Local Life and Lore in Savannah

School yourself on the local lingo and traditions and blend right into the local crowd.

KEY TERMS

The Book
That’s what locals call John Berendt’s 1994 mega best-seller, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. The book doubled the tourism business in Savannah and was made into a 1997 film starring John Cusack and Kevin Spacey.

The Beach
This is the name given to Tybee Island, the barrier island east of town, on the Atlantic Ocean, that’s home to a funky residential area.

The School
It seems unlikely that a small private college that opened in 1979 with only four staff members, seven faculty and 71 students could be responsible for reviving Savannah’s downtown. But according to locals, the Savannah College of Art and Design’s (SCAD) impact on the city can’t be overstated. SCAD got its start in the Savannah Volunteer Guards Armory on Madison Square, a Romanesque-style structure built in 1892. The art school has since grown, restoring more than 60 structures downtown for use as classrooms, dorms and studios, including a former multilevel elementary school, two theaters and a secondary power station for use as college facilities. Walk in any direction from the original location, and you will run into one of the college’s facilities. Today SCAD is one of the largest art schools in the country, with satellite campuses in Atlanta, Lacoste, France, and, in 2010, Hong Kong.

SCADdies
Nickname for the art-school students from the Savannah College of Art and Design, many sporting experimental hairstyles and clothing. Where you’re likely to spot them: downtown cafes or stocking the shelves at the Marc by Marc Jacobs boutique on Broughton.

TRADITIONS

The Savannah Tour of Homes and Gardens
Summer is official tourist season, but locals know Savannah is at its best in spring, when azaleas and dogwoods bloom and the weather is cooler. In March, Savannah residents open their doors for the Savannah Tour of Homes and Gardens. The self-guided walking tour features a different quadrant of the tony historic district each day. Locals go to get a peek into the city’s swankiest houses.

Grayson Stadium
The oldest working ballpark in minor-league baseball is home to the Savannah Sand Gnats, an affiliate of the New York Mets. Legends Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle and Jackie Robinson all played in the 80-year-old facility. Wooden bleachers still occupy most of the main grandstand, and children 12 and under get to run the bases after every Sunday home game. Built in 1926, the stadium was resurrected after a hurricane ripped through the city in the early '40s. More recent renovations include a grassy plaza and picnic area and a Kids Zone behind the left-field wall.

St. Patrick’s Day
The downtown celebration in March rivals those in other Irish enclaves like Boston. The open-container law allowing people to walk around with alcoholic drinks fuels the party. Years ago the Savannah River was dyed green for the event. Today, they leave the river alone and dye the water fountains instead.

GETTING AROUND

Colonial, Victorian or Mid-Century Mod?
Most sections of downtown are classified by the period in which they were built: Colonial, Victorian and Drayton and Whitaker are its main arteries. Victory Drive separates downtown (built largely in the 1800s and earlier) from midtown (largely established in the early 1900s). This division by architectural period continues into the 'burbs. Southside, separated from downtown by DeRenne Avenue is mid to late 20th century and is where the malls and big-box stores are located.

The Connector
Truman Parkway is a north-south freeway connecting Savannah metropolitan area between President Street and Whitfield Avenue.

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