Savannah is known for beautiful cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages, and centuries-old trees draped in Spanish moss. (People often say the entire Historic District looks like something straight from the pages of a storybook!) Factor in the vibrant art scene, incredible restaurants, and numerous sites of historical significance, and you’ll see why it’s one of the best destinations to visit in 2018. Here are a few things to do in Savannah GA should you decide to make a trip to the “Hostess City of the South” this year.
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Things To Do In Savannah GA
Keep in mind that there's so much more to the city than what's listed here, but I wanted a convenient spot where I could round up a few favorite options. This checklist is for anyone who is planning a visit and is curious about the best things to do in Savannah GA in 2018. (It's interactive, so you can check each item off as you visit!)
1. Admire the Architecture
There's no shortage of beautiful architecture in Savannah; all you need to do is look up to discover it!
Architectural Tours of Savannah – If you find yourself captivated by the beautiful architecture in Savannah, you're not alone! Many of the homes' detailed façades practically beg for closer inspection. Local author Jonathan Stalcup hosts a highly informative 90-minute walking tour that consistently draws 5-star reviews on Trip Advisor. Jonathan obtained his Masters of Architecture degree from SCAD, is well-versed on the subject matter, and his tour is one of my favorite ways to appreciate the finer details of this beautiful city.
Jones Street – Prefer a self guided walking tour? Jones Street is often labeled as one of the “prettiest streets in America”, so it's a great place to begin your journey. From there, head south to stroll along Taylor, Gaston, and Gordon Streets. You'll be far enough removed from the more touristy areas that you'll get a true sense of the Historic District's charming neighborhood appeal.
Savannah Annual Tour of Homes & Gardens – Want to take a peek inside some of the beautiful homes in the Historic District? There are a few times each year when homeowners open their doors to the public. Try the Savannah Tour of Homes & Gardens in mid-March, the Savannah Garden Club's Tour of Hidden Gardens in mid-April, and the Downtown Neighborhood Association's Holiday Tour of Homes in December.
Related: Grab a copy of Jonathan's Savannah Architectural Tours book before your trip.
A beautiful (and bumpy) brick-lined road, courtyard gardens, and colorful homes shaded by 100-year-old oaks…what's not to love about Jones Street?
This home at the corner of Jones & Barnard Streets always looks beautiful in the early evening light.
Planning a trip to Savannah? My first time visitor's guide is chock full of insider tips and is scheduled for release in late July! Sign up here and I'll email you as soon as it's ready.
2. Discover SCAD
The Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD) is largely credited for breathing life back into the city of Savannah in recent decades. The school's impact is apparent throughout the Historic District — and well beyond.
ShopSCAD – The shop is located on the ground floor of the SCAD Welcome Center in Poetter Hall and is full of one-of-a-kind creations. You'll find beautiful jewelry, paintings, photography, illustrations, leather, and more from students in SCAD's illustrious design programs.
SCAD Museum of Art – The museum features rotating exhibits of contemporary art that change with each new academic quarter. The Guo Peì Collection exhibit was a favorite of recent options, but there's always something new and exciting to see. See what others have to say about SCAD's Museum of Art on TripAdvisor.
SCAD Students – SCAD students bring such an air of vibrancy to the city! You'll spot them on colorful SCAD busses, walking to and from classes, and darting through traffic on their bikes. It's fun to play “spot the major” to see if you're able to tell the difference between fashion design students, film majors, or illustration artists just by a cursory glance at the clothes + hair.
Original art available for purchase from students attending the Savannah College of Art & Design. [Image via Flickr CC | HumungoNation]
One of the beautiful and intricate Guo Peì designs on display at the SCAD Museum of Art.
Entering SCAD's Welcome Center in Poetter Hall is a lot like stepping through the looking glass in Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. There are rotating art displays throughout the colorful building.
3. Go Shopping
Did you know Savannah is home to not one, but TWO of Southern Living's ‘Best Shops in the South'? Whether you're seeking clothing boutiques, home decor, or unique souvenirs — you're bound to find something you love in Savannah.
