blues at Bayou Cafe. If you have room for dessert, you won’t regret a stop at Savannah’s candy Kitchen for a candy-dipped apple boasting indulgent ribbons of chocolate. THE COAST Remember, as good as the food in Savannah is, a visit to the nearby coast will deliver a dose of unforgettable dishes you shouldn’t miss. On St. Simons Island, Crabdaddy’s Seafood Grill has been family-owned for 30 years, delivering a welcoming ambience and fantastic food like shrimp and grits, the day’s catch, or great steak. Also on St. Simons Island, ECHO is renowned for its shrimp and grits, and the Public House offers succulent pork chops. On Tybee Island, the Crab Shack is a consistent favorite among Budget Travelers for its great prices and for its super-fresh seafood - try the steamed oysters or the extremely filling “Low Country boil,” which includes shrimp, sausage, and potatoes. ATLANTA It comes as no surprise that Georgia’s capital city is a must-eat destination for traveling foodies. Chef Wendy Chang’s Herban Fix serves Asian-inspired vegan dishes such as soy beef and soy chicken that even carnivores love. Atlanta is home to so many top-notch eateries, it deserves an eating tour all its own. Some highlights include seafood-centric Italian meals such as shrimp and lemon linguine at Saltyard and “black spaghetti at Boccalupo (psst, the color comes, of course, from squid ink). You’ll also want to head outside the city to some of the Atlanta metro area’s most delicious communities, including pimento cheese fritters at Chicken and the Egg in Marietta, and perfect buttermilk fried chicken at Food 101 in Sandy Springs. And we especially love the Iberian Pig in Decatur, where an array of, you guessed it, pork takes center stage, including incredible tacos with grilled corn salsa and avocado crema. ATHENS Ready to get beyond the big cities and beaches? Try something different: A cool college town. Granted, Athens is no ordinary college town, with a major university and incredibly diverse population that craves, in addition to great indie music and intellectual pursuits, the finest local food. Start with classic Southern fare at Weaver D’s, including fried chicken, mac and cheese, and apple cobbler, and grab a local cocktail like the bourbon and ginger ale at the Manhattan Cafe, then move on to some unique (and uniquely delicious) joints like Big City Bread Cafe for a spicy lamb burger or Mama Jewel’s Kitchen where the fried chicken and biscuits are given an imaginative upgrade thanks to jalapeno peach jelly and melted brie. THE MOUNTAINS A trip to Georgia’s mountains yields an entirely new world of good eating, with smaller towns grabbing the spotlight with delightful, imaginative culinary offerings. Those who know the state’s mountains know that two major fresh local ingredients are pecans and trout. Lake Rabun Hotel & Restaurant in Lakemont makes it easy to enjoy both with its pecan-encrusted mountain trout. Because no trip to the Georgia countryside would be complete without savoring some BBQ, drop by Jim’s Smokin’ Que in Blairsville for baby back ribs and smoked chicken smothered in the restaurant’s house-made sauce. And if you haven’t tried fried green tomatoes yet, there’s not better place to give them a try than Tam’s Tupelo in Cumming, where the BLT sliders are topped with the tasty Southern favorite, not to mention upscale fixins’ that include pepper-crusted bacon, arugula, and tomato jam. Learn more about everything there is to eat and drink in Georgia at exploregeorgia.org.
