There are few sights more quintessentially Southern than those of the Savannah Historic District.
With just 24 hours to zip through Savannah, start with a tour aboard Old Town Trolley Tours. Listen to historical facts and humorous tales as you make your way through 15 stops and more than 100 points of interest. The best part: You can hop on and off throughout the day as often as you’d like.
One stop you’ll want to explore further is the birthplace of Juliette Gordon Low. This 1800s mansion and National Historic Landmark is where the Girl Scouts of the USA founder spent her childhood. Stop by the gift shop for Girl Scout memorabilia before riding the trolley to beautiful Forsyth Park, the city’s oldest and largest park. The 30-acre green space is ideal for Frisbee tossing and football playing, and features war monuments, a fragrant garden and an iconic fountain. Toss a coin into the cascading waters then head to the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, the seat of the diocese of Savannah, where you can take a self-guided tour of the French-Gothic-style structure.
When it’s time to satiate your hunger, visit River Street, a waterfront district dotted with shops and restaurants. Pick a lunch spot with a view and then treat the kids to pralines and handmade chocolate fudge at River Street Sweets. Another sweet tooth spot to check out is Lulu’s Chocolate Bar, where all the desserts, including suspension cakes, brownies and truffles, are made from scratch.
Continue sightseeing before enjoying an afternoon rest at the Amethyst Garden Inn, a former Victorian home where accommodations range from individual rooms to a two-bedroom suite.
When everyone has regained their strength and is dressed to the nines, head to dinner at The Olde Pink House, a refined Southern restaurant housed in an 18th century mansion. Dine on new Southern cuisine and listen to live music as you toast to the end of a fantastic day.
During a quick two-day trip to “The Hostess City of the South,” a Savannah Riverboat Cruise must be fit into the schedule. Select from a one-hour sightseeing harbor jaunt, dinnertime over-water soiree, moonlight ride or Sunday brunch expedition.
Once on land, explore some of Savannah’s most lively districts. The historic City Market, once a gathering place for fisherman and farmers selling their goods, is now a welcoming destination for all ages, teeming with restaurants, pubs and shops. Grab a table at Goose Feathers Café to indulge in freshly baked breads and pastries paired with specialty teas or freshly ground roasted coffee. City Market also features galleries and museums to pique the interest of art aficionados.
Broughton Street is another pedestrian-friendly district with antique shops, specialty clothing as well as art and restaurants. Pick up some skin-softening products at Savannah Bee Company before taking the kids to Leopold’s Ice Cream for a Tutti Frutti cone, the same flavor since 1919.
Finish your dessert during the short stroll to the Owens-Thomas House, a structure with Greek-inspired molding, stained-glass panels and half-moon arches considered one of the finest examples of Regency Mansion style. Completed in 1819, the house is part of the Telfair Academy, the oldest public art museum in the South. Walk up Abercorn Street to visit the museum’s permanent collection of approximately 4,000 works of art from America and Europe.
When night falls, have some spooky fun on an Old Savannah Tours Ghost Tour visiting “two of the most haunted buildings in Savannah:” the Pirates’ House and Sorrel-Weed house.
At bedtime, take refuge from the recently encountered spirits at the modernly styled Bohemian Hotel Savannah Riverfront, or spend the night with a friendly ghost known as “Hank” at the Olde Harbour Inn, the only bed and breakfast on the Savannah River.
Three leisurely days in Savannah allows you to delve deeper into experiences unique to this historic Southern city. One is a tour by horse-drawn carriage with Carriage Tours of Savannah. Take in the picturesque attractions in the open air while being transported by two of Savannah’s finest four-legged residents.
Get to know another Savannah resident at the Mercer Williams House Museum, former home of famed preservationist Jim Williams. View furniture and art from Williams’ private collection, marbled-engraved mantles and hand-carved Italian pieces. Members of the Williams family still use the home, which was featured in the movie “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”
Another Savannah attraction featured in the same film, Bonaventure Cemetery, is a short drive from historic downtown, but worth the trip. Hauntingly beautiful, the Southern Gothic cemetery is the resting place of military generals, poet Conrad Aiken, Academy Award-winning lyricist Johnny Mercer and Georgia’s first governor, Edward Telfair.
Other drive-worthy excursions include Skidaway Island State Park, bordering part of Georgia’s intracoastal waterway (home to trails, fiddler crabs, egrets and other wildlife, a 20-foot Giant Ground Sloth replica and a reptile room) and Fort Pulaski National Monument, which can be seen on the way to the beaches of Tybee Island.
Back in historic downtown, spend an afternoon admiring the contemporary art of the SCAD Museum of Art, where the exhibitions and installations from renowned and emerging artists join a permanent collection of more than 45,000 works on rotation. Another SCAD-operated stop, the Gryphon Tea Room serves café fare, tea and coffee in an ornate 1926 Scottish Rite building on Bull Street.
A quintessential Savannah experience is feasting on Southern soul food. Try Paula Deen’s The Lady & Sons, or if you have the time, join the lunch line at Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room. Open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., the eatery brings together strangers at large tables for 10 to chow down on fried chicken, sweet potatoes, black-eyed peas, okra and tomatoes, cornbread, biscuits and more.
For upscale brewpub fare, a kids menu and house-made brews enjoyed in a 5,400-square-foot beer garden, head to laid-back Moon River Brewing Company.
Say goodnight to the Savannah skyline from the across-the-river view at The Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa, or watch the sunset over the river from the historic district at the Hyatt Regency Savannah.