With just 36 hours in this beautiful city, I knew that while I wouldn’t see absolutely everything, I would probably see enough to fall in love. I was right. Even though Scarlett O’Hara never actually came to Savannah, it sure was easy to feel like a Southern belle wandering around the historic streets, especially when you’re holding a fan and sporting a wide-brimmed hat to boot!
While I’m no travel expert, here are my tips for must-haves in a short visit to Savannah. If you’re not dreaming of the tree-lined streets by the time you reach the end, I’ve done something wrong…
Take a Tour
I’ll be honest, when people told to me to take a trolley or carriage tour of Savannah, I cringed. I’m just not the tourist type, so much so that the thought of sporting a tour sticker and waving from the insides of an obvious tour vehicle made my stomach drop. But I’m always willing to be proven wrong, and in this case I certainly was.
The best thing about taking one of these tours is that the guides are genuinely knowledgeable so you really do get to learn a lot about the city. If you head out for one of these tours first, you can see, in 100 minutes or so, the key areas of interest and start to mentally plan where to go back to later. You can hop on and off whenever you fancy, so long as it’s before 5pm. Be prepared though – characters from Savannah’s history will pop on and off too and entertain you with nuggets of information and amusing accents. If you’re lucky like I was, you’ll get a kind guy on the sales desk who’ll extend your ticket to the next day for the price of a smile and a British hello!
But the real perk of the trolley tour? The breeze. For this reason alone, it’s worth the $30. Savannah, in the summer, gets hot, so the breeze and shade as you whizz round the streets is a welcome relief.
Visit a Historical House
Savannah is not short of mansions and historic houses to tour. There are so many to choose from that deciding which you fork out your money for is tough. In the end, I went with the Green-Meldrim House.
Owned by the neighboring St John’s church, the house is famous for housing General Sherman during a visit in the Civil War. The tour guides were lovely, knowledgeable parishioners of the church who told the house’s story with energy and charm. Photographs aren’t permitted inside the house, so you’ll just have to believe me when I say it is beautiful.
A tour costs $10, but when you bear in mind that the parishioners have a church to maintain too, this seems a small donation to help keep the beautiful house alive.
Walk the Streets
If all you do in Savannah is walk around the streets, it will still be a fantastic trip. It truly is a beautiful place, and if it weren’t for the stifling heat, I’d probably want to live here forever.
Keep your map in your back pocket for a little while and just let your feet lead you down streets and back up them. Enjoy the houses and staircases and balconies, and the beautiful hidden gardens.
Simply walk and enjoy the view.
Admire the Architecture
While you’re out walking, be sure to admire the architecture Savannah has to offer. From centuries-old buildings to antebellum grandeur, the city has it all. Look up to catch the ornate ironwork and church steeples, not to mention the gold-covered city hall dome. You’ll get neck ache, but it will be worth it.
Enjoy River Street
Whether it’s to catch a glimpse of the wonderfully American ‘Georgia Queen’, taste some pralines or salt-water taffy, enjoy an ice cold beer (or two!), or eat up ready to sweat it all off walking in the Savannah humidity later, River Street is a must-see.
Be sure to keep your eyes open for people making and selling Savannah Roses. Made from palm leaves, they are a beautiful keepsake of your trip. A single rose is usually a $5 donation.
Picnic in a Park
Savannah has over twenty parks and each one of them is beautiful. Take a stroll through them or enjoy a picnic on the grass. Forsyth Park is the most well-known, with its striking fountain, but whichever you choose, you won’t be disappointed.
Shop til You Drop
If you head to the City Market area of the city, and stroll down Broughton Street, you’ll find everything from chain stores to one-off boutiques. Be sure to stop in at Savannah Bee Company and enjoy the honey-tasting bar (the tupelo honey is amazing), spare a few minutes in Go Fish next door for interesting clothing and gifts, and if you’re being eaten alive by mosquitos, head to Nourish for some natural insect-repellant soup. And when you’ve done all that, you can always call in at the British bakery for a Cornish pasty.
Oh, and don’t forget to visit the SCAD Shop. Savannah College of Art and Design has some of the most beautiful campus buildings I’ve ever seen, and their shop features work by students, so you’ll be able to get a truly unique piece that, who knows, might be worth millions in ten years.
Visit the Cemetery
For a final bit of history, visit one of Savannah’s cemeteries. Colonial Cemetery is in the heart of the historical district, while Bonaventure – supposedly the prettier of the two – is further out so be prepared to drive or bike there. Take in the low hanging trees, the stories of the graves, and enjoy the quiet.