The Sea Islands of Georgia
Day 1: Savannah to Tybee Island My husband, Michael, and I land in Savannah around lunchtime. Georgia's First City, as Savannah declares itself, is architecturally awesome--and maddening for drivers. Tour buses slowly crawl around historic squares. Tourists cluster in the middle of the street to peer at the impeccably restored 18th- and 19th-century houses. We have to go through town to get to our evening's destination, Tybee Island, so our plan is to park, fortify with some food, and get on our way. Our first attempt at finding barbecue is unsuccessful. We make do with a black-eyed-pea sandwich at B. Matthews Bakery; it's a delicious approximation of a spicy falafel. I pocket a chocolate-chip cookie for the 18-mile drive to Tybee. Georgia's most developed island feels kind of like Atlantic City meets Coney Island--a little shabby, but that shabbiness often translates to a retro charm. The Basta family runs the Georgianne Inn, three houses in from the beach, and the adult son Nick is our enthusiastic host. We borrow two cruiser bikes, and Nick gives us 10 minutes of pointers. Tybee's tides are remarkably low, so from mid-afternoon until sunset there's at least 50 feet of packed sand to play on. The southern side of the beach, beyond a long pier, has high winds, which attract kitesurfers, kiteboarders, and old-fashioned kite fliers. For dinner, we head over to The Crab Shack, a Tybee institution whose motto is "Where the Elite Eat in Their Bare Feet"--but which we'll always remember as the kind of establishment where patrons bring their own beer cozies. Calling it a shack is either false humility or wishful nostalgia--it's more like a Crab Complex, with cutesy signs (DRINKING TO FORGET? PLEASE PAY IN ADVANCE), Jimmy Buffett on rotation, and a Gift Shack. We put our names on the waiting list and visit the man-made Gator Lagoon, where antsy kids are poking at baby alligators with sticks. We order salty snow crab; a low-country boil of shrimp, potatoes, and sausage; and steamed oysters, which arrive unshucked. The food is good, but I'm otherwise engaged. There's a garbage can embedded in the center of each of the tables, and for some reason this excites me. No sooner has Michael shucked an oyster than I've tossed the shell into the pail. When our waitress comes to clear, I proudly declare that I've taken care of it for her. Day one Lodging Georgianne Inn1312 Butler Ave., Tybee Island, 800/596-5301, georgianneinn.com, from $65 Food B Matthews Eatery325 E. Bay St., Savannah, 912/233-1319, black-eyed-pea sandwich $6 The Crab Shack40 Estill Hammock Rd., Tybee Island, 912/786-9857, low-country boil $13 Day 2: Tybee Island to St. Simons Island By 8:30 a.m., there are 20 people waiting for a table at The Breakfast Club, a squat stucco house two blocks from the Georgianne. Joseph Sadowsky, an alum of the Culinary Institute of America, was recruited by John F. Kennedy Jr. and Carolyn Bessette to cater their wedding. He's pretty great on less fancy fare, too. I have a spicy homemade sausage patty with poached eggs and buttery grits. The low-ceilinged room, with sticky brown plastic tablecloths, isn't built for lingering--just as well, considering the line outside. Highway 17, the main scenic road tracing the coast, doesn't offer much to look at until we put some distance between us and Savannah. But by the time we reach Riceboro, we're breezing under a canopy of live oaks. At South Newport, we pull off the two-lane highway to see what's billed as the smallest church in America, the Memory Park Christ Chapel. The 56-year-old nondenominational church--open 24/7 and rentable for weddings--is just 10 feet by 15 feet, with seating for only 12. A sign asks visitors to shut the door tight when leaving, which turns off the lights. I follow the instructions, perhaps too much so--the church is still rattling as we walk back to the car. Most of the islands connect to the mainland by causeways. Getting to Sapelo Island, however, requires a 30-minute ferry from Meridian across the Intracoastal Waterway. It could just as well be a time machine. When the Civil War came, the heirs of a big plantation owner, Thomas Spalding, abandoned the island, their cotton and sugarcane plantations, and many slaves. The isolation allowed the former slaves, originally from West Africa, to sustain their own self-governing community and their own language, called Geechee. To this day, 57 descendants live on Hog Hammock, a 434-acre spread. Tobacco magnate R.J. Reynolds bought the island in 1934 but didn't mess around with Hog Hammock; he breathed new life into an existing mansion and established a wildlife area that's now run by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. The