If you’re planning your first trip to Savannah, GA, you likely have one question: which must-see in Savannah, GA should I start with? Well, you can start right here with the experiences from our handpicked first-time visitor’s guide to Savannah. With so much to eat, drink, do and enjoy throughout the city, it’s no surprise that it’s hard to narrow down which places in Savannah, GA you and your travel crew should pay a visit to for your first Savannah vacation.
When planning the perfect vacation, it’s important to account for everything — even rainy days. If you’ve visited the Peach State before, you know a rainy day in Georgia can happen in an instant. Luckily, there are plenty of rainy day activities in Savannah to enjoy while staying dry.
Whether you’re touring the town with Old Town Trolley – Savannah or exploring on your own, the historic city has plenty to see, no umbrella needed. Here are a few indoor activities in Savannah, GA to add to your list so you and your crew make the most of your trip, rain or shine.
A city steeped in history, Savannah is home to extraordinary architecture, natural beauty and an abundance of unique attractions. While on vacation, stroll through the charming country squares, marvel at the historic homes and visit the other points of interest. But before you head home, be sure to include these historic Savannah churches on your itinerary.
The Harper Fowlkes House is a beautifully furnished Greek Revival Mansion with a stunning garden and fascinating story. Owned by a prominent family in its first 100 years, it was purchased by a woman before her time, preservationist Alida Harper, who gave it to the Society of the Cincinnati for its GA headquarters, an organization founded by George Washington’s officers.
Filled with period antiques, this is a Must See in Savannah, having been selected as one of the top 25 Historic Homes in America by Traditional Home magazine.
The streets, squares and parks of Savannah are home to a variety of monuments honoring people and events that influenced the history of the city. This brief list provides an introduction to some of the most popular and interesting historic monuments in Savannah.
The historic district, the heart of Savannah, is famous for its cobblestone streets, beautiful gardens and magnificent architecture. There are many things to do in and around the area, from viewing historic houses and churches, to experiencing art, culture, gourmet dining and much more.
With more than 20 city squares filled with monuments, mansions, museums, churches and famous forts of the Revolutionary & Civil War eras, Savannah boasts the largest National Historic Landmark District in the United States. Just a stone’s throw from this exceptional locale is Savannah’s Victorian District. Bounded by Martin Luther King Boulevard and East Broad Street, Gwinnett and Anderson Streets, the Victorian District represents the city’s first suburb.
Referred to as “The Hostess City of the South,” Savannah is the oldest city in Georgia and has a long and colorful history that attracts millions of visitors each year. From cobblestone streets and public parks to some of the most unique Antebellum architecture of the South, Savannah is an old beauty that has aged with grace.
Welcome to Savannah! As a visitor to our unique city, you have the opportunity to enjoy the beauty that Historic Savannah Foundation (HSF) has helped protect for nearly 60 years. HSF is the recognized leader of the local preservation movement, and we preserve Savannah’s heritage through advocacy, education and community involvement. During your visit, we encourage you to learn all you can about Savannah’s built environment so you have a deeper appreciation for the landmarks we endeavor to protect.
Amidst grand mansions, Victorian architecture, cobblestone streets and riverfront cafés, the natural beauty of Savannah thrives in its country squares and public parks. A visit to this charming southern city is incomplete if you don’t make time to discover the area’s most beautiful outdoor spaces.
A registered historic landmark in the National Registry of Historic Landmarks and Places, the First African Baptist Church was organized in 1773. This magnificent Savannah landmark still contains many of its original elements including several stained glass windows, light fixtures, the baptismal pool and the 1832 Pipe Organ. The pews in the balcony were made by slaves and are nailed on to the floor; you can still see the markings they made in the African dialect known as “Cursive Hebrew”. Come for a visit or to enjoy a Sunday service. Be sure to look up at the “Nine Patch Quilt” design on the ceiling – a symbol that the church was a safe house for slaves.
