Happy Monday, friends!
Hard to believe I’ve been back from Savannah for over a week now. When I was younger, I went to Savannah a few times—a couple of times as a young child to visit my cousins who live on nearby Wilmington Island and once with my Girl Scout Troop to visit the home of Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts. That last trip was over 13 years ago, so while I remembered a few things about my trip, Savannah was a mostly new experience for me.
Growing up, my family used to go to a Carolina shore for a week—but with college schedules and increasingly demanding work schedules, it’s become nearly impossible for us to find a week when we’re all free. As such, when we were considering family vacation options earlier this year, I pitched Savannah since I thought there would be something for everyone—history, food, culture, nightlife, Southern charm. And y’all—Savannah delivered! I can’t recommend it enough for a family vacation, girls’ trip, and because of the no open container laws, bachelorette destination. As such, I wanted to put together a travel guide so you can plan your trip there—bump it up to the top of your list.
HOW TO GET THERE /
We snagged a direct flight to Savannah from the Washington, DC area out of Dulles, and our flight home was direct as well. The Savannah/Hilton Head airport is very small—only one terminal!—even as compared to other smaller cities I’ve flown into recently, like Charleston or Palm Beach. As such, it seems as though there are fewer flights in and out from the DC area—when we were looking at flights, there was pretty much one flight from DC to Savannah each day from IAD, and one flight the opposite way. There were also some direct flights from DCA, but they were noticeably more expensive. Because of the limited supply, I recommend you book your trip several months in advance—we booked in March and went late July—to avoid super pricey flights.
Good news is, Savannah is within a one-day driving distance of most major cities in the Southeast, so if you have the luxury of time, definitely consider a good old fashioned road trip.
WHERE TO STAY /
My family opted to stay at the Hampton Inn Historic District in Savannah because it was a block off River Street, offered complimentary breakfast, and we were able to bundle it with our flights for a great deal. It was an awesome hotel in a centrally located location. Added bonus—they put out cookies and lemonade daily at 4pm, which we loved.
In the past, we’ve stayed at the Hyatt Regency Savannah. Even if you’re not staying there, definitely pop into their lobby—it has amazing floor to ceiling windows that overlook the Savannah River where you can watch all the container ships come in and out of the port of Savannah. Nearly 3,000 container ships pass through the seaport there annually, creating the number one business driver in the town ahead of tourism, and they are quite impressive to watch. While we were in town, we saw ships from Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, among others.
If you’re looking for other recommendations on places to stay, check out the Cotton Sail Hotel or the Bohemian Hotel—which is part of the Marriott Autograph Collection—both on River Street. I’d recommend staying somewhere on River Street or in the Historic District like we did to cut down on Ubers and save more money for fun!
GETTING AROUND SAVANNAH /
If you stay in the Historic District, it’s very easy to walk pretty much everywhere touristy and to hundreds of delicious restaurants.
While we were there, it was quite rainy, so we opted to take Ubers several places so we wouldn’t arrive drenched. We never had to wait more than five minutes for one to arrive. A note that the Savannah/Hilton Head airport allows Ubers to pick you up from a designated area and we had a short wait for a ride there, too.
There is also a free shuttle, the Savannah DOT, which will take you around the Historic District. We picked up the map, but never used it since we had some Uber credits, but you can’t beat free! So, if it’s hot, rainy, or you’re tired of walking, definitely check it out.
WHERE TO EAT + DRINK /
Come hungry to Savannah! Before we went, I spent ample time reading other bloggers’ Savannah travel guides, reading restaurant reviews, and searching Open Table. Here’s a list of places we ate—marked with an asterisk, as well as places I’d love to hit up next time I am in town:
- Olde Pink House*—If you go to one place in Savannah, make sure it’s this one! We loved our Friday night dinner at the Olde Pink House—the atmosphere, the food, the service. And since we had stopped by here on our ghost tour and on a walking tour, I felt like we really had a context for the history of the home when we dined here—it’s supposedly haunted! I would highly recommend having a reservation.
- Soho South*—I cannot recommend this place enough for lunch! It’s a cute warehouse vibe with the most beautiful bar, as shown in the picture below. They have a wide variety of sandwiches and salads—I opted for a southwestern salad that didn’t disappoint.
- Pearl’s Saltwater Grill*—Right on a beautiful marshland, we absolutely loved our dinner here! The restaurant has huge floor to ceiling windows so you feel like you’re outdoors, but you’re in the mosquito-free air conditioning. Added bonus—they have the best hush puppies!
- Tubby’s*—We loved Tubby’s! It’s right on River Street, and anytime a cargo ship goes by, they offer $1 kamikaze shooters. We ate here and it was good bar food, but because of their outdoor bar, it was our go-to spot for happy hour so we popped in a few times for just drinks.
- The Shrimp Factory*—We didn’t eat at The Shrimp Factory, but we had a great happy hour here. They have a lot of craft beers on tap, including ones from Savannah.
