I recently spent a weekend with my high school best friend, who is in grad school in middle Georgia. While there, we decided to spend an afternoon in the beautiful, historic city of Savannah, Georgia. I often take for granted the diversity of terrain in my home state (and the fact that a day trip to Savannah is even possible). Especially after seeing the sweeping vistas that the Rockies have to offer or the sprawling skyscrapers of Chicago, it’s nice to spend a day in a striking place that is so close to home and remember that Georgia is actually a pretty cool state.

We had a late night the previous evening, so it was kind of a miracle that we all (roommates included) made it to the car for a late lunch in the city. We ate at Kayak Kafe, which is in downtown and walking distance from pretty much everything. There are all kinds of shopping in the area, including the famed River Street (good for pretty views and all things touristy) and City Market (think art and saltwater taffy).

My experience with Savannah as an adult has mainly been passing through on my way to nearby locations, but that’s not for lack of things to do in this historic city. As a kid, I came to the city on multiple occasions—once on a school field trip on which we visited the Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum, and a few years later with my Girl Scout troop, to see the Juliette Low House. You can also sit where Forrest Gump once sat in Chippewa Square or take a ghost tour after dark. Savannah sits on the coast and is driving distance to many barrier islands and beaches, the closest being Tybee Island, about 20 minutes away.

Due to our late night, we decided to take it easy that day with a walk through Forsyth Park after lunch. The park is about two miles from the Savannah River shopping area. It has lots of green space, plenty of Live Oaks, and a beautiful fountain at the north end of the park. Many vendors also set up shop along the sidewalks of the park, and today was no different.

While strolling down the path, we happened across a small crowd of people who had gathered for a chance to hold one of many colorful parrots! Lucky for us, we had zero other plans and spent the next hour (at least) spending time with and learning all about parrots.

It turns out that we were meeting Jill, who runs an organization called Wings of Joy. She brought eight of her birds to the park that day, not only to spread joy, but also to raise awareness for her organization and her birds. Parrots live much longer lives than your average house pets, and subsequently are given up at a much higher proportion than dogs and cats. Unfortunately, most shelters do not take exotic birds, creating a never-ending string of new homes for these intelligent creatures. Wings of Joy acts as a new, permanent home for many unwanted birds.

Jill then uses her pets as a community outreach program, providing education and therapy for others. I can attest to this—it is so much fun to hang out with a bunch of parrots! Jill taught us how to pass the birds around, allowing us to each hold multiple different species. We made new friends and not only had the delight of such an unexpected experience, but also of seeing a woman carry out a passion that benefited so many. We waited for an opportunity to hold her macaw named Romeo, meanwhile enjoying the company of her smaller birds. Thank you, Jill, for the work that you do and the chance to become acquainted with your exotic buddies!

After spending our entire afternoon in the park with Jill and Wings of Joy, we stopped at a nearby coffee shop for a pick me up before our drive home. There are always new sights to see in Savannah, and who knows, maybe you’ll make some winged friends along the way.

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