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The words “Savannah, Georgia” pronounced in a southern drawl evoke another time—a graceful world of colonial mansions and southern belles. Although we suspected things may have changed since the time of The Legend of Bagger Vance, one of Simon’s favourite films, when we learned the city was doable as a day trip from Jacksonville we couldn’t resist a visit.
We had just one day in Savannah but it didn’t disappoint and we fell for it instantly—here are the reasons why.
1) Elegant Mansions – Savannah’s historic district is packed full of beautiful, colonial houses, preserved with love. You can visit many mansions that were once the residences of historic figures, but I was just as enamoured with the homes belonging to current Savannahians.
It’s all in the attention to detail: freshly painted doors, a pot of colourful flowers, a curving staircase, or a rocking chair on a bright white verandah.
2) Mammoth Oak Trees – Giant oaks dripping in Spanish moss line the streets and parks of the city.
3) Many Squares – In the compact historic district there are 22 leafy squares – perfect places to sit on a bench and watch the world go by. The earliest date back to 1733 when the British General James Oglethorpe devised the renowned city plan with squares at the centre of each neighbourhood.
4) Aimless Wandering – Central Savannah is very pedestrian-friendly with quiet streets and a relaxed vibe that demand aimless wandering, and this is how we spent most of our day. We particularly liked the tranquil residential streets just north of Forsyth Park.
5) Forsyth Park – Another relaxing place for a stroll amongst ancient oaks is Forsyth Park. The beautiful white fountain was featured in the film Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil – make sure you watch this or read the book before you visit as there are references everywhere.
6) Mrs Wilkes’ Dining Room – The foodie travel bloggers The Road Forks gave us this tip and we’re glad they did. As vegetarians we didn’t think southern cuisine would have much to offer us but Mrs Wilkes proved us wrong.
We were seated with eight strangers at a large table laden with bowls of food. Even skipping the fried chicken we had plenty to choose from: mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, candied yams, collard greens, black eyed peas, okra, green beans, baked beans, biscuits and many more.
A local sitting next to us said it’s the best southern food he’s eaten aside from his grandmother’s. It certainly was good and plentiful.
It’s a popular place – Obama even ate here in 2010 – so get here early. We arrived at 10.30am, 30 minutes before it opens and there was already a line of 40 people. Our 45 minute wait wasn’t a hardship though with the street’s handsome buildings to admire and a Kindle on hand.
7) Cupcake Emporium – We were stuffed for the rest of the day after Mrs Wilkes’ but we couldn’t ignore The Road Forks’ recommendation for Mabel Francis Potter’s Cupcake Emporium, so we picked up a box to take home. Oh my god! These cupcakes are so good that we are seriously tempted to make the five hour return trip to Savannah just to get some more.
It took us a while to choose from the beautiful selection but we ended up trying Red Velvet with Cream Cheese Frosting, Coconut with Coconut Butter Cream, Chocolate with Chocolate Butter Cream and the wonderfully inventive Chunky Chocolate Chip Cup Cookie: who knew cookies would make such an delicious cup cake? They were all gorgeous – moist cake and soft, creamy frosting.
The owner was very friendly offering us travel tips and even giving Simon a free cupcake for attempting the tongue twister challenge.
8 ) Friendly People – The Savannah locals are super friendly. As we wandered the streets we were often asked by strangers “How y’all doing?”, customer service was excellent everywhere, a random lady complimented my dress, and Simon was even mistaken for someone’s son (that was a bit weird though!).
9) Independent Businesses – As well as gems like Mrs Wilkes’ and the Cupcake Emporium, Savannah is full of independent cafés, restaurants and shops. We only wish we hadn’t been so stuffed so we could sample more of them.
10) Bonaventure Cemetery – A 10-minute drive from downtown, Bonaventure Cemetery is famed for being featured in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. It’s huge and filled with spooky moss draped oaks and Victorian headstones.
11) Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum – We couldn’t visit the Deep South and ignore the African-American history of the area. This interesting museum focuses on the civil rights movement in Savannah.
12) Boat Watching – We weren’t big fans of touristy River Street but it’s certainly worth a wander, especially to gaze at the boats in one of the US’s busiest sea ports.
There are plenty of tours you can take in Savannah for a fascinating insight into the city’s history such as this small group walking tour or delicious-sounding food tour.
Make sure you also allow time for strolling the streets independently. We recommend parking at the Visitor Centre on Louisville Rd ($1 an hour, first hour free), picking up a free map, and wandering from square to square.
Or you could also take the Savannah hop-on hop-off trolley tour to learn some history but explore at your own pace without having to walk everywhere.
How Many Days to Spend in Savannah?
We spent just one day in Savannah visiting as a day trip from Jacksonville, Florida. It was definitely worthwhile and possible to see the highlights of the city in a day.
It’s such a gorgeous city, though, that it’s well worth staying for a few days if you have the time. Find great deals on hotels in Savannah here and see this three day Savannah itinerary for ideas of things to do and eat on a longer stay.
This post was originally published in 2011 and updated in 2018.
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hi! is 2 full days in savannah enough time to see most things and get a feel of the town? thank you!
We only had a day there so two days would be a good intro. We could definitely have spent longer.
I try to go to Savannah every year. I absolutly love it. If I could I would move there in a min. The most beautiful place on earth. The people are so nice, they make you feel right at home. The history, and it is a gem of the south. Love it.
