While I’m hardly saying that a weekend is enough time to see all there is in a city like Savannah, due to its small size and ease in getting around nature, it can be the perfect place for such a time frame. So if you’re like me and enjoy things like food, history, and culture, then be sure to follow along with my itinerary below!
Try to arrive as early in the day as possible to maximize your time although just beware of those ferocious Southern storms which can put a damper (and delay) on any flying activity (our flight to Savannah was delayed three hours due to this). Unless you’re renting a car, just plan on taking a cab right from the Savannah airport to the historic downtown. It’s a flat rate and will cost you $34 USD. I found the cab drivers both coming and going to be some of the friendliest people ever. Going into Savannah the driver also acted as an impromptu tour guide. And people, don’t think of staying anywhere else-this is not a time to be cheap. Trust me when I say you want to be in the thick of things and by thick of things I’m referring to the beautiful historic section.
Hopefully you can check in to your room once you arrive but do no more than drop your bags off and a quick couple of minute freshen up period. You need to get out and explore!
Bay Street is home to numerous hotels (including the just about perfect Hampton Inn Historic District-for my review of it click here) so in terms of getting your bearings, I would highly recommend a stroll along this thoroughfare. You will pass by such things as the beautiful gold-leaf dome city hall building, the Savannah Cotton Exchange, which serves as a reminder of the great influence the crop once had on the city, and of course, photo op after photo op of the beautiful and seductive looking Spanish moss. Nothing is more emblematic of the American Deep South than this flowering plant. And believe me when I say that it literally is ALL over the city.
By now you’re probably feeling a bit famished since the bag of pretzels you got on your flight was hours ago, so start thinking of a place to dine, although hopefully you’ve done your research and have either made reservations or you go early enough in the evening where there’s no wait.
River Street is where the city of Savannah began when the first colonists arrived and in the time that followed it became a thriving wharf area. Today it’s extremely popular with tourists due to the abundance of shops and eateries that line the street, many of which are housed in former historic warehouses. Between its rich history and its proximity to the water, this is a great part of the city to spend some time.
There’s a cool yet creepy old staircase that takes people from Bay Street to River Street (you can really get a sense of the former warehouse district down here). While I wouldn’t recommend traversing through here late at night and especially late at night while intoxicated, in the early evening there are plenty of people passing through. And for terrific New Orleans fare, I recommend heading to Huey’s on the River, especially since it serves all day.
Savannah is an open-container city meaning you can legally walk around with an alcoholic beverage (open containers are only allowed in the historic district and drinks must be in open plastic containers and no more than 16 ounces) and believe me when I say you will see people all over doing this, but especially on River Street. Wet Willie’s is an exceptionally popular spot and has a frozen daiquiri bar (it’s a restaurant too but I think most people go for the drinks).
A shop you definitely don’t want to miss is River Street Sweets which sells everything from house made pralines of all different types and flavors (pralines are the go-to sweet in the South) to ice cream to truffles to even salt water taffy. Do what we did and buy some sweets to eat while in Savannah and others that are already prepackaged and ready to go home with you.
Before calling it a night, walk in the opposite direction of the River Street boozers and head deep into the historic district. If you’re not too full from dinner, get in line for ice cream from the legendary Leopold’s which you can find on East Broughton Street. Leopold’s began in 1919 and has been serving ice cream to hordes of visitors in its classic ice cream parlor setting ever since. Every time we passed by there was a line and while it was still hot at night, I would recommend stopping here then since the sun is not as intense, as there is no shade while you wait. Thankfully, workers did come by and offer cold water.
Without necessarily knowing the names or histories, just take note of some of the utterly beautiful and historic buildings and squares that are around you (neat fact-Savannah is home to 22 squares!).
By now, call it a night.
Don’t sleep in too much but if your hotel includes a complimentary breakfast, eschew it and instead head to the Coffee Fox which is located on West Broughton Street (only a few blocks from Bay Street). It’s primarily a coffee shop (the chai lattes are delicious, by the way) but they do have a small menu for breakfast including yogurt and granola, various quiche options, baked pastries either sweet or savory, as well as standard pastries.
Even though its further afield, I definitely recommend visiting the incredibly enchanting and historic Bonaventure Cemetery (yes, cemeteries can be fascinating places to visit and no, there’s nothing morbid it). If you have a car it should only be about a 20 minute drive from the downtown. Otherwise, look into doing a tour in which transportation is included from the historic downtown (I can’t say enough good things about the tour company Savannah Bonaventure Dash Tours).
The cemetery tour will be a couple of hours and if you’re visiting Savannah during its hot and humid weather, you’ll want to come back to your hotel and rest for a bit.
When you’re all charged and refueled, make the trek to the best hole in the wall restaurant ever-Angel’s BBQ (it was even featured on the Travel Channel show Man vs. Food). It’s a tiny operation-just a husband and wife at the helm and seating is extremely limited, but it’s some of the most delicious food you’ll ever have. Pulled pork and brisket are the offerings along with an array of sides. Just come as early as you can-once they’re out of something for the day, that’s it.
Angel’s will put you in close proximity for doing “walk bys” of such attractions as the Juliette Gordon Low house (in case you don’t know, she was the founder of the Girl Scouts here in the United States and was also a native of Savannah) and the Colonial Park Cemetery, home to numerous famous grave sites including one of Georgia’s three signers of the Declaration of Independence.
While there is an abundance of historic houses one can visit in Savannah, on such a short visit I’d recommend choosing one and my vote would be for the Owens-Thomas house. Admission isn’t cheap (adults are $15, $5 though for children K-college) and is done by guided tour only (tours start every 15 minutes, once a tour is full, booking on the next one starts), but it’s a beautiful house and the 45 minute tour is quite informative, both on the occupants of the house as well as its history (it dates from the early 1800s).
And shopping, yes, make sure you leave time for shopping. Although I wouldn’t necessarily recommend using a dining experience at Paula Deen’s restaurant, Lady and Sons, you can still go into the store (I know, you’re thinking, not too surprising) which had silly but cute wares ranging from cooking and baking essentials to Christmas ornaments, to even lip balms (I got peach cobbler but passed on butter), many of which had some of Deen’s famous lines plastered on them.
For a more unique store and one of much less mass commercial/big corporation ties, head to Savannah Bee Company. Although there are a couple of locations in the area, the store on West Broughton Street is the flagship. Obviously honey is the “thing” here and you can get it in everything from actual honey to honey beauty essentials to even honey treats. There are countless more stores in Savannah’s historic district, so just do your research to determine which ones you want to check out!
By now you’re ready to “drop it like it’s hot” (no, your body probably is just hot), so head back to your hotel and if it does have a pool, go for a nice relaxing swim. Shower and then get ready for dinner.
Since it’s your last night in Savannah make sure you make your final meal count and even go a bit fancy (i.e. change out of your standard shorts and t-shirt). Vic’s on the River is a classy establishment found along River Street but then there’s also the Olde Pink House or Elizabeth on 37th. Whatever you do, remember that you’re in Savannah, a huge coastal city, so be sure to take advantage of your locale and go for the seafood offerings. It will be fresh and delicious whether you go the shellfish route or the fish one.
As your time here is coming to a close, just relish your unique and beautiful surroundings, since for most people you have nothing like it back home. Savannah really is one of America’s lovliest gems.