One Fish Two Fish | 401 Whitaker Street – Located in the heart of the Historic District, One Fish Two Fish is a great destination for accessories, local collectibles, and beautiful home decor accents.
The Future on Forsyth | 106 W Gwinnett Street – If it's funky and fun vintage clothing you seek, look no further than The Future on Forsyth. The store is packed with unique outfits and accessories, and the employees are always friendly! (This ranks as one of Daisy's favorite clothing stores in Savannah and is often featured in our Instagram stories.)
The Paris Market & Brocanté | 36 W Broughton Street – We've written about our love for Paris Market before and definitely consider it one of the must-see stores in Savannah. You can't go wrong perusing it or any of the incredible shops along Broughton Street!
An eclectic selection of goods in one of the lower level rooms of The Paris Market & Brocanté.
4. Explore River Street
Savannah's Historic waterfront district is lined with cobblestone streets and is currently home to more than 70 restaurants, shops, and businesses. (That might explain why so many first time visitors make a beeline to the area.)
St. Patrick’s Day – River Street is famous for hosting the 2nd largest St. Patrick's Day festival in the U.S. The city's open container law allows guests to wander the streets with drinks in-hand, and visitors really get into the spirit of the holiday (no outfit is too crazy). Better book your hotel early, though. It's next-to-impossible to find Savannah accommodations in mid-March!
Georgia Queen Riverboat Tour – Catch a unique view of Savannah from the water aboard the 4-deck Georgia Queen or the 3-deck Savannah River Queen. Lunch and dinner cruise options are available. The gospel tours are very fun and spirited, while the sunset cruises are most popular. If you happen to be in town during a holiday, be sure to check out all of the fun seasonal options. [Book well in advance for the holiday tours.]
River Street Sweets – I've mentioned my family's love for River Street Sweets many times before, but this shop is a must when you're on River Street! Read more about my favorite sweets shop in Savannah, and be sure to take advantage of the free pralines the minute you step through the door.
Related: Read my in-depth guide to River Street to learn helpful insider tips about this particular area of the city.
The River Street area used to be a shipping port (and still is — a very busy one, just past the Talmadge Bridge), but the current area tourists flock to has been renovated beautifully. You'll find original cobblestone streets and historic buildings full of character.
Be sure to stop by River Street Sweets for free samples of the best fresh pralines you'll ever taste! The selection of sweets here is unreal and the staff is incredibly friendly.
5. Tour the Museums
I can think of at least 10 museums in Savannah off the top of my head, and I'm sure there are probably 5 more that aren't coming to me at the moment. At any rate, you could stay for a full week and not run out of museums to tour!
Telfair Museums – Purchase a Telfair pass and gain access to these 3 museum experiences for the price of one.
- Jepson Museum: This contemporary art museum is ideal for for families with kids in tow. They'll enjoy the interactive ArtZeum, where they can construct buildings with architectural blocks and create art pieces of their own. The Jepson Museum is currently home to the famous statue featured on the cover of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.
- Telfair Academy: The oldest museum in the South, this former mansion was built in 1818 for the son of Georgia governor Edward Telfair and now houses American & European art from the 19th & 20th centuries.
- Owens-Thomas House: Designated a Historic Landmark, this home turned museum explores the complicated relationship between wealthy homeowners and their slaves during the 1800's. The carriage house is the only still-intact former slave quarters open to the public in Savannah. At one point there were 14 enslaved workers residing on the property.
American Prohibition Museum – Travel back in time to the early 1900s and discover what life was really like during the prohibition era. Lifelike wax figures sport period costumes, making it possible to grab a selfie with the likes of Al Capone and “Machine Gun” Jack McGurn. Be sure to close out your tour with a drink at the speakeasy!
6. Enjoy the Sightseeing Tours
I always recommend sightseeing tours for first time visitors! They're a great way to get an overall feel for a city. Once you've done that, you can decide where you'd like to focus your time during your stay.
