Things to do in Savannah
At Cool Savannah Tours and Gifts, we’d originally thought of creating a top five list . . . that turned into a top ten list . . . that turned into the top 15 things to do in Savannah GA. Here are the top 15 things to do in Savannah GA in 2017!
- Visit Historic Savannah Squares
- Enjoy Delicious Ice Cream at Leopold’s
- Celebrate with First Friday Fireworks
- Remember the Past: Alcohol and Prohibition Museum
- Shop at Paris Market & Brocante
- Up-Close and Personal Aquarium
- Visit Tybee Island
- Enjoy a Rousing Good Lunch at the Pirates House
- Tour Iconic Symbol of Historic Savannah: Cathedral of St. John the Baptist
- Head out for an Incredible Evening: Savannah’s Best Tales and Spirits
- Yesteryear of Cotton: the Savannah Cotton Exchange
- Natural Cathedral of Bonaventure Cemetery
- Historic Savannah’s Unique History of Drinks and Revelry
- More of Historic Savannah’s Unique History: Vic’s on the River
- Flexibility Squared: Hop on / Hop off Trolley Tour
Things to do in Savannah GA Full List
#1 Visit Historic Savannah Squares
The city of Savannah is a planned city, known as the first one of its kind in the United States. Originally, there were 24 squares and, even after two were lost as the city was developed, there are still 22 of them to explore. When you visit them, you’ll discover how they’re surrounded by historic homes, churches, museums and more, along with massive live oak trees. You can find more information about each of the surviving squares at Savannah.com.
To supercharge that experience, sign up for a history and architecture tour of Savannah led by an accredited architect. Virtually every kind of architecture can be found in historic Savannah and Ed’s expert knowledge will bring Savannah’s history to life.
#2 Enjoy Delicious Ice Cream at Leopold’s
It’s ice cream season in Savannah year-round, and Leopold’s has been offering refreshing ice cream here for nearly a century. People keep coming back to Leopold’s because their award-winning ice cream is as good today as it was when the restaurant began in 1919. Leopolds is definitely one of the top things to do in Savannah GA! You can enjoy classic flavors every month of the year or choose a seasonal treat. Here is what is available for each of the three summer months:
Mint Lime Sorbet
Spicy Mocha featuring The Salt Table’s Habanero Sugar
Passion Fruit Sorbet
Mint Lime Sorbet
Here is their 95th anniversary celebration:
#3: Celebrate with First Friday Fireworks
On the first Friday of every month – except for January and February – you can enjoy a free fireworks show put on by Wet Willie’s Savannah. The fireworks show takes place at the Rousakis Riverfront Plaza located at 115 East River Street, starting at 9:30 p.m. Important note: July fireworks shows are always scheduled for July 4th – a Tuesday in 2017 – and, in December, on New Year’s Eve. You can find more information here.
#4 Remember the Past: Alcohol and Prohibition Museum
Step back in time to view numerous exhibits associated with the history of alcohol consumption in the United States – and then whisper the secret password to enjoy a cocktail, 1920s-style, at the Happy Days celebration saloon. Exhibits focus on the anti-alcohol temperance movement, plus Carry Nation, one of the movement’s fiercest advocates; the smuggling Southern run runners; moonshine makers; the flapper craze; crime and gangsters; the Model T; and speakeasies.
The museum is located at 209 W. St. Julian Street, a place that’s “bound to raise your spirits.”
#5: Shop at Paris Market & Brocante
Southern Living named The Paris Market as a “Best Shop 2017.” This shopping marvel is a tribute to the “storied flea markets of France” and is “Part gift shop, part decorating paradise, and part designer hangout,” a blend of “the brand-new and the vintage in an assortment of antiques and one-of-a-kind treasures that’s both worldly and classically Southern.”
Sound tempting? That doesn’t include the conversation-starting window displays or their coffee and tea shop that features “French press coffee, award-winning lattes, flavored seltzers, and incredible lavender iced tea as well as seasonal favorites like frozen hot chocolate topped with light pink whipped cream.”
#6: Up-Close and Personal Aquarium
Skidaway Island is part of Savannah – and is home to the UGA Marine Education Center and Aquarium, Georgia’s first saltwater aquarium. Species of marine life are typically caught by staff and brought to 16 exhibit tanks to show visitors Georgia’s wide variety of marine creatures. This includes a “public touch tank” where you can get “up close and personal” with snails, crabs and other marine invertebrates.
The center also includes:
• educational exhibits
• an auditorium
• two teaching laboratories
• an art lab
• a computer lab
• a dormitory (for out-of-town groups)
• a dining room (for out-of-town groups)
• outside picnic tables along the river
• a boardwalk over the salt marsh
The UGA Marine Education Center and Aquarium is located at 30 Ocean Science Circle.
