There are few southern destinations that are as quintessentially southern as Savannah. Oozing with charm, it’s a pedestrian-friendly favorite for the entire family, and one that can be a little more affordable than Charleston, and a little tamer than New Orleans.
When most travelers imagine Savannah, the first thought that pops into their head is visions of cobblestone streets lined with moss-laden oaks, and for the most part, it’s not an image that’s all that far off from the truth. However, there’s so much more to Savannah than just this. Take a gander at a few of our favorite sites and sounds around this city, and you, too, will yearn to come back year after year.
I’ve lived in Savannah for several years and have experienced much of what there is to do and see. Here’s my list of the best things to do in Savannah:
1. Forsyth Park
The historic district of Savannah is beautiful enough all on its own, but Forsyth Park definitely adds to the charm. A beautiful, green, lush landscape, it’s popular with both tourists and locals alike, and you’ll find 30 acres of trees, flowers and other foliage.
There’s also nearly always something going on here, from the open air concerts, to a farmer’s market that’s open every Saturday. Forsyth Park is also home to one of the most photographed spots in all of Savannah — the huge, gorgeous fountain is totally Instagram-worthy.
2. Old Savannah Trolley Tours
Explore the best-known locations around Savannah’s historic district, on this hop-on, hop-off trolley. This is a great option if you’re in the city for a limited number of days, and want to cram as much sightseeing as possible into just an afternoon.
The trolley covers 22 squares, and shows off some of Savannah’s prime landmarks, like the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, the Temple Mickve Israel, the Sorrel Weed House, the Juliette Gordon Low Home, the Mansion of Forsythe Park, the Mulberry Inn and the Pirates House.
There are 15 different stops, and you can hop off the trolley whenever you want to go exploring, and you can be assured that another one will be right there to pick you up, nearly whenever you like, as they come around every 15 to 20 minutes.
Book online: Hop-On Hop-Off Historic Trolley Tour
3. City Market
Easily within reach of all your sightseeing in Savannah, the City Market is four blocks of open air shopping, all surrounded by restored warehouses with tons of cute extra shopping, plus dining and art. There are plenty of open air concerts in the square as well, and it can be a great stop for just sitting and people watching.
Do keep in mind, though; the market is home to a few bars, and so you may find that the evening crowd gets a little rambunctious. If you’re visiting with the kids, make sure to stop by in the morning or early afternoon.
4. The Owens-Thomas House
If you’re an architecture guru, you probably already know of this Savannah staple, but even if you’re not, if you can appreciate a good bit of luxury living and history, you may want to stop by the Owens-Thomas House. A prime example of English Regency architecture, the house was built in 1819 and is large enough to fill an entire block.
Designed by an English architect, the home was built by a Bermuda merchant, and then later purchased by a congressman. Now, it’s a National Historic Landmark. The house has hours that are just a little odd, so you may want to check them out before you head over.
Also on the house’s block are the carriage house, the parterre garden and one of the earliest intact urban slave quarters.
Related tour: Haunted History and Ghosts Walking Tour
5. Telfair Museum of Art
One of my favorites and the oldest art museum in the South, the Telfair Museum is housed inside a classical Regency mansion, designed by an English architect and purchased by the son of the Georgian governor.
The home was completed in 1819, and it stayed within the same family until 1875, when the last surviving member of the Telfair family left the home and all of its furnishings to the Georgia Historical Society.
The structure was enlarged just eight short years later, adding a sculpture gallery and rotunda. The grand opening was a superb affair, attracting famous faces such as Jefferson Davis.
Now, when you visit, you’ll see carefully restored interior rooms, paintings from German Impressionists and the American French, period furniture, silver and other items. Additionally, the museum houses the largest public collection of paintings by Kahlil Gibran, more than 80. I recommend spending at least 2 hours here.
Read also: 15 Best Savannah Tours
6. The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist
Called the most impressive building in all of Savannah, the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist certainly will make your jaw drop.
Towering spires and stained glass take your breath away, whether you’re attending a religious mass, or enjoying a guided or self-guided tours.
The cathedral was built where it now stands in 1876, but a historic fire destroyed much of what was there in 1898. In just two years, the cathedral was rebuilt, and now it stands to represent the tradition of faith within Savannah.
It calls itself one of the Top 10 historic sites to visit in the United States, and it welcomes hundreds of thousands of tourists every year.
