Savannah in a gem of a place that many of us would overlook—but, no one should! The coastal city in Georgia is fringed by the Savannah River, and presents a charming blend of the past and the modern world. There are impeccable gardens and parks lined with humongous oak trees covered in Spanish moss, cobblestoned pathways dotted with horse-drawn carts, elegant buildings and mansions designed in the Southern Antebellum architectural style. Let’s not forget the quaint historic district and squares, with the best bed & breakfasts.
There are also endless fun things to do in Savannah—from top attractions to delicious restaurants (you must try the family-style southern food at Mrs. Wilkes!) to interesting historic tours. And this list of activities will make you want to move this GA town up a spot on your bucket list.
WHAT TO SEE + DO
1. ✦ Get Bug Soap
First things first. As soon as you arrive to Savannah head over to Nourish Bath Products and purchase a bar of Don’t Bug Me soap, especially if you are there in the humidity of the summer. You can thank me later.
This adorable bath shop was started by a serious crafter and her daughter. Thirteen years and three retails stores later they have created a success. I walked away with three of the best bars of soap; the Hippie Chick, Vanilla Raspberry and Apparition Ale (made with the local beer).
2. ✦ Orient Yourself With the City on a Trolly
Take a historic ‘hop on/off” trolley tour with Old Savannah Tours to get yourself familiar with this beautiful city. There are 16 stops to explore, but even if you don’t get off at any of them it will only take ninety minutes roundtrip. Time well spent. And ask for Angel, she will put the most hilarious spin on history.
You can easily book a seat for the Hop-On, Hop-Off Historic Savannah Full-Day Trolly Tour in advance.
photo courtesy of Old Savannah Tours
3. ✧ Enjoy a Beach Day on Tybee Island
Plan a short and sweet getaway to the barrier island near Savannah which is renowned for its sun-kissed beaches, vividly painted townhouses, and cordial locals. The island is only a 30-minutes’ drive from downtown Savannah. Tybee is actually a group of beaches such as South Beach, Mid Beach, North Beach, Savannah River Beach, and Back River Beach. Each beach has its own unique features and offers different sorts of activities perfect for kids, teens or adults!
There is much more to Tybee Island than sandy shores and beachy attractions. Pay a visit to Fort Pulaski National Monument, a nineteenth century masonry fortification, and observe how the city withstood a siege during a Civil War. Next on your list should be the Tybee Island Lighthouse; one of the seven Colonial-era lighthouses that is Georgia’s tallest and oldest. Climb to the top and take in the enchanting views of the Atlantic Ocean and Savannah River. Once you are done with the land, take a boat tour to traverse the Tybee’s back river, channels, and tidal marshes. During the trip, try your hand at fishing and have a fun time spotting dolphin.
4. ✧ Drive Under the Moss Covered Oaks
Seeing the Spanish moss hanging from the oak trees is one of the best things to do in Savannah, and one of the top ways to experience it is by going to the Wormsloe Historic Site, the tabby ruins of a fortified colonial estate. The driveway to these ruins is a one and a half mile avenue sheltered by these impressive trees.
5. ✧ Take A Riverboat Cruise
When you are in Savannah, don’t miss out on the chance to experience the dazzling waterfront from the water on a scenic boat cruise. From a sun-drenched brunch cruise to a dinner voyage kissed with moonlight, this is a unique way to experience the city’s rich history and scenic river.
Book a tour with a reputable boat charter online in advance.
6. ✧ Relax at Forsyth Park
Forsyth Park is an iconic attraction in the historic district of Savannah, and an absolute must-see when visiting the city! Spanning 30 acres, it’s the largest public park in Savannah (and the oldest too!). Upon first arriving, it will be hard to take your eyes off the Spanish moss filled oak trees, but when you do you will in awe of the neatly manicured lawns and the beautiful water fountain that sits as the centerpiece of it all. Take a leisurely stroll, relax on one of the benches or pack a picnic, pop a squat and enjoy a peaceful meal amongst the hovering Oaks and Spanish moss.