Housed inside a historic Central of Georgia Railway Passenger Station, The Savannah Visitor’s Center is the place to go to learn all about Georgia’s first city. You’ll receive a friendly greeting and have access to info, tour maps, brochures and refreshments. The staff is always delighted to assist guests with finding the most interesting and entertaining sites in the city.
The Salzburger Monument of Reconciliation was created in 1994 by Austrian artist Anton Thus Waldner and donated by the state of Salzburg. The nearby Salzburger Monument of Reconciliation was dedicated to The Georgia Salzburger Society and given to the City of Savannah in 1994 by the State of Salzburg, Austria in memory of the Lutheran Protestants of Salzburg who were denied religious freedom and expelled from their homeland.
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.
The Cotton Exchange was long a symbol of the importance of the cotton industry to the city of Savannah. The building on Bay Street was originally called King Cotton’s Palace and because of its Romanesque architectural style it stood out among the other buildings nearby. Today the historic building is a Solomon’s Masonic Lodge and is open to the public on special occasions. Visitors to the Central River Street area can enjoy the splendid view of the exterior of the building and the griffin, a winged lion of mythology that stands in front surrounded by a fence with medallions of poets and presidents.
The U.S. Custom House in Savannah was built in 1852 and is Georgia’s oldest federal building. The site of the building was important from the beginning of Savannah history. A one-story frame house, built in 1733, was located on the site and was rented by James Oglethorpe, founder of the colony, on his return visits to Savannah. At the rear of the lot facing Bull Street, stood the Tabernacle and Court House. This building was described as “being one handsome room with a panache on three sides” and served as the colony’s first house of worship. It was on this site that John Wesley, founder of the Methodist church, preached his first sermon on American soil. The U.S. Custom House in Savannah is a Greek Revival structure which is rectangular in form with a raised basement and two floors above. The building is a granite bearing wall structure whose exterior surface is smooth, dressed grey granite from Quincy, Massachusetts.
On October 9, 1779, the French, Haitians and American troops battled against the British soldiers who were defending Savannah. The battle ended with Britain still holding on to the city and more than 800 troops from each side either wounded or killed. Many of the dead were buried on the spot with no monuments to mark their graves. Today, Coastal Heritage Society is working to create a moving memorial in tribute to the many soldiers who lost their lives in the battle of Savannah.
Sitting peacefully under a canopy just east of City Hall, the Washington Guns are a quiet reminder to the explosive conflicts facing our country during the Revolutionary War. The cannons, mounted on oak carriages on a platform, were captured from the British in the Battle of Yorktown. George Washington gifted them to the Chatham Artillery militia company of Savannah in 1791 after he visited the city. Some believe that Washington gave the guns to the Artillery because of the fact that they were responsible for providing a proper funeral for Nathaniel Greene, who was Washington’s commanding general and very close friend. In 1936, the Washington Guns were fired in a salute for the anniversary of the Chatham Artillery; and in 1961, the breech was blown off the gun during a practice firing.
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 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 connected the buildings. In those days, and for over a century, Savannah played a big role in the cotton industry and Factors 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.
Arthur Lucas was a brilliant marketer. After the opening of his namesake theater in Savannah in 1921, he kept track of the wedding, birth and birthday announcements that appeared in the paper. Then, he sent free tickets to residents on their birthdays, anniversaries and as wedding and congratulations gifts. For more than 40 years, people from all across the city came to the Lucas Theater to see the various films, shows and concerts. After closing in 1976, the historic theater was threatened with destruction on several occasions.
A marvelous Greek-revival building, the Christ Church was founded in 1733. Upon first glance visitors notice its dignified presence, stately columns and slim side windows. The building was reconstructed in 1838 and today is home to many original artifacts. Among the several rectors who presided over the church is John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. Wesley is known for his musical gift and interests and for publishing his collection of Psalms and Hymns, the first publication of its kind in America.
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 is where adults, youth, families and people of all ages come 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.
