Best Things To Do in Savannah
Much of Savannah's charm lies in meandering through the Historic District's verdant squares – all 22 of them. Along the way, you'll happen upon numerous historic homes like the Mercer Williams House, popularized by "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil," and the home of Juliette Gordon Low, who founded the Girl Scouts. There's the famous Bonaventure Cemetery for a Spanish moss-canopied stroll, and there's the City Market, which is an ideal place to pick up a few souvenirs. You can also take a quick car ride over to the beach at Tybee Island. For an overivew of the city's top attractions, consider signing up for a guided tour.
Updated July 16, 2019
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Go to this 30-acre park in the heart of Savannah's Historic District to relax after a long day of sightseeing. Keep your camera ready, though, as there is plenty to see here as well. Stroll past the stunning white-stone Forsyth Fountain, memorials dedicated to the Confederacy and the Spanish-American War, the Fragrant Garden for the visually impaired and the 300-year-old Candler Oak tree. From the park, you can see several historic sites within walking distance, including Hodgson Hall (home to the Georgia Historical Society) and the old Poor House and Hospital, which was used to treat wounded soldiers during the Civil War.
Recent visitors noted the park's urban cosmopolitan vibe, with locals and tourists alike picnicking, dog walking and even painting. They also say that street parking nearby the park is free on Sundays.
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Savannah's history stretches back to 1733, when General James Oglethorpe docked his ship on the Savannah River and named this new territory (and America's 13th colony) "Georgia." You can hear all about Savannah's past and the events that shaped its present on a history tour. What's more, you won't have any trouble finding a tour that suits your interests, Savannah boasts a bevy of city tours – from architecture to ghosts to photography – for a variety of travelers.
Walking tours of the Historic District and Bonaventure Cemetery are most popular among recent visitors (be prepared to hear some ghost stories if you sign up for a cemetery walking tour). There are several walking tours, including those provided by Savannah Dan and Old City Walks, which both received praise from travelers.
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If you're planning to tour Savannah's Historic District, City Market is a great place to start. Spread out across four blocks, the open-air marketplace features restored warehouses sheltering everything from restaurants to boutiques to art galleries. When you're not shopping, listening to live music or enjoying a casual bite to eat, simply sit and people-watch: past visitors said this area is great for resting weary feet and taking in the Savannah scene. Plus, City Market is also home base for trolley and carriage tours, so if you need to kill time before or after your tour, you'll find plenty to see and do here.
Recent travelers said City Market was a great place for a leisurely stroll or a relaxing break from sightseeing with plenty of seating in the shade. This area is also home to several bars, so keep this in mind if you're here in the evening: some visitors said the market can get a bit rowdy.
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Towering over Lafayette Square in the Historic District, the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist's Gothic towers should lure in any architecture buff. The original cathedral was constructed in 1799 by the first French colonists to arrive in the area. At the end of the 19th century, the old building was torn down to make room for the larger, stone cathedral that you see today. If you've ever seen photos of it, you've likely seen the cathedral's intricate gold-leaf designs, Italian marble altar and stunning stained-glass windows.
Most travelers who took the time to see this cathedral were flabbergasted by its beauty, comparing it to Europe's medieval churches. Even if you're not interested in attending Mass, you should still set aside 10 to 15 minutes to take a brief peek inside the stunning interior. However, recent visitors said attending Mass here is worth considering (even if you're not Catholic), thanks to the beautiful atmosphere and talented choir. Feel free to take a self-guided tour inside the cathedral, but remember to be respectful as it's still an active house of worship.
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While a stroll through a cemetery may sound a little morbid, recent travelers agreed that a visit to the more than 100-acre Bonaventure Cemetery is a must for lovers of the written word. Keep your eyes peeled for the tombstones of such celebrities as poet Conrad Aiken and lyricist Johnny Mercer. You should also make a point of looking for the grave of Danny Hansford (buried in the neighboring Greenwich Cemetery), whose murder inspired John Berendt's best-selling book, "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil."
According to visitors, the hauntingly beautiful Bonaventure won't disappoint, but travelers said that bug spray, a water bottle and comfortable walking shoes are a must. You can tour the cemetery on your own, but recent visitors said you should also consider signing up for a guided tour to gain a better understanding of the cemetery's intriguing history.
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Running alongside the Savannah River in the Waterfront district is River Street, a lively area perfect for afternoon strolls. According to recent visitors, this area has renounced its seedy identity from 30 years ago; once a hot spot for cruising sailors and unruly teens, the cobblestone street is now lined with more than 75 souvenir shops, galleries, restaurants and pubs housed in old cotton warehouses. However, River Street is still the place to go for pub crawls, making it attractive to party-seekers and slightly less family-friendly after dark. Plus, the area comes alive with street musicians after the sun sets.
Recent visitors recommended spending a few hours here for the gorgeous river views and excellent people-watching, though they do warn that you shouldn't expect much from the shops as most are filled with kitschy souvenirs.
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Right up there with Forsyth Park and River Street, Wormsloe Historic Site is one of Savannah's can't-miss attractions. Even if you never heard of the site, you've likely spotted it in pictures: its star attraction is the mile-long avenue leading to the plantation, which is lined on both sides by towering live oak trees dressed in Spanish moss.
Most travelers venture here for the free photo op alone, but what lies beyond the entryway is also worth your attention. Here you'll find the ruins of Wormsloe, the oldest standing structure in Savannah and the colonial estate of Noble Jones, a carpenter who came to Georgia in 1733 with James Oglethorpe and the first group of settlers from England. Along with the ruins, visitors can tour a small museum featuring artifacts unearthed at Wormsloe and watch a brief film about the site and Georgia's founding. There's also an interpretative nature trail that runs along a marsh on the Skidaway River, as well as costumed interpreters demonstrating the tools and skills of colonial Georgia.
