Should you visit Savannah, Georgia?

I finally visited Savannah after years of reading about its charming Spanish moss squares and haunted history. The purpose of my visit was to attend a work conference, so I actually didn’t choose to visit Savannah. Which got me thinking – is Savannah worth visiting as a travel destination?

It’s tricky to answer such a question, given that travel is so personal. What works for me might not work for you. Nevertheless, in this blog post, I share my experience and some of things to do in Savannah Georgia for first time visitors. 

Initially, I thought about sharing a structured itinerary about how to spend 3 days in Savannah. After all, Savannah is a popular long weekend destination.

However, as I began to piece together the Savannah itinerary, I realize it’s quite challenging to squeeze everything into two or three days. 

Instead, this post shares the best things to do in Savannah and a few thoughts about Savannah as a travel destination. 

The Number One Thing to do in Savannah… 

If there’s one thing you must to do on your first trip to Savannah it’s this – wander around the Savannah Historic District and admire it’s many squares, churches, monuments and architecture.

Let your curiosity guide you. Savannah is a small city and it’s very walkable, so put on your comfy shoes and start exploring. 

You don’t really need a Savannah map because the downtown area isn’t very big. However, if you’re a planner and you want more info, here’s a detailed map of Savannah with tourist attractions. 

Read this post for fun facts about Savannah Georgia.

Start by visiting a few of the historic squares in downtown Savannah.

There are over 20 squares in the downtown area, each with its own statues, memorials, monuments and huge trees with dangling Spanish moss. 

When exploring these squares and green spaces, take a moment and read the signs and monuments. Savannah has a fascinating history that’s worth learning about. The city does a good job explaining its history with detailed signs at most squares and historical buildings. 

Fun fact – did you know that Savannah is America’s first planned city?

The historic steps in Savannah’s historic district.

I love it when cities preserve its old brick and stone architecture. That said, these steps are legitimately sketchy, so take the sign’s advice and be careful.

Above is a photo of the Historic Steps in old Savannah.

Seeing the hanging Spanish moss on oak trees and street lights is one of the unique things that make Savannah worth visiting. It’s a big part of Savannah’s appeal.

In the above photo is William Jasper Monument, located in Madison Square in the Savannah Historic District.

Above is the James Oglethorpe Monument in Chippewa Square. 

Chippewa Square is also famous for being the location of the Forrest Gump’s bench. This is the bench, and park, where Tom Hanks says the iconic phrase “life is like a box of chocolates”. If you watch this video clip, you will see the above statue in the backdrop.

How many days do you need in Savannah?

I spent four nights at the Westin Savannah Harbor while attending a conference (skip to the bottom to read about my experience). I had some free time each day to escape the conference and explore the city. 

Assuming you have nice weather, and a flexible schedule, I would say that three days is the perfect amount of time to spend in Savannah. Most of the Savannah tourist attractions are within walking distance to the riverfront and it’s easy to navigate the city on foot. 

That said, if you plan to leave the city and visit nearby Tybee Island or Hilton Head Island, you might want to add a few more days to your Savannah trip.

Above is a photo of Johnson Square in downtown Savannah. It’s said to be the oldest and largest square in Savannah. In the distance, you can see the impressive Savannah City Hall, with its gold dome. 

East River Street

Wandering the cobblestone streets of River Street is a must do for first time visitors to Savannah. The well-preserved brick and stone buildings along the river provide a unique atmosphere. It’s touristy here, but it’s also unlike any other city I’ve visited in the United States.

A few Savannah tourist attractions on River Street include:

  • River Street Boardwalk 
  • Savannah River boat cruises 
  • River Street Market Place
  • Cinnamon Bear Country Store 
  • Savannah’s Candy Kitchen
  • Savannah Bee Company
  • Joe’s Crab Shack
  • A Christmas On the River
  • Factors Walk 
  • Graveface Museum

You will find several boutique shops, art galleries, candy shops, restaurants and pubs in this area. 

