Hollywood's Best-Kept Travel Secret: What to Do in the Southern Town the Stars Love

This time, it's not Charleston that everyone's buzzing about.

While The Real Housewives of Atlanta are keeping it real in Georgia’s capital, it’s another city, tucked along the southeastern shoreline, that’s drumming up heat as one of Hollywood’s best-kept secrets. You guessed it: We're talking about Savannah.

Anchored by knockout 18th-and-19th-century architecture, Savannah is home to the largest historical district in the nation with a bustling city scene and the quirky, lovable surf town, Tybee Beach, nearby. Ideal for film shoots, Magic Mike XXL, Dirty Grandpa, The Do Over, and 2016 Sundance Festival runaway hit, Birth of a Nation, are only a handful of recent films produced in the coastal city. Currently, Zac Efron, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and Shirley MacLaine are the latest megastars taking up residency while filming Baywatch and A Little Mermaid, respectively.

Hollywood’s A-Listers also descend onto Savannah’s cobblestoned streets each year to take part in the Savannah Film Festival, which draws more than 40,000 people for a whopping eight days of screenings, up-close-and-personal workshops and hobnobbing among the cinematic stars. Throw in the stable of hip and elegant overnight stays, as well as a bed of game-changing culinary superstars who now call Savannah home, and it’s a not-to-miss spot. Here's how to plan a visit.

1Where to Stay

Located a block from the Savannah River, boutique hotel The Brice is a revamped Coca-Cola factory planted in the center of Savannah’s vibrant central hub. Set in whimsical and sleek design, luxe details include in-room yoga mats, organic honor bars, private balconies, Italian linens, soaking tubs, and loaner cherry-red cruisers to take to the historic city streets. Pooches can have their own VIP pampering with grooming, massage, and acupuncture.

Make sure to swing by the hotel’s all-day eatery, Pacci Italian Kitchen & Bar, which dishes rustic, locally-sourced Italian fare. Robert De Niro and Usher have been spotted at the popular locale.

The Mansion on Forsyth Park is a 125-room Victorian Romanesque structure smothered in onyx, marble, claw foot tubs, and Versace furniture. Take a cooking class with James Beard Featured Chef Peter Russo or opt for a hand-packed picnic lunch and grab a cushy spot in Forsyth Park, located across the street, or in one of Savannah’s 22 historical squares.

For old-school elegance, The Gastonian is a bed-and-breakfast nestled into adjoining 1868 luxury Regency-Italianate-style mansions, surrounded by pristine gardens. Four-post iron beds, in-room fireplaces, and silver-and-china breakfasts make this true southern luxury.

If you prefer to explore one of the city’s unique property rentals, check out Lucky Savannah, which offers everything from quaint, oak-shaded garden apartments to six-bedroom stunners in the heart of the Historic District.

2Where to Eat

The Grey, a high-end retro spot that is recognized as much for its cuisine as for its design, spread across a glossy, refurbished 1938 art deco Greyhound bus station, is one of the country’s most talked-about restaurants. Chef Mashama Bailey crafts soulful, creative spins on southern classics, matched by stellar offerings of European wines and desserts, as elegant as they are decadent.
Bravo’s own Top Chef Hugh Acheson jumped into the Savannah scene with The Florence, sleek culinary digs housed in a revamped ice factory. With an emphasis on simple, pure ingredients, the menu features traditional plates from regions across Italy while utilizing local harvests. The thoughtful, rounded wine program, front-of-house pastries and Italian and counter culture coffees make this a pitch-perfect hotspot.

During the filming of Magic Mike XXL, Joe Manganiello and Sofia Vergara shared a date night with Channing and Jenna Tatum at downtown Savannah venue The Collins Quarter and the world lost its mind. Michelin-star training shines at this mod, two-level eating spot styled after Melbourne’s iconic Collins Street with innovative cuisine, specialty coffees and local brews and cocktails. 

If you’re looking to curb a sweet tooth, grab a cone at Leopold’s Ice Cream, which is owned by former Paramount Pictures VP and executive film producer Stratton Leopold, who displays props and pics with stars from films he produced, such as Mission: Impossible III and The Wolfman.

Also well worth the slightly off-track course is Back in the Day Bakery. Owners Cheryl and Griffith Day, both James Beard Outstanding Bakers Nominees and New York Times bestselling cookbook authors, have made guest stints on The Chew and The Martha Stewart Show, but are happiest sticking close to home and serving up baked-from-scratch items while chatting with customers. 

 

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