As the oldest cities in their states, Charleston, South Carolina and Savannah, Georgia are often seen as rival sisters of the South. And like many siblings, most of their competitive nature stems more from their similarities rather than their differences. After all, both Southern sweethearts are celebrated for their waterfront locations, rich history, award-winning dining scene, and, of course, Southern charm.
Which one is more suited for your senses? Let’s do a side-by-side comparison to help you decide:
Charleston: While both cities are pioneers in their respected states, Charleston has a few more years under its belt – 63 to be exact. Take a tour of Drayton Hall, America’s oldest preserved plantation house open to the public, then go for a boat ride to Fort Sumter, where the American Civil War began. Theater lovers are encouraged to make a trip to Dock Street Theatre, the first building in America designed for theatrical use, while souvenir seekers can get a taste of history while treating themselves at the Historic Charleston City Market, open 365 days a year. Although there are plenty of other historic sites worth exploring, your exposure to antiquity will begin the second you step foot on one of the city’s cobblestone streets and stare up at its endless live oak trees.
Savannah: Just because Savannah came second doesn’t mean its inferior. Whether you prefer to experience history in the form of preserved plantations or memorable museums, you’ll find plenty of lasting legacies to choose from. But that’s not all. With Savannah’s reputation as one of the most haunted cities in America, it’s no surprise cemeteries and ghost tours are how many visitors choose to connect with the past. Not into being spooked? Have no fear! There are plenty of other points of interest to pursue. Take a stroll and snap pictures of monuments in some of the city’s serene squares like Wright Square, Monterey Square and Madison Square, or enrich your knowledge of war with a visit to one of Savannah’s famous forts: Fort Pulaski, Old Fort Jackson and Fort McAllister.
Charleston: Lovers of seafood and Lowcountry fare will find savoring a sport in this city. Start your indulging with some boiled peanuts and fried shrimp from The Wreck of the Richard & Charlene, featuring a screened-in porch overlooking the water, then treat yourself to a fresh catch in an old-school oyster shack setting at Bowens Island. Foodies craving a fancier scene can enjoy martinis and meaty crab cakes at Charleston Grill or experience an upscale spin on Southern comfort food at Magnolias. Can’t decide between restaurants? Get a taste of several when you set out on the Charleston Chef’s Kitchen Tour.
Savannah: Nicknamed the Hostess City of the South, Savannah knows how to treat its guests to a memorable meal. Just take The Olde Pink House for example. Situated in a sophisticated 18th-century Georgian mansion, this elegant eatery invites patrons to indulge in shrimp and grits, bourbon molasses-glazed grilled pork tenderloin and fried green tomatoes. But don’t think regional specialties are this city’s only claim to fame. Hitch switches things up with creative dishes like PB&J wings and cheese steak egg rolls, while The Collins Quarter will make your mouth water with week-long brunch specials in an Australian-inspired atmosphere.
Charleston: Despite its small-town reputation, Charleston’s nightlife is on par with some of the largest cities in the country. Whether you prefer to sip champagne in style or imbibe a beer by the beach, you’ll find a mix of watering holes worth your trip. Sip on ultra-chic cocktails in a lavish setting at The Living Room at The Dewberry, or make things sizzle with a flaming cocktail from Voodoo Tiki Bar & Lounge. The city also celebrates several hole-in-the-wall bars like Moe’s Crosstown Tavern and Local 616 if you’re looking to drink without the fuss.
Savannah: While Charleston has a history of ranking ahead of Savannah when it comes to alcohol consumption, Savannah is far from being a dry city. Luckily for partygoers, the downtown area is very walkable, placing dozens of popular bars within steps of each other for safer sipping. Savannah also has an open container policy in the Historic District, so you can keep the fun going between live music sets at The Jinx and $5 forties at The Rail Pub.
Charleston: Nicknamed the Holy City, Charleston boasts a coastal beauty that is enough to provide a religious awakening for any nature lover. The city is surrounded by and interlaced with saltwater marshes that make kayaking, boating and stand-up paddleboarding effortless activities, and it’s not uncommon to spot a few dolphins along the way. For a true taste of sea and history, set sail for an afternoon on The Schooner Pride, a reproduction of one of the 18th century schooners that once lined Charleston’s harbor. For sea lovers who prefer to stay on solid ground, beaches like Sullivan’s Island and Folly Beach will never disappoint.
Savannah: With the famous Tybee Island at its feet, Savannah gives Charleston a run for its money when it comes to swimming and surfing at scenic spots such as North Beach (home to a lighthouse), South Beach and Back River Beach. The sea and sand are not the only superstars in this city, though. True nature lovers won’t want to miss a chance to stroll under the Spanish moss-covered oaks on the way to Wormsloe, a picturesque avenue sheltered by the beautiful trees.
Ready to embrace the spirit of the South for yourself? Whether you’ve got your heart set on Charleston or can’t wait to see Savannah, you’ll find the journey more enjoyable when you book your accommodations and airfare with Vacations by Marriott.