#7: While in the Island State of Mind . . .
Also take advantage of the Tybee Island Marine Science Center Walks, Talks & Treks, located on another nearby island. These walks last an hour and are family friendly, appropriate for all ages. There are numerous walks available, overall, including:
• Beach Walk: North
• Beach Walk: South
• Coastal Georgia Gallery
• Jelly Jive
• Marsh Trek
• Sift & Seine
• Shark Jaw
• Turtle Talk
• Whale Tale
You can visit the site to get descriptions of each walk and it’s recommended that you check availability of each walk and reserve your space (912-786-5917) because “tides, staffing, and weather can impact programming.” You can also request a program and, if an educator is available, staff will arrange for that walk.
Here’s a glimpse of the “eclectic place” of Tybee Island:
#8: Enjoy a Rousing Good Lunch at the Pirates House
Located at 20 E. Broad Street, just one block from the Savannah River, the Pirate’s House has been a beacon of welcome to visitors to historic Savannah since 1753. The Pirate’s House “first opened as an inn for seafarers, and fast became a rendezvous for blood-thirsty pirates and sailors from the Seven Seas. Here seamen drank their grog and discoursed, sailor fashion, on their exotic high seas adventures from Singapore to Bombay and from London to Port Said.”
The restaurant consists of 15 different dining rooms. Cuisine is southern, significantly but not exclusively consisting of seafood, and attire is casual. Come as you are!
Here is one of the 800+ reviews of the restaurant found at Yelp.com:
The Pirate House was great! The individual dining rooms were so cool – we ate in “The Oldest House in Georgia”! The Crabcake sandwich was one of the best meals I had in Savannah. The service was great, food was served quick and delicious, and make sure you ask for a tour! Our pirate showed us the tunnel, the optical illusion staircase and other cool parts! He really knew his pirate history. Super cool restaurant, a cool gift shop upstairs, and the bar had all kinds of pirate themed cocktails – some served in a skull grog! That’s what I’m talking about. Thank you, Savannah!
And, of course, any building that’s been part of historic Savannah for hundreds of years must be haunted, right?
#9: Tour Iconic Symbol of Historic Savannah: Cathedral of St. John the Baptist
“The Cathedral represents historically noteworthy architecture as well as over a century of faith and civic traditions in Savannah.”
This stunningly majestic church located at 222 East Harris Street is known as the Sistine of the South, its steeples seeming to reach the sky.
The church is available for self-guided tours. Times are typically on Monday through Sunday from 9:00-11:45 a.m. and then from 12:45-5:00 p.m., but it is recommended that you check the church calendar for exceptions to the rule before planning your visit, such as weddings and funerals; the church is also closed for tours on most holy days. If you’d like a guided tour, you can request one.
Below the image is a video that describes what it’s like to visit this cathedral for the first time:
The church was originally dedicated on April 30, 1876, but was largely destroyed in a February 1898 fire; a headline in a newspaper read: The Magnificent Cathedral of St. I John, the Baptist, Lies a Mass of Ruins. Rebuilt quickly, it was opened again in 1900.
Here, you can get a glimpse of the magnificent murals inside the church:
#10: Head out for an Incredible Evening: Savannah’s Best Tales and Spirits
After a wonderful day touring the sites of Savannah, end it with an amazing haunted pub tour where you’ll hear fascinating stories of the ghosts, pirates and more that are part of historic Savannah’s 300 years of history. Your engaging guide will take you to at least three of our city’s most haunted pubs, where you can choose to order drinks at your own expense and discretion. This tour is for adults aged 21 and older (no exceptions!).
Advanced reservations are required, so we suggest that you book your haunted pub tour at Cool Savannah online at least 24 hours ahead of time. You can also call us at (912) 231-3571 or just stop by 42 E. Bay St to make your reservations. Same day reservations may be available, but it’s always best to plan ahead. On the day of your tour, be sure to arrive at least 15 minutes prior to the start of the tour and give yourself some extra time to check out the unique items in our store.
#11 Yesteryear of Cotton: the Savannah Cotton Exchange
If you’re in town on the first Saturday of the month – any month – and you are looking for things to do in Savannah GA, then be sure to tour the Savannah Cotton Exchange. Located at 100 East Bay Street, right by Cool Savannah, this building takes you back to days when cotton was king. The original structure was built in 1872, when Georgia was the leading cotton producer in the United States ($40 million annual revenues!). In the 1880s, this area was known as the Wall Street of the South because of this incredible commerce in cotton.