I LOVE LOVE LOVE SAVANNAH it is my home away from home. I have been twice and fell in love at once. All of the victorian houses and squares are amazing I could wander the streets forever. I so want to move here one day I am working towards this the people are so friendly you have to visit here sooner then later you will never want to leave. I live in Myrtle Beach and I did not want to come back home.
I’ve lived here for 15 years and it really amazes me to see people this genuinely impressed with our city. It really gets old and boring after a while. Things like this kinda let me see it through others eyes for a while, so thanks for that. I’m glad you enjoyed Savannah!
A great time to visit Savannah is the last week of March / first week of April. The azaleas are blooming, there aren’t as many tourists (although we love our visitors), the weather is mild / humidity lower and best of all – the Savannah Music Festival is going on. This event is great! It is two weeks of all types of music performed by nationally recognized artists – classical, gospel, rock, Jazz, country / bluegrass, folk, alternative. There are numerous events every night. Tickets are reasonably priced and the venues are beautiful.
Sounds great – next time!
Another great time is during the art fair on River Street. This year it was the same weekend as Easter. Given Savannah’s concentration of arts and artists it’s hard to imagine a bad time to visit.
Does Christmas in Savannah live up to its reputation? Or is it too cold to walk around and enjoy the city?
This link is for a blog by a pair of travelers that spend 91 days in a city. This link is for Savannah – http://savannah.for91days.com/
We would love to spend a month or so in Savannah at some point.
My wife and I just got back from our 4th trip to Savannah and I’m ready for #5 any time.
We do try to get some time in both Savannah and Charleston. Both are beautiful, historic and teeming with visitors but different enough to make it well worth the 110 mile drive.
It’s a real treat to visit historic districts that were made for walking and find them adjacent to retail districts like Broughton Street (Savannah) and King Street (Charleston).
Try shrimp & grits for breakfast at the Hominy Grill in Charleston and head down to Clary’s in Savannah for a late lunch with all the sweet tea you can drink.
I have heard Charleston is beautiful. I agree that it’s so wonderful to be able to walk around the historic districts.
History, history, history…not sure how else to encompass Wormsloe Plantation, Ft. Pulaski or Colonial Park Cemetery. I loved your list, but I’ll add that visiting Savannah from San Francisco, another place where we love our history, was such a pleasure, especially learning about your history. I had a wonderful time in your fair city, I will be back!
We are currently in San Francisco and love that both cities are very historic, walkable and beautiful.
Yay! So glad that y’all loved Savannah as much as we did. The city is wonderful isn’t it? And thank you so much for the shout out.
Thanks so much for your tips. The food really made the day!
wow…I do love Savannah! I was actually born in this magnificent city and lived there till I was about 1 year old. I had not gone back until last year while out on tour and played a show there. I fell in love with it and the people were amazing. they actually put us on the cover of the Savannah weekly to welcome me back home. I adore this city!!! Thanks for the pix.
That’s awesome! It’s a beautiful city that doesn’t seem to get the international recognition that it deserves. We’ll be sending people there from now on and hope to spend more time exploring the city in the future.
Savannah really is a gem. The Charleston, Beufort, Savannah area is one of our favorite places in the US.
I’m glad you got to experience Mrs. Wilkes. Its one of the best meals we’ve ever had and its location gives you the feeling that its a local secret even though there is always a line down the road! :-)
Mrs Wilkes’ was a lot of fun and very tasty. The 45 minute wait actually added to the anticipation and made it feel like an extra special experience.
Those alone look worth the trip :) I have to agree that the name Savannah, Georgia just conjures up pretty images – and the pictures look like it lives up to it! One day, when I go on my epic roadtrip across the USA, it’ll be on the list.
Those cupcakes are definitely worth the trip. Yum!
My husband was in Savannah on business at the same time you both were there. I was in So. Cal., feeling a bit jealous! Savannah is my all time favorite city to visit. Some things I like to do there are: visit Wormsloe Plantation; the driveway is magnificent. Mrs. Wilkes; I had the pleasure to meet Mrs. W. and have her sign a copy of her cookbook for me, the Telfair Museum, home to The Black Prince at Crecy (Google it!), SCAD Art Store, the church bells, the list goes on and on for me. I love Savannah with all my heart and soul.
We’ll have to go back one day – it sounds like there’s a lot to do that we didn’t get to. Thanks for the tips.
Lovely post! I’ll be traveling to Savannah in June and I’m looking forward to it. Your list has been helpful, especially in getting me more excited about checking out the city!
Have a great trip to Savannah Amanda!
Unfortunately I have not been to Savannah yet, but now I definitely want to go!! What a beautiful place! Loving the old mansions, the trees and the yummy cupcakes :)
It is a beautiful city – we’d recommend a visit. Just for the cupcakes alone it’s worth it!
Savannah sounds like a really lovely place! We’ve both been obsessed with Savannah since watching the (cheesy) TV show many years ago ;-) Hopefully we get to get to go there during our road trip through the South later this year.
P.S. Thanks for the shout-out!
Definitely stop off on your road trip! It’s a side of the US we have never seen before.
Savannah actually has been on my list for quite some time. Would like to make a loop and include Charleston and some of the outer islands. You’ve given me some ideas on what to do. And the cupcakes do look yummy.
I’ve heard Charleston is lovely too but it was too far for us to do in a day trip. It would make a great trip to combine them.