Ghost Tours – If one of your top reasons to visit Savannah is to scope out paranormal activities, you won't be disappointed! Tracking down ghosts is one of the city's most popular tourist attractions. I suggest purchasing a copy of the Haunted Savannah Map to supplement any ghost tour. (It makes a great souvenir!) | Purchase here
Old Savannah Trolley Tours – This hop on/hop off tour bus is a great way to see the city, particularly during the hot summer months. The trolley departs from the Savannah Visitors Center every 20 minutes. I suggest taking the tour all the way around the city once to decide which of the 16 drop-off points warrant further exploration. (The beautiful interior of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist on Lafayette Square is a must!) Be on the lookout for the most charming member of the tour; crowd favorite Forrest Gump makes an appearance about halfway through!
Self-Guided Tours – Savannah is a highly walkable city. Pick up a map of the Historic District and then set out on foot to discover Savannah's charm and beauty for yourself!
Avid ghost hunters insist on stopping in the Pirates' House Restaurant; it's the oldest continuously-standing building in the state of Georgia and is purportedly haunted!
7. Explore the Squares & Parks
There are currently 22 squares throughout the Historic District and a few larger parks scattered about the area. (Originally there were 24 squares, but 2 were lost to city development.) The squares provide much needed greenery and a quiet place to rest amidst the commotion of the city.
Forsyth Park & Farmers' Market – Forsyth is undoubtedly the most recognizable park in Savannah and is home to the city's most photographed fountain. It's a popular elopement spot, so you might get lucky and catch a wedding in progress during your visit! The south side of the park is where you'll find the Forsyth Farmers' Market every Saturday morning from 9 – 1.
Chippewa Square – Although Forrest Gump's famous bench is long gone, this square is still worth a visit. A statue of General James Oglethorpe, founder of the colony of Georgia, is prominently displayed in the center of the square. The beautiful Savannah Theatre is adjacent to the park. [Forrest's bench was relocated to the Savannah History Museum.]
Pulaski Square – This probably ranks as my personal favorite square in Savannah. It's in a quiet and peaceful area, and it's a great spot to relax under centuries-old oak trees draped in Spanish moss. Interestingly, Pulaski is one of the few squares that doesn't feature a monument or fountain.
Pulaski Square is surrounded by beautiful historic homes, and it's quite common to spot horse-drawn carriages circling the park.
8. Visit Historic Landmarks
Savannah was founded in 1733 and has one of the most beautifully restored historic downtown areas within the U.S. There are also numerous points of historic interest just outside the city limits.
Wormsloe Historic Site – Wander down the 1.5 mile “Avenue of the Oaks” and you'll feel like you've stepped back in time about 100 years. Descendants of Noble Jones, the original owner and one of the first settlers of the Province of Georgia, still reside on the property. [Note: The beautiful antebellum mansion is out of site and can't be toured.] The site's wooded trails, Colonial area, and the museum & gift shop are all open to the public. Wormsloe is about 10 minutes outside of town.
Andrew Low House & Juliette Gordon Low Childhood Home – Juliette Gordon Lowe's birthplace is currently owned and maintained by the Girl Scouts of America. It's a common occurrence to see troops touring the home — at times even selling cookies! Juliette was quite a talented artist, and the home displays many of her pieces. The meticulously restored home of her father-in-law, Andrew Low, is nearby and worth touring. It's on the National Register of Historic Places and is furnished with period pieces (many from the Low family) that provide a true feel for life in the mid to late 1800's in Savannah. | Learn more
Pin Point Heritage Site – Tour the A.S. Varn & Son Oyster and Crab Factory, which served as the main source of employment in Pin Point for 60 years, and learn the history of the tight-knit Gullah Geechee community. This is a community founded by freed slaves. It's also where Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was born and often returns to visit. You'll hear first-hand testimonials and discover just how difficult life was for the residents of Pin Point. | Learn more
“There are still places in America that can't be found on a map. They can only be found in the heart.”
Historical interpreter Gail Smith provides her unique insight on the Gullah Geechee culture in Pin Point.
Wormsloe and Pin Point are very close in proximity, so plan to visit both on the same day.
9. Uncover the Local Art Scene
From SCAD's Sidewalk Arts Festival to the Savannah Art Walk, you'll find artists expressing themselves nearly everywhere in Savannah. There are numerous galleries throughout the city and a variety of classes in almost every art genre.