7. ✧ Kayak the Skidaway Narrows
Skidaway Narrows is an intercoastal waterway situated within Skidaway Island State Park and this is where you can embark upon a fun kayaking journey. Paddle along the waterway and you will find yourself in a winding canal branching into several forested brooks. During the tour, not only do you have a chance to spot dolphins swimming alongside, but it is also the perfect place for bird watching. You might find yourself mingling with some of the southern bird species, like like Bald Eagles, Ospreys, Egrets and Pelicans
8. ✦ Visit All the Historic Squares
The 22 historic squares in Savannah and communal mini-parks that are scattered throughout the historic downtown. They offer a little peace, serenity and greenery in the middle of streets lined with businesses and historic homes. They all have their own charm, but one of the most famous is Chippewa Square where the bench scene in the Forest Gump movie was filmed. If you would like to preserve your “square visiting” memory head over to One Fish Two Fish who sells different scented candles to represent each square.
The Old Savannah Historic Walking Tour will make a stop to many of the historic squares, and give you a little history too.
9. ✦ Visit The First African Baptist Church
Said to be the very first black Baptist congregation in North America, the First African Baptist Church is located in Franklin Square in Savannah. It was founded by Reverend George Leile in 1773 as a sanctuary for runaway slaves and worshippers. Reverend George was himself a slave who drove a carriage until he was freed for his loyalty. With the Civil War raging on, many slaves were forced to use the church as a hideout. Today, the church houses a museum with artifacts and memorabilia dating back to the 18th century.
10. ✦ Stroll Down the Most Beautiful Street in North America
Jones Street was voted one of the most beautiful in North America by Southern Living. And it is, so don’t miss taking a stroll along this quaint tree lined road. Bonus: Mrs. Wilkes Boarding Room restaurant is also located nearby. So, gorge on some of the best Southern food first, then walk it off in beautiful style.
11. ✦ Get a Taste of France
If you must escape from the Southern lifestyle for a nanosecond, go to The Paris Market to get a taste of France. There you will be engulfed in two-stories of charming French home goods and unforgettable treasures. I can guarantee that you will wish your suitcase was bigger!
12. ✧ Immerse Yourself in the History at Fort McAllister State Park
Situated on the coast of the Ogeechee River about 10 miles away from Savannah, you will find Fort McAllister State Park. This park is surrounded by towering evergreen oaks with Spanish moss (of course!), and a large saltwater wetland. It is not only the perfect spot for scenic hiking, picnics, and camping, it is also one of the best places to get a some historical insight. The park is home to Fort McAllister, a Confederate earthwork fortification that was built to protect Savannah from attacks during the American Civil Work. Visitors can see the relics of the war such as cannons, a hot shot furnace, barracks, and palisades. There is also a museum within the parks that has a number of Civil War memorabilia, videos, and a souvenir shop.
13. ✦ Get Inside a Novelists Mind
The Flannery O’Connor Childhood Home is a museum dedicated to this acclaimed novelist who wrote The Violent Bear it Away, among several other books. Why would going to this writers home be on your things to do in Savannah bucket list? Because it is a unique look into the mind of an interesting girl. For example, when she was young she would write reviews of the children’s books she read, leaving notes on the pages. Needless to say, she was a bit opinionated.
14. ✧ Take a Ghost Tour
Savannah happens to be one of the most ghost-plagued cities in America! Paranormal activities are so common here that locals take it quite lightly. In Savannah, you will be surprised to find a number of haunted sights ranging from graveyards to local pubs. Popular ghostly sites include the rum cellar at The Pirate’s House where you might have an encounter with spirits, the Gothic-style Bonaventure Cemetery where you can take among the tombstones, Sorrel-Weed House, and Madison Square. If these places are too spooky to navigate on your own (and you want to learn some of the history) then take a tour. There are plenty of ghost tours, but these are two of the top ones:
15. ✦ Buy Original Art and Support an Art Student
The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) is arguably one of the top art and design universities in the country and they have a gift shop in town, shopSCAD. The students and faculty showcase their work in this trendy boutique-style shop. I walked away with a unique lucky penny necklace.