Known as the Father of Methodism, John Wesley is forever remembered in Reynolds Square in historic downtown Savannah. The monument constructed to honor him and his leadership of the Methodist Church stands in the center of the square. Many believe that this is the site of his residence and gardens and thus this is why it was chosen. Although Wesley only lived in Savannah for two short years, he was known for his religious ideals and for forming a Protestant sect that later became the Methodist Church.
Whether you love to shop or just love to stroll, Broughton Street in downtown Savannah brings it all together for visitors of all ages. Much like the “main street” of any city, this quaint section of town provides a multitude of shops, restaurants and scenery. Antiques are plentiful, while small boutiques offer specialty clothing, gifts, art and eclectic items. Historic buildings house these charming shops and are a treat to visit even if you’re not looking to shop.
St. John’s Episcopal Church stands in the historic Madison Square, welcoming worshipers to various services throughout the week. It was founded in 1840 to help increase the Episcopal presence in Georgia and to provide a first bishop of the diocese. Stephen Elliot Junior was consecrated as Bishop of Georgia in February 1841 and St. John’s first building soon followed.
For a true taste of Savannah, stop in at Mrs. Wilkes Boarding House. Set in an old brick building that dates back to 1870, this is one of Savannah’s legendary spots. Mrs. Wilkes passed away in 2003 and although she had not taken in any boarders in around 40 years, her hometown cooking and hospitality continue on. The famous dining room is so popular that although the sign is not visible from the road, hungry tourists and locals alike begin lining up before the restaurant even opens every morning. Serving up family-style meals at large tables, Mrs. Wilkes Boarding House delights guests with traditional down home fried chicken, gumbo, creamed corn, Savannah red rice, biscuits and more. Come hungry and ready to dine alongside of folks you may not know; because at Mrs. Wilkes, everyone is family and is seated together at large 10-top tables.
Unseen spirits stroll among the living in the streets and squares of Savannah – “America’s Most Haunted City!” Hear the tales no other tours dare tell as shadows play tricks on your mind. Journey through time with EXCLUSIVE nighttime entry into TWO of Savannah’s most haunted venues.
For those who enjoy history and exquisite architecture, the Mercer-Williams House is a must see. After a century of prominent residents, the house was purchased by famed Savannah preservationist Jim Williams. Williams spent two years restoring the Mercer House and today guests can take tours to experience its sophisticated charm. Furniture and art from William’s private collection are on display including 18th and 19th century portraits, drawings and a collection of Chinese porcelain.
Upon first glance, many might mistake Temple Mickve Israel for a church. Its striking Gothic architecture includes slightly pointed windows, pinnacles and stained glass windows. Built in 1876, Temple Mickve Israel is home to the third oldest Jewish congregation in America. It is located on Monterey square, and considered to be an icon for Savannah’s Jewish community. The temples vast history spans more than two centuries with the arrival of Savannah’s first Jewish settlers in 1733. They came from Portugal, in an attempt to escape the Spanish Inquisition.
To celebrate the rich Irish heritage of many of Savannah’s residents, The Celtic Cross Monument was erected in Emmet Park in 1983. The beautiful Irish Limestone Celtic Cross was hand-carved in Ireland and is truly a lovely sight for all to see.
Another moving tribute found in Emmet Park, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was placed in 1991 by the Vietnam Memorial Committee. A large reflecting pool is surrounded by steps and a marble base lists the names of the Chatham County soldiers who were killed in the Vietnam War. A replica of Vietnam sits in the center of the pool, while a bronze battlefield grave marker is mounted on top. Guests to the park who view the monument gain an understanding of the sacrifices the local Savannah soldiers made to serve their country.
Juliette Gordon Low was born in a Georgian mansion in the historic district of the city. Her birthplace, the city’s first National Historic Landmark, is now a museum dedicated to her life and the Girl Scouts of America and is visited by thousands of people each year. Step Inside For a Historic Journey. Juliette Gordon Low was born on October 31, 1860 in an English Regency style mansion located in Savannah. It’s here that visitors can now learn about her remarkable life and her founding of the Girl Scouts.
