Outdoor markets, warmly lit downtowns, cozy restaurants, cheerful locals... there is something special about American…
There are so many unique things to do in Savannah you’ll see why it’s one of the most popular Southern destinations around. Once the capital of Georgia, Savannah strikes the perfect balance between being a city as well as a charming escape. Think tons of historic architecture and landmarks mixed in with new restaurants and small businesses, often fueled by the world-renowned Savannah School of Art and Design (SCAD). Meander the streets, often lined with oak trees draped in Spanish moss, and slow down to fully enjoy all this coastal city has to offer. Check below for ideas for your trip!
6 Unique Things to Do in Savannah
1. Get to know more about Savannah’s history.
As the oldest city in Georgia and a key location in both the American Revolution and Civil War, Savannah has a long and complex history. While it’s possible to learn about some of this history just by walking around, there are a few museums that’ll really help you get the full picture of this special place.
Savannah History Museum
A great place to start, of course, is the Savannah History Museum. Located in Tricentennial Park in the former Central of Georgia Railroad’s passenger station, it features exhibits from General Oglethorpe’s landing all the way to the modern day. If you have time, across the way is Battlefield Memorial Park, which pays homage to those who fought in the second bloodiest battle in the American Revolution.
The Davenport House Museum
The Davenport House Museum is a great visit for anyone interested in what life would have been like in 1800s Savannah. It was once the home of Isaiah Davenport, a master builder responsible for a number of buildings around the city. It later became the Historic Savannah Foundation’s first preservation success story. While the museum does, of course, focus on the Davenport family’s lives, it doesn’t shy away from educating visitors on the enslaved individuals’ lives either. Their Urban Enslaved Exhibit showcases the lives of 13 enslaved people who once lived and worked for the Davenports.
Pin Point Heritage Museum
Located along the banks of Moon River right outside of Savannah, Pin Point Heritage Museum tells the story of the Gullah Geechee culture. This culture was founded by enslaved people brought over from Western Africa to work on plantations in Georgia’s Sea Island. Because of the natural isolation, they began to form a common language and from there created their own, unique community. After emancipation, the Gullah Geechee settled in present day Pin Point and remained largely isolated until recent years. With the museum, they hope to share and educate visitors on their culture and community.
American Prohibition Museum
No era in American history is quite as scandalous and intriguing as the Roaring 20s and Prohibition Era! Just saying those two names conjure up images of speakeasies, mobsters, flappers, and all sorts of nightlife adventures both seedy and glamorous. The American Prohibition Museum is a fun whirlwind of a museum with 20 different exhibits and its own operating speakeasy.
The Telfair Museums
The Telfair Museums are actually three different buildings. The first is Telfair Academy. Originally built as a mansion for the Telfair family in 1819, it was donated to the Georgia Historical Society by Mary Telfair a little over fifty years later. It soon opened up as both the South’s first public art museum and as the first museum founded by a woman in the whole country. Today it features exhibits on 19th and 20th century America and European art. The next is the Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters. This home once housed 14 enslaved people for the Telfair family and tours focus on art, architecture, and history through the lens of slavery. The final building is the modern Jepson Center, which was designed by Moshe Safdie. If Telfair Academy and the Owen-Thomas House & Slave Quarters represent the most and least powerful members in historic Savannah, the Jepson Centers links this past and showcases the future of art and architecture.
2. Snap a photo at the iconic fountain in Forsyth Park
Covering over 30 acres in the Historic Landmark District, Forsyth Park is both Savannah’s largest and oldest public park. Probably the most photographed spot in the park and all the city is the gorgeous Forsyth Fountain at the northern end. Surrounded by the city’s signature Spanish moss, the 150+ year old fountain was inspired by French sculptor, Michel ienard’s work. Fun fact, though, this fountain is hardly custom made. It came from a catalog!
Snap a photo of this park and then take time to wander around the beautiful, tree-lined pathways. If you’re here in the spring, be sure to check out the annual Sidewalk Arts Festival put on by students from local high schools and SCAD.
