The city of Savannah holds several impressive designations. It is known as Georgia’s first state capitol, America’s first planned city, America’s most haunted city, and the Hostess City of the South. When you visit Savannah it is easy to see why everyone holds it in such high regard. There are few cities in the USA that can match its beauty and ambiance.
Savannah is the oldest city in the state of Georgia, founded in 1733 by James Edward Oglethorpe, who was a Confederate General and member of Brittish Parliament. Savannah is famously known as a Civil War town, spared from destruction by the Union Army simply because of its beauty.
When people think of Savannah, not only do they reflect on a tragic time in our nation’s history, but they also imagine friendship oaks curving over a carriage road and moss-draped trees in an Eden-esque tableau. Equal parts tragic and romantic, Savannah occupies a conflicted place in the heart of the American story.
However, you might be surprised to learn that Spanish Moss is not actually moss, but a relative of the pineapple. No kidding! And while they didn’t have crack cocaine in the old days, they certainly have it now. No bother, though — Everyone just looks past it and you can, too. Ah, Savannah. You dirty, Southern girl; you are beautiful, indeed, faults and all.
In 1966, Downtown Savannah was designated a National Historic Landmark District. It is here you will spend most of your time in Savannah. What follows is a list of ten things we would recommend prioritizing on your stopover, as well as some places where we found delicious food. We hope you enjoy!
The streets of Savannah are one of the South’s great treasures. These squares, homes, and buildings have been designated one of the largest National Historic Landmark Districts in the United States of America.
The city is so beautiful that when General Sherman of the Union Army sacked it in 1864, he chose to not burn it down. That’s saying something, too, because the general liked to burn cities. Still, General Sherman was not without a giving heart — he gifted Savannah to President Lincoln as a Christmas present along with 250 bales of cotton.
Downtown is adorned with 24 city squares, two significant parks, and a cemetery. Each square is a small to medium sized park, symmetrically embedded within the neighborhoods of the city like a grid. These beautiful, ornate respite-plazas break up the monotony of buildings and houses, and are arguably the most charming attribute of the city.
Some squares are elaborate, dressed with gardens, fountains, and monuments, yet others are little more than benches, pathways, and oaks. One of the best things to do in Savannah is to walk through all the city squares. We have placed a map toward the bottom of the article that shows the entire historic district with all the squares. Our personal favorite squares are: Chippewa, Johnson, Monterey, and Madison. If you walk due north from Forsyth Park you will hit all four.
This Georgia barrier island has been a popular vacation spot since the late 1800s, and is the perfect escape after several days, or hours, of beating your soles on the historic streets of Savannah.
Tybee island is home to over three miles of clean, wide beaches; a quiet, restful place with a gentle ocean and relaxed vibe. The surf side town is a bit worn down and funky, and there’s nothing wrong with that — are these towns ever anything but that? The pulsing heart of Tybee is a 1-block strip that connects to the Tybee Beach Pier. Be sure to catch a sunset here!
North Beach is where you will find the historic lighthouse, and mid-beach is home to Memorial Park. No matter where you land on this whimsical oasis, Tybee Island is one of the best things to do in Savannah.
Dubbed by some as the most beautiful street in the USA, Jones Street is a residential street in the heart of Savannah’s historic landmark district. This unforgettable, brick-paved lane is adorned with moss-hung trees, patriotic flags, and beautiful, 19th century, Greek revival-style homes.
Jones St. is bisected by Bull St., creating West Jones and East Jones. Here’s a map. The best stretch is between Tattnall Street and Lincoln Street. An early morning or evening stroll is one of the best things to do in Savannah.
The Colonial Park Cemetery on Abercorn St. opened in the mid-1700s. It serves as the final resting place for many of the city’s earliest citizens, including Confederate soldiers and African-American slaves. This cemetery is considered one of Savannah’s most haunted sites, but the most ghoulish thing you’ll see in the daytime is a computer programmer.
Bonaventure Cemetery, made famous by the movie Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, has over 100 acres of beautifully dressed paths, historic graves, and ornate tombs. In 1846, the Bonaventure Plantation was repurposed as a cemetery because the existing cemeteries were near capacity.
We would recommend visiting both cemeteries. Colonial Park is easy to find as part of the city square system. Bonaventure requires a drive outside of the historic landmark district, but it is superior.
Savannah is located at the mouth of the Savannah River and remained an important port city for the cotton and lumber industries for many years. River Street is where all the port activity took place.
These days River Street is a shopping / eating / strolling / tourist-y hub on the Northside of the city. The old cobblestone streets are still intact, which makes for beautiful photos. Savannah’s Candy Kitchen has the best cheese corn and pralines we’ve ever had, (it’s hard to miss, just follow your nose). There are even dolphins swimming around in the river!
For a beautiful afternoon, we would recommend walking from the Waving Girl Statue to the Alida Hotel (map), staying close to the river as much as possible. River Street backs up to Bay Street, which is also beautiful and fun to walk — A loop of the two streets would be easy to navigate.
The Cathedral Basilica is a stunning Catholic Church located on Abercorn and Harris, just south of the Colonial Park Cemetery. This is the most easily recognized landmark in the city due to its unmissable 214 feet high spires. It features 81 stained glass windows, 16 gargoyles, and took over 90,000 copper nails and 45,000 slates to construct.
