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My family doesn’t often travel to Georgia anymore, which is a shame. And while we’re happily settled in California, we still occasionally yearn for the Southern way of doing things; for fried chicken and too-sweet iced tea; for the syrupy scent of crepe myrtle blossoms; for the afternoons loafing in the shade; for the crisp evenings under the stars and palmettos.
So when we had the opportunity to return for a short trip, I insisted that we visit the place where it all began, the Genesis of Georgia if you will, Savannah. Steeped in history like a sweet iced tea, the Hostess City of the South overflows with Southern charm, from the antebellum architecture to the flowering magnolias, from the cobble-stone streets to the oaks wreathed in Spanish moss; it warmed our hearts and inspired me to write this brief guide.
After reading it, I hope you’ll be inspired to experience Savannah’s hospitality for yourself. Below is our family’s favorite 8 things to do on a weekend getaway in Savannah, GA. We hope you enjoy! And let us know if you went and what else you found that we should add to our list!
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Traverse Savannah City Market
Charming and quirky, Savannah City Market is the perfect place to start your family’s weekend getaway. Teach your kids about the history of bootlegging in Savannah at the American Prohibition Museum, then satisfy their cravings with a trip to Byrd’s Famous Cookies. Less than a block further on is the Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum, which is undoubtedly one of the best places to learn about Savannah’s nautical history. Step into any one of the market’s eclectic galleries for a peek at the local art scene. Or better yet, watch the artists work before your very eyes at the City Market Art Center.
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Explore River Street
Now that you’ve gotten your sea legs, it’s time to carefully descend the Stone Stairs of Death onto the Savannah riverfront. Like much of Savannah, River Street is a melting pot, where past and present commingle in a rich tapestry of flavor, color, and soul. Cobblestones, carried in the bellies of vessels from all over the world, form the ground beneath your feet, serving as a physical reminder of Savannah’s origins as the gateway to the South.
Where cotton warehouses once stood, shops and restaurants have taken up residence, turning River Street into a vibrant and fashionable shopping district and gastronomic Mecca. It’s here you’ll find some of the best seafood in the South, freshly caught that day in the Atlantic Ocean. Whether you end up paying a visit to the Shrimp Factory, Tubby’s Seafood River Street, or Vic’s On The River, you’re guaranteed a delicious meal.
Head north and The Pirates’ House will hove in sight. Once the seedy meeting place for Atlantic buccaneers, this taproom turned tavern is the perfect spot to grab a bite to eat before continuing on your travels. Just one block south is Factors Walk, a lesser-known district that’s also full of restaurants, cafes, and gift shops.
Near the visitor’s center, you’ll find the African-American Monument. This stirring sculpture depicts a recently emancipated African-American family dressed in modern-day clothing, serving as a reminder of Savannah’s slave-owning heritage.
Stop And Smell The Flowers
Home to no less than 22 parks, Savannah rightfully deserves its second nickname, “The Forest City.” And while each of these parks is worth a visit, the one not to miss is the grand-daddy of them all: Forsyth Park. Nestled in the heart of Savannah’s Historic District, Forsyth is the oldest and largest public park in the city. Spanning some 30 acres, it presents some of Savannah’s most well-known features, such as oak trees wreathed in Spanish moss, magnolia trees, and crepe myrtles.
At the northern extremity of the park, you’ll find one of the city’s most iconic landmarks: the Forsyth Park Fountain. Take a breather under the venerable oaks and inhale the glorious smell of magnolia and crepe myrtle blossoms. One of our favorite things to do is stroll around the Garden of Fragrance, where a myriad of flowers may be found year-round.
Our kids started to get a little restless at this point in the day (you know how it is), so we took them to a conveniently placed playground nearby where they could burn off their excitement. After sliding down a couple slides and swinging on some swings, our kids were recharged and ready to head to the next destination.