island also has a marine institute operated by the University of Georgia. To get access to Sapelo you have to have a reservation, either for a tour or at one of the island's two inns. (Before you board, you'll be asked who'll be greeting you on the other end; no name, no go.) I'd booked a tour with Yvonne Grovner, who runs trips five days a week for the Georgia D.N.R. Yvonne grew up on the mainland; she met her husband, a Geechee, in high school and moved to Hog Hammock once they got married. During a three-hour drive, Yvonne introduces us to other residents and points out the pastel, one-story shacks, most of which are abandoned. We see ruins of an old sugar mill, miles of deserted dunes on Nannygoat Beach, and the exquisitely faded Reynolds mansion. It looks like a double for the one in the 1998 movie of Great Expectations. When Yvonne moved to Hog Hammock in 1980, there were more than 100 people; today, there are about half that. Fifteen school-age kids take the ferry each day to go to school; as they get older, there's not much to keep them on the island. One person she takes us to meet is Cornelia Bailey, who runs the bar (The Trough) and the gift shop (The Pig Pen), where she sells shells and Yvonne's handmade sweetgrass baskets. Michael asks Cornelia if she's always lived in Hog Hammock. "Is there anywhere else?" she says, with a wry smile. The ferry ride back is lulling, the horizon interrupted only by green reeds and salt marshes. We drive south toward Brunswick, and then over a causeway. St. Simons Island is a world away from Sapelo. Kids in fluorescent flip-flops march giddily along the main drag, while dads golf and moms go shopping. We hunt down one of the island's five tree spirits--droopy, somewhat spooky faces that were carved into live oaks to commemorate sailors who died on boats made from St. Simons trees. (The easiest one to find is on Mallery Street, next to Murphy's Tavern.) At Zuzu's, a '50s-style diner adjacent to the pier, we share a root beer float. It suitably ruins our appetites, so all we need for dinner is a bowl of thick Brunswick stew--shredded chicken, ground pork, corn, and okra--at the nautical-themed Blackwater Grill. Day two Transportation Sapelo Island ferryLanding Road, off Hwy. 99, 912/437-3224, cr.nps.gov/goldcres/sites/sapelo.htm, $2 round trip Lodging Sea Palms5445 Frederica Rd., St. Simons Island, 800/841-6268, seapalms.com, from $129 Food The Breakfast Club1500 Butler Ave., Tybee Island, 912/786-5984, two eggs and sausage $5.50 The Troughno address, Sapelo Island, 912/485-2206 Zuzu's119 Mallery St., St. Simons Island, 912/ 638-8655, root beer float $3.50 Blackwater Grill260 Redfern Village, St. Simons Island, 912/634-6333, Brunswick stew $5.50 Activities Memory Park Christ ChapelHwy. 17, South Newport, no phone Georgia Department of Natural Resources912/485-2300, half- or full-day tour $10 Shopping The Pig Penno address, Sapelo Island, 912/485-2206 Day 3: St. Simons Island to St. Marys Rice was the most common--and notoriously brutal--crop in coastal Georgia: Slaves who worked the soggy paddies often caught malaria. Following the Civil War, not many rice plantations survived. On a tour of the Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation in Brunswick, we learn it was one of the few that did, in part due to a pair of savvy sisters who turned it around by converting it into a dairy farm. A terrific thunderstorm erupts right as we arrive on Jekyll Island. The Georgia coast has a subtropical climate; humid summer stretches well into October, and afternoon thunderstorms are common. We take shelter on the wide porch of the Jekyll Island Club Hotel, formerly the clubhouse commissioned by J.P. Morgan, William K. Vanderbilt, William Rockefeller, and Joseph Pulitzer, who were all part of the Jekyll Island Club, which owned the island in the late 1880s. Jekyll Island, including the hotel, was purchased by the state in 1947. I rock in a white wicker chair and admire the sailboats. For all its former wealth, Jekyll is much more casual than St. Simons. Beyond the historic district, the interior is family-friendly and modest, with mostly small ranch houses. It would be sacrilegious not to play some kind of golf, so during a break in the storm, we squeeze in a round of miniature golf, then head back to Highway 17. By the time we reach St. Marys, it's past 9 p.m. and the sleepy town is in full R.E.M. We check into the Spencer House Inn, a huge pink Victorian run by Mike and Mary Neff. Our huge top-floor room has a four-poster bed and a claw-foot tub. But the real draw is a DVD player; we borrow Friday Night Lights from Mike and Mary, who say it's one of the few DVDs in