Updated: Aug 6
I fell in love with Savannah. Wandering the streets, eating the food, overlooking the river and admiring the spirit of savannah gave me joy! What a fun city filled with possibility! Fun for solo trips, girl's weekends, and family quality time. Perfect for someone who wants to explore culture, art, history and escape to the beautiful beaches not too far away!
There's so many things I want to share about this historical city.
First, I will share that Savannah's awful history was a deterrent to my visiting for so long. Now that I have finally been here and experienced how today's Savanah feels, I love it.
If you’ve been following my blog and travels (thank you!) then you know I love to experience places with my kids. I genuinely love to explore, and the teacher in me wants to share the experience and make a great memory for others as well. The discovery of Savannah, GA came about through a conference opportunity, and I am fortunate to have a coworker willing to show me around Savannah through the eyes of a girl who grew up there, returning as an adult. My real thought about Savannah is it's a picturesque city that feels safe, diverse and welcoming, and feels like there is underlying history just waiting for you to uncover it all. Let's go!
Where is Savannah located?
Along the Eastern Coast of Georgia, east of I-95 and just South of South Carolina, this southern city is on the mouth of the Savannah River. The River is the boundary between Georgia and South Carolina as it flows southeastward past Augusta and Savannah, Ga., into the Atlantic Ocean after running 314 miles. Savannah is easily accessible from many other East Coast Cities, this hot spot is a gem of history that never stopped growing and changing. Savannah remembers yesterday while paving the way for new industry. Home to the “prettiest street in America”, Jones Street known as a Spanish moss-lined lane that marries old world charm with new world innovation. Architecturally alluring, this city has been revitalized, restored and kept true to the time. Much of the city is bricked out and has vibrant well preserved buildings.
Location Location Location...
Because of Savannah's close proximity to I-95, this is a GREAT pitstop on a road trip North or South. Downtown historic Savannah is about 8 minutes from the interstate. With so many great places to eat, it's worth it just to have some good food, maybe get out of the car and stretch (walk around) a little, preferably in a BEAUTIFUL tree lined street dripping with Spanish Moss!
Hot and Humid! October, April and November are the most pleasant months in Savannah, while July and August are the least comfortable. Georgia is known for being a rainy place, and some form of precipitation falls 101 days a year. May be rain or snow depending on the temperature. Savannah is classified as having two seasons, wet and dry. It rarely falls below 60 degrees. The wet season is May to October. Plan accordingly, bring an umbrella. Click here for 8 things a rainy day on your vacation is good for... All that being said, we were there for a week in April and the weather was PERFECT, and it never rained at all. I was pretty hot out walking around.
Is Savannah close to the Mountains or Ocean?
If you’re looking for mountains, Ashville SC is your better bet, as Savannah and the entire surrounding area is extremely flat. The Blue Ridge is northwest, and Stone Mountain North of Atlanta are both hours away.
But the Beaches….
Tybee Island is about a 20-minute drive (18 miles) from downtown Savannah and is considered Savannah’s official beach. Some may prefer this beach as it offers a wide variety of activities including: dolphin cruises, jet skiing, ecology tours, offshore and deep-sea charters, or you can fish right in the surf. Previously a military base, and still home of the last surviving colonial lighthouse in the U.S, the Tybee Island Light Station dates to 1736. A visit to this 145-foot tower gives a picturesque experience, and amazing views from the top. Tybee is the Native American Euchee word for “salt,” which was and is a plentiful resource found on the island.
Cumberland Island which is a little farther to the south is one of the few places along the East Coast that horses live freely in the wild. The lively herd is most commonly sighted around the Dungeness Ruins. This is the southernmost point of Coastal Georgia.
However, Hilton Head Beach is just under an hour’s drive, and about 37 miles. This South Carolina hot spot is another popular option for visitors to Savannah as it is home to upscale beach resorts, restaurants, and a less crowded atmosphere. With a great vibe of upbeat energy, it’s just a little more refined. When we visited, we were able to eat dinner (it was so good) right on the beach, next to a pool with beautiful night lighting and a firepit blazing. On a night with a big full moon and perfect weather we felt so blessed to have that moment! We ate at Porch Southern Kitchen and Bar.