7. The Historic Savannah Theatre
The oldest continually operating theatre in the United States, The Historic Savannah Theatre was built in 1818, opening in December with a comedy. Now, the square where it sits, Chippewa Square has become a huge part of Savannah nightlife and entertainment, mostly because of the theatre. Now, while the theatre does offer nightly shows, it also offers something else for cinema geeks.
Right outside, sits a bench where several scenes of the movie Forrest Gump was shot. This is a hugely popular spot for photos, now, as you can probably imagine.
8. Wormsloe Historic Site
If your’e looking for that quintessential Southern photo with the mossy oak trees hanging over a beautiful lane, this is where you’ll find it. This historic site includes a beautiful avenue with all the oaks and Spanish moss you could want, and it leads right up to the ruins of Wormsloe, a colonial estate which is the oldest standing structure in Savannah at this point.
If you visit during an event, you may see a costumed reenactor or two, but on a normal day, you can still visit the museum (featuring colonial artifacts) and hike the nature trail, which goes through the ruins, to a marsh and around the grounds.
Guided tour: Wormsloe Plantation and Bonaventure Cemetery Tour
9. The Savannah Waterfront
Did you even know Savannah had a river waterfront? People are sometimes surprised to hear that Savannah has its own river. River Street was historically significant as a warehouse row, highly supporting the cotton industry. However, River Street was abandoned for decades after the yellow-fever epidemic, only to be rediscovered and put back into use after the 1960s.
Now, guests can walk the cobblestone streets and see centuries of history laid out before them, as they walk past the dozens of businesses within the previously abandoned warehouses right on the river. Whether you’re looking for shopping, dining, drinks or galleries, it’s all here. I recommend the Riverboat Cruise & City Tour Combo
10. The Wilkes House
Not another architectural marvel to tour, but rather a place to fill your senses with all the tradition of fine Southern cooking.
The Wilkes House has been feeding Southerners for decades now, and you can chow down on the same fried chicken, sweet potatoes, okra, gumbo, cornbread, biscuits and more that show up on the menu regularly.
The menu changes every day, and the atmosphere is decidedly down-home and casual. Seating is family-style, everyone pays a flat price to dine and cash is the only kind of currency accepted here.
11. Bonaventure Cemetery
For more moss-laden oak tree goodness and a taste of Southern spooks (the South does have a good helping of gothic flair, by the way), head to Bonaventure Cemetery. One of the most beautiful cemeteries in the world, it’s on many a visitor’s bucket list.
Free to enter, the property is more than 100 acres. If you feel like taking a tour, rather than just rambling around on your own, you can get a free guided tour on the weekends of the second Sunday of each month.
12. Old Fort Jackson Historic Site
Old Fort Jackson is the oldest standing brick fort within Georgia, built in 1808. It attracts 50,000 visitors each and every year, and for good reason. The fort is named after a Georgian governor who freed Savannah from the British rule, and it was at one time one of the strongest fortifications in the entire United States, as it was built entirely of earth, then faced with brick and then topped off with a wooden platform.
Additions were made to the fort during the War of 1812, and it looks much the same today as it did at that time. Self-guided tours are available, and you can enjoy views of the Savannah River from the top. Stick around long enough to hear the cannons shot!
13. Fort Pulaski National Monument
Built in the 1800s, Fort Pulaski stands on an island in the river, between Savannah and Tybee Island. It was the first Confederate masonry fort to fall under Union cannon fire, which marked a turning point in military history. There’s lots to do and see beyond the actual monument and fort, though.
There are trails, such as the North Pier Trail, which goes through the original construction building and passes a 19th-century battery. There’s a lighthouse, a historic dike system, bike paths and more.
14. Coastal Empire Brew Co.
Opening in 2011, Coastal Empire Beer Co. has quickly been taking awards and taking names, as it becomes a favorite among Savannah locals. I recommend heading over to the tap room, for 16 different options on tap, and seating.
One of the most popular beers they brew up is the Savannah Brown Ale, but you can also try other year round offerings, like the Tybee Island Blonde, Southern Delight Praline Amber Ale and the Coco Pina Gose.
15. Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace
Have a little girl in your travel group? Then you may want to make a point to swing by the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace, a house museum created specifically for girls, and celebrating the woman who founded the American Girl Scouts.