The original church building was established in 1800. The congregation quickly outgrew the building, so in 1835 a larger, 1,000 seat chapel was built. Then again, in 1873, a new foundation was laid for yet a bigger, more ornate church. This would become the framework for the existing church today. Over the years the Cathedral Basilica of Saint John the Baptist has endured fires and hurricanes, seeing multiple repairs and refurbishments. The most recent renovation took place in 2000, at the end of which the cathedral was rededicated.
Anyone can enter the Cathedral Basilica, and we recommend that you do. It is one of the most beautiful things to do in Savannah. The chapel opens at 09:00 — a $3 donation is appreciated.
Forsyth Park might be the most famous attraction in all of Savannah. It is the largest park in the National Historic Landmark District, a 30 acre promenade of gardens, fields, and memorials.
The central feature of the park is the above pictured fountain. The double-sided approach to the font is picturesque with oak trees curving over the pathway. Because of the fountain’s beauty and romantic aura, it is often the site of proposals, engagement photo shoots, and weddings.
Directly north of the park (across the street) on Bull Street is the Armstrong House. This might be the most beautiful mansion in Savannah; a classic monstrosity that should be contemplated thoroughly. There are a few interesting statues in the yard, one of butts and another of a wild boar. Who puts a statue of butts in their yard? Or a boar? Man, rich people get away with everything.
You will want to make reservations far ahead of time for The Olde Pink House. It is arguably the most well-known restaurant in Savannah. The food is superb, and also affordable considering the elegant atmosphere and universal commendation of the establishment. They are known for their crispy scored flounder, chef’s fried chicken, fried pork chop, and other delicacies.
Arches Bar is in the basement and has a separate entrance. Inside is the darkest, most mysterious bar / restaurant we’ve seen, the kind in which you might find pirates and politicians planning their plunders. The menu reflects the upstairs restaurant in a limited capacity. Be aware the line builds before the 5pm opening and they don’t take reservations.
Located on 23 Abercorn St. across the street from beautiful Reynolds Square.
Known for their “Award-winning, homemeade, super-premium ice cream,” Leopold’s Ice Cream has been a Savannah institution for generations. The shop was founded in 1919 by three brothers from Greece who learned the art of candy and dessert making from an uncle. Famed lyricist Johnny Mercer (Moon River, The Days of Wine and Roses), grew up a block away and worked the shop as a boy.
The walls of Leopold’s Ice Cream are covered with signed photographs from Hollywood movie sets — the current owner, Stratton Leopold, is a Hollywood movie producer with significant accomplishments.
Most importantly, the ice cream at Leopolds is superlative, perhaps the best we’ve ever tasted.
Broughton Street is the classic downtown shopping district where all the modern stores are found. Many of the cities restaurants and clothing stores are here. The famous Leopold’s Ice Cream shop is located at 212 E. Broughton.
You will find anything your heart desires on Broughton Street, from a fancy fondue dinner to an old English Pub. Looking for a T-Mobile store? How about Banana Republic? Let’s say, what you really need is a plate of noodles served by a monk that can fly. Here’s a MAP.
Mirabelle’s serves waffles covered in delicious toppings. A heavenly, must-eat kind of place. The Peach Cobbler was ridiculous. We went twice in three days.
Wormsloe Historic Site is the oldest standing structure in Savannah, an 822-acre plantation built in 1739 by James Noble. The plantation is known for it’s tree-covered drive.
The first public art museum in the southern US, founded in 1883 by local philanthropist Mary Telfair.
The birthplace of Girl Scout’s founder, Juliette Low.
This is the oldest black church in North America. It was known for its role as a safe house for slaves on the Underground Railroad.
We spent three days strolling the streets of downtown Savannah, taking photographs and eating delicious food. In a way Savannah is a lot like Charleston or NYC, because the location itself is the attraction. The streets and historic homes are beautiful and interesting to look at, so there is no need to pay for more than a few activities.
Traffic is light. Parking is abundant. Getting in and out of the city is a breeze. Savannah is an easy place to visit.
We did notice two things that aren’t so wonderful. For one, the people are of Savannah are not very friendly. Despite being much smaller and accessible than places like L.A. and Seattle, Savannah has a similar, isolating vibe. We are from the west-coast so we know the behavior well. Eye contact, smiles, and hellos make society better, which is why places like Texas are so wonderful. Most southern cities are on board with the pro-people attitude, which made the lack of it stand out in Savannah.
In that same west-coast city vein, Savannah has a homeless problem. Some of the city squares are crash pads to bench-sleeping addicts, and it can be a unnerving when they congregate en masse. We are currently living in Charleston, a similar historic city two hours up the highway, and we have seen nothing resembling this across our downtown area. Savannah is clearly permitting this for some reason, to their detriment.
We believe neither of these downsides should prevent anyone from visiting historic Savannah. The town is undeniably attractive and absolutely worthy of exploration. Everywhere you look is something picturesque. We took well over a thousand photographs and had a great time.
We just wouldn’t want to live here.
Thank you for spending a moment on our website. It is always our goal to give thoughtful, first-hand reviews of the places we visit. Please feel free to check out other reviews, blog posts, or travel tips on the site! Happy travels!
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