Savannah, Georgia holds a special place in my heart. My very first solo trip brought me to this charming Southern city many years ago and will forever be one of my favorite destinations in the United States.
Because this city has drawn me back three times now, I have experienced a great deal of the attractions that Savannah has to offer. If you’re planning a trip to the area, here are 15 things that I recommend doing when visiting this historic city.
The 22 squares of Savannah are the heart and soul of the city. These mini parks are surrounded by historic homes and churches, are shaded by giant oak trees, and feature varying monuments — yet each takes on their own personality. Since Savannah is such a walkable city, do yourself a favor and take the time to simply wander from square to beautiful square.
Always my first stop when I arrive in Savannah, Forsyth Park is a 30-acre city park in the heart of the historic district. For locals and tourists, Forsyth Park is a hub of social interaction due to the many concerts, recreation sports, people watching, sun bathing, and relaxing that is done throughout the public space. The fountain that is the focal point of the park is incredibly beautiful, but not unique. The iconic fountain was actually ordered from a catalog and thus similar fountains exist in New York, Peru, and France. Despite this fact, the Spanish-moss-draped walkway that leads to the fountain helps make Forsyth Park one of my favorite spots in all of Savannah.
Historic River Street, paved with 200-year-old cobblestones, runs along the length of the Savannah River. The century old buildings, once cotton warehouses, have been converted to antique shops, art galleries, quaint brew pubs, fabulous restaurants, unique nightspots, and elegant inns. Savannah allows to-go cup cocktails on the streets, so ask your bartender to make your drink a take-out and spend your time leisurely strolling down River Street.
One suggestion: visit River Street Sweets and pick up some of their famous pecan pralines! You’ll thank me later.
Bonaventure Cemetery is one of the most beautiful graveyards in America. It feels strange to even say that, but its true. Probably most famous for being featured on the cover of the novel Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, the peaceful setting rests on a scenic bluff of the Wilmington River. Whether you walk through the grounds or take a guided tour, make sure you search for three of the cemetery’s more famous residents: Johnny Mercer, Conrad Aiken, and Little Gracie Watson.
Wormsloe Historic Site
Wormsloe Historic Site is the property of Noble Jones, one of Georgia’s colonial founders. The tabby walls of his home are the oldest standing structures in the Savannah area. While the site offers a museum and a demonstration area interpreting colonial daily life, the real draw for visitors is the jaw-dropping live oak entrance. The roadway leading through the property is lined with more than 400 oak trees planted by Wymberley Jones De Renne in the early 1890s.
Considered one of the most haunted cities in all of the United States, booking a ghost tour in Savannah is a must! I decided on a Ghost Walk through the historic area that told the tales of a young girl who hovers over the bed of Room #204 at the 17 Hundred 90 Inn & Restaurant and the pounding of an old woman’s cane that can still be heard on the floor of the Kehoe House. Despite my nerves not being able to handle a more eerie experience, rest assured that Savannah has ghost tours for everyone — from riding in a hearse, to a haunted pub crawl, or the nationally recognized Blue Orb Tours.
Leopold’s Ice Cream
Since 1919, Leopold’s has been an institution for residents and visitors of Savannah. Famous for their award-winning, homemade ice cream, the retro shop was named the #5 ice cream in the world. A must-have is the Tutti Frutti flavor, which Leopold’s claims to have been the originator of. Quite simply, no trip to Savannah is complete without a visit to Leopold’s Ice Cream!
A four block open-air market located in the heart of the historic district, City Market has a little bit of everything for the Savannah visitor. Live outdoor musical performances, shopping, dining, and art galleries in these restored warehouses all come together to make City Market a hub of downtown Savannah.
Sunset Dolphin Tour
A dolphin tour is always a fun excursion, but up the ante just a bit and make it a SUNSET dolphin tour. This is what a friend and I did a few years back, and we could not have enjoyed a more perfect evening. We embarked towards the Atlantic Ocean with Captain Mike’s Dolphin Tours, passed the Cockspur Lighthouse, and gazed at dozens of playful dolphins. One of my favorite moments was the beautiful ‘double sunset’ we witnessed, in which our tour guide re-positioned the boat to observe the sun disappear below the horizon a second time.
Jones Street was voted one of the most beautiful in North America by Southern Living magazine. And it certainly is! After a visit to Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room (see below) located at 107 W. Jones Street, walk off your hearty meal by taking a stroll along this quaint, tree-lined road.
Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room
Located on Jones Street, the Wilkes House is home to a Southern-style dining experience that you won’t soon forget. Open on weekdays from 11am-2pm, make sure to arrive early to join the line of people waiting for a seat at one of the large tables-for-ten shared by strangers. The menu changes daily, but you are always guaranteed to leave with a full belly. A few things to keep in mind: charge cards are not accepted, reservations are not taken, and be prepared to bond with strangers over a delicious Southern meal!
Fort Pulaski National Monument
Located on Cockspur Island between Savannah and Tybee Island, Fort Pulaski National Monument is the perfect destination for a history buff. For much of the 19th century, masonry fortifications were the United States’ main defense against overseas enemies. However, during the Civil War, the Union army used state-of-the-art rifled cannons to compel the Confederate garrison inside Fort Pulaski to surrender. The siege was a landmark experiment in the history of military science and invention.
The National Park Service continues to protect, restore and manage the Fort Pulaski National Monument. The Visitor Center offers guided fort tours, which I can say was one of the best and most interesting tours I have ever been on. Your passionate and knowledgeable guide will be sure to bring the history of Fort Pulaski alive!
Olde Pink House
The Olde Pink House — named for obvious reasons — is one of Savannah’s most popular restaurants. Not only does the restaurant boast a fantastic Southern menu, but this elegant Colonial mansion also offers live music in the cellar tavern. The Olde Pink House is also a popular destination for Savannah ghost hunters. Patrons have claimed to have found themselves in conversation with James Habersham Jr., who supposedly hanged himself in the cellar in 1799.
A memorable and unique souvenir for you to pick up during your visit is a Savannah Rose. Made from dried palm fronds, you can find dozens of vendors throughout the city weaving these beautiful keepsakes. The friendly artists typically share proper techniques in caring for your new rose and only ask for a ‘donation’ in return, with an average of $5 per rose. Look for these street artisans in Forsyth Park, along River Street, and many of the popular squares.
Forrest Gump Bench at Chippewa Square
Everyone has heard of the critically acclaimed movie, Forrest Gump. But not everyone realizes that the scenes of Forrest recounting his life story were indeed filmed in a square in Savannah. The famous bench that Tom Hanks sat on was actually a movie prop that has since been placed in the Savannah History Museum, but that doesn’t stop Chippewa Square from still being a popular spot for photographs.
Where to Stay in Savannah
• Baymont Inn & Suites – great value, clean rooms, and conveniently located less than 15 minutes from the historic district.
• Motel 6 Midtown – I have stayed at this property twice and had pleasant experiences both times. Less than 20 minutes to downtown Savannah.
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