The Chatham Artillery Monument was erected in Emmet Park in 1986 and was inspired by the 101st Airborne Memorial in Arlington Cemetery. A large, gray granite base supports a stunning bronze eagle with its wings spread. Rising to approximately 11 feet, the memorial is a striking sight and among other memorials in Emmet Park.
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. The Sorrel-Weed House was constructed for Francis Sorrel, who was a prominent commission merchant to the West Indies. Many well known people have visited the home, including General Robert E. Lee, who was a long standing friend of Francis Sorrel.
Situated on Madison Square, the Green-Meldrim House was built in 1850 for cotton merchant Charles Green. In 1892 the home was purchased by Judge Peter Meldrim whose heirs later sold it to St. John’s Episcopal Church. The home’s amazing past includes a brief residency by General Sherman after he took the city in 1864.
In colonial days, the International Seaman’s House was where sailors arriving in the port of Georgia came to receive a friendly welcome, engage in entertainment, listen to music and receive religious comfort if desired by various visiting Chaplains. Located on Houston Street, the International Seaman’s House is a Historic House that now hosts many special events such as weddings.
Founded in 1755, the Independent Presbyterian Church was originally called The Presbyterian Church and is considered to be the mother of Georgia Presbyterianism. With more than 250 years of history and authentic beauty, the church offers a special experience to people of all faiths. When a hurricane damaged the church in the 1800’s, plans were made to reconstruct it to its original condition. It is said that the rebuilding was so costly that pews were sold to the public to help cover the expenses. The average price of a family pew was $1,140.
Just a short walk away from the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace on State Street, this cool shop features antiques and collectibles from more than 30 local dealers. From vintage clothing, jewelry, purses and furniture to art pieces, LP albums and many other knick-knacks, it’s a great stop on your sightseeing excursions, especially for those who enjoy picking up unique souvenirs and gifts.
This unique shop located at 340 Bull Street features original works of art and crafts from the Savannah College of Art and Design. Pick up a masterpiece created by some of the best and brightest artists who are alumni and students from SCAD. You’ll surely be the owner of a work of art that is a one-of-a-kind. The shop sells everything from photography, paintings, jewelry, sculpture and pottery to handbags, clothing and much more.
One of the many lovely squares that are so much a part of Savannah’s history and charm, Chippewa Square, was established in 1815 as a tribute to the Battle of Chippewa in the War of 1812. Its location in the heart of Savannah’s historic district made it a popular social spot then and now.
A detailed statue of General James Oglethorpe stands in the center of the square, honoring the man who founded Georgia in 1733.
Florence Martus embodied the true spirit of Southern Hospitality. For forty-four years she greeted every ship entering the Savannah port by waving a cloth from her home on Elba Island. She was the sister of the Elba Island light-keeper and from 1887 to 1931 she was well-known for her welcoming persona. The Waving Girl Statue by Felix De Weldon, stands in Morrell Park on the Riverfront in tribute to Florence.
A stroll down Savannah’s Riverwalk is not only pleasing, it’s truly serene. Walk along the Savannah River; stop in for a bite at any of 21 restaurants, stroll through various Savannah museums nearby or simply enjoy the scenery as you head towards the adjoining River Street, just a short distance away. On River Street, in the heart of historic Savannah, you’ll find everything from sweets to teddy bears, Harley Davidson apparel, and art galleries housed inside restored Cotton Warehouses.
Step into The Pirate’s House for a taste of what Savannah was like in the mid 1700’s. It was a time when visiting sailors came off the seas to eat hearty meals, share a story about their adventures and raise a ruckus. An Inn, just steps away from the Savannah River, served as a watering-hole for pirates and seamen from the Seven Seas. Today, that very Inn is The Pirate’s House, a specialty restaurant featuring authentic Georgia cuisine served in a theme reminiscent of its early roots. 15 separate dining rooms showcase Pirate artifacts and seafaring décor.
