The ambiance of Savannah truly emerges from the great expanse of the River Street area. Featuring an eclectic arrangement of notable sights, cookery and other fare, River Street overflows with extraordinary possibilities. Live music can be heard almost around the clock both by street musicians and from renowned artists inside numerous venues. Delectables ranging from fried oysters at Bernie’s Oyster Bar to the world famous pralines of Savannah Sweets candy shop are also readily available. Sight, smell, touch and taste each get equal footing along the river walk. Dowsed with azaleas and patinaed metals, this section of the city has aesthetic appeal which captivates as all senses are awakened.
The Savannah River, which runs alongside River Street, is a major river in the southeastern United States. The entire river is around 301 miles long and is tidal. The section enjoyed by those on River Street is part of the Intracoastal Waterway which contributes to the Great Loop of North America. Ships are typically seen in the water course. The myriad of vessels demonstrate an impressive grouping. Some are Riverboats ready for cruising and cocktails and others are freight shippers with thousands of import tonnage. Group tour bookings and private charters are each available on the sightseeing harbor boats. Once onboard, experience fine dining, intriguing conversations and, perhaps, a closer view of the other ships from around the world moving steadily as they approach their port destination.
Back on land, visit the section known as the Factors Walk, an original cotton trading area. It was constructed in 1817 and contains several pedestrian bridges that cross over the street below. The namesake men who "factored" the amount of cotton in a shipment, made certain that each lot was appropriately tallied and stored. Taking time to cross the bridges and reflect on the lives of those almost two centuries past, is mesmerizing. These walks have surely been crossed hundreds of thousands of times by many a hard working soul.
The River Street area adds to Savannah’s reputation as a “walking city” by simultaneously offering a panoramic view of the Savannah River, many old world attractions and the marvelous cobblestone streets. The lay of the land, created mostly by anchor stones from international ships, is just over a mile long. Keeping a leisurely pace will ensure travelers notice the varied detail in each of the stones as well as the ancient bricks among them. Some are stamped with the seal of a particular place while others were merely prized for weight. River Street’s distance is easy to traverse, especially, with a good set of walking shoes! Historic embellishments only intensify the cheerful feeling created from strolling down River Street. Spanish moss hangs low in the trees, iron work peeks from the sides of old cotton mills, and landmark postings of important figures inform about years gone by. Retaining walls and the street surfaces are fashioned with ballast from ships which were used as space holders for the massive amounts of cotton which would replace them upon arrival. Amongst the buildings, tucked within the corners, intricacies lie nestled among these stones from so long ago.
Each building holds its own rich legacy. One of the most fascinating, The Savannah Cotton Exchange was constructed in 1887 and designed by Boston Architect, William Gibbons Preston. The building is designed in the Romanesque revival style and is one of only a very few of the type to sit affront a public walkway. The Cotton Exchange is remembered for deploying literally millions of bales of cotton over its operational lifetime.
To the left and right of the Cotton Exchange are other structures which contribute to the promenade. Many of these are now storefronts with windows filled with antiques, clothing, souvenirs, offices, and even a museum. A true gem in the lineup, the River Street Inn, occupies five stories in one of the restored 19th century buildings. The Inn is located just above historic River Street and shares its location to Huey’s on the River, a swanky restaurant with New Orleans cuisine. Favorites include warm, melt in your mouth beignets and award winning Bloody Marys. Following the Inn’s atrium stairwell to the appropriate hallway, you will find the tavern. Most evenings, complementary wine and hors d'oeuvres are served to guests. The atmosphere of the space surpasses expectations with a billiards table, darts and a large screened television in the adjoining room.
River Street has also come to be known for its nightlife abundant with taverns and pubs and when the sun goes down, distinctive flickering shows on the river. Gas lamps ignite, the street fills with a hazy glow and luminous doorways beckon to fun-loving crowds. Entertainment spills out onto River Street with genres of music, unique art forms and street performers. Festivities continue on through the night with the cool river breeze wafting in and out of the gathering folks. Whether it’s the dynamic Wet Willies with over 15 frozen drink flavors or Kevin Barry’s Pub featuring river views and a balcony, the time spent will be filled with memories.
Devotees of river-walk culture depend on the offerings of fun which continue all year long! Fireworks can be seen on River Street’s First Friday event nights, Murder Mystery Cruises on board the cruise ships are laced with menace and enjoyment, along with several festivals scattered throughout the seasons. Accompanying these happenings are some holiday sensations. January starts off with a bang with the New Year’s Celebration and almost every month following holds an equally entertaining bit of fun. For instance, visitors can count on the Saint Patrick’s Day Celebration, 4th of July Fireworks, Oktoberfest, and the Christmas Parade to name just a few.
River Street, in the Historic District of Savannah is a top tourist destination and an ideal city for families, friends and lovers alike. The place holds its own dazzling air fashioned by oodles of artistic and cultural history. It has been said that River Street is a work of art in itself; it is a worthy endeavor to languish awhile finding out for yourself.