16. ✧ See a Show at the Historic Savannah Theater
The Historic Savannah Theater is one of America’s oldest theaters that is still operating. It opened way back in 1818, and since then it has been hosting live performances and movie shows. Since then the theater has been undergone several renovations, due to fires, and now has an art deco style. Over the years they have featured a plethora of renowned performers including Ty Cobb, Oscar Wilde, Edwin Booth, E. H. Sothern, and Julia Marlowe. If you wish to watch a dazzling performance in the theater, you can book or purchase tickets to the show through their website.
17. ✧ Take a Ghost Tour in a Hearse
Just because a simple ghost tour wouldn’t be creepy enough, take one where you will be riding in a hearse. The Hearse Ghost Tour of Savannah will tell you tales while touring the city in what once was a real hearse.
Don’t want to ride in a hearse? Then take the Ghosts and Graveyards of Savannah trolley tour instead.
18. ✧ See a Drag Show
Lady Chablis is a famous drag queen entertainer who was featured in director Clint Eastwood’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and also an episode of Bizarre Foods. Before she passed on, she would perform on the stage of Club One. Though she is no longer with us, the drag show still lives on—don’t miss it!
19. ✧ Spend the Afternoon at The Owens-Thomas House
Prepare yourself to get soaked in the past and experience the untold stories by spending an idyllic afternoon at the Owens-Thomas House. The Regency-style mansion was built in 1819, and features sprawling gardens, slave quarters and a carriage house. The historic house museum gives you an insight to Savannah’s dark history. Through exploring the humbling slave quarters and period rooms filled with historic pictures, interactive exhibits, and artifacts, you can witness the complex and tumultuous lives of the slaves and owners who lived here 200 years ago.
20. ✧ Visit the Bonaventure Cemetery
Bonaventure is the most famous and hauntingly beautiful cemetery with incredible statues, impressive tombs and interesting residents. And there are plenty of ways for you to explore it—you can take a mysterious after-hours walking tour or for something more unique, Segway of Savannah will take you there in style, with limited walking.
21. ✦ See the Forrest Gump Bench
The beauty of Savannah is extremely underrated, but many film directors have used the city as a backdrop. One of the movies is none other than ‘Forest Gump’. Do you remember the scenes where Gump is contently sitting on a bench narrating his life to random people? What if I tell you that you can actually check out the very same bench? After the movie was critically acclaimed, the movie prop became a sort of treasured pop-cultural collectible. While in the movie, the bench was placed in Chippewa Square (a popular spot for photographers), it has now been moved to the Savannah History Museum.
22. ✦ Take in the Beauty of St. John Cathedral
View the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist from the inside and the out. There are no words to describe how beautiful the architecture, stained glass work and exquisite carvings are.
Note: the Hop-on Hop-off trolly will take you there!
23. ✦ Sip, Shop & Stroll on Broughton Street
Savannah allows to-go cup cocktails on the streets, as long as they are under 16 ounces (one more reason to love this city!). Ask your bartender to make your drink a take-out and spend the afternoon sipping while shopping the trendy boutiques on Broughton Street.
24. ✧ Tour Old Fort Jackson
Situated on the Savannah River, Fort James Jackson is a National Historic Landmark and the oldest known standing brick fort in Georgia. It was built in the year of 1808 and houses a variety of military artifacts of the Civil War. You can explore the medical room, kitchen, workshop, and other rooms filled with memorabilia that give you a glimpse of a life of a soldier. The highlight of the tour is most definitely the cannon firing programs every day that take place at 11:00 am and 2:00 pm. Moreover, there are several fun-filled interactive programs for adults, kids, and families.
25. ✦ Take a Pedicab
After your sipping & shopping, let someone else do the driving. You will see Pedicabs throughout historic Savannah, mostly near River Street. Hop on, and they will bicycle you to your destination. The fee is up to you to decide, though they say the average is $8-$12.
WHERE + WHAT TO EAT & DRINK
26. ✦ Drink Absinthe at a Speakeasy
Mata Hari is a sexy speakeasy that only allows entry with a key, and if you read my post about drinking absinthe at this secret speakeasy you will get some tips on how to get one. Once inside order an absinthe done the traditional way, by melting a sugar cube into the liquor and diluting with water.