Where are the closest State/ National Parks to Savannah?
Located near historic Savannah, Skidaway Island State Park shares miles of spectacular nature trails that wind through lush maritime forest and salt marshes This is a significant barrier island home to lots of wildlife.
Fort Pulaski National Monument on Tybee Island offers diverse terrain ranging from sun shredded trails to marshes and small beaches, this monument is ideal for history buffs and nature lovers alike. Anyone who likes historic forts will love the 7 ½ foot solid brick walls and impressive masonry referenced as one of the “most spectacular harbor defense structures in the United States”.
Old Fort Jackson is a National Historic Landmark offering exciting interactive programs for adults, kids and families. Daily cannon firings bring history to life. Walk along Savannah’s riverfront and explore one of the oldest brick fortifications on the East Coast.
Ok We are Ready to Explore Savannah... Now What?
The obvious spot: Historic District Ranges from the River Street boundary up to Forsythe Park. The Squares and rows in between create a grid of history, which time has revamped or paid homage.
Where to begin!?
I recommend exploring from Forsythe Park, which is farther south, and working your way north towards the river. We can easily make this an entire day of walking and wandering and appreciating the main monuments and attractions of this beautiful city.
At Forsythe Park enjoy 30 acres of green space upkept and pristine park area. The focal point Is the fountain which lays in the center of the park as an ornately decorated icon.
Once you pass the fountain, it means you’ve reached the southern end of the Historic District and are entering the Victorian District.
From Forsythe Park you can zig zag your way through the 22 squares and work your way back towards River Street. There are five rows of squares. Start with Chatham Square and walk towards Whitfield Square, then cross up Price Street to the next row of Squares.
Cathedral of St. John the Baptist is located in LaFayette Square. This French Gothic Cathedral is a sight to be seen. Beaming into the air with twin spires and brilliant stained-glass windows, visitors will see this structure from many vantage points. Recognized for strong architecture, visitors can come inside to view the art, or participate in a mass.
Chippewa Square is the middle row of squares, and the center most square, as well as the most well-known. Made famous from Forrest Gump, sitting and telling the tale of his life to multiple strangers who join him on a bus bench, this is where Forrest waited for the bus. It's in the same row as Colonial Park Cemetary, which has over nine thousand graves, some of whom are notable people. Button Gwinnett was most well known for being one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.
Bull Street is the middle Street through the center of the Squares and connecting Forsythe Park to City Hall. This10 block stretch from City Hall to Forsythe Park includes many landmarks. The Ole Pink House crosses over into Johnson Square. Johnson Square is the oldest @1733, and the largest of the 22 squares, just 3 blocks from the Savannah River with great views of City Hall. Surrounded by classic buildings such as the old Citizen and Southern bank and Christ Church as well as the Ann Hamilton house, the oldest on the square, built @1824. There are also 2 fountains, a sundial and crossing through Chippewa Square to Forsythe Park this is a scenic route on the scenic route! Check and see that’s playing at the Savannah Theatre while you are there.
Historic District – Some of the buildings which are found here include: the Telfair Academy of Arts and Sciences (one of the South's first public museums), the First African Baptist Church (the oldest African American Baptist congregation in the United States), Temple Mickve Israel (the third-oldest synagogue in America), the Central of Georgia Railway roundhouse complex (the oldest standing antebellum rail facility in America), Christ Church (the Mother Church of Georgia), the old Colonial Cemetery, Old Harbor Light, and Factors Row, a line of former cotton warehouses.
This beautiful tree line Street with medians full of garden, was such a pleasure to walk through. It truly is a pedestrians city. The economy seems to have stayed alive during a time where many businesses suffered. The entire scene of shops, restaurants, bars, and art along with history and nature was honestly amazing.
City Market – aka “the art and soul of Savannah”
This market area is two blocks from River Street and it’s own plaza. Making up four blocks between Ellis and Franklin Squares, this shaded courtyard is big for lunch and dinner, but many of the businesses close in between. Businesses in City Market are open between 9am - 3am depending on the business; please call individual businesses for their specific hours. City Market Art Center studio hours may vary, so please call artists for specific hours. Here you can catch a trolley or carriage tour. The Prohibition Museum is located here.
