PART of Savannah’s appeal has always been its well-preserved past. Home to the largest National Historic Landmark district in the US, there are postcard-perfect sights around every corner.
Cobblestone streets, garden squares dripping in Spanish moss, charming old mansions and historic forts make this one of the prettiest destinations in the South. The city’s B&Bs and horse-drawn carriage ride operators are still riding the wave of interest created by the 1994 best-selling book, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.
Today, Savannah is a top location choice for movie and television crews. Thanks to generous tax breaks, and talented local actors and crew, it’s estimated more movies are filmed in the state of Georgia than in Hollywood. Visitors might recognise some of the streets and buildings from the SpongeBob movie, Magic Mike XXL or Forrest Gump. Guided tours of film locations are a fun way to see the city.
The success of the movie industry has added momentum to the new South’s tourism sector, abuzz with hip new boutique hotels and trendsetting restaurants helmed by chefs who rave about the quality of the local produce.
Perry Lane Hotel opened in June on East Perry Street, the heart of Savannah’s historic district. Part of The Luxury Collection by Marriott International, the hotel has been a hit from Day 1. A modern boutique hotel — with the rooftop pool, sunrise yoga, and 3000 curated works of art to prove it — the property also takes its design cues from the area’s long architectural heritage of Southern mansions. The grand reading rooms located just off the reception area were made for lingering.
Ticking all the right boxes with locals as well as international visitors, Perry Lane’s dining and drinking venues have already become buzzworthy. Don’t miss happy hour at Peregrin, Savannah’s best rooftop bar, where cool cocktails come with a side of sweeping city views and cosy hammocks.
At The Emporium Kitchen & Wine Market on the ground floor of the hotel, locally-sourced menu items are served with signature Southern warmth in a fit-out featuring tan leather banquettes and marble countertops. Floor-to-ceiling windows flood the space with sunlight, while inside there are wine tastings, cooking classes and an all-day menu that really hits the spot. Local flounder? Seafood tower? Rabbit ragout? Don’t mind if we do.
Perry Lane’s dreamy guestrooms could tempt a visitor to while away hours in the hotel, but do get out and experience more of the city. From the diner bar at The Grey, the view looks out on to busy Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard through huge, curved Art Deco windows. It’s not too much of a stretch to imagine what this part of historic downtown Savannah might have looked like in the 1930s, when a once-segregated Greyhound Bus Terminal stood right here.
Now one of the most popular and hyped restaurants in the South, The Grey has retained charming features of the original building, mixed with a sleek modern-meets-retro design. The open kitchen sits where the ticket counter once was. Executive chef Mashama Bailey, who originally hails from New York City, re-imagines American comfort food with a delicious Coastal Georgia twist.
The Grey’s success is about more than Bailey’s shrimp salad with papaya, lime and chilli or her tempura-fried catfish: It’s part of a wider comeback story about the resurgence of US cities as the economy has rebounded and communities have cleverly reinvented themselves. The great state of Georgia is booming.
In the state capital, Atlanta, don’t be surprised if you bump into an A-list celebrity. Filming here happens every day, even spawning city-centric shows such as Atlanta, a popular series starring Donald Glover.
Guests of the sophisticated St Regis Atlanta can almost be assured of mega-wattage starspotting. Lounging by the outdoor pool or taking afternoon tea in the elegant Astor Court tea room, you might feel like a movie star yourself at this hotel where Southern hospitality is on point.
The five-star property, located in the upscale neighbourhood of Buckhead, is surrounded by luxe boutiques and the city’s hottest restaurants. The hotel’s own fine dining restaurant, Atlas Buckhead, is faultless. We’re talking the perfect steak, unforgettable wine pairings and desserts you’ll be dreaming about for months. Developed by top Atlanta chef Gerry Klaskala, the experience is brought to life by an expert team of passionate chefs, informed sommeliers and charming waiters in a space elevated by an impressive collection of priceless art. For a special occasion dinner, or just because you’re worth it, this is one of the hottest reservations in town. Word is, it’s also Robert Downey Jr’s fav- ourite. Also well worth a mention is King+Duke, where the menu celebrates scrumptious produce, done simply well.
Dishes such as whole-roasted branzino fish in spiced citrus butter or hearth-roasted duck with cranberry and ginger redefine the image of Southern cuisine in a way that is delicious, nutritious and utterly satisfying. The food reflects the city of Atlanta itself, bounding confidently into the future to create a new vision of Southern hospitality.
The writer was a guest of American Airlines, Marriott International and Brand