- Spanky’s*—Another good bar spot on River Street, Spanky’s is known for their pizza. This would be a great family-friendly restaurant if you’re looking for one, but I can also personally attest they make a mean margarita.
- B&D Burgers*—This would be a great spot to go if you partied too hard the night before. It’s your standard bar burger joint vibe, but the food is delicious and it’s a nice change of pace if you’ve been opting for trendier establishments.
- The Lady & Sons*—We stumbled into Paula Deen’s restaurant without a reservation, and got seated within 30 minutes! Dieters beware—her restaurant is filled with southern favorites like fried chicken, mac and cheese, fried okra, and the like. The only greens to be had are on the salad bar.
- Top Deck*—I met up with Laura Leigh and her husband, Joshua, here for a nightcap! They had an amazing view of the Savannah River and on a Saturday night, it was a fun, chill vibe. Not too loud, but definitely not quiet—the perfect place to catch up with friends.
- Rocks on the River*—After Top Deck, the three of us headed to Rocks on the River, which is on the rooftop of the Bohemian Hotel. If you’re looking for something a little more upbeat than Top Deck, Rocks on the River had the music turned up and the lighting down low—we commented it was a classy frat party vibe.
- Treylor Park—We tried several times to eat here, but it was so hard to get into! They offer a twist on classic Southern food—and if you go when it’s not 80-degrees, have a great patio out back.
- The Grey—Located in an old Greyhound bus station, this art deco space serves up classic southern fare and delicious cocktails.
- Collins Quarter—This looks like the cutest brunch spot in town! Located right near Wright and Chippewa Square, it’s convenient to most tourist destinations—and comes highly recommended from Laura Leigh.
- Leopold’s Ice Cream—We never made it here because the line was always 30 minutes or longer, but apparently, this is the spot for ice cream in town. Located right on Broughton Street where all the shopping is, it’d be a great sweet treat after you’ve shopped until you’ve dropped.
WHAT TO DO /
There is so much to do in Savannah, you can’t even begin to conquer it all in one trip. What I recommend doing is taking a walking tour with Savannah Dan on your first full day in town. It’s advertised as a 90-minute tour, but lasts closer to two hours. It costs $25 a person cash only, but it is worth every penny. It’s also pet-friendly, if that’s your thing. Dan gives you the highlights of the Historic District and his restaurant recommendations so you’ll better be able to plan what you want to do the rest of your time in town. He also gives you a lot of the history about Savannah’s founding and the Oglethorpe plan, which lead to the creation of 24 squares—22 remain today—that essentially acted as fire stops. And because he does the entire tour in a seersucker suit complete with bow tie, it’s highly entertaining!
We also took a carriage ride, which was a great way to get our bearings and learn more about the history of Savannah from its founding, through the Civil War, and to modern day. We used Plantation Carriage Company, but I’d recommend finding another company—they were half an hour late and didn’t contact us ahead of time about their tardiness.
Because of the fires, hurricanes, and wars Savannah has gone through, it is one of the most haunted cities in the United States. As such, it is ripe with ghost tour offerings. We took a 90-minute tour through Ghost City Tours. I really enjoyed our tour, but I think since we had been learning so much of the history of the town, it was harder to buy into the stories. One of my favorite parts of this tour was when we walked by the Colonial Park Cemetery, which is where the Union Army camped for a winter during the Civil War. During this occupation, they used their bayonets to change the dates on headstones and in many cases, removed the headstones entirely to make room for their tents. The cemetery also used to be larger than it is at present, so there are sidewalks and streets literally right on top of it.
My family has always loved touring historic homes, and we made it to two of the twelve in town open to the public. I’d highly recommend both. The Andrew Low House is representative of how a wealthy family might have lived in the late 1800s and early 1900s. It was built by Juliette Gordon Low’s father-in-law, and she lived in the house after her husband, Willie, died. Like many historic homes, this one was not entirely furnished with the family’s belongings, but with period pieces. I could not get over the gorgeous green dining room—shown in the photo above, which is a historical interpretation of how it might have looked. The curtains were done by the same designer that Jackie Kennedy used when she was working on the White House renovations.
We also made it to the Owens-Thomas House, which was the first house in America with indoor plumbing and the site of a speech by Marquis de Lafayette on the 50th anniversary of the American Revolution. The home is representative of how a 1%-er family might have lived in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Admission is $20 a person, but it also grants you admission to the Telfair Museum and the Jepson Center, so it’s well worth the price. The slave quarters are also a part of the tour and they share what their daily lives might have been like, which I thought was so insightful—and not something you see enough on tours like these.
When we weren’t on some sort of tour, we enjoyed visiting Forsyth Park (which houses the beautiful white fountain often associated with Savannah), The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Broughton Street for shopping, River Street for shopping and food, and walking through Savannah’s many squares.
After writing this post, I can’t wait to get back to Savannah!
If you have any questions, let me know and I’ll try to answer them!