This cobblestone walkway running east to west along the Savannah River has cobblestones dating back two centuries! Hotels, Inns, Shops, Galleries, Restaurants and Boutiques are collected along this very scenic walkway which has many access points. The “stairs of death” may sound tragic but these mark the historic passage comprised of 33 old steep steps.
There's a ramp style easy walkway aside the JW Marriott which also marks the beginning of the River Street walk. We walked down through this way and started the journey from this point. There is also a larger-than-life crystal outside of the entrance to the hotel. Many events take place on that corner, in the few days we were there, each day an event was going on. Several access points connect the lover level River Street to the Bay Street traffic above.
These are some of the steps...
I kept coming back down to River Street. This whole walkway has so much happening. Each time I came back there was a totally different view. Live music, art displays, smells from all kinds of good things to eat, I couldn't get enough. There are some memorials to mark some of the trials and tribulations of the past. The river boats attract more visitors who are coming for food, entertainment and cultural history.
Regardless of the time we visited, one thing was constant - free samples.
Candy shops making fresh homemade treats like the Savannah Cany Kitchen. River Street Sweets is the sister shop a few blocks down the walk. Gourmet delicacies are in no shortage here. Everything is delicious and made with love!
The unique thing that stood out to me about Savannah was all of the twists, turns, steps and ingenuity that went into creating a city with distinctly different areas that ties together so beautifully.
Where to eat?
I don't think there is bad food here. Between the several places I ate personally, and the places my coworkers ate at we all shared our praises of best things to eat. I felt that all of the places we visited made every effort to create an experience and not merely a meal. Food was all made fresh to order.
Some of the favorites I will mention however are:
Corleone's - 44 MLK Jr. Blvd, Savannah, GA 31401
Poe's Tavern - 7 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Savannah, GA 31401
Graffito Pizza - 500 W. Rive Street, Savannah, GA
Tequilla's Town Market Restaurant - 109 Whitaker St, Savannah, GA 31401
Ghost Tours WHAAAT?
Some of my coworkers suggested a ghost tour. Now looking at the history of Savannah I'm not sure I'd like to engage with those entities... but I did hear there's a lot of that type of activity, if that's your thing. Moon River Brewing Company has the reputation of being the most haunted site!
A Wonderful Surprise that Savannah was so welcoming... History and Present time
Savanna has a horrible history.
It may have been a deterrent to visiting and I'd never have the pleasure of seeing how resilient people and places can be.
Knowing some of the history had me turned off to ever visiting. Hearing the tales of the slave ships pulling up and people being auctioned right there where we stood. Felt criminal. And yet the thing that I feel about Savannah is that it is a history that has Evolved through time, overcome its own darkness, and even kept up with the past while moving forward into the present time. I can’t think of another city I’ve been in that has so much soul.
The city of Savannah became the British colonial capital of the Province of Georgia, and later the first state capital of Georgia. A strategic port city during both the American Revolution and the Civil War, Savannah is today an industrial center and an important Atlantic seaport. It is Georgia's fifth largest city and business is booming. Shops of every variety line the roads which also offer every type of food and dessert you could imagine. Bricked out streets or walkways add to the old era touch. While monuments document the growth of culture.
Savannah was a gift given to President Lincoln by Union General Sherman. Although he burned Atlanta to the ground during the Civil War, Savannah's beauty inspired him to preserve this beautiful place. Meanwhile, Union General David Hunter worked closely with the runaway slaves and issued an emancipation for all slaves in the states of Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina. The First African Baptist Church served as a stop on the underground railroad. If you tour this site, you can still see remnants from those times. Along River Street, the bordering warehouses were once filled with cotton – and, sadly, enslaved people. It’s said that this area, and Factor’s Walk, (just behind River Street) was the site of the most death, and therefore today is considered to be the most haunted part of town. And this is why I don't want to see any of the local ghosts.