The Owens-Thomas House was the first Regency Mansion built by the then young architect William Jay and is considered to be one of the finest examples of that style of architecture in the United States. Completed in 1819, the English house was constructed mostly with local materials and was remarkable because of its curving walls, Greek-inspired ornamental molding, half-moon arches, stained-glass panels, and furniture. Today, people from around the world come to be inspired by the beauty that abounds throughout this historic house.
Another gem among the many exquisite historic places in Savannah, the Kehoe House has been meticulously restored to capture its original 1892 glamour. The Renaissance Revival mansion is located in Savannah’s historic district and is now an opulent boutique hotel. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the hotel was once the home to William Kehoe and his family.
The Davenport House is a Federal-style house that was constructed in 1820 by master-builder Isaiah Davenport. Davenport was known for his skill and talents in the building industry and the house served as a showcase of his work as well as a family home. He lived in the house with his wife and family until he passed away from yellow fever in 1827. When threatened with demolition in the mid 1950’s, seven Savannah women got together to save the Davenport House and found Historic Savannah Foundation.
The Colonial Park Cemetery has been a part of Savannah history for more than two centuries. From 1750 until 1853, most residents who died in the area were buried in this shaded, moss-draped cemetery. Among them are various prominent people including Revolutionary War Soldiers. When visitors walk through they can see some of the oldest gravestones in the Southern United States. And they can experience the history that lives within these grounds.
Built in 1848 for Andrew Low, a wealthy cotton merchant from Scotland, the Andrew Low House is a classic and elegant Savannah mansion. Facing Lafayette Square, its stucco and brick design meshes beautifully with the rich history of the area. The house itself has a colorful and interesting past, as several prominent people often visited the Low family during their residency; Robert E. Lee and William Makepeace Thackeray to name a few.
Just next door to the Andrew Low House is the First Girl Scout Headquarters. Originally the carriage house, Juliette willed it to the Girl Scouts USA and upon her death in 1927, the house began its longstanding history of continuous Girl Scout activity. Troop activities, adult training and administrative offices were housed inside the house until 1985 when the Girl Scouts USA Council was moved to its new office on Bull Street. In January of 1996, the Headquarters reopened as a Girl Scout Museum.
From exhibits to interactive educational experiences for Girl Scouts and the community, the museum offers many rewarding opportunities for all who visit.
Born as Mary Flannery O’Connor in 1925, the beloved southern author dropped her first name when she entered college and became known as just Flannery. Her childhood home is now a house museum where visitors can get a feel for the life she led before she became famous. The three-story home offers a quaint atmosphere where lectures, readings and other programs that relate to O’Connor’s best-known works are held.
A glorious Savannah attraction to behold, the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist is an architectural masterpiece and the seat of the diocese of Savannah. In the French-Gothic style, pointed arches and magnificent details make a breathtaking backdrop to the gorgeous Savannah skyline. It was founded in 1700 by the first French Colonists and although the original early structures were destroyed by fire, the current cathedral dates back to 1874.
Visitors can take a self-guided tour of the cathedral, enjoying the amazing Twin Spires and picturesque exterior as well as the Italian marble, Austrian stained glass and opulent Persian rugs of the interior. On any day of the year, a stop at the Cathedral of St. John is a fantastic experience.
Established in 1868 as a living monument to John and Charles Wesley, we are privileged to receive visitors from around the world who desire to worship in this beautiful setting. The beautiful memorial windows of European stained glass were in place, each one dedicated to one of Methodism’s historic personalities. The “Wesley Window”, which faces the pulpit from the rear balcony, shows life-sized busts of John and Charles Wesley, and at the top of the window a globe bears John Wesley’s famous utterance, “The world is my parish”.
The needlepoint altar kneeling pads, lovingly stitched by the ladies of our congregation with that same logo, were dedicated on June 25, 2000.