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When you've had your fill of ghost stories, green squares and historic homes, head to Tybee Island. Just a half-hour east of the Historic District, Tybee Island is home to 5 miles of beachfront, the famous Tybee Island Light Station and the Marine Science Center, among other attractions. On your way to the beach, consider a stop at Fort Pulaski Monument, a Civil War landmark sandwiched between Savannah and Tybee Island.
Recent visitors described Tybee Island as relaxing thanks to its clean beachfront and stellar views of the Tybee Island Light Station. If you're looking for an easy daytrip from Savannah, the island should be at the top of your list, according to travelers. Plus, thanks to its proximity to the shore, Tybee Island is chock full of casual seafood eateries.
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Named for Revolutionary War hero Casimir Pulaski, it was here that General Robert E. Lee was first assigned after graduating from West Point. Today, you can explore the fort's colossal ramparts, intimidating stone towers, drawbridges and moats. Frequent re-enactments allow you to see what life in the fort was like back in its heyday. After you've gotten your fill of Pulaski, head to the nearby Tybee Lighthouse (situated about 5 miles east of the fort) for some fantastic views of the coast and a stroll along the barrier island's 5-mile-long beach.
Recent visitors said the fort is a must-visit for history buffs and strongly recommended taking one of the ranger-led tours. Fort tours, which usually last 45 minutes to an hour, are offered daily 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. If you're unable to tag along on a ranger-led tour, you should make time for the 20-minute introductory film, "The Battle for Fort Pulaski," which is shown in the fort's visitor center and museum. Travelers said watching this short movie prior to touring the fort made a visit to the grounds more meaningful.
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George Welshman Owens was a wealthy planter, lawyer and politician who lived in this house with his wife, six children and 14 slaves beginning in 1830. Unlike the other two Telfair Museums, the Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters focuses less on art and more on architecture, which is sure to impress. In fact, recent visitors described the house as both simple and elegant. If you like history, then an hour or two at the Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters should definitely make it on to your to-do list. A tour of the facility reveals what life was like for the upper-class in 19th century Savannah: You'll see Greek-inspired craftsmanship and beautiful stained glass, not to mention the old carriage house and slave quarters.
The Owens-Thomas House sits in the heart of the Historic District, just a few blocks northeast of Juliette Gordon Low's Birthplace. You must visit the house on a guided tour, which are offered on 20-minute intervals daily until 4:20 p.m. The home is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday and Monday from noon to 5 p.m. Admission costs $20 for adults and $15 for students, ages 13 through 30. Kids 12 and younger are admitted for free. Keep in mind that admission to one site includes a visit to each of the other Telfair sites, including the Jepson Center and the Telfair Academy. For more information, check out the Telfair Museums website.
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According to some recent visitors, a stop at the Mercer-Williams House is a must when in Savannah. While it was once home to lyricist Johnny Mercer, this house is much more famous for its other resident, Jim Williams, a noted Savannah antiques dealer and the central character in John Berendt's best-selling book "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil." In fact, Williams is the only person in Georgia to have ever been tried four times for the same crime: the murder of Danny Hansford, which allegedly took place in this very house. While the upstairs is off-limits, you're invited to explore the ground floor, which is ornately decorated with 18th- and 19th-century furnishings, Chinese porcelain and portraits dating back to the 1700s.
Though most recent visitors were pleased with their tour of the Mercer-Williams House, reviewers warned that fans of the book and film may be disappointed to learn that guides do not talk about the book or the alleged murder that took place here (ironically, you'll find book merchandise and memorabilia in the gift shop). Some were also a bit dissatisfied with the extent of the tour (remember: you'll only see the first floor), especially for the cost of admission. But still, most travelers said that if you're going to tour just one historic house in Savannah, the Mercer-Williams home should be it.
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The Telfair Academy, along with the Owens-Thomas House, and the Jepson Center for the Arts comprise the oldest public art museum in the South. If you're a fan of artwork from the 19th and 20th centuries (or if you just need a break from the Georgia heat), you'll want to spend a few hours perusing this mansion-turned-museum. Housing more than 4,500 works of art, including paintings from the Impressionist period, plaster casts of such renowned works as the Venus de Milo and period furniture left over from the Telfair family themselves, this marble-clad museum shelters a diverse array of pieces. But according to recent visitors, it's Sylvia Shaw Judson's famous "Bird Girl" statue, which appears on the cover of John Berendt's bestselling book, "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil," that's the real highlight of the museum.
Most recent visitors were charmed by the Telfair Academy, with many citing it as a "must-see" while in Savannah. Reviewers were a bit divided on its small size – some appreciated how easy it was to see the whole museum in a few hours, while others lamented that the admission price seemed a bit steep for the museum's relatively limited scope of American and European art.
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The SCAD Museum of Art, which occupies a building originally constructed in 1853, is an extension of the Savannah College of Art and Design. The museum hosts a rotating roster of exhibits, but also boasts a permanent collection of more than 4,500 works, including the Walter O. Evans Collection of African American Art, couture pieces from Yves Saint Laurent, Oscar de la Renta and Givenchy, among others, as well as works from Salvador Dalí, Nicholas Hlobo, Annie Leibovitz, Robert Rauschenberg and Andy Warhol, among many others.
Admission for adults costs $10; children 13 and younger enter for free. The museum welcomes visitors from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, with extended hours on Thursday. On Sunday, the museum is open from noon to 5 p.m. The museum sits within the Historic District.
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