One of the truly great and historically impactful cities of the American South, Savannah, Georgia is located less than 20 miles from the Atlantic coast. Georgia’s First City, with her moss-strewn oak trees, cobblestone streets and antique architecture is the type of place that will put you under a spell that you’ll gladly acquiesce to. For your first day, get settled in and take to the open air and see what you find and close with a nice dinner because the rest of your time here promises to be pretty active. Here’s your itinerary for a week in the Hostess City!
Take a walk down River Street and you’ll be immediately immersed in glorious Savannah history, architecture and shopping. Browse through the many unique boutiques and art galleries and discover an array of international items as well as true Southern charm. The picturesque waterfront walking mall was once home to a thriving cotton industry and today visitors can return to that era with a stroll through this open-air marketplace. Spend an afternoon shopping, dining and enjoying the lovely view of the harbor.
If your idea of a night out on the town is about getting gussied up in your smartest duds with a top-shelf cocktail sitting snugly in your hands, you need to stop by for a visit! As Savannah’s only speakeasy, Congress Street Up, located inside the American Prohibition Museum in the city’s Riverfront District, is an elegant cocktail bar that exudes the 1920s, Art-Deco charm that Zagat rates as one of the hottest bars in the city. From artfully prepared custom cocktails, authentic atmosphere, and live music every Thursday night, this throwback vibe is well worth revisiting.
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This very recently opened grub hub calls itself a “vintage chic diner.” Reminiscent of the dining cars and diners of the late ‘20s and ‘30s, this place embodies all that but with a contemporary twist. Inspired, in part, by the owner’s children, everything from the ambiance to the menu resonates with a certain youthfulness. It embraces the refinement and quirks of an era from which the diner came from. It is a place that’s Southern charm meets modern retro eatery.
DAYS 2 & 3
The venerable green and orange trolleys consistently rank at the top of things to do in Savannah, and once you embark on one, it’s easy to see why. With the single largest fleet in the city, you’ll spend less time waiting and more time sightseeing. The friendly and knowledgeable conductors will take you on a fully narrated journey filled with history and humor as you explore the must-see sights of Georgia’s First City. A really handy, time-saving component built into this tour is the freedom to Hop On Hop Off at any of the 15 stops they service. This means you can take as much time as you like at each stop after disembarking the Trolley, like the elegant fountain at Forsyth Park, then continue your journey on the next trolley when it arrives. This delightful foray through one of the South’s signature cities includes highlights such as the historic waterfront district, The Massie Heritage Center that once stood as the city’s first public school and as a Union hospital when Federal troops occupied Savannah during the Civil War, and the Cathedral of St. John The Baptist, an architectural masterpiece dedicated in 1876. This entertaining and comprehensive tour will allow you to explore many historical monuments and landmarks. The following recommendations are either stops on this tour or attractions very nearby.
Located in Savannah’s popular City Market, the American Prohibition Museum is the first and only museum in the United States dedicated to the history of Prohibition. Highlighting an era of gangsters, rum runners, and flappers, the museum brings the roaring twenties to life with over 20 intoxicating exhibits and an authentic speakeasy. Featuring 21st-century technology and immersive displays, the museum takes guests on a journey through the past to the early 1900s when anti-alcohol rallies swept the nation and America’s struggle with alcohol was brought to light. This one-of-a-kind museum also has a genuine speakeasy adjacent to it where an expert mixologist is always on hand to prepare you the perfect Old Fashioned. If you happen to be in town on a Monday, don’t miss out on honing your drink mixing skills with their weekly cocktail classes!
From its very beginning, locals and visitors to Savannah have flocked to Forsyth Park for its unique blend of natural beauty, history, and attractions. It’s the largest and oldest park in Savannah, spanning 30 acres and it is where the entire community gathers to see the sights, run, play and relax. Often the setting for football and Frisbee games, skateboarders, walkers, and joggers also love the gorgeous ambiance of Forsyth Park. For those with an interest in history, Forsyth has more than its share. It was created in 1851, named for Georgia Governor John Forsyth. The famous Forsyth Fountain was added to the park in 1858 and is a focal point of the park because of its size, majestic elegance, and beauty.
