As more and more people discover the subtle, compelling charms of these two Southern gems, the inevitable comparisons begin. Stereotypes abound, such as the famous adage “In Charleston they ask what your mother’s maiden name is, and in Savannah they ask what you’re drinking.” But the truth is that Savannah can be just as obsessed with arcane genealogy, and anyone who’s ever spent a weekend night in downtown Charleston knows that city is no stranger to a carousing good time.
The entire area shares in common a rare natural beauty, with the South Carolina Lowcountry and the Georgia coast together comprising the largest contiguous salt marsh in the world and one of the most unique ecosystems on the planet.The key difference between the two is actually physical. Charleston’s charms are more serendipitous, its architecture more Caribbean. The compact, winding downtown means that a new surprise awaits you around every corner. That’s the magic of Charleston.
Savannah, with its more spacious downtown, has more room to breathe, to walk, and to stretch out. And there are those matchless, tidy squares, still studied as marvels of urban design. Savannah’s classically Anglophilic architecture tends more toward the stately.
While both cities love a good time, Charleston—with its vast selection of nationally renowned restaurants—is definitely more of a foodie’s paradise. Savannah, on the other hand—with its unusual “to-go cup” law allowing open containers of alcoholic beverages on the street—loves nothing more than a boisterous party.
Perhaps we should be talking instead about the things that tie the two together. Charleston and Savannah share a parallel history; stubborn individuality and defiance against the norm have been constants, as evidenced by their key roles in the American Revolution and the Civil War.
The entire area shares in common a rare natural beauty, with the South Carolina Lowcountry and the Georgia coast together comprising the largest contiguous salt marsh in the world and one of the most unique ecosystems on the planet. Kayakers are at home paddling in the blackwater of the ACE Basin or the vast Okefenokee Swamp. Beachgoers are often amazed at the underrated quality of the area’s serene strands.
Most of all, however, the greatest treasure of this region is its people. The folks down here love a good story, a good conversation, and a good laugh. Indeed, it’s one of America’s enduring ironies that deep in the heart of our most conservative region lie some of our most fun-loving cities. New Orleans heads the list, of course, but Charleston and Savannah are hard on its heels. It’s not just the fabled Southern hospitality; it’s a joie de vivre born out of great weather and proximity to the ever-invigorating water of the rivers, marshes, and ocean.
Excerpted from the Fifth Edition of Moon Charleston & Savannah.