27. ✧ Sample the Local Craft Beer
Brewpubs, breweries, beer bars… You name it. When it comes to craft beer, Savannah utilizes the highest quality ingredients. Some of the places that stand out include The Distillery where you must also try out Al Capone turkey sandwich, Southbound Brewing Company for awesome drinks and company and don’t forget to check out the excellent selection of craft beer at Habersham Beverage.
28. ✦ Do a Honey Tasting
Savannah Bee Company is a shop where they are taking their passion for honeybees and redefining honey with beauty products and specialty blends. It’s fun to peruse the store, but you can also get a taste of their deliciousness at their honey bar. Need I say more? Not really, but if your you need more, read about my honey tasting experience at Savannah Bee.
29. ✧ Eat at the The Olde Pink House Restaurant
The Olde Pink House Restaurant is nestled within the heart of historic Savannah. Set up in an 18th century mansion, the restaurant has a casual setup with just the right dose of sophistication. Here you can indulge in home-cooked low-country cuisine and traditional Southern fare prepared with the best and fresh ingredients. The restaurant has private dining rooms if you wish to relax and dine in utmost privacy. Don’t miss the yummy chicken pot and make sure to check out the piano bar in the basement after you are with the dinner.
30. ✦ Eat Traditional Southern Cooking Served Family-Style
Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room, a former boardinghouse, has been serving homestyle Southern cooking in a family-style setting for 68 years. I think they know what they are doing. My memorable dining experience at Mrs. Wilkes included 22 Southern specialties, all of which I fit onto one plate!
31. ✧ Take a Food Tour
In Savannah, you must devour the scrumptious Southern food like a local, and you can do that by joining a culinary tour that also offers a glimpse into the city’s culture. It is a great way to get a sampling of a little bit of everything! There’s plenty to choose from, and here are some of the top Southern-style tours that will have you eating everything from barbecue to dessert:
32. ✦ Eat Tutti Frutti Ice Cream
Leopolds is a legendary ice cream shop that claims to be the creators of the Tutti Frutti flavor. They started their recipe in 1919 and can’t find any record of Tutti Frutti prior. It is a unique flavor that tastes like a frozen fruit cake, but better! If fruit cake is not your thing, try the Guinness float made with Guinness ice cream.
33. ✧ Drink a Horchata Latte at the Coffee Fox
The Coffee Fox is an award winning, craft coffee house in downtown Savannah where you must have a Horchata latte. It’s like a Mexican mocha—sweet, creamy, and nutty.
34. ✦ Partake in an Afternoon Tea
Afternoon tea should not only be reserved for a trip to Britain, the South are masters at it too. You can have a little “tea party” at The Tea Room, complete with some delectable tiny finger sandwiches. Bonus. I can vouch for the Emperors Bride blend! It is the most popular brew with pineapple chunks, citrus peels and thistle petals.
35. ✧ Try the PB&J Chicken Wings at Treylor Park
PB&J Chicken Wings? Really? Yes Really! The crispy fried wings are tossed in a peanut/pecan butter and peach jelly sauce. Treylor Park certainly knows how to play with the ingredients! How about following your wings up with some fried Oreos for dessert? The menu is divided into five categories; brunch, lunch, shares, entrees, and desserts, and each dish stays true to the restaurants trailer park theme (with a little touch of luxury).
36. ✦ Try a Pimento Cheese Sandwich
Many Southern restaurants will feature a pimento sandwich, but maybe not as good as at Gryphon. It is a bonus that is is right across the street from shopSCAD and also supports the students of the Savannah Art & Design Institute. That is probably why their food is so pretty.
37. ✧ Eat the Conquistador at Zunzi’s
Zunzi’s is a globally inspired sandwich shop that delivers hearty flavors. It’s top menu item, The Conquistador, has been featured by outlets like the Travel Channel and People.com, and for good reason. Firstly, it is HUGE – good enough for two adults. Secondly, it is filled to the brim with juicy and tender chicken pieces, plus it has provolone cheese and is slathered with Zunzi’s special sauces.
38. ✦ Get a Fun & Unique Martini
Jens & Friends is a dive bar with dozens of creative martinis to choose from, and they come with edible accessories. My table sipped on the Rice Krispie Treat and the Moon Pie Martini.