In 1817, Factor’s Walk was the original site for the Cotton Exchange. The area got its name because this is where the men, called factors, walked back and forth through the several stories of buildings in this center of commercial activity. It was their job to factor how much cotton came in to be sold and, to make things more productive, a network of iron and concrete walkways were built to connect the buildings. In those days, and for over a century, Savannah played a big role in the cotton industry and Factor’s Walk was at the heart of it. The historic area runs east to west above the river with iron steps and bridges linking the old cotton warehouses on the river with the streets on a higher level. Now, the ancient buildings house shops, restaurants, bars and the River Street Inn. Those who wish to experience the rich history of the cotton exchange and its impact on Savannah can walk Factors Walk. Cobblestone ramps make the journey even more enjoyable and lead guests right down to historic River Street. Tourists love the experience and especially seeing the Cotton Exchange Building which dates back to 1886.
One of the last stops is Ellis Square, located on Barnard between Bryan and Congress Streets. Ellis Square was named after Henry Ellis, second Royal Governor of the Georgia colony. Once known as Marketplace Square, this unique section of Savannah boasts hours of consideration including, within walking distance, Telfair Museum of Art, First African Baptist Church and Ships of the Sea Museum.
Serving hungry Savannahians for more than 80 years, this food and drink establishment was one of the first places in America to serve alcohol after the repeal of the 18th Amendment and it’s been a favorite gathering spot for locals and visitors ever since. There is a lot of solid, gastropub fare to be had here along with an extremely well-stocked bar.
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DAYS 4 – 7
Known as America’s most haunted city, Savannah’s history is both rich and mysterious. Aboard the Ghosts & Gravestones night-time tour, your costumed Ghost Host will transport you to some of the city’s most haunted sights. Travel through the historic district on a ghostly historical adventure you won’t soon forget. For those who are curious about the existence of spirits or just plain ready for a spooky adventure, book a ride on the Trolley of the Doomed.
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The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist is an iconic symbol of Savannah, Georgia, gracing the skyline with its towering steeples. The church was dedicated on its current site on April 30, 1876. A fire in 1898 destroyed much of the structure. It was rebuilt quickly and re-opened in 1900. The Cathedral represents historically noteworthy architecture as well as over a century of faith and civic traditions in Savannah. The Cathedral is open to the community of Savannah as well as to hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. The Cathedral remains in the top 10 historic sites to visit in the United States.
Constructed on a lot overlooking Lafayette Square, the Andrew Low House reflects the urban genteel life of 19th-century Savannah. It was the home of the city’s wealthiest ship owner and cotton merchant. Designed and built by New York architect John Norris, the Italianate-style stucco-brick mansion was completed in 1849. Surrounded by a dry moat, it features some of the most intricate ironwork in the city. While the entrance is guarded by two cast iron lions, the interior boasts period antiques, silver, and crystal chandeliers. A 500-gallon cistern, still located in the attic piped, water to the kitchen and bathroom. It was one of Savannah’s earliest indoor plumbing systems. Low’s daughter-in-law, Juliette Gordon Low, founded the Girl Scouts of America in the home’s parlor.
After hours of exploring, it’s time to sit down and recharge. Backtrack a bit to City Market, stop number 7 on the trolley tour. Since the early 1700s, City Market has been the commercial and social center of historic Savannah. It’s also a great place to end the day with a glass of wine, craft beer or farm-to-bottle cocktail. Check out great restaurants like Belford’s, a seafood and steak institution, and Vinnie Van Go-Go’s featuring hearty crust pizza called “Neapolitan.”
