River Street in Savannah, GA, is by far the most well known street in the city! It’s adjacent to the Savannah River, where it’s fun to sit and watch massive cargo ships sail into one of the busiest ports along the East Coast. The area is also famous for hosting one of the largest St. Patrick's Day celebrations in the country.
The atmosphere along River Street is lively and bustling with activity — day and night — and the cobblestone streets are lined with the beautiful architecture of century old buildings. Savannah is my current home, and I love sharing my favorite things to do while in this vibrant area of the city.
*Please note: I'll have more posts to come about other areas within the city of Savannah that are just as fun to explore. To keep this (reasonably) short, this guide is for the River Street area only and therefore only references restaurants and shops found along that particular street.
A beautiful shot of River Street at night, during a week of St. Patrick's Day festivities. (photo source) River Street is best known for its storefronts, art galleries, seafood restaurants, pubs, and candy shops.
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Before Your Trip
If you have a bit of time before your trip to Savannah, I suggest ordering one of these maps of the city. It's highly detailed and provides tons of interesting facts about Savannah.
Where to Park
My first parking suggestion is…don't. Savannah is a city made for walking, so it's best to take a leisurely stroll to River Street from your hotel or rental. If that's not an option, Uber and Lyft blanket the city and can be at your door in minutes.
If you must drive, my favorite place to park when visiting River Street is in Emmet Park off E. Bay Street. Hundred+ year old oak trees provide shade so the cars don't get too hot, and it costs less than $10 for all day parking (free in the evenings and on weekends).
*Please note: You'll have to walk down some steep stairs to get to River Street when parking here, so this may not be the best option if you have knee problems.
Download the ParkSavannah mobile app from iTunes or Google Play. It allows you to pay your meter fee from the comfort of your car and extend your time limit from remote locations. (No more interrupting lunch to run outside and feed the meter!)
If you prefer parking garages, a few of the hotels on Bay Street offer parking. Visit the City of Savannah's Mobility & Parking Services to purchase a 1 or 2 day parking pass for $7 or $12 respectively. The pass allows parking in any city garage or metered parking space with a limit of 1 hour or more. If you're driving a camper, UHaul, or towing a boat, park in the gated lot at the Visitor's Center on MLK Blvd.
I added a red arrow to show where I park (on the days I take a car). I highly suggest purchasing a full copy of the map to refer to as you as you're exploring the city. [Image ©KarpovageCreativeInc.]
Where To Go First: River Street Sweets
My first and favorite stop along the riverfront is River Street Sweets. The heavenly smell of fudge is irresistible and is what lured me in the first time I ever visited Savannah. Friends and family always make a beeline for the shop with the bright red awning whenever they're in town!
The staff offers each guest a free taste of pralines upon entry into the store, so be sure to take them up on it. Their pralines are the best I’ve ever had! And everyone knows calories don't count when you're on vacation, right?!? 🙂
Click on each photo in the gallery to view it larger and to learn more about the store.
You can purchase ice cream, old-fashioned candies (anyone remember candy cigarettes?), Southern “bear claws” (pecans topped with caramel and chocolate), flavored popcorn, numerous varieties of fresh fudge, candy coated pecans, and the aforementioned world famous pralines.
The store employees are very friendly, and some have been with River Street Sweets for more than 20 years! You can watch them make candies on huge marble slabs and ask questions about the process. The kids will love it here.
Explore The Nooks And Crannies
It may sound odd to some, but one of my favorite things to do on River Street is to explore the many mysterious nooks and crannies that showcase the hidden layers of the city. Savannah seems to be a city where nothing was ever torn down, and nowhere is that more apparent than along the river.
Buildings appear stacked atop older buildings, narrow alleyways lead to dead ends, and shadowy doorways beckon curious visitors to see what lies beyond…even though common sense (and warning signs) typically caution otherwise!
I can’t help it; I’m drawn to the unknown, and Savannah offers that in spades.
One of the cobblestone streets along Factor's Walk, home to the original Cotton Exchange where cotton brokers used to set the prices for cotton worldwide. [photo source]
This is one of my favorite places to explore! It's along the back side of all the buildings facing the river on River Street. Click on the photos to view them larger and read more details.
These photos perfectly symbolize the River Street area to me; everything is old and faded, but there are signs of life everywhere you turn!
I constantly spot vegetation growing out of the sides of buildings along River Street, and it's one of the little quirks about Savannah that always makes me smile. And…how would you like to step out on one of those balconies? They aren't fit for anything except pigeons. 🙂
Click on any photo to view it larger and read more details.
So many of the stairs to River Street are steep, old, and are marked with yellow caution signs. Still…I hope the city never revamps them, because they add to the charm and character of Savannah.
Grab a Quick Bite or a Hearty Meal
I tend to work up a hearty appetite when I’m strolling along the river, but there’s no fear of going hungry on River Street! It’s packed with great restaurants that are perfect for taking a leisurely break to unwind and recharge. Many have balconies on the second level, offering a pretty view of the river and the street below (as well as a breeze, if you’re lucky). I typically peruse the menus, which are posted by the door of each establishment, then I select a different restaurant each time.