3. Enjoy the newly opened Plant Riverside District
Once upon a time there was a huge power plant situated along Savannah’s River Street. Originally built in 1912, it expanded through the 1900s before being decommissioned in 2005. Throughout the 2010s the Kessler Collection worked to turn the power plant into a new district, officially opening the Plant Riverside District in 2020. Today it’s full of a variety of dining, retail, and entertainment options and is a fun way to spend the afternoon. While there, be sure to stop into the cheerful 18Loves Art. You can’t miss its glass box location! The shop features the illustrations of SCAD graduate, Amelia Jamerson. All her work is designed to inspire love and encouragement.
4. Visit Savannah’s iconic religious institutions.
Even if you’re not religious, there are two incredible religious buildings you won’t want to miss for their architecture and historical significance alone.
Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist
You can find the French Gothic Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist towering over Lafayette Square. The congregation was first established by French immigrants coming from both Haiti and France, and the current cathedral was built in the late 1800s. With a white-washed stucco exterior and an interior full of stained glass murals and majestic designs, it really feels like you’re visiting somewhere right out of a Charles Perault fairy tale. It’s free to tour and is open every day except Sundays, which are for mass.
Congregation Mickve Israel Synagogue
Congregation Mickve Israel Synagogue is the third oldest synagogue in the United States. It was established in 1733 as Jews came to settle here hoping to find religious tolerance. Like the cathedral basilica, this synagogue is worth visiting for its Gothic Revival architecture alone. However, the museum is a treasure trove of history from the past 300 years and includes everything from the oldest Torah in North America to the very first receipt for Girl Scouts for cookies.
To visit, just make sure you call 912-233-1547 to make reservations for one of their tours held Monday – Friday.
5. Learn more about the founder of the Girl Scouts
Speaking of the Girl Scouts, did you know it was founded right in Savannah? Back in 1860, Juliette “Daisy” Gordon was born to a prominent family right on Oglethorpe Ave. Much of her childhood was spent setting the foundations for the future Girl Scouts whether it was spending summers in north Georgia playing outdoors with her siblings or starting a service club with her friends. She’d eventually marry a British man, William Low, and move to London where she’d spend most of her married life. After his death and doing some soul searching travel, she’d return to London and meet Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scouts.
Shortly after, she returned back to that house on Oglethorpe Ave. and called up her cousin to hatch a plan for the Girl Scouts of America. Today you can pay a visit to this very house, now known as the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace, to learn more about this impressive woman and how the Girl Scouts began and evolved over the last century.
6. Explore Savannah’s Spookier Side
Did you know that Savannah’s considered the most haunted city in America? From graveyards to old mansions, you could spend countless nights ghost hunting all sorts of eerie sites. Almost every historic building has a paranormal tale to tell!
If you really want to go all out, book a hearse ghost tour. Yes, you read that correctly – a hearse. Hearse Ghost Tours has been in operation for over 20 years now. Hop into a modified hearse with up to eight other people and take a tour around Savannah’s Historic District white listening to your guide tell ghost stories. Feel free to bring some alcohol along – Savannah allows anyone over 21 to have alcohol under 16oz per cup on them.
For those that really want the most gruesome ghost stories and potential for ghost sightings, book the Dead of Night Ghost Tour with Ghost City Tours. It promises to focus on “darker hauntings and more aggressive ghosts”!
And, of course, nothing compares to actually staying somewhere haunted. Many, many bed and breakfasts as well as inns have resident ghosts and reports of guests hearing unusual noises. At Hamilton-Turner Inn, you may hear some children laughing or a cigar-smoking man sitting on the roof. Meanwhile at the Marshall House, you’re staying somewhere that’s been used as a hospital three times. Over at 17 Hundred 90 Inn and Restaurant, their resident ghost as a name – Anna!
From historic to paranormal, there really is a wide range of interesting things to do in Savannah whether you want to come for the weekend or stay for a while. Anything I’m missing? Let me know below!