their collection that they were able to agree on, and settle in for the night. Day three Lodging Spencer House Inn101 E. Bryant St., St. Marys, 888/840-1872, spencerhouseinn.com, from $100 Activities Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation5556 Hwy. 17, Brunswick, 912/264-7333, gastateparks.org, $5 Jekyll Island Miniature GolfCourse 2, Beachview Dr., 912/635-2648, $5.30 Resources Jekyll Island Visitors Center901 Downing Musgrove Cswy., 877/453-5955, jekyllisland.com Day 4: St. Marys to Savannah St. Marys is where you board a ferry to Cumberland Island, which is run by the National Park Service. Thomas Carnegie owned the island in the late 19th century, and now wild horses and turkeys run free amid the ruins of his mansion. The sole lodging, the posh Greyfield Inn, is a mansion built by his widow; it was the site of the Kennedy-Bessette reception. Only 300 people are allowed on Cumberland each day, and it's wise to reserve months ahead for the 45-minute ferry. Yesterday's rain messed up the ferry schedule, and there's no way to see the island and make our flight. So we look into renting a kayak from Up the Creek Xpeditions and walk around St. Marys. It's the prettiest town of our trip. Day four Activities Cumberland Island912/882-4335, nps.gov/cuis, $4, round-trip ferry $15 Up the Creek Xpeditions111 Osborne St., St. Marys, 912/882-0911, upthecreektrips.com, kayaks $40-$60 per day Finding your way Causeways link most of the islands to the mainland, and in all but one case, they're free. The exception: There's a $3 daily car fee to visit state-owned Jekyll Island. The ferries to Cumberland and Sapelo islands depart only a couple of times a day, so plan your schedule in advance, and be sure to make the ferry back to the mainland. (There aren't any places to buy food on Cumberland, so bring your own lunch and water.) And when driving back up to Savannah, Highway 95 may seem like the speedy route, but it can take over three hours when the traffic is bad, which is often.
Great Getaways: Savannah
If you're looking for a fun, affordable southern getaway, visit Savannah, where you'll find the perfect mix of southern hospitality, nightlife, and enough action to satisfy every food lover and history buff. Savor the tastes of SavannahAlthough things may have gotten a little controversial recently, Paula Deen's restaurant, The Lady & Sons, is still one of Savannah's major attractions for foodies and fans alike—folks have been known to make reservations online up to a year in advance or else risk waiting in a line that wraps around its home at 102 West Congress Street. For a more traditional southern dining experience, try Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room at 107 West Jones Street, where you'll share a giant table and make new friends as you chow down on fried chicken and cornbread dressing, sweet potato soufflé, okra gumbo, corn muffins, and black-eyed peas. If you're still not full after all that, head to Leopold's Ice Cream, a Savannah legend that's been serving the sweet treat since 1919 (212 E. Broughton St). Check out the old fortsMake history interesting for your family by showing them around the places where it all happened. Fort Pulaski National Monument, located about 20 minutes from downtown Savannah, was pummeled by cannon fire during the Civil War and once served as a Union prison—spend some time exploring the tiny tunnels built into the hillside that let you pop up at different vantage points around the fort. Just 10 minutes from downtown Savannah, Old Fort Jackson sits along the Savannah River and is one of oldest standing brick structures on the east coast. If you have time to take a drive, Fort McAllister Historic Park is home to 4.3 miles of hiking and biking trails, Fort tours, and historical Civil War demonstrations 45-minutes south of Savannah on the shores of the Ogeechee River. Stroll around Savannah's great outdoorsSavannah is a great city to take a walk—you'll be met with scenic squares and picturesque scenery at almost every turn, so don't forget your camera! Movie buffs will want to visit Chippewa Square, where Forrest Gump told the story of his fascinating life while waiting for the bus. If you're a Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil fan, make a pilgrimage out to historic Bonaventure Cemetery 15 minutes from Savannah's downtown and pay a visit to poet Conrad Aiken, singer-songwriter Johnny Mercer, and several of Savannah's most famous residents. You can also visit the grave of Danny Lewis Hansford, whose death was popularized by the book, next door in Greenwich Cemetery—his gravestone is often covered in roses, cigarettes, cigars, coins, and sealed bottles of