Street Murals – Thanks to SCAD's presence and a thriving local art scene, you'll find numerous colorful murals scattered throughout the city. Most of my favorites can be found in or near the Starland Arts District, including the beautiful Georgia Bees mural by Mary Lacy.
Mansion on Forsyth Park – Once a single-family home, the Mansion on Forsyth currently operates as a 5-star hotel. The historic building houses a carefully curated art collection of more than 400 original pieces. [NOTE: If you're seeking accommodations in Savannah, this is one of my top 5 hotel recommendations in the area.] | Check current rates.
Starland Arts District – This is where I purchased my first home in Savannah! It's within walking distance to a plethora of fun and funky shops, such as Graveface Records & Curiosities, House of Strut, and Foxy Loxy Cafe. The district hosts a monthly art walk known as First Fridays.
The residents of Savannah can always count on SCAD to add a touch of color to the city.
A Century of Hats: A collection of millinery from the 1860s – 1960s on display in the lobby of the Mansion on Forsyth. TIP: Stand in front of the display case to “try on” each hat using your reflection.
10. Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth
Whew. Still with me? This is turning into a huge list of things to do in Savannah GA, but that's only because there's a LOT to cover. My love for River Street Sweets runs deep, but it's not the only place in town to satisfy a sweet tooth. Here are a few additional favorites…
Back in the Day Bakery | 2403 Bull Street – Want to feel as if you've stepped back in time? Try ducking into this vintage bakery & expresso shop in the heart of the Starland Arts District. The ladies behind the counter wear red lipstick, bandanas and denim, reminiscent of “Rosie the Riveter”.
Leopold's Ice Cream | 212 E. Broughton Street – The lines are always out the door at Leopold's (even during the winter months). Make sure you set aside plenty of time if you plan on grabbing a cone at the South's most famous ice cream shop.
Lulu's Chocolate Bar | 42 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. – Grab your girlfriends and top off the evening at Lulu's Chocolate Bar. The bar serves everything from chocolate covered strawberries to chocolate martinis to white chocolate creme brûlées. It's a sweet way to end an evening.
11. Enjoy a Drink or Two
John Berendt said it best in his novel, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, when he noted: “We're not at all like the rest of Georgia. We have a saying: “If you go to Atlanta, the first question people ask you is, ‘What's your business?' In Macon they ask, ‘Where do you go to church?' In Augusta they ask your grandmother's maiden name. But in Savannah the first question people ask you is ‘What would you like to drink?'”
Gryphon Tea Room | 337 Bull Street – Gryphon is yet another SCAD-owned establishment (sensing a trend?), and the 1926 Scottish Rite building is one of the more striking structures in town. The elegant interior is lined with mahogany bookshelves and resembles one part library and one part antiquated pharmacy. Try the afternoon tea with an assorted selection of pastries and petit fours.
Artillery Bar | 307 Bull Street – If you're seeking a genteel setting in the heart of the Historic District, Artillery Bar gets my vote. The establishment once served as an artillery storage facility, but you'd never know judging by today's modern/eclectic design. The owners (bartenders) are courteous and welcoming, and the craft cocktail menu is extensive.
Rocks on the Roof | 102 W Bay Street – It's hard to beat the sunset views from this rooftop bar on Bay Street. Enter on River Street or via the lobby of the Bohemian Hotel on Bay. Cocktails are fairly pricey, but again…the view is worth it!
A visit to Gryphon Tea Room is worth it simply for the opportunity to inspect the intricate details on the façade of the Scottish Rite building. [Image via Flickr CC | Karan Jain]
Daisy's serving up Gatsby-era vibes in one of the cozy back corners of Artillery Bar.
Rule Number One: Always stick around for one more drink. That's when things happen. That's when you find out everything you want to know. - John Berendt, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil Click To Tweet
12. Sample True Southern Fixin’s
One of the best ways to experience Savannah is through the food, and you'll find incredible restaurants throughout the city. For a true taste of the Lowcountry, here are 3 options that have stood the test of time.