*Parking can be tricky. All spaces are metered. Enforcement North of Liberty Street: Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., excluding city authorized holidays. Parking details can be found here: Parking in Savannah | VisitSavannah.com
*Savannah is very walkable and easy to Uber or Lyft as needed, this is preferrable to driving and parking. Bring good walking shoes. Walking is the best way to see this city.
*Savannah is a pedestrian-friendly city, as a person new to the city learning the traffic flow, I was amazed that drivers don't seem to be in a hurry and take their pedestrians seriously.
*If you are flying in the Savannah/ Hilton Head Airport is the closest, and very user friendly! Atlanta is another option with more flights and probably better prices, but it is a big busy airport which will be more time consuming.
*Savannah is a geometrically planned into 22 Squares. Explore them and get to know the city.
*The Hop on Hop off Trolley can help you with a tour if you prefer the guided route, which is fun and informative!
*You can take your drink to go: Savannah’s open-container laws are just perfect for wandering through its stunning squares with your chosen beverage in hand, and they don't call this the hostess city for nothing - the drinks are made well!
*Being home of the Prettiest Street in America (Jones Street) there are so many great places for photo ops! Come prepared to take those amazing photos and let the city be your backdrop!
*The Free Ferry? Yes! The Savannah Belles ferries, each named for the “Belles” of Savannah – four impactful women who contributed to Savannah’s history. Free passage across the Savannah River between downtown’s riverwalk and Hutchinson Island, home of the Savannah Convention Center and Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa. The accessible ferries, which can accommodate bicycles and luggage, operate from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week!
*Savannah has many tours to choose from. There are food tours. Walking tours. Trolley tours. Ghost tours. But this tour may be the most unique. The classic book In the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt. A tour of the Mercer Williams House allows you to step inside the most infamous home in modern-day Savannah, and the memorable setting of the book. Tour Details here.
Feeling like you need to plan this trip and unsure of the steps to make it happen? Just Go will help inspire you to form a workable plan.
Affordability meter: 7/10
On a scale of 1-10 how affordable is this day?
With 1 being utterly unaffordable and 10 being basically free, I rate this adventure a 7.
Savannah is not as expensive as Atlanta which has the big city buzz. If you want to go and walk around taking in the sights, you will pay for parking and the rest of your day is determined by how much or little you want to spend. I was able to find good food (whole meals) for under $20.00 and I was able to splurge on a few dinners that weren't too insanely priced. Walking and wandering will be very affordable, and I recommend having a picnic lunch under the trees in Forsythe or another beautiful spot. I saw many people doing this, and wished I had a blanket on me.
While this was a work trip, where I flew in and met with a group of coworkers, most of my travels are related to family fun! I hope to return with my family to share this experience.
Thank you for visiting, I'd love to hear your feedback, and favorite things to do!
~Wherever your travels take you, be sure to keep your presence in the moment.
~Enjoy where you are at. Be a little flexible with people and their navigation of time.
~Let go of things you can't control.
~Remember to put your people above things, and cherish the memories
~Do things that will make you proud of yourself when you remember the scenario.
~Live more, in abundance and walk in your own footsteps.
A note from the editor:
The information in this article was accurate when published but may change without notice. Confirm details when planning your trip. I hope this makes it easier for your planning process.
Thank you for stopping by today! Please share your thoughts and experiences, we are all on this journey to live and love together. I welcome your travel tips & tricks :-)
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I specialize in helping families spend more time enjoying their quality time together and less time having to figure it all out. My four children have been my test subjects of how to plan a great family adventure for many years and now that my youngest is 18, many of my travels are work related, or grandma related! As time has changed, I've evolved but I still LOVE TO TRAVEL, explore, wander, visit, discover, learn and love. Where there is nature, I find my happy place. I use the term single not to emphasize my status but to signify that if I can manage some family fun on a limited teacher's salary with four children, anyone can do it. I am just very intentional in how I spend my time and earnings. I typically seek out budget friendly ways to enjoy my time, but will occasionally splurge for the right reasons :-)
If you'd like some info about traveling to another city in Georgia, check out my Guide to ATL Georgia!
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