Huey's on the River is a local favorite and definitely tops my list for a filling brunch. They serve New Orleans style food, and their beignets are addicting! Before I lived in Savannah, I made a point to stop here every time I was in town for a visit.
Daisy and her friend, Rebecca, anxiously await the arrival of brunch at Huey's. Rebecca is a New Orleans girl, so she knows good beignets!
Many restaurants along the river offer an air-conditioned lower level or a balcony on the second level so you can sit outdoors and enjoy the breeze while watching boats along the river.
Cafe M is my top spot for a light lunch. The Parisian style cafe is beautifully decorated and you can't go wrong with any of their sandwich offerings!
Tubby's Seafood is on the second level (above Huey's) and it catches a great breeze off the river. It's a good spot for casual dining or if you have kids in tow. A lot of the food is fried, but there are salad options for the health conscious. The seared ahi tuna salad appetizer is filling enough to serve as a full meal and is my usual choice.
Drinks Overlooking The River
Top Deck is a rooftop bar on the top level of the Cotton Sail Hotel. It's a fantastic spot to catch a sunset and some of the best views of the Talmadge Bridge.
Rocks on the Roof is on the top level of the Bohemian Hotel and is a hotspot for locals who like the atmosphere on River Street. Head there for drinks and a great view of the river. Food is tapas style, but you can visit Rocks on the River in the same building for a heartier meal.
Treylor Park is a good choice if fancy isn't your thing. Their vibe is very chill and the bartender is great. If you end up getting hungry, stick around and try any of their delicious down-home Southern fare.
Shop For Souvenirs
If you’re into shopping, the river area is a great place to find t-shirt shops, hats, bookstores, handmade jewelry, local art, photographs…and even a seashell shop! Save the higher-end boutique shopping for Broughton Street, which is located uptown. (Read my Essential Guide to Broughton Street to learn more.)
While River Street is good for souvenirs, there are a few shops along Factor's Walk with clothing and cute accessories.
A selection of goodies from RMC Boutique on the upper level of Factors Walk, plus our favorite seashell shop.
See River Street, Savannah From The Water
If you prefer to view Savannah from the water, catch a short steamboat ride on the Georgia Queen. The boat captain delves into the history of river commerce and the views are spectacular. This is particularly fun for kids and the young-at-heart who want to learn more about the tugboats, barges, and container vessels that constantly cruise down the Savannah River.
On a budget? Take the ferry for free if you'd just like to get some amazing shots of Savannah from the water. It departs every 20 to 30 minutes from 3 boarding docks on River Street. View the locations and times here.
Visit The Cotton Exchange Building
Finally, a day on River Street wouldn't be complete without a visit to the historic Cotton Exchange building. The facade of the building is stunning! I stand in awe each time I stare up at the details above the entryway. The lion statue in the fountain just outside the entry is a favorite spot for the kids.
The Cotton Exchange building is currently headquarters to the Savannah Chamber of Commerce, and visitors are welcome. Click on any photo to view it larger and to read additional details.
River Street, Savannah: Where to Stay
I've written a complete guide to the top-recommended hotels, historic inns, and home rentals on or near River Street. You can find it here: The Best Places to Stay in Savannah Near River Street.
River Street, Savannah: When to Visit
My two favorite months in Savannah are October and April. In October, the River Street storefronts are decorated beautifully with fall decor and the weather is very comfortable. In April, the azaleas are typically in bloom and it's warm but not uncomfortably so. Christmas is also a beautiful time of year.
Unless you're visiting Savannah specifically for the St. Patrick's Day festivities, it's my least favorite time to be on River Street. It's overly crowded, next-to-impossible to find a seat in a restaurant, and parking is non-existent. I also do not recommend Savannah during the summertime. (Spend 10 minutes on the cobblestones streets at high noon in July and you'll quickly realize global warming exists.)
When traveling to Savannah, fly into the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport (Code: SAV). Cabs are plentiful from the airport, as well as Uber & Lyft. The budget conscious can “Catch at CAT” (Chatham Area Transit bus line) for $5 from the airport to Oglethorpe Street, which is 2 blocks from the Savannah Visitor's Center.
Seasonal Events on River Street
Spring: Savannah's St. Patrick's day celebration is one of the biggest St. Patrick's day parties on the entire East Coast! The Savannah Music Festival also draws a crowd.
Summer: Enjoy the Fourth of July boat parade and fireworks festivities
Fall: Oktoberfest, Bacon Fest, Trick or Treat on River Street
Winter: Christmas on the River (it's beautiful to see the storefronts and boats lit up for the holidays)
To Learn More
Here are a few additional resources for information about Savannah:
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I'll be posting more guides about the rest of Savannah, but wanted to start off with the most well-known spot. If you found it helpful, please share it on social media. I also have a Pinterest board for Savannah, which can be found here if you're interested in following. Happy travels!