Just two blocks to the northeast we stumbled upon the Massie Heritage Center. It looked neat from the outside, so we popped in and learned it was once one of Savannah’s major public schools. The heritage center had a ton of neat exhibits that our kids enjoyed exploring. They even got to see what it was like to be a kid attending classes back in the 18th and 19th centuries, complete with black chalkboard and wooden writing desk.
Visit Historic Sites
Nothing’s better than getting to know a new city at street level, and Savannah’s lush green spaces and exquisite architecture make taking a walking tour a must. Better yet, hop onto one of the city’s old town trolley tours and let the historical sites come to you. The best part? You can hop on and off as you go, so you’re in control of how much time you spend at each location.
Savannah is almost three centuries old, and it shows: from the cobble-stone streets to colonial architecture, the city is simply overflowing with stories to tell. At night you can take a ghost tour and learn about spirits fabled to still haunt the city’s cemeteries and famous residences.
Steeped in history like sweet iced tea, Savannah, GA brims with Southern charm. Discover where to take kids in the Hostess City of the South!
Below, we’ve included what we believe to be the quintessential Savannah historical monuments that you should check out when you visit.
- Just a block away from City Market is the First African Baptist Church, the oldest continuous black church in North America
- To the south-east is the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace, the historic home of the founder of the Girl Scouts of the USA
- In the far east of the city lies the Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah’s oldest and infamous graveyard, where it’s said the ghosts of the dearly departed still wander among the tombs
- Lastly, there’s the Owens-Thomas House and Slave Quarters, where you can witness firsthand the disparity in living standards between the wealthy landowners and their slaves
Ignite Your Kids’ Curiosity
Tucked away amidst Savannah’s historic buildings are numerous museums and galleries, each with a unique story waiting to be told. At the Savannah History Museum, you’ll find the last three centuries of Georgia’s past preserved in elegant exhibits and miniatures. Curious to learn more about the vehicles that helped Savannah prosper? Pay a visit to the Georgia State Railroad Museum. For fun activities for younger kids, take a trip to the Savannah Children’s Museum.
To the east of the city lies the Oatland Island Wildlife Center, where you’ll find over 100 acres of maritime forest, crisscrossed with hiking trails and wildlife exhibits. Your family will encounter over 95 animals, each housed in a habitat exhibit, throughout the Wildlife Center. Our youngest was thrilled that she got to see a gray wolf roaming around its enclosure. Our older one was more impressed with the American bison; she’d learned in school that they were endangered and was over the moon that she got to see one in real life.
Feel History Come Alive
In Savannah, history doesn’t just gather dust, it comes alive! Every day your kids can watch reenactments of famous battles fought in the region, complete with cannon firing and acrid gunpowder. If that weren’t enough, Savannah has also carefully curated its remaining forts, transforming them into valuable reminders of the city’s past.
Ten minutes from historic downtown Savannah lies Old Fort Jackson. Once the site of a Confederate stronghold, this stalwart fortress has since become a living museum where families can come to learn about what life was like in Georgia’s oldest brick fort. Every day features interactive programs, as well as cannon firings with some of the state’s oldest surviving artillery.
On the nearby Cockspur Island, you’ll find the Fort Pulaski National Monument. Infamous as the site of a vicious battle between the Union and Confederate soldiers during the Civil War, today it exists as an open-air exhibit, complete with a museum, miles of hiking trails, guided tours, and reenactments galore. Our kids had a lot of fun running around and reenacting the reenactors!
Travel back in time to the origins of the Georgia colony when you visit the Wormsloe Historic Site. Once a colonial estate owned by carpenter Noble Jones, the grounds of Wormsloe now serve as a window into Georgia’s past. Noble oaks, wreathed in Spanish moss, greet you at the gate, acting as a prelude to the natural beauty and history housed within. Wormsloe is the site of the oldest standing structure in all of Savannah: the ruins of Jones’ tabby house. We recommend engaging a costumed guide to lead you through the site’s extensive nature trails.