bourbon. Back in town, take a stroll or have a picnic in beautiful Forsyth Park, a gorgeous green space within the Historic District and easily accessible by Savannah's free DOT Express Shuttle. If you've brought your precious pup with you to Savannah, check out Oliver Bentleys Historic Dog Walk Tour, a tour led by the popular dog product company's mascot, Ollie B (and owner of course), that lets you and your furry friend "sniff out Savannah" and explore another, four-legged, side of the city ($20 for adults, $10 for children ages 9-17, children under 8 are free, limited to two leashed dogs per human). Take a ghost tour—if you're brave enough!Pick a ghost tour, any ghost tour. Savannah is rumored to be the most haunted city in the U.S. so naturally, there are plenty of options to go with—choose from the trolley-tour fun of Ghosts & Gravestones, gain some liquid courage during the Ghost City Pub Crawl by Ghost City Tours, or brave the streets at night while being led around town by your guide with Cobblestone Tours. Either way, you'll learn about the city's hauntings, tragic tales of unfortunate circumstances, and maybe even see a ghost or two. Anything can happen—you'd be surprised how much of the city was actually built on the remains of its former residents! Spend a day at the beach in Tybee IslandCraving some sun and sand? Tybee Island is only about a 20-minute drive from Savannah and is home to the Tybee Island Light Station and Museum, a 270-year-old site where you can visit historic buildings and see what it was really like to live on the property in 1732. The view from the top* is worth the $9 entrance price ($7 for children ages 6-17, seniors, and military members—free for Coast Guard members with a valid ID). If all else fails, find your perfect spot of sand and spend a day in the warm waves of Tybee Island Beach. Mark your calendars—Tybee Island Restaurant Week is happening Jan. 17-26, 2014, so don't miss this opportunity to sample some great seafood—The Crab Shack is offering great prix fixe options from $25. Stay in the heart of the city for lessBook your stay at the Best Western PLUS Savannah Historic District, located right along River Street, a five-minute walk from some of the city's best nightlife along the Riverfront, and across the street from Savannah Smiles Dueling Pianos, a legend of the Savannah late-night entertainment scene. Rooms are priced from $79 and include complimentary continental breakfast. Park your car at the hotel for $12 and take advantage of the city's vibrant nightlife options—you can even get around for free via the DOT Express Shuttle, River Street Streetcar, or hop a free ride on the Savannah Belles Ferry to access the Riverfront area. *Please note the Tybee Island Lighthouse will be closed for painting thru Jan. 31, 2014, but the rest of the museum site is still open to the public at a discounted entry price.
More Places to go
Savannah () is the oldest city in the U.S. state of Georgia and is the county seat of Chatham County. Established in 1733 on the Savannah River, the city of Savannah became the British colonial capital of the Province of Georgia and later the first state capital of Georgia. A strategic port city in the American Revolution and during the American Civil War, Savannah is today an industrial center and an important Atlantic seaport. It is Georgia's fifth-largest city, with a 2020 U.S. Census population of 147,780. The Savannah metropolitan area, Georgia's third-largest, had a 2020 population of 404,798.Each year Savannah attracts millions of visitors to its cobblestone streets, parks, and notable historic buildings. These buildings include the birthplace of Juliette Gordon Low (founder of the Girl Scouts of the USA), the Georgia Historical Society (the oldest continually operating historical society in the South), the Telfair Academy of Arts and Sciences (one of the South's first public museums), the First African Baptist Church (one of the oldest African-American Baptist congregations in the United States), Temple Mickve Israel (the third-oldest synagogue in the U.S.), and the Central of Georgia Railway roundhouse complex (the oldest standing antebellum rail facility in the U.S.).Savannah's downtown area, which includes the Savannah Historic District, the Savannah Victorian Historic District, and 22 parklike squares, is one of the largest National Historic Landmark Districts in the United States (designated by the U.S. government in 1966). Downtown Savannah largely retains the original town plan prescribed by founder James Oglethorpe (a design now known as the Oglethorpe Plan). Savannah was the host city for the sailing competitions during the 1996 Summer Olympics held in Atlanta.