Want to make your own martinis? Check out this 101 Martinis Recipe Book.
39. ✧ Visit the Birthplace of the Girl Scouts Founder
Savannah is home to the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace, the founder of the Girl Scouts. You can learn about her life at the ‘home museum’ and if you plan your visit during cookie season, buy a box…or two…from the troops out front. Who doesn’t like to indulge in an entire box of yummy Samoas or Thin Mints? Can’t Wait? Buy Girl Scout Cookies Now.
40. ✧ Eat Adventurous Cuisine
If you are an adventurous eater like me and like to try weird foods from around the world, then get your fill on exotic meats at Alligator Soul. Depending on the night, you may be able to munch on elk, bison yak, ostrich and even alligator tempura!
Photo Courtesy of Alligator Soul
WHERE TO STAY
41. ✦ Sleep at a Historic Inn with a Ghost Story
Staying at a historic inn with a ghost story shouldn’t be too difficult considering Savannah is the most haunted place in the country. I stayed at the former Dresser Palmer House, home to Ghost Madeline, a sweet female child who leaves pennies for the guests. Though it has since closed, there are plenty of other inns with interesting stories too. Some of the top are The Marshall House, The Gastonian or Eliza Thompson House.
Savannah might be a small city, but it full of rich culture and fantastic things to do. I suggest you try to explore the city by foot, so you don’t miss any of the nooks & crannies.
What things to do are on you Savannah Bucket List?
Essential Tips for Visiting Savannah, Georgia
Getting There: Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport is a major hub and most airlines will fly into it. You can easily check for the best fare deals at Skyscanner, which also has the option to choose ‘cheapest month’ as the departure to find the lowest priced dates to fly to your destination. From the airport to the city center, you can take a shuttle, Uber or Lyft, or take a taxi. You can also board Savannah’s Airport Bus (The 100X Airport Express) to Downtown Savannah, which costs $5 each way or $8 round trip.
Where to Stay in Savannah: It’s best to stay near the city center, public transportation or the area that you will be spending the most time in. The Thunderbird Inn (moderate) is a great choice that is a 5 minute walk to Savannah’s historic Downtown District. For something in the heart of the Downtown District, try The Marshall House, Historic Inns of Savannah Collection (moderate). For something on the less expensive side, try the Comfort Suites Gateway, or Stay Alfred at Drayton Tower, located in the heart of Savannah. For a less expensive option in Savannah’s Midtown, try the Courtyard by Marriott Savannah Midtown. For a hotel with a little more extravagance, book a room at the Perry Lane Hotel. Or search some great deals on hotels of your choice at Booking.com. If you’re looking for more of a home atmosphere (or are traveling with a group of people), head over to Airbnb that has houses, apartments and even just a room for rent in every price range.
Getting Around: Driving in Savannah can be a bit of a challenge and parking fees can be expensive, but if you choose to rent a car, RentalCars.com has great deals. If you are not renting a car, there are plenty of options. Taxis, Lyft and Uber are available all over the city, plus most of the top attractions can be accessed with the Hop-On Hop-Off Historic Trolley. Savannah also has a free bus and ferry around the Historic District. Savannah’s public transit service, the Chatham Area Transit (CAT), provides services around Savannah and its suburbs.
City Transportation Passes: Day passes for Savannah’s public transit (CAT) can be purchased for $3 per day, which allows unlimited travel on the day of activation. Just notify your driver that you want a day pass instead of a single ticket before purchasing.
Best Tours in Savannah: You can find some of the top tours at Get Your Guide or Viator, and here are some of the top ones:
More About Georgia
Drink Absinthe at a Secret Savannah Speakeasy
Climb the St. Simons Lighthouse in Georgia
Take a Beach Bike Ride on St. Simons Island in Georgia
Drink Moonshine at a Southern Low Country Boil
Have a Shark Encounter While Shrimping in Georgia
Attend A Honey Tasting in Savannah, Georgia
Sleep in a Haunted House in Savannah
Eat Pimento Cheese Sandwich in Savannah
Savannah Guide by Points and Travel