Savannah, Georgia is a charming gay oasis frozen in time. America’s first planned city boasts a thriving gay and lesbian scene and is a haven for the artistic and creative. Whether you’re looking to relocate or want a relaxing getaway, this historic city is a dream destination.
Savannah is an Art Student’s Inspiration
One of the reasons so many artists, musicians and free-thinkers love “the hostess city of the south” is because of the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD).
The campus is stretched out across the downtown area and uses more than 60 buildings, including many historic structures. It’s not uncommon to see SCAD’s trademark red double decker bus passing through one of the squares.
Many of the transplant gays are drawn to the city because of SCAD and the school’s presence adds unique appeal.
For gay and lesbian art enthusiasts, there are several opportunities to get your culture on in Savannah besides the gorgeous landmarks.
There are a number of galleries featuring work by local artists, the acclaimed Savannah Dance Theatre and the Savannah Music Festival, an annual soiree that highlights an eclectic mix of performers.
True Crime and The Lady Chablis
Savannah’s breathtaking downtown district and colorful residents became a worldwide phenomenon in 1994, when John Berendt’s iconic novel “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” first hit bookshelves. The book quickly topped The New York Times’ bestsellers list and stayed on that list for 216 weeks.
“Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” tells the story of a male prostitute who is killed by his gay lover. The death took place in a home built by a relative of native singer/songwriter Johnny Mercer. During the course of the novel, readers are introduced to several iconic, real-life denizens, many members of the LGBT community. Clint Eastwood adapted the book into a critically acclaimed film, starring Jude Law and Kevin Spacey.
One of the most notable characters in “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” is real-life legendary female impersonator, The Lady Chablis. Chablis adds some comic relief to the heavy drama of the main plot. The legendary performer played herself in the film version and continues to entertain the local masses. Chablis is a huge draw at her “home” gay club, Club One in Savannah and she also performs at gay pride events across the country.
Rollin’ on River Street
For any gay or lesbian traveler venturing to Savannah for the first time, a skip down to River Street is a must. This charming commercial area is where you’ll find a plethora of gay-owned and gay-friendly restaurants and shops. Rocks on the Roof is a great place if you’re looking to enjoy some American fare with a glorious rooftop setting. If you want to partake in some French cuisine, check out Papillote, intersecting with Broughton. After a late night of boozing, head to the Mellow Mushroom for a slice or a calzone.
Make sure you bring an extra suitcase so you can schlepp back all of the antiques and other souvenirs you acquire back home with you. River Street is a great place to find unique pieces. Jere’s Antiques and Nature’s Treasures are just a couple of the most popular shops.
Savannah Gay Nightlife: Club One, Club All
So you’ve shopped ‘til your bank account balance dropped and now you want to check out the gay nightlife in Savannah. The most popular LGBT venue continues to be Club One. This iconic hangout offers two dance floors, a video bar and regular drag shows and liver performances. If you’re looking for a spot that’s a little more low-key, check out Chuck’s off River Street. This is a great place to chug down cheap drinks and meet friendly locals.
Life’s a Beach on Tybee Island
One of Savannah’s biggest draws is the fact that it’s located on the coast. Tybee Island is the most popular local spot to find gay and straight hotties alike getting bronzed. The area, also known as “Savannah Beach,” is a great quiet getaway for locals and tourists. This is also where you’ll find the famed Tybee Island Light Station and Fort Screven Historic District.
Each May since 1987 Tybee Island has played host to the popular Beach Bum parade. This is a great event to spy scantily clad southern gents and belles in all of their glory. Just make sure you bring your water-gun to squirt them when they roll by on their floats. The parade takes place on Butler Avenue, the main street in Tybee.
Art, music, amazing architecture and incredible LGBT nightlife, you can find it all in Savannah, Georgia. It’s a great city to relax in a rocking chair, put up your pinky and sip a mint julep in your best seersucker attire. I do declare!
To learn more about Savannah and other great LGBT travel destinations please visit gaytravel.com.
Photos top left: Talmage Bridge; middle: Historic District trolley; bottom: Historic District skyline. Photo credits: savannahvisit.com.