Savannah’s charm stems from meandering through its 22 verdant squares in the Historic District. You’ll also see numerous historic homes, including the Mercer Williams House, made famous by “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” and the home of Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of the Girl Scouts. A stroll through the Spanish moss-covered Bonaventure Cemetery is a must, as is shopping at the City Market. You can also drive to Tybee Island’s beach in a matter of minutes. Consider taking a guided tour of the city’s top attractions. Make sure to take a ghost tour to see some of Savannah’s previous residents.
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The 30-acre park in Savannah’s historic district is a great place to relax after a long day of sightseeing. You’ll also find plenty to see here, so keep your camera handy. Walk by the stunning white-stone Forsyth Fountain, memorials dedicated to the Confederacy and the Spanish-American War, the Fragrant Garden for the visually impaired, and the 300-year-old Candler Oak tree. Walking distance from the park is several historic sites, including Hodgson Hall (home to the Georgia Historical Society) and the old Poor House and Hospital, which treated wounded soldiers during the Civil War.
In addition to picnicking, dog walking, and painting, recent visitors noted the park’s urban cosmopolitan vibe. Parking nearby is also free on Sundays.
There is plenty of open space for picnicking and a beautiful shaded walking path at Forsyth Park. The park features a spray pool, a playground, and small cafes encircling it to keep the kids entertained. Forsyth Park is open every day from sunrise to sunset and admission is free. The park is located between Drayton and Whitaker streets (east and west) and Gaston and Park streets (north and south).
You can learn all about Savannah’s past and the events that shaped its present when you take a history tour. Savannah’s history starts in 1733 when General James Oglethorpe docked his ship on the Savannah River and named this new territory (and America’s 13th colony) “Georgia.” What’s more, Savannah offers a variety of tours – from architecture to ghosts to photography – for different types of travelers.
Recent visitors prefer walking tours of the Historic District and Bonaventure Cemetery (be prepared to hear a few ghost stories if you opt for a cemetery tour). There are several walking tours available in Savannah, including those provided by Savannah Dan and Old City Walks, both of which are highly rated by travelers.
When your feet grow tired of walking through the city’s many squares, consider hopping on a trolley. Both Old Savannah Tours and Old Town Trolley offer a variety of tours and knowledgeable guides.
You can also choose from a variety of ghost tours. No matter which way you travel in Savannah, you’re sure to encounter the city’s haunted sites and ethereal atmosphere. But to learn even more about the spirits that supposedly haunt the city’s cobblestone streets, sign up for a ghost tour. Most ghost tours are held after dark for added creep factor. Ghost City Tours and Blue Orb Savannah Ghost Tours have been popular with recent visitors.
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Savannah City Market
City Market is a great place to start your tour of Savannah’s Historic District. This open-air marketplace covers four blocks and is home to everything from restaurants to boutiques to art galleries. You can simply sit and people-watch here when you’re not shopping, listening to live music, or eating a casual meal: previous visitors said that this area is great for resting feet and taking in the Savannah scene. Moreover, City Market is also home to trolley and carriage tours, so if you need to kill time before or after your tour, you’ll find plenty to do here.
It’s a great place for a stroll or a relaxing break from sightseeing, with plenty of shaded seating. If you’re here in the evening, keep in mind that there are several bars here, so you may find it a bit rowdy.
Cathedral of St. John the Baptist
Lafayette Square in the Historic District is home to the Gothic towers of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. The original cathedral was built in 1799 by the first French colonists to arrive in the area. The old building was torn down at the end of the 19th century to make room for the cathedral you see today. Many people have seen photos of the cathedral’s gold-leaf designs, Italian marble altar, and stained-glass windows.
Travelers who took the time to see the cathedral marveled at its beauty, comparing it to medieval churches in Europe. Even if you don’t plan to attend Mass, you should still take a few minutes to see the breathtaking interior. Recent visitors said the beautiful setting and talented choir make attending Mass here worth considering (even if you’re not Catholic). Feel free to take a self-guided tour of the cathedral, but remember to be respectful as it’s still an active house of worship.