Juliette was born in the home, now owned by the Girl Scouts of the USA, in 1860, and it was there, in 1912, that she kicked off the creation of the Girl Scouts.
Forty-minute guided tours are available Monday through Saturday, and online ticket purchases are recommended in advance.
16. The University of Georgia Aquarium
This marine education center and aquarium is located on Skidaway Island, near downtown Savannah.
There are lots of exhibits on the marine animals that live nearest the state, but there are also lots of other exhibits, that show off interesting things, and not even always marine animals.
There are also exhibits on things like wooly mammoths and mastodons, as both of the ancient creatures once upon a time lived within the area.
17. Hearse Ghost Tours
If a regular trolley tour isn’t really your style, maybe a ghost tour will be more up your alley? Maybe even a ghost tour that takes place in a hearse? That’s right, this ghost tour begins by picking you and your travel companions up from your hotel in a real hearse that was used for real funerals for more than 15 years.
You’ll see much of the city’s history, but also hear about its darker side, as you take it all in.
It’s definitely not your average outing.
You may like: 15 Best Day Trips from Savannah
18. The Mercer-Williams House
Literature fans out there will want to add this particular house tour to their itinerary.
The stately mansion was once home to lyricist Johnny Mercer, but also Jim Williams, straight from the pages of John Berendt’s “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.” Williams is known as the only individual in the state to have ever been tried four times for the same crime — a grisly murder that took place right within the house.
While you can’t see the supposed murder site, you can explore the rest of the house, including the furnishings dating back to the 1700s.
19. The Andrew Low House
You’re probably thinking that Savannah is the city of home tours, and you’re probably right.
Here’s another worth a stop! The Andrew Low House was built in 1848 and features an Italianate exterior, and much opulence and elegance.
If the name sounds familiar, it should! This home is another that was in the family of Juliette Gordon Low.
After her death, this particular home was purchased by the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Georgia, and eventually opened to the public about 75 years ago.
20. Tricentennial Park
If you’re looking for a fun and convenient way to spend a day with the kiddos, but still fit in a little education and some interesting sights for mom and dad, head over to Tricentennial Park.
Here you’ll find three different museums — the Savannah History Museum and Battlefield Memorial Park, the Georgia State Railroad Museum and the Savannah Children’s Museum.
Obviously the latter is one you’ll definitely want to visit with children in tow, but then pick between the other two at your discretion, and depending upon what your kids are most likely to love.
No matter your age, a great way to end a day in Savannah is with a stop at Leopold’s. The little ice cream shop has stayed the same since 1919, when it was opened by Hollywood producer Stratton Leopold. There’s always a line, but it’ll be well worth it.
The ice cream is made on site with awesome ingredients and using old recipes that have been handed down through the generations. The signature flavor I suggest you try is the Tutti-Fruitt.
22. The Olde Pink House Restaurant
Combine romance and ghosts? Why not?! That’s exactly what the Olde Pink House does. I think the beautiful setting is super-elegant, with chandeliers, 18th-century architecture and a lovely dining room fireplace.
The cuisine is Southern, but elevated, so you won’t have to worry about too much butter popping the buttons on your dress.
But, beyond the shiny exterior are some ghostly visitors.
23. Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum
So maybe your kids don’t like trains…maybe they like boats? If that’s the case, head to this museum, where you can see all kinds of memorabilia revolving around the ships of the 1700s and 1800s.
The home where the museum is housed? It was once the home of the same man who owned the very first steamship to successfully cross the Atlantic Ocean.
Even if you’re not up for all the boat stuff, the museum is also unique in that it has one of the largest gardens in Savannah’s historic district.
Book online: Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum Self-Guided Tour
24. Colonial Park Cemetery
If you can’t make it to Bonaventure, stop by the Colonial Park Cemetery, which is also old and super creepy.
It’s been in business since 1750, and you can see graves from some of the very first colonists, as well as many, many of those who died during the yellow-fever epidemic of 1820. Needless to say, it’s pretty popular for ghost hunting after dark.
25. Fort McAllister State Park
Famous for sustaining many attacks during the Civil War, Fort McAllister would finally fall under General Sherman.
The cool thing? You can actually camp onsite. During your stay, enjoy the museum, which has lots of Civil War artifacts, but also all the nearby wetland wildlife.