Happy 2015! Brace yourselves: This is going to be a long one but I can’t help myself – there is just so much to see and do in Savannah! In recent years, Savannah has seen more than 12 million visitors per year. The goal of this blog post is to help you learn about some of the exciting things to do in Savannah. We hope that you can take advantage of this information in an upcoming trip!
Our fair city is steadily becoming a prime vacation location for people of all ages. Savannah is rich in history but also stays up to date with popular culture and the arts. Let’s start with the history…Founded in 1733 by John Oglethorpe, the city of Savannah is known for it’s beauty, architecture, rich heritage and compelling stories. In case you were not aware of it, Savannah was the first capital of the great state of Georgia. The ‘Garden City’, as Savannah is sometimes referred, was built on the concept of ‘squares‘ thought up by Oglethorpe before he even set foot in our city. The design was initially constructed with 24 squares and there are currently 22 of these quaint social gathering spots remaining. The squares provide a natural obstacle to traffic but results in an extremely pedestrian friendly environment which is part of the charm of our amazing city.
Seeing Savannah with Tours
The pedestrian-friendly atmosphere creates a host of fun activities to choose from the most obvious being WALKING TOURS. This breed of tour can be found going out at all times of day throughout the Historic District. They even go out late- up until 10PM- due to all of the hauntings around the city. Fun fact: Savannah rivals only New Orleans for the title of most haunted city in America.
There are two other narrated tour types for you to choose from when acquainting yourself with Savannah- trolley and horse & carriage. The trolley tours will take you from one end of the Historic District to the other allowing you to see all of the sites that our city holds. If you opt for a horse & carriage ride, you will have a slower, more intimate experience but these tours do not cover the full distance of the Historic District. Both of these tours become ‘haunted’ once the sun goes down.
The Historic District is found in the boundaries of Forsyth Park and the Savannah River, which is on the north side of the city. The Savannah River provides access to the Atlantic Ocean and this has been instrumental for the Savannah’s economic success. The port in Savannah is the 4th busiest port in the country and the 2nd busiest on the east coast of the USA.
Arts & Museums
While exploring, you may want to check out some of the city’s museums. Your first stop should be at the Telfair Museum of Art– one of the nation’s oldest public museums. After the Telfair, mosey on over to the Jepson Center of Art. This museum features two large galleries for African-American art, Southern art, photography, and works-on-paper, as well as a community gallery. There is also a hands-and-foot-on gallery perfect for a younger crowd. If you have ship lovers in your group, your next stop should definitely be the Ships of the Sea Museum! This house was designed for the merchant Prince William Scarbrough who was one of the principal investors in the S.S. Savannah– the first steam vessel to cross the Atlantic! Finally, if you have the ability to drive out to nearby Pooler, take a stop by the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force. This landmark includes a museum, library, static aircrafts, displays, archives, a research center, bookstore, and a gift shop. There are also many state parks and National monuments nearby including Wormsloe Historic Site, Fort McAllister which showcases the best-preserved earthwork fortification of the Confederacy, Fort Morris, and Skidawy Island State Park.
You can also find art galleries from classic to modern throughout the city proper. SCAD- the Savannah College of Art and Design– provides a great artistic heartbeat to our historic town. This college is a prestigious institution that artists from all over the world strive to attend. The college is also responsible for a large part of the revival of the historic district in recent years.
A large draw for people to visit Savannah is the architecture; it is one of the things that makes our city so gorgeous. Mansions surround you wherever you go, all steeped in history! If you walk or ride down Bull Street you will be surrounded by beautiful old architecture on both sides. This street divides the city in half- east and west. Some of the most famous houses around include the Mercer House of ‘Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil’ fame, the Owens-Thomas House, Juliette Gordon Low’s birthplace which was also Savannah’s first National historic landmark, the Kehoe Bed & Breakfast, the Davenport House Museum– a fine example of Federal architecture, and the Olde Pink House which is also one of Savannah’s best restaurants!
The Historic District
Around town there are many other fun places to stroll through. It would be perfect to start with the north side of the city and River Street. River Street is a nine-block brick concourse that is ideal for a casual stroll, shopping, grabbing a scrumptious bite to eat, or watching the ships pass through the harbor. It is also on River Street that you can pick up one of the riverboat cruises. There are two types of these cruises. The first there is a narrated dinner cruise and secondly is a narrated trip up and down the riverfront. From there you can check out the historic Factors Walk. Factors Walk is a unique collection of red brick buildings that previously housed cotton factors (or brokers) set the prices of cotton worldwide. The topside contained offices and the lower, river front side were used as warehouses. Hidden along this stretch is the famous Mata Hari’s– a local speakeasy! To gain entrance to this bar you must secure a key- without one or an invitation from someone with one- you will not be allowed in. They try to keep the spirit of the 20’s alive here with lounge singers and even burlesque shows.
Continuing into the city you will come to Bay Street. This street is full of antique shops, historic Inns, and even some offices. This is also where you will find City Hall, which marks the center of town and divides it into East and West. One of the biggest draws to tourists on this street is the Historic Cotton Exchange. This building used to be the Wall Street of the world because it was the place where the price of cotton was set for the world. This building is rumored to be the most photographed building in all of Savannah. A few blocks further and to the west is City Market. This area is full of quaint shops, wonderful galleries, and delectable places to grab a bite to eat including The Lady and Sons– Paula Deen’s restaurant and shop!