Visit Savannah’s Beach
Less than twenty minutes from downtown Savannah lies Tybee Beach, a veritable paradise of waving palm trees and breathtaking views of the Atlantic. The first stop we recommend is the Tybee Island Light Station and Museum, where you learn about Georgia’s oldest (and tallest) lighthouse — and even climb to the top! Next, check out the Tybee Island Marine Science Center. With lots of interactive touch tanks and galleries, your kids will have a blast learning about Tybee Island’s unique wildlife.
Kid-Friendly Places To Eat In Savannah
Also known as the “Hostess City of the South,” Savannah knows a thing or two about hospitality and comfort food. And nowhere is better to experience this southern charm than at Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room, famous for its southern cuisine, such as fried chicken, cornbread dressing, and sweet potato soufflé.
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Are your kids feeling stifled by the Southern heat? Ours certainly were on a couple of occasions (and to be honest, so were we). Before we left, we’d done a little research and had read that there was a famous ice cream parlor near City Market called Leopold’s Ice Cream that was supposed to be outstanding. So we stopped in on a particularly sweltering day to give it a try and “Oh my goodness!” was it worth it. Our kids perked up right away and were practically dragging us to the next few stops on our itinerary. Never underestimate the power of great ice cream.
Nestled in the heart of Savannah’s Historic Downtown, Parker’s Market is a popular eatery for visitors and locals alike. All its Southern-style food is made from scratch every morning and is perfect for an early breakfast or late-night snack. We recommend the breakfast biscuits with crispy chicken for that extra Southern vibe.
Afterward, lay back in the sun or stroll along the beach, then head over to the famous Crab Shack for some fresh-caught seafood. Still have room for dessert? The Sugar Shack is your go-to for some refreshing ice cream. Our family loves to end a day at Tybee Island by watching the sunset from the Tybee Pier and Pavilion.
When You Go
Getting To Savannah, GA From LA
With low fares and direct flights from LAX, actually getting to Savannah is relatively simple. You’ll want to arrive at the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport, which is located about 20 minutes west of downtown. Renting a car is convenient and simple; just check with your hotel about parking accommodations ahead of time, as street parking can get a little pricey. Plus, Savannah is meant to be walked anyways!
Where To Stay In Savannah, GA
Savannah offers a wide variety of short-stay accommodations, ranging from deluxe resorts to budget-friendly B&B’s. Below, you’ll find three of our picks for the best places to stay in Savannah while on your family getaway.
Alongside the Savannah River sprawls the luxurious Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa. In addition to offering incredible views of the city’s riverfront, this four-diamond resort boasts rooms that look out over its expansive golf course or Savannah’s historic downtown. As the name suggests, the Westin is decked out with an incredible spa, as well as a resort pool, and three on-site restaurants.
Located less than a cobblestone’s throw away from the Savannah River is the River Street Inn. This 4-star boutique hotel, the oldest on River Street, is housed in a 200-year-old repurposed cotton factory. And while the amenities have been updated a little, the owners have done a great job of preserving the building’s historical charm.
Our list wouldn’t be complete without a classic Southern-style bed and breakfast, and it doesn’t get much better than the Savannah Bed and Breakfast Inn. Situated nearby to some of Savannah’s most important sites, this B&B seamlessly blends convenience with Southern comfort. Breakfast is served daily in the dining room and patio, adding that extra touch of elegance to your stay.
Many travel guides assert that their destination, “needs to be seen to be believed”. And while I’m mostly skeptical of such bold claims, in the case of Savannah, I’m finding myself inclined to agree.
You wouldn’t believe how much I had to cut from this article simply to prevent it from becoming overly verbose. But in pruning, I feel as if I’ve thrown out many of the things that make Savannah unique and interesting. Sure, the article’s shorter, but the picture it presents is a rude caricature, falling far short of the real thing. All polish and no bottom about sums it up.
So my advice to you is this, take the time to get to know Savannah for yourself. Ditch the car, get lost, wander among the oaks and magnolias, feel the history all around you, and enjoy everything this hospitable city has to offer.
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