While some see Savannah as home, others see a historic city and travel destination, but T.C. Michaels sees Georgia’s First City, not only as that, but also as a living museum.
This is one of the main reasons he couldn’t help but start his own walking tours—The Best Savannah Tour—in Downtown Savannah. That and the fact that he had new spin on a classic act, made possible with a few trick he learned from days working as a radio host.
“What I wanted to do was bring an experience to the guests that incorporated a live radio show with the museum experience outdoors,” Michaels explained. “I’m there live with the guests, accompanying them on the tour. But Savannah itself outdoors is a living museum, so I wanted to bring a multimedia aspect to that.”
At the start of the tours, every guest receives “souvenir” earbuds (headphones) and a receiver, which connects them with their host and tour guide, T.C. Michaels. This allows the group to hear Michaels when there’s noise from cars or trolleys without having to be right next to him—they can explore while listening and Michaels can talk as they move from place to place.
“Someone who is at the back of the group when we’re going from one location to the other, will be able to hear me just as clear as the person in the front of the line,” Michaels said. “No other walking tour does that.”
The Best Savannah Tours is currently offering a daily Savannah’s Historic Walking Tour at 10 a.m., Family Friendly Ghost Tour at 5:30 p.m. from Oct. 1-March 15 and Ghost Encounter Tour at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. for those 15 years and older. During these tours, guests will not only hear Michaels tell the stories from Savannah’s past, but also get to listen to historic letters written by significant Savannah figures, including James Oglethorpe, Nathanial Greene and General Sherman, and even listen to music by Johnny Mercer.
“What they’re hearing is me on the other end, speaking to them. And because I basically have a portable radio studio with me, they’ll also hear music, letters and effects through the earbuds,” Michaels revealed.
During the Savannah’s Historic Walking Tour, Michaels takes the group, which he limits to 25 people, down the Bull Street corridor, visiting everywhere from Johnson Square to Monterey Square, including the iconic Jones Street—which some of us call one of America’s Most Beautiful Avenues—and Lafayette Square with the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist and Colonial Park Cemetery.
“The tour is a very easy walk and there are many breaks, but we are able to visit more locations than other walking tours are because of the headphones,” Michaels stated.
The ghost tour varies slightly in location, starting in Oglethorpe Square instead of at the Washington Guns, where Savannah’s Historic Walking Tour starts, but mostly follows the same route, with the exception of extra stops at the Kehoe House and 17Hundred90 Inn and Restaurant. However, while guests may follow a similar path, they’re doing (or hearing) the same thing.
During the evening ghost tours, Michaels and the group investigates and does EVPs—electronic voice phenomenas—in different locations and Michaels encourages guests to take photos to capture orbs.
“The goal of the Ghost Encounter Tour is to entertain guests with historical truths and to let them personally experience Savannah’s paranormal,” said Michaels. “Whether people are skeptics or not, believers or non-believers, they will walk away with an experience they never had before.”
Michaels runs the business with his wife, who’s also a novelist, and the help of his young son, who isn’t quite tall enough to see outside the windows of their 1850s home in Downtown Savannah. He hopes to share the stories of survival, hardship, war, community, forgiveness, acceptance and friendship that built the city and got her to where she is today. In the upcoming months, he hopes to start a pub-crawl tour as well as a specialized tour for the girl scouts.
“I want people to come away with more love for Savannah and a desire to come back,” Michaels said. “I want them to walk away with an awe of the city. It’s the largest Historic District, recognized by the government of the United States—2.2 square miles. And within that there are so many stories that framed our country and ideology of how we think in the U.S. I want people to come away with an appreciation for that but also I just want them to have a lot of fun and to make friends with a local.”
Right now guests can get a $5 discount off every ticket on any of The Best Savannah Tours by using the promo code “SAVANNAH.” Just be sure to mention it when making reservations!
The Best Savannah Tour’s Historic Walking Tour is offered daily at 10 a.m. and costs $25 for adults (ages 12+) and $12 for children (ages 7-11), and their Ghost Encounter Tour starts at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. for ages 15 years and up and costs $25 per person. They are also offering a Family Friendly Ghost Tour daily from October 1-March 15 at 5:30 p.m., which costs $25 for adults (ages 12+) and $12 for children (ages 7-11). For more information, call (912) 373-6651 or go to thebestsavannahtour.com.