Just a short two blocks farther south into town you will come to the lively Broughton Street. This street is lined with stores and restaurants, some of which are found throughout the country but some of which are Savannah’s own. If you’re in the mood for something sweet, head on over to the world famous ice cream shop Leopold’s. Want a little bit of Asian flare in your diet? Try checking out the Flying Monk. How about a little coffee buzz? The Coffee Fox is our favorite local spot. There are so many great places to eat in the city- The Olde Pink House, Vic’s on the River, Huey’s, Tubby’s Tankhouse, the Chart House, Treylor Park, Mrs. Wilke’s Dining Room, Lulu’s Chocolate Bar, a.lure, Alligator Soul, Jazz’d, the Salt Table– that you are hard put to pick anywhere that you won’t fall in love with.
Nearly on the corner of Broughton and Abercorn streets is the Lucas Theater for the Arts. This theater was revived in the 1920’s and now houses live shows and cinematic productions both local and international. Savannah is also home to the historic Savannah Theatre and the Johnny Mercer Theater. All of these theaters lend Savannah to be the home of some great festivals! One of which is the Savannah Music Festival is a month-long celebration in the Spring that brings such stars as Winton Marsalis and Bonnie Raitt but even larger than that is the Savannah Film Festival! Movie lovers flock to the city in the fall to attend this week long film fest- It even brings some stars to the area! Past honored guests have included Peter O’Toole, Sydney Pollack, Alan Cumming, Jane Fonda, John Waters, Alec Baldwin and Michael Douglas.
Not far from Savannah proper, you will find the peaceful community of Tybee Island on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. This barrier island is a quaint beach community full of bed and breakfasts, small hotels, rental cottages, and private residences. While staying on Tybee there are many different outdoor activities besides just sitting on the beach to occupy yourself. These include kayaking, jet skiing, dolphin watching, scuba diving, and deep sea fishing. No matter what you choose to do rest assured you will be surrounded by beauty. For this reason Tybee is a sublime location for destination weddings. One of the main venues is the Tybee Island Chapel & Grand Ballroom which David Tutera, host of My Fair Wedding, has been quoted saying that “Tybee Island is a wonderful wedding destination and the chapel is a fabulous venue”. Savannah is also a sought after location, especially after being voted one of Travel + Leisure’s list of World’s Best Cities for Romance. Whether you want to come visit for a wedding, Tybee’s Pirate Festival, participate in the Critz Tybee Run Fest, the “floatilla” in the summer, Mardi Gras, or simply relax shelling or resting on the beach, you are sure to find something for everyone on Tybee!
Many other beautiful places are also just a short drive away. Hilton Head Island is easily reachable with a 45-minute drive from Savannah. This renowned vacation paradise is the home to numerous top-flight golf courses, beaches, tennis, shopping, as well as hotels and condo communities. Also not far is Charleston, SC– a drive that is just shy of two hours. Charleston is yet another history rich and ocean front city that makes it attractive to many of the same people that find Savannah attractive. Charleston is home to the island fort of Fort Sumter, the location where the Civil War began. You can also tour Middleton Place, home of America’s oldest landscaped gardens, and Magnolia Plantation and Gardens.
We can tell you that Savannah, Georgia, with its striking beauty, old-world charm, and renowned hospitality, is an incredible place to live or visit. But you don’t have to just take our word for it – check out this list of awards and accolades and see what others have recognized as award-winning about Savannah!
“America’s Coziest Cities (#10)” – Huffington Post
“Best Places to Party on Spring Break” – Outside.com
“World’s Best Cities for Romance (#12)” – Travel + Leisure
“10 Best Most Romantic North American City” – USAToday
“19 Truly Charming Places in the World to See Before you Die” – BuzzFeed.com
“Top Ten Grand St. Patrick’s Day Celebrations in the World” – National Geographic
“29 Surreal Places In America You Need To Visit Before You Die” – BuzzFeed.com
“Best Girls Trip” – USAToday Travel
“A Best Place to Retire” – Grandparents.com
“Best Historic City (#4)” – USAToday Reader’s Choice Award
“The Best American Cities for Foodies (#14)” – Condé Nast Traveler
“Distinctive Achievement Award” – Association Conventions & Facilities Magazine
“A World’s Best City for United States & Canada (#3)” – Travel & Leisure
“World’s Friendliest Cities (#16)” – Condé Nast Traveler
“Award of Excellence – Corporate & Incentive Travel
“Best American City for Food” – KitchenDaily.com
“Top 10 Hot Spot for Winter Events Award (#2)” – Conventions South Magazine
“Top Ten Romantic City” – Livability.com
“America’s Best Cities for Pizza” – Travel + Leisure
“America’s #1 Most Charming Accent” – Travel + Leisure
“America’s Top 10 Waterfronts” – USAToday
“Best City for Affordable Getaway” – Travel + Leisure
“2013 Award of Excellence” — Corporate & Incentive Travel Magazine
“Top 25 Destination in the World (#14)” – Trip Advisor
“2013 Award of Excellence – Corporate & Incentive Travel Magazine
“Pinnacle Award of Excellence” – Successful Meetings
“Tybee Island: Top Family Friendly Beach Town” – TravelNerd.com
“America’s Snobbiest Cities” (#12) – Travel + Leisure
“America’s Best Cities” (#7) – Travel + Leisure
“Top Ten Friendliest City in America” (#3) – Condé Nast Traveler
“Forsyth Park: Top 25 Parks in the World” – Trip Advisor
“Best Romantic City” – AAA Southern Traveler
“Top 50 Destination for Labor Day” – TravelersToday.com
“Gold Service Award” – Meetings & Conventions Magazine
“Top 10 Cities in the United States” (#9) – Condé Nast Traveler
“Savannah: Reader’s Choice Award” – ConventionSouth Magazine
“America’s Best Cities for Hipsters (#13) – Travel & Leisure
“A Top 20 Awesome City to Visit in your 20s” – Huffington Post