Hilton Head Island
Hilton Head Island, sometimes referred to as simply Hilton Head, is a Lowcountry resort town and barrier island in Beaufort County, South Carolina, United States. It is 20 miles (32 km) northeast of Savannah, Georgia, and 95 miles (153 km) southwest of Charleston. The island is named after Captain William Hilton, who in 1663 identified a headland near the entrance to Port Royal Sound, which mapmakers named "Hilton's Headland." The island features 12 miles (19 km) of beachfront on the Atlantic Ocean and is a popular vacation destination. In 2004, an estimated 2.25 million visitors infused more than $1.5 billion into the local economy. The year-round population was 37,099 at the 2010 census, although during the peak of summer vacation season the population can swell to 150,000. Over the past decade, the island's population growth rate was 32%. Hilton Head Island is a primary city within the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton-Beaufort metropolitan area, which had an estimated population of 207,413 in 2015. The island has a rich history that started with seasonal occupation by Native Americans thousands of years ago and continued with European exploration and the Sea Island Cotton trade. It became an important base of operations for the Union blockade of the Southern ports during the Civil War. Once the island fell to Union troops, hundreds of ex-slaves flocked to Hilton Head, which is still home to many of whom are descendants of freed slaves known as the Gullah (or Geechee) who have managed to hold on to much of their ethnic and cultural identity.The Town of Hilton Head Island incorporated as a municipality in 1983 and is well known for its eco-friendly development. The town's Natural Resources Division enforces the Land Management Ordinance which minimizes the impact of development and governs the style of buildings and how they are situated amongst existing trees. As a result, Hilton Head Island enjoys an unusual amount of tree cover relative to the amount of development. Approximately 70% of the island, including most of the tourist areas, is located inside gated communities. However, the town maintains several public beach access points, including one for the exclusive use of town residents, who have approved several multimillion-dollar land-buying bond referendums to control commercial growth.Hilton Head Island offers an unusual number of cultural opportunities for a community its size, including the world's first Mermaid Encounter Boat Tour, plays at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina, the 120-member full chorus of the Hilton Head Choral Society, the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra, an annual outdoor, tented wine tasting event on the east coast, and several other annual community festivals. It also hosts the RBC Heritage, a PGA Tour tournament played on the Harbour Town Golf Links in Sea Pines Resort.
Bluffton is a Lowcountry town in Beaufort County, South Carolina, United States. It is primarily located around U.S. Route 278, between Hilton Head Island and Interstate 95. The town's original one square mile area, now known as Old Town, is situated on a bluff along the May River. The population as of the 2020 census was 27,716, an increase of over 120% since 2010, making it one of the fastest growing municipalities in South Carolina with a population over 2,500. Bluffton is the fifth largest municipality in South Carolina by land area. The town is a primary city within the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton-Beaufort, SC Metropolitan Statistical Area. Following the Tariff of 1842, Bluffton became a hotbed of separatist sentiment, which in turn led to a protest against federal taxes called the Bluffton Movement in 1844. And even though this movement quickly died out, it did somewhat contribute to the secession movement that led to South Carolina being the first state to leave the Union. In the antebellum period Bluffton became a popular location for wealthy merchants and plantation owners. During the Civil War two-thirds of the town was destroyed by fire during the Union's Bluffton Expedition on June 4, 1863.