The current Savannah Cotton Exchange building was designed by William G. Preston and built in 1886. The outside is red brick, designed in the Romantic Revival style, with a terra cotta façade. The elaborate iron fence contains medallions featuring statesmen and authors, and contains within it a landscaped fountain and statue of a gryphon. The Cotton Exchange was opened for tours only a few short years ago – after nearly 40 years without such public access.
The Solomon Lodge operates inside of this building.
#12 Natural Cathedral of Bonaventure Cemetery
Located three miles from the heart of historic Savannah along the Wilmington River, this is one of the world’s most beautiful cemeteries. Live oak trees dripping with Spanish moss and the blooming of azaleas and camellias, plus the wildlife, make it a place of natural splendor, its winding paths reminiscent of a Victorian garden.
This land is also rich in history, an overview of which can be seen here:
As a brief historical overview, this land was once part of an enormous plantation, owned by families that were loyal to the British crown. When the Revolutionary War began going the way of the colonies, loyalists – including the owners of land that is now Bonaventure Cemetery – found themselves stripped of their property.
In more modern times, this cemetery became especially well known after the bestselling book, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, was published in 1994 – with the Bird Girl statue in the cemetery featured on the cover. In 1997, Clint Eastwood directed the film adaption, which starred Kevin Spacey and John Cusack. In 2014, the Bird Girl statue was moved to the Telfair Museums’ Jepson Center for the Arts on West York Street.
There is far more to say about Bonaventure Cemetery than we can include here. So, please watch for an upcoming blog post about the cemeteries of historic Savannah – and consider purchasing this helpful map and guide of the cemetery.
#13 Historic Savannah’s Unique History of Drinks and Revelry
Tours of the Ghost Coast Distillery are currently available five days a week where you can discover how people have enjoyed drink and revelry in Savannah (find days and times of tours). These tours can be free (with no spirits tasting) or $12.50 for a tour with a tasting. Or, you can do a tour/tasting/souvenir bottle package for $32.00 per person. Tours are available for people aged 21 and up (ID required) and children accompanied by a parent or legal guardian; children do not need to pay when accompanied by a paying adult.
You can go back in time, hearing about when liquor and lawyers alike were banned from historic Savannah. General James Oglethorpe banned alcohol in 1734 and this was in effect for 21 years. When that prohibition was lifted, spirits began flowing in the parks and streets, and hasn’t stopped since. Now, in 2017, the city has its first legal distillery in nearly a century.
Ghost Coast Distillery offers a smooth triple-distilled Vodka 261, made of corn and wheat. Another option is the orange-flavored version. Why orange? Well, nearly 300 years ago, city leaders decided to grow mildly sweet, delicately tart oranges and the enticing scent filled the air. Just take a look at these cocktails!
The distillery is located at 641 Indian Street.
#14 More of Historic Savannah’s Unique History: Vic’s on the River
Enjoy a delicious lunch or dinner in an historic building. Built in 1858 by a famous New York architect, John Norris, this building originally belonged to John Stoddard and served as a warehouse; lower floors were called John Stoddard’s Lower Range, the upper as John Stoddard’s Upper Range. Later, it housed the Steven Shipping Company.
During the Civil War, some of General William Tecumseh Sherman’s lesser-ranked officers resided in this building and made plans here. The main dining rooms features a relic from this era: a map hand-drawn by Northern soldiers that shows the march from Tennessee to – and then through – Georgia. As the building was being renovated in 1901, workers were removing the old finish from the walls and noticed lines that had been drawn, long ago. It was this map. A small portion of this map could be saved, while the rest needed covered. When looking at things to do in Savannah GA, look no further than Vic’s for superb food and drinks!
Browse this menu of contemporary Southern cuisine and check out the wine list, and also check out Zagat reviews of the restaurant. Dishes of note include (but are not limited to!) shrimp & grits, award winning crawfish beignets and fried green tomatoes. When you go there to eat (26 East Bay Street), tell them that Cool Savannah Tours & Gifts sent you!
#15 Flexibility Squared: Hop on / Hop off Trolley Tour
At Cool Savannah, we partner with the very best so we can provide a top-shelf experience to all of our guests. If you’d like a trolley tour of Savannah (and we highly recommend it!), know that we partner with Old Town Trolley Tours. This company is superb, the only tour company endorsed by the Savannah Historic Foundation, which has a mission to “preserve and protect Savannah’s heritage through advocacy, education, and community involvement. One of the top things to do in Savannah GA!
In fact, four different historic Savannah trolley tours are available:
If you have questions about our trolley tours of Savannah, contact us online, or call (912) 231-3571 or email firstname.lastname@example.org today. You can find more things to do in Savannah here and here. Oh, and one more thing! Check out the benefits and value of our combo sightseeing tours of Savannah!