Old warehouse buildings and stone roads on East River Street in the Historic District.

Many people would argue that its food scene is what makes Savannah worth visiting. I can’t disagree. Every meal we had was delicious and the Southern hospitality is unlike anywhere else. 

The bridge that connects upper Factors Walk, located between River and Bay Streets.

Factors Walk is a row of red brick buildings and warehouses where cotton brokers used work when cotton was was the South’s most valuable export in mid to late 1800s. These brokers acted as middleman between the plantation owners and customers.

The iconic Cotton Exchange Building on Factors Walk.

It’s located in the popular River Street district. This is one of the most photographed buildings in Savannah’s Historic District.

The famous, and touristy, Fiddlers’ Crab House on East River Street. 

Savannah’s Candy Kitchen on East River Street. This is a popular candy store in Savannah.

Boutique shops at Factors Walk in downtown Savannah. 

The above photo is one of my favourite photos from my time in Savannah. I love the colour contrast and symmetry between the doors, windows and pathway in front of the shops.

Savannah City Hall is arguably the most recognizable building in downtown Savannah. 

Savannah Riverboat Cruises

One of the most popular Savannah tourist attractions is a riverboat cruise on the Savannah River. The Georgia Queen riverboat, picture above, docks on the River Street Boardwalk. It’s easy to spot this beautiful red and white riverboat. 

There are a variety of Savannah Riverboat Sightseeing Cruises available, including a sightseeing lunch cruise, buffet dinner cruise with live entertainment and a Riverboat Sunset Cruise. 

Are the Riverboat Cruises in Savannah worth visiting? 

I did not take a riverboat cruise during my visit, so I cannot confirm if these Savannah river cruises are worth the price of admission. There were long lines of people for each departure time, so my assumption is that this is an enjoyable activity. 

Have you taken a Savannah riverboat cruise? If yes, please share your experience in the comments section below. What riverboat tour did you take? Would you recommend this tour?

Savannah Carriage Tours 

Another fun way to explore the city is to hop on a Savannah carriage tour.

These 45-minute horse-drawn carriage tours take guests around the historic district, passing several Savannah tourist attractions along the way.

Here’s a list of the best Horse-Drawn Carriage Tours in Savannah.

Look for the Carriage Stand signs (picture above) to join your Savannah horse-drawn carriage tour. 

Hop on a Savannah Trolley tour

If you’re not interested in a horse-drawn carriage tour, another fun way to explore Savannah is on one of the trolley tours. There are a few trolley companies to choose from, including Old Town Trolley Tour and Old Savannah Tours. 

The nice thing about these tours is that the driver provides information about the attractions. It’s a great way to learn about Savannah’s rich culture and history from the comforts of the open-aired trolley. 

Another option is the Dot trolley. This trolley is free, making it one of the best free things to do in Savannah. 

Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist

The Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist is a Roman Catholic cathedral and minor basilica in Lafayette Square. If you only visit one church or temple during your time in Savannah, this is the one. It’s a remarkable building. 

As soon as I entered the cathedral I was instantly transported back to Europe. The details inside this cathedral are incredible. It was founded in 1700 by the first French Colonists; however, the current French Gothic Cathedral dates back to 1874.

I was informed by a host that many of the items used to build this church, including the stained glass windows, were shipped from Europe. 

The people in the photo above provide a sense of scale. The high ceilings and tall columns create a powerful atmosphere for guests. 

The alter inside the stunning Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist in Savannah.

Grab a seat and take your time admiring the artwork and stain glass windows. 

Above is The Independent Presbyterian Church of Savannah, located near Chippewa Square.

There are several churches in downtown Savannah. It seems like every square in Savannah has a church, cathedral, temple or place of worship nearby. 

Savannah Plant Riverside District

The Plant Riverside District, Savannah’s Entertainment District, is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike. This riverfront development is home to several shops, galleries, restaurants, cafes, bars and lounges. 