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A stroll through a cemetery may seem morbid, but recent travelers agreed that a trip to the more than 100-acre Bonaventure Cemetery is a must for writers. Keep an eye out for the tombstones of such celebrities as poet Conrad Aiken and lyricist Johnny Mercer. Be sure to look for the grave of Danny Hansford (buried in the neighboring Greenwich Cemetery), whose murder inspired John Berendt’s best-selling book, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”
Visitors said the hauntingly beautiful Bonaventure won’t disappoint, but they recommended bug spray, a water bottle, and comfortable walking shoes. While you can tour the cemetery on your own, recent visitors suggest you sign up for a guided tour to gain a better understanding of the cemetery’s fascinating history.
River Street follows the Savannah River in the Waterfront district, a lively area ideal for afternoon strolls. Recent visitors report that this area has shed its seedy identity from 30 years ago; once a hangout for drifting sailors and unruly teens, it is now lined with more than 75 souvenir shops, galleries, restaurants, and pubs housed in old cotton warehouses. The River Street area is still the place to go for pub crawls, making it more appealing to party-goers and less family-friendly after dark. The area also comes alive with street musicians after dark.
You can spend a few hours here admiring the river views and people-watching, though visitors warn that the shops are primarily filled with kitschy souvenirs.
Wormsloe State Historic Site
Wormsloe State Historic Site ranks right up there with Forsyth Park and River Street as one of Savannah’s must-see attractions. Even if you’ve never heard of the site, you’ve probably seen it in pictures: its highlight is the mile-long avenue that leads to the plantation and is lined with live oak trees draped in Spanish moss.
Visitors come here mostly for the free photo ops, but you should also see what lies beyond the entryway. Savannah is home to the ruins of Wormsloe, the oldest standing structure in the city, and the Colonial estate of Noble Jones, a carpenter who came to Georgia in 1733 with James Oglethorpe and the first settlers from England. Jones used enslaved people to maintain the property, plant crops like cotton, grains, and vegetables, and keep Wormsloe profitable in the 1750s. A small museum displays artifacts unearthed at Wormsloe, and visitors can watch a short film about the site and Georgia’s founding. As well as a nature trail along the Skidaway River, costumed interpreters demonstrate the tools and skills of Colonial Georgia.
Visitors gushed about the oak-lined drive and called the view “iconic.” If you plan to hike the trails, wear comfy, sturdy shoes and bring water, according to reviewers.
Wormsloe State Historic Site is located about 10 miles southeast of downtown Savannah. It can only be reached by car (and part of the appeal is being able to drive along the entrance), so keep that in mind when deciding whether to rent a car while you’re in Savannah.
Visit Tybee Island when you’ve had your fill of ghost stories, green squares, and historic homes. There are five miles of beachfront, the famous Tybee Island Light Station, and the Marine Science Center on Tybee Island, just half an hour east of the Historic District. Visit the Fort Pulaski Monument, a Civil War landmark between Savannah and Tybee Island, en route to the beach.
Tybee Island is described by recent visitors as relaxing due to its clean beachfront and view of the Tybee Island Light Station. If you’re looking for an easy day trip from Savannah, travelers recommend the island. Additionally, Tybee Island is home to several casual seafood eateries thanks to its proximity to the coast.
Fort Pulaski National Monument
This 19th-century fort was constructed to defend Savannah from coastal attacks, and it was named after Revolutionary War hero Casimir Pulaski. It was here that General Robert E. Lee was first assigned after graduating from West Point. During the Civil War, Confederate troops occupied it until 1862 when it was surrendered to Union forces.