Clary’s Cafe | 404 Abercorn – This no frills restaurant is in the heart of the Historic District. It serves some of the heartiest breakfast options in town!Fans of the movie version of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil may spot a few familiar faces in the many photos blanketing the walls, as the cast frequently dined at this spot while filming in Savannah.
Mrs. Wilkes' Dining Room | 107 W Jones Street – In the true spirit of the South, at Mrs. Wilkes' you'll get to know your neighbors by dining together family style. (It's reminiscent of grandma's Sunday brunch — only with strangers.) The food consists of Southern-style favorites like fried chicken, black-eyed peas, mashed potatoes, and mac n' cheese. President Obama once made a surprise visit to Mrs. Wilkes' while on his “White House to Main Street” tour. **Note: Arrive about 2 hours early and prepare to wait in a very long line outside!
Crystal Beer Parlor | 301 W Jones Street – The atmosphere is very laid-back, the walls are covered with local memorabilia, and this is a great spot to catch a game. A few must-try items include the Creamy Blue Crab Dip, any of the burger selections, and the “Gawgia” Peach Cobbler.
13. Head to Church
When you live in the Bible Belt, church isn't just something to do on Sunday morning…it's a way of life. You'll find one on nearly every block within Savannah's Historic District.
Cathedral of St. John the Baptist | 22 E. Harris Street – The twin spires of this magnificent cathedral are an iconic landmark in the city's skyline. Entry is free (a $3 donation is recommended), but note that the cathedral closes for an hour each day at noon for mass. The beautiful vaulted ceilings, hand-painted frescos, and stained glass windows rival many European cathedrals.
First African Baptist Church | 23 Montgomery Street – The history behind this church is incredible and not to be missed when visiting Savannah! You'll develop a deeper appreciation of the struggles African Americans endured in their quest for freedom from slavery. You'll also learn the important role this church played in the Underground Railroad. This tour is a must!
The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist looms tall above Lafayette Square in Savannah's Historic District.
14. Support Local Shops
One of the best way to travel is to immerse yourself in the local culture. What better way to do that than by visiting a few locally owned establishments or by sampling fresh, local goods? Here are a few favorites…
E. Shaver Bookseller | 326 Bull Street – This cozy little bookstore often hosts local authors for signings and is a great place to curl up with a good book. Just make sure you don't mind cats! Mr. Eliot and Bartleby, the resident felines, have full run of the bookstore. Locally owned for 40 years.
Savannah Bee Company | 104 West Broughton Street – You'll definitely want to duck in Savannah Bee Company to sample every flavor of their locally-harvested honey. The award-winning Tupelo Honey is a best seller, and I personally love snacking on fresh slices of their honeycomb. “Savannah Honey” is the option sourced from local wildflowers, for those who are trying to build up an allergy tolerance. The store was founded by local beekeeper, Ted Dennard.
Nourish | 202 W Broughton Street – The bath fizzies, hand scrubs, and soaps in this store are organic and made locally. Southern Magnolia, Mint Julep, Hibiscus, and Coconut Lime are just a few of our favorite fizzies, but you can't go wrong with any of the options! The employees at Nourish are consistently friendly and welcoming, which only serves to enhance the shop's warm and inviting ambiance.
The mead tasting area towards the back of the Savannah Bee Co. is a popular hangout. You can also “adopt” a honey bee at any of the checkout registers.
15. Check out these Iconic Spots:
Although I've included iconic locations throughout this post (Forsyth Park, Leopold's Ice Cream, and Pirates' House to name a few), there are many well known places and spaces that represent the city of Savannah. Here are a few more to add to the list:
Lucas Theatre for the Arts | 32 Abercorn Street – The marquee lights of the historic Lucas Theatre are hard to miss. It opened in 1921 and has been beautifully restored. SCAD currently manages the theatre, which hosts the Savannah Film Festival, the Savannah Music Festival, and the Savannah Philharmonic.