Grab a table on the stone promenade and listen to live music as you watch the big ships sail up and down the Savannah River. It’s a fun place to enjoy happy hour and sunsets. 

Check out the Plant Riverside District map and directory here. 

Huge chrome dinosaur skeleton inside the lobby of the JW Marriott in the Plant Riverside District. I read that it’s over 135 feet long, making it the largest dinosaur ever discovered. 

The bright purple lights at the Plant Riverside District, seen from the River Street promenade. 

American Prohibition Museum

If you’re looking for a unique Savannah museum to visit, check out the American Prohibition Museum. It’s centrally located next to Ellis Square in the popular City Market area.

“From gangsters to rumrunners, learn about the most infamous troublemakers of the 20s and 30s. Learn to make your own hooch while exploring an extensive collection of moonshine stills”.

Learn about tickets and packages here. 

After visiting the museum, grab lunch on a patio in the City Market area. 

Colonial Park Cemetery

Colonial Park Cemetery is an historic cemetery located in downtown Savannah, a few blocks north of The Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist. The cemetery was established in 1750 and it became a city park in 1896. Burials in the cemetery stopped in 1853.

I’m not a cemetery tourist, so I did not spend any time inside the cemetery park. I only captured this photo of the entrance. However, if you’re interested in a spooky atmosphere to capture photos, you might want to check out this park cemetery.

Another popular cemetery for tourists is the Bonaventure Cemetery. 

Savannah Ghosts & Gravestones Tour

A fun and entertaining way to explore old Savannah and learn about its history is to join the Ghosts and Gravestones tour. More info about this haunted tour here. 

Pedal Pub – Savannah’s Party Bikes

Prior to visiting, I was unaware of Savannah’s party scene. If party bikes, live music, rooftop bars and dancing at night clubs is your scene, Savannah is calling you. It’s a rowdy party city at night, especially on the weekend. 

Have you been on a party bike? I have not, so I don’t have an opinion. However, it looks like a fun way to celebrate a birthday or bachelor/bachelorette party with your friends. 

Party bikes are big business in downtown Savannah! I spotted at least 10 of these pedal party machines.

Savannah City Market is a popular spot for nightlife in Savannah. There are several restaurants, bars and clubs here and around Ellis Square. Just follow the neon signs and listen for the loud music. 

Watch the mega-ships on the Savannah River

Yes, I am recommending that you “watch big ships” as a top thing to do in Savannah. Your eyes are not deceiving you.

The Port of Savannah is said to be one of the busiest seaports in the United States. The port is located northwest of the city, past the Talmadge Memorial Bridge. Therefore, hundreds of huge container ships sail up and down the Savannah River each day. 

The Savannah River is not that wide, relatively speaking. But it’s very deep. When these mighty ships pass the downtown Savannah area, it’s quite the sight to behold. At times, it feels as if these floating monsters are within a stone’s throw. And, when these ships blasts its horn, the sound vibrates across the city like thunder. 

Watching these ships reminds me of the ships passing through the Panama Canal.

This is the view from the lobby at the Westin Savannah. I’m not sure what this ship transports, but it’s enormous. It’s hard to capture the scale of these ships. I could not fit this ship in the photo frame. 

Another huge container ship sails up the Savannah River, passing the Plant Riverside District. That’s the Talmadge Memorial Bridge in the distance.

Best Restaurants in Savannah

There are so many great Savannah restaurants to choose from. It’s quite a foodie town.

I enjoyed brunch at The Collins Quarter, pictured above. It came highly recommended by several people. We sat outside on a sunny Sunday morning. It’s a great venue for people watching and listening to the church bells ring. I will pass the torch and also recommend this restaurant. 