As part of the Underground Railroad, Fort Pulaski was also a haven for enslaved people. The Union Maj. Gen. David Hunter issued an order in April 1862 stating that “All persons of color last held in involuntary service by enemies of the United States at Fort Pulaski and on Cockspur Island, Georgia, are hereby confiscated and declared free.” As such, many enslaved people came to Fort Pulaski, and once on the island, they began a new life as free people. Meanwhile, others formed one of the first colored troops’ divisions during the Civil War. As a result of Hunter’s order, hundreds of enslaved people were freed.
You can explore the fort’s colossal ramparts, stone towers, drawbridges, and moats today. You can see what life was like in the fort during its heyday through reenactments that occur frequently. Once you’ve had your fill of Pulaski, head to Tybee Lighthouse (about 5 miles east of the fort) for the best views of the coast and a stroll along the barrier island’s 5-mile-long beach.
Recent visitors said the fort is a must-see for history buffs and strongly recommended taking a tour led by a ranger. Ranger-led tours of the fort are available daily at 11 a.m. as well as at 3 p.m. Should you not be able to join a ranger-led tour, you can watch the 20-minute introductory film, “The Battle for Fort Pulaski,” at the fort’s visitor center and museum. After watching this short film, visitors said it enhanced their experience of the fort.
Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters
In 1833, George Welshman Owens, a wealthy planter, lawyer, and politician, moved into this house with his wife, six children, and several slaves. On his various plantations, Owens kept between nine and fifteen slaves and held nearly 400 men, women, and children in bondage. The last Owens descendant to live in the house was George Owens’ granddaughter Margaret Gray Thomas, who left it to the Telfair Academy of Arts and Science in her will. Unlike the Jepson Center and Telfair Academy, the Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters focuses more on architecture than art. Recent visitors described the house as both simple and elegant. You should spend an hour or two at the Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters if you like history.
A tour of the facility shows what life was like for the upper class in 19th century Savannah: You will see Greek-style craftsmanship and gorgeous stained glass, in addition to the old carriage house and slave quarters. You can also explore public spaces like the drawing-room and dining room, where the family entertained guests, and learn more about slave life through interactive exhibits in the butler’s pantry, the working cellar, and the slave quarters. Previous travelers praise the attraction, calling it fascinating and eye-opening.
Mercer Williams House Museum
Recent visitors have said that the Mercer-Williams House is a must-see when in Savannah. It was once home to lyricist Johnny Mercer, but this house is better known for its other resident, Jim Williams, an antique dealer and the character in John Berendt’s best-selling novel “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.” Williams is the only person in Georgia who has ever been tried four times for the same crime: the murder of Danny Hansford. You can explore the ground floor, which is ornately decorated with 18th- and 19th-century furnishings, Chinese porcelain, and portraits dating back to the 1700s.
Although most recent visitors were pleased with the tour of the Mercer-Williams House, reviewers warned that fans of the book and film may be disappointed to learn that guides do not discuss the book or the alleged murder that took place here (ironically, you can purchase books and other memorabilia in the gift shop). Additionally, some were dissatisfied with the amount of time spent on the tour (remember: you’ll only see the first floor), especially for the price of admission. Despite this, if you’re going to tour just one historic house in Savannah, it should be the Mercer-Williams home.
Savannah African Art Museum
The Savannah African Art Museum houses more than 1,000 pieces of artwork from West and Central Africa. There are a variety of 19th- and 20th-century African spiritual and ceremonial objects on display here, such as metal, wood, ceramics, and more. As per the museum’s website, the museum is dedicated to “engaging experiences that educate and start conversations about the power, diversity, and spirituality of African art.” Tours of the collection are available every 30 minutes, and typically last about an hour. Visitors can take a tour of the West Africa collection or the Central Africa collection, or join an overview tour of both collections (this is recommended for first-time visitors).
Travelers refer to this museum as a hidden gem in Savannah, and they were impressed with the variety of artwork here, from masks to textiles to sculptures. Several were impressed by the knowledgeable guides, who shed some light on the history of the various art pieces.
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