Traversing Savannah on foot or bicycle is best, we found, but if you have only a day or a day and a half to devote to it, it's possible you can at least "see" a good portion by trolley as well. The Savannah paid trolley has operators who take you through all of the old city and along the riverwalk and provide information and background on all the key landmarks as you pass or near them during the ride.
We had four days to spend in Savannah, and we preferred walking, but we did buy an all-day trolley ticket to use on our second day. We did it primarily to ensure we literally "saw" all potential things we would like to see, visit or learn about ... but also to take advantage of the history and information the trolley operator would provide.
The only fare rate available for the trolley is for all-day. It costs you about $30 per person, but you can use your trolley pass to get off and reboard as many times as you want or need at any of the 15 stops during the day, and there are a good amount of trolleys on the road, so one comes by about every 15 minutes (or so it seemed).
The concierge at the hotel where we stayed told us that if we bought a trolley pass after 3 p.m. one day (the trolley runs until 5 p.m.), the trolley system will let you use it for the final two hours of that day and all day the next day as long as you tell the person you buy the ticket from that you plan to do that when you purchase it. We didn't try our luck at that. We rode the whole 15-stop route at first, then later in the day while ambling about, we hopped aboard to expedite our trip to a specific destination and got off there.
There is a dramatic drop to get to the riverwalk from the rest of the city. I'd estimate the drop at as much as two floors in a regular building. To get to it from the main level, you have to use stairs or dare to navigate the few steep roads that lead to it. The upper level just before the drop has a series of shops overlooking the riverwalk, and those area flanked by a large city park that hold a couple of decorative attracions -- a fountain with water spewing from a lion's mouth, and an exhibit of old cannons. On the riverwalk itself, you have more shops and a walkway that runs along the river for much of the way. There is a plaza right in the middle of the walk, and an area for steam boats to moor and take off.
In Morrell Park at the far east end of the riverwalk, there is perhaps the riverwalk's most talked-about attraction -- The Waving Girl monument (pictures down below). As legend goes, a woman by the name of Florence Martus took it upon herself to become the official greeter of all ships entering the city, every day, through the Savannah River from 1887-1931. She waved a cloth at the ships, supposedly in hopes that one of them would be her lost love sailor, although that never came to fruition. The sculpture was created by Felix de Welden.
Also in Morrell Park, not far from the Waving Girl, is is a monument representing the cauldron (in the photo above) that was lit for the yachting events staged in Savannah during the 1996 Olympics based in Atlanta. The sculpture by Ivan Bailey pays tribute to the five Olympic rings and homage to the Greek heritage of the games.
On the west end of the riverwalk, there is the Cracked Earth Monument -- Chatham County's tribute to those in the community who died in World War II, a war that divided the globe. That monument is depicted in the photograph leading off the post. The split sphere symobolizes how the war divided the globe. On both sides of the split in the sculpture, visitors can read the names of local servicemen and women who perished in the war.
You can get pretty close to water on a lot of the riverwalk and enjoy vistas of ships entering and leaving port (just like Florence Martus did), the convention center and hotel across the river and the river bridge that brings motor vehicle into and out of the city from the north end.
As always, click on any picture to pull up a larger, sharper version, which is particularly important if you access the blog from a mobile device. To view a full gallery of my shots in Savannah, click on the link in this sentence.
Photo geek stuff: I shot everything you see here with a Canon 6D equipped with a Tamron 28-300 f/3.5-6.3 Di VZD VC lens equipped with a polarizing filter when outdoors (I did without the filter when indoors). I bracketed all shots for three exposures, melding a good number of all three for each composition in post-processing using Photomatix high-dynamic range (HDR) software. In some situations where using HDR software was impractical, I composed a shot with single frames.
One of the ships (above) that came to port while I was on the Riveralk, and one of the nice vistas a stroller enjoys along the walk (below). One can see the bridge entering the city on the far left, the convention center in the middle and a hotel on the right. Ferries transport people to and from the island where those buildings are located.
Above and below: Two of the live performers I came across during my walk-through along the Savannah River.
Above: Shops in a section along the east end of the Riverwalk, not far from the Waving Girl Monument.
Above and below: Examples of shops and a multi-use structure along the Riverwalk.
Above: The Georgia Queen docked for the moment.
Above: An employee of the Bohemian Hotel takes a break outside the building near the Riverwalk and Cracked Earth Monument.
Above and below: Two views of The Waving Girl monument.
Above: A full view of the bridge span one can appreciate from the Riverwalk.
Above and next three below: Shops, multi-level structures and the facade of the Hyatt-Regency along the Riverwalk.
Above: The historic Cotton Exchange building on the upper level of the Riverfront. Currently it is home to Solomon's Masonic Lodge 1.
Above and next two below: The griffon fountain (destroyed in a single crash in 2008 then painstakingly rebuilt and rededicated in late 2009), cannon display and floral arrangement in the park on the upper level of the Riverwalk.
Next up: Bonaventure Cemetery
Previous posts in this series:
Part I: Savannah's Forsyth Square
Part II: Savannah's old-city neighborhoods