Ask anyone who's vacationed in Savannah what's fun about it and you'll get different answers: exploring its rich history, the diverse culture, the Southern Gothic vibe around all those charming old squares and bustling riverfront. The list goes on. You could easily fill a book with fun facts about this centuries-old Georgia coastal city. People will tell you that it's haunted, and that's why you should go, while others might stammer, because there's too much to tell, or maybe there's something they don't care to share about their time in this city full of fascinating secrets. It's that kind of place, endlessly mysterious, romantic and alluring.
No Booze, Lawyers or Catholics
When it was founded in 1733, Savannah was the first settlement in Georgia, and Georgia was the last of the original 13 British colonies. The new settlement was envisioned as a utopia of sorts, one where slavery was outlawed. The original charter also forbade hard liquor, lawyers and Catholics. Lawyers were kept out because Savannah was a debtors haven. Catholics weren't allowed as a measure to protect territorial and commercial interests, since Georgia served as a buffer territory between Florida -- then controlled by heavily Catholic Spain -- and the rest of the British colonies.
Here Come the Pirates
None of the bans lasted long. By the middle of the 18th century Savannah had become a vital port town, even for pirates. Many plundering seafarers of the time made it a port of call. Indeed, Savannah is mentioned in Robert Louis Stevenson's "Treasure Island" a few times. Stevenson visited Savannah before writing the book, a trip that helped to inspire his now-classic children's novel. The Pirate's House, a restaurant housed in a circa-mid-1700s building that was once a sailors' tavern, is steeped in pirate lore. The establishment claims that Captain Flint died in an upstairs room, but since Flint is a fictional character this bit of trivia must be chalked up to the restaurant having a bit of fun with its piracy pedigree.
Hooray for Hollywood
Hollywood has come knocking on Savannah's door many times to use the atmospheric city as a primary filming location. "Forrest Gump" was filmed at various locations in and around town, the most famous being at Chippewa Square. This is where Tom Hanks' character sat on the bus bench and told his story to strangers. The bench, a movie prop, now sits inside the Savannah History Museum, but a guided trolley tour (you'll find many in town) will show you exactly where it was located in the film. "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil," based on John Berendt's best-selling book about Savannah's darker side, was also filmed in town. Other notable films shot in Savannah are "Glory," "The Legend of Bagger Vance" and the groundbreaking TV miniseries "Roots."
The Irish were among Savannah's first settlers, and they kept coming. That's why the Hostess City of the South is home to one of the largest St. Patrick's Day parades in the country. St. Patrick's Day is such a big deal in Savannah that state and local authorities have waived longstanding blue laws so people can celebrate whenever the holiday falls on or near a Sunday. And, yes, March 17 is an official holiday in Savannah, but the celebration goes on for days. Savannah's founders might not have been happy about it, and neither are unsuspecting first-time tourists who try to make hotel reservations in mid-March only to learn that all rooms have been booked months in advance.