Here’s a list of restaurants in Savannah worth visiting:

  • The Olde Pink House – popular tourist spot with unique architecture and Southern charm (reservations required).
  • The Collins Quarter – known for its famous all-day brunch.
  • Cotton & Rye – a contemporary American restaurant in a former bank.
  • Flock to the Wok – located in the heart of the Savannah Historic district
  • Husk Savannah – fine dining located beside one of the most famously haunted houses in Savannah.
  • Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room – Southern diner serving guests since 1943.
  • Green Truck Pub – serving the best hamburgers in Savannah.
  • Sorry Charlie’s Oyster Bar – casual seafood spot with raw bar and southern specialties.
  • The Grey – funky 1938 Greyhound Bus Terminal restored and converted into a soulful restaurant
  • Moon River Brewing Company – for the beer, of course.
  • The Cotton Exchange Tavern – Southern fare in a one time cotton warehouse with exposed brick and waterfront views.
  • Bull Street Taco – known for its popular taco takeout box.

See more of the top Savannah restaurants here. 

Delicious brunch at The Collins Quarter in Savannah.

Tasty lunch at Coco and Moss restaurant at Ellis Square in downtown Savannah.

The original Leopold’s Ice Cream in downtown Savannah. The above photo was captured at the flagship parlor of this famous ice cream shop. It’s been serving ice cream since 1919. I’m told that this location typically has long lines that stretch down the street to the SCAD theater. 

Where to stay in Savannah Georgia

There are plenty of hotels, resorts and vacation rentals in downtown Savannah. The city is well-built for tourism, so you’ll find a wide variety of options for all budgets. 

I stayed at the Westin Savannah Harbor Resort. It’s located on the north side of the river, which is the opposite side of downtown Savannah. A free ferry service runs every 20-30 minutes to transport guests across the river. 

I enjoyed my time at this property. My room was spacious and modern. The property is well-maintained and the outdoor space, pool and hot tub is relaxing. 

I would recommend this as a hotel in Savannah worth visiting. 

The lobby inside the The Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa.

The outdoor pool is surrounded by tall palm trees, creating a tropical vibe that feels more like south Florida. 

Fire pit and outdoor seating at the Westin. Nice views of the river and downtown Savannah.

The greens at The Club at Savannah Harbor golf course.

Waterfront sunset views from the promenade at the Westin Savannah Resort. 

Hotels in Savannah Historic District 

There are several Savannah hotels in the historic district. A few of the more notable properties are:

  • River Street Inn (pictured above)
  • Olde Harbour Inn 
  • East Bay Inn – Historic Inns of Savannah
  • Kimpton Brice Hotel

Search for more hotels in Savannah here.

Search for United States vacation rentals under $100 a night. 

Is Savannah Georgia safe?

Savannah is a relatively safe city. Most of the reported crimes happen after dark, so you should be fine if you stick to the touristy areas and avoid bad neighbourhoods. 

The Savannah historic district is safe for tourists but you still need to be aware of your surroundings. The city has a party atmosphere at night, especially on the weekends. Don’t be surprised if you see a lot of drunk people wandering the streets at night. 

Is Savannah worth visiting?

Back to the original question for this Savannah blog post – is Savannah worth visiting as a travel destination?

I would say yes. Savannah is worth visiting. It’s a fun small city with plenty of restaurants, bars and entertainment to keep you busy. It offers nice warm temperatures (although I’m told that summers can be oppressively hot) and its southern charm will surely captivate you.

However, you only need about three days in Savannah. Most of the tourist attractions are within walking distance, so you can realistically visit most attractions in two or three days. 

If you’re looking for a one week vacation, I’m not sure Savannah is the right destination. You might find that you’ve run out of things to do after a few days. That said, if you combine a trip to Charleston, South Carolina, that might be the perfect one week vacation. 

Savannah and Charleston often get compared with each other, given the close proximately between these two coastal cities. It’s about a 2.5 hour drive from Savannah to Charleston. 

Have you visited Savannah, Georgia? What do you think? 

Leave a comment below and share your recommendations for things to do in Savannah. Our readers thank you!

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