The 1994 novel Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil, a Southern Gothic depiction of true events, helped put Savannah on the map. After it was published, it sat on the New York Times Best-Seller List for an unprecedented 216 weeks, eventually spawning a Clint Eastwood-directed film and dozens of local tours promising glimpses of those who inspired its cast of eccentric characters. In Savannah, it’s known simply as “The Book” and still draws tourists to the Southern city.
Today, thanks in large part to the growth of the Savannah College of Art & Design, the city is known for more than author John Berendt’s novel. Its graveyards and Southern hospitality are still there in spades, of course, but there are decidedly more modern places to visit.
Take The DeSoto, for instance, a newly-revamped hotel overlooking Madison Square in the heart of the historic district. It’s a treasured landmark, but one that somehow melds the city’s past (it’s played host to visitors since 1890) with its present (all of the art in the lobby is the work of SCAD alums or faculty).
The history of the hotel goes beyond its design—members of the staff host Sip & Strolls, walking tours of the city (complete with cocktails) that allow guests to explore some of its more remote corners. The DeSoto is also home to some of Savannah’s most in-demand dining options. Fresh Southern cuisine, in an unpretentious setting, is the standout at 1540 Room, which highlights local produce in dishes such as pecan agnolotti pasta with candied bacon and kale. Meanwhile, modern mixology and a heavy dose of comfort food is on display at Edgar’s Proof & Provision. One would be hard-pressed to pass up the four-cheese brisket melt, complete with pickled onions and bourbon barbecue sauce for dipping.
A dose of local culture can be found at the SCAD Museum of Art, the area’s premier contemporary art museum. New exhibits are introduced each academic quarter, showcasing work by a range of acclaimed professional artists. Both kids and adults alike will find themselves drawn to Italian artist Paolo Pivi’s “I did it again,” four installations featuring life-size, brightly-hued polar bear figures (on display until late August).