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Clad in glistening white Portuguese limestone, the Jepson Center is a showplace for a wide variety of contemporary works. The distinguished institution situated on Telfair Square treats visitors to an ever-changing display of exceptional works from classical European masters to emerging local artists. With 14,000 square feet of space, the Jepson Center is an integral part of the highly regarded Telfair Museums. It is a great place to gain a deeper understanding of modern art and artists. Along with world-renowned traveling exhibitions, the Jepson galleries display works from the museum’s permanent collection, such as the “Black Prince at Crecy” by Julian Story. The museum also houses the iconic Bird Girl statue that adorned the cover of the best-selling novel “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”
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At the Telfair Museum of the Arts, visitors will not only have the opportunity to view many collections of exquisite artwork but can gain a sense of the wonderful heritage of Savannah through its historic buildings. The extraordinary museum was founded in 1886 by the Telfair family when they decided to share their love for art with the city. By opening their home to the public, the Telfairs hoped to expose others to some of the world’s greatest artworks and to educate people about the arts. Today, guests to the museum can enjoy the benefits of their efforts as they tour through three different sites and three diverse collections of glorious art that include decorative and fine arts and architecture.
Experience the history of the Mayflower and discover the glory of the Savannah, the first steamship to cross the Atlantic, inside the Ships of the Sea Museum. You’ll learn intriguing facts about seagoing vessels that date back centuries. Through a vast collection of intricate ship models, the history of the vessels is brought to life including more than 75 ships found in the ship-in-a-bottle exhibit. There’s also paintings, maritime antiques and other artifacts that relate the shipping industry in a compelling display. Founded in 1966, the museum is located inside the historic Scarbrough home.
Constructed between 1835 and 1840 by Charles Cluskey, this Savannah historic landmark and museum is considered to be one of the finest examples of Greek Revival and Regency architecture in the area. This former home of the Confederate Army’s youngest Brigadier General can be seen in the opening sequence of the hit motion picture “Forrest Gump,” on HGTV’s “If Walls Could Talk” and “Ghost Adventures” on the Travel Channel. During the filming of the latter, the show’s host declared the home to be one of the most haunted places he’s ever visited. You’ll hear all about it on your Ghosts & Gravestones Tour but you’ll have to make an effort to actually visit it afterward.
Located inside the Savannah Visitor Information Center, The Savannah History Museum gives visitors a look into the city’s fascinating past from 1733 to the present day. Take your time as you stroll through a variety of exhibits that chronicle the many events and people that have shaped this grand city. See a steam locomotive from the Central of Georgia Railroad and the fashion exhibit that displays women’s evening gowns from the late 1800s to the 1960s. Other must-see items include The Revolutionary War exhibit and the carriage owned by Juliette Gordon Low, the Founder of the Girl Scouts USA. Other exhibits include weapons and military uniforms, the bench featured in the movie “Forrest Gump” and articles from Savannah’s railway history.
FOOD & DRINK OPTIONS
Experience some of the South’s finest cuisine at historic Belford’s, located in the heart of Savannah’s City Market. Enjoy some of Savannah’s best steaks, seafood, and wine in a casual atmosphere. With a reputation built on superb food and exceptional service, discover why Belford’s is recognized as one of the best restaurants in The Hostess City.
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Make your way over to the blue awning that reads ‘Savannah Coffee Roasters’ if you’re hankering for a cup brimming with some of the finest Joe around. This place has been waking Savannah up for over 100 years with uncompromising quality and it also tops in the lunch/brunch department as well.
The Olde Pink House is one of Savannah’s finest dining establishments, offering new Southern cuisine in a sophisticated, yet casual setting. It is known for specialties like grilled pork tenderloin with Bourbon molasses, crispy scored flounder with apricot shallot sauce, and Cornbread fried oysters. Visitors are also drawn to The Olde Pink House’s incredible architecture and décor, including the restaurant’s beautiful, quirky pink color.
From their award-winning, homemade super-premium ice cream, unchanged since 1919, to the made-from-scratch soups, sandwiches, salads, and freshly baked treats, you’re sure to find something memorable at Leopold’s. You can indulge in signature flavors like tutti frutti and butter pecan, or try a scrumptious new treat. No matter what path you take your taste buds down, this Savannah institution is sure to please.
We hope you walk away from this fair city with that child-like sense of wonder and awe that this place inspires in all of us. Happy travels!