Mercer-Williams House | 429 Bull Street– This notorious Savannah home was made famous by the New York Times bestseller, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. The home's most notable occupant was Jim Williams, a local antiques dealer and the only person in the state of Georgia ever to be tried four times for the same crime. The home is privately owned by Mr. Williams' sister, Dorothy Kingery, who still resides on the premises. Be forewarned that “The Book” is not a preferred topic of conversation in the home (although they no longer remove tourists for mentioning it). | Learn more
The Gingerbread House | 1921 Bull Street – Situated in the heart of the Victorian district, this 1899 home currently serves as a popular wedding and corporate events venue. This type of home was prevalent in Germany's Black Forest region, and it's not the only gingerbread-style house in Savannah. There are a few similarly constructed homes throughout the city, but this one is the most well-preserved example.
The marquee lights of the Lucas Theatre sign are an iconic sight in downtown Savannah.
The Mercer Williams House, made famous by the book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.
16. Go Antiquing:
Savannah is a great place to visit if you have an affinity for heirloom pieces. Here are a few notable spots…
Noble Hardee Mansion (Alex Raskin Antiques) | 441 Bull Street – This stunning home is billed as the “last unrestored grand mansion of Savannah”, and it's not just antiques lovers who appreciate it; the home's decaying beauty is apparent to all who enter through the easily missed side cellar door. The cracked plaster walls are partially covered by stacks of dusty furniture and gold-leaf mirrors, and the many framed portraits lining the walls look so at home it almost seems a crime to purchase them. Although the house is not meant to be toured, I recommend a stroll through the area to appreciate the details of this Italianate-designed beauty from the exterior. And by all means, do step inside if you're in the market for a few unique, albeit expensive, treasures.
Picker Joes Antiques | 217 E 41st Street – This vendor-stye antique shop isn't as intimidating as Alex Raskin's, and the prices are much friendlier on the wallet. My favorite rooms are the book room and the one chock full of architectural finds.
V&J Duncan Antique Maps | 12 E Taylor Street – Named after owners John & Virginia Duncan and tucked away in the garden level of their beautifully restored home, this cozy shop carries an extensive collection of cartographic finds, botanical prints, vintage postcards, and locally authored books. Once you've entered, you'll likely want to cancel your plans for the remainder of the day…especially if you have the good fortune to delve into conversation with either of the gracious hosts.
I could spend hours searching through the prints in this store.
17. Peruse City Market | Congress Street
City Market is a quaint little pedestrian shopping zone filled with eateries, live music, galleries, and souvenir shops. It's a decent place to grab a bite to eat and people watch, but neighboring Congress Street has better nightlife.
Vinnie Van GoGo’s | City Market – This is a chill spot to grab a quick bite to eat after a busy day spent exploring the city. I kid you not, one slice of pizza is as at least as big as your head — if not bigger!
Local Artists | City Market – My favorite part of City Market is tucked away in the upstairs area. Head up there to chat with a few local artists while they work.
The Jinx | Congress Street – You'll find an eclectic mix of everything from rock to rap at this live music venue. Formerly known as the Velvet Elvis Lounge, the atmosphere is casual and not at all pretentious.
18. Check Out a Festival
Still looking for things to do in Savannah GA after all of the options listed above? Try timing your visit to coincide with one of the city's major local festivals.
Savannah Music Festival – Established in 1989, this has grown to one of Savannah's largest events. It's held annually at the end of March through the second week in April and features some of the world's finest musicians.
SCAD Savannah Film Festival – This festival is typically held in late October/early November and is quite the star-studded affair! There are daily screenings of independent films, celebrity Q&A sessions, and fun afterparties. The festival also provides a great opportunity to spot celebrities throughout the city.
Savannah Food & Wine Festival – Explore the best in Southern cuisine at this event, which is held annually in November. Grab those tickets fast, though; most of the hot ticket items sell out nearly a year in advance.
To see more photos of the area and to be notified when my book about Savannah becomes available for purchase, register here for the early access list. Want to stay in a historic home while you're in town? Here's a $40 Airbnb credit to help out! And finally, I update my Savannah Pinterest board frequently with my favorite local haunts. If you want to follow along, you can do so here.
things to do in savannah ga
Things to do in Savannah GA
The Best Things to do in Savannah GA
The Best Things to do in Savannah GA in 2018