Savannah is my absolute favorite city, and is the epitome of a Southern town. The oldest city in Georgia, Savannah is situated along the banks of the Savannah River. Each year thousands flock to Savannah to enjoy its picturesque beauty, from the live oak trees draped in Spanish moss, the horse-drawn carriages trotting along the cobbled and herringbone brick streets, to the historic antebellum-style townhouses with wrought-iron gates and balconies. Manicured park squares dot the Historic District and you can spend a pleasant afternoon strolling through the streets, enjoying the charming sights.
A little over a 4 hour drive from Fort Bragg, NC and Fort Benning, GA, Savannah makes for a wonderful weekend getaway. Situated only an hour from Fort Stewart, and mere minutes from Hunter Army Airfield, Savannah is within driving distance to most Army installations in the Southeast.
There is so much to see in Savannah, but I’ll focus on the sights I return to again and again on each visit to this beautiful place. If you notice that most of my listings are restaurants, it’s because Savannah is also one of my favorite places to eat!
Savannah Historic District
The heart of Savannah, the Historic District contains over 20 manicured garden city squares filled with fountains, historic monuments, churches, and more. Wander along the streets and enjoy the sights, or hop on a trolley tour or carriage tour and ride through the district.
Situated right along the banks of the Savannah River, River Street is a look at how Savannah once was, with century old buildings, and cotton warehouses rising above the cobblestone street, now converted into boutiques, restaurants, hotels, and pubs. Grab a drink and stroll along the river, enjoying Savannah’s open-container alcohol law. Keep an eye out; you might see a dolphin, or a barge full of shipping containers making its way up the river, guided along by a tug boat.
Wet Willie’s is always my first stop along River Street. The sign above the door says it all: “A Bar, A Party, An Institution.” This lively bar features an entire wall of frozen daiquiris in numerous flavors. Pick your flavor and size, and sip your frozen concoctions as you stroll along River Street and enjoy the sights. A word to the wise, however, the drinks are very strong-you may even want to order two- a non-alcoholic slush and an alcoholic slush to mix the drink according to your tastes.
River Street Sweets
River Street Sweets is Savannah’s oldest candy store, located on the banks of River Street. Come on in and enjoy a sample of delicious freshly made pralines, candied pecans, fudge, candy, taffy, and more. My personal favorites are the Bear Claws; pecans topped with homemade caramel and melted chocolate. Don’t worry, if you’re not able to stop by the store, you can order online and have sweets mailed directly to your home!
Find out more at: http://www.riverstreetsweets.com/
Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room
If you’re in the mood for some home-cooked authentic Southern food, there is no better place to find it then at Mrs. Wilkes. The President eats here for a reason when visiting Savannah-everything is delicious. Be prepared to wait in line, the dining room opens at 11 a.m., but the line outside the door starts at least an hour before. No reservations are accepted, and neither are debit/credit cards, so be sure to have cash on hand. Cost is $22 per person including tax, and half price for children 10 and under. Lunch is all-you-can-eat and is served family-style at tables for 10, so be prepared to share and meet new friends while enjoying your meal. Do yourself a favor and purchase a cookbook before you leave, so you can replicate the amazing dishes at home-especially the fried chicken! Mrs. Wilkes is closed the month of January and is open Monday-Friday from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. There is also limited lodging available at the original boarding house.
For more information, visit: http://mrswilkes.com/
The Lady & Sons Restaurant
One of my favorite restaurants in Savannah, Paula Deen’s The Lady & Sons Restaurant is a multi-story Southern style restaurant in the heart of the historic district. Unlike Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen in Pigeon Forge, The Lady & Sons Restaurant is buffet-style, although you can also order off the menu. Each buffet meal is all-you-can-eat and includes a salad bar and dessert. The buffet features a rotating daily selection of Southern-style favorites, although you can be sure to always find my favorite-fried chicken. Visit The Lady & Sons for either lunch or dinner, and you won’t need another meal for the rest of the day! The restaurant is open daily starting at 11 a.m. and reservations are accepted and encouraged. While you wait for your table, visit the gift shop next door for one of Paula Deen’s famous cookbooks, seasonings, or those delicious butter cake mixes.
For more information, visit: http://www.ladyandsons.com/
Crystal Beer Parlor
Crystal Beer Parlor is a little off the beaten path from the main Historic District, and it’s either a long walk or a short drive, depending on how much you cherish that parking space! But, it’s definitely worth abandoning that parking space or making the trek to West Jones Street for both the amazing food and beer found here. The menu is an interesting mix of seafood, pub food, Greek food, and good ol’ Southern fried food. Don’t get distracted by all of that, and stick with the favorites that made Crystal Beer Parlor famous- the Crystal Crab Stew-the best she crab soup you will find anywhere, and the made from scratch Gawgia Peach Cobbler. The beer menu is also extensive, with over 80 beers at any one time. Open 7 days a week, this restaurant is always packed, so call ahead for seating or be prepared to wait for a table.
For more information: http://www.crystalbeerparlor.com/index.php
Cathedral of St. John the Baptist
The Cathedral is a historic and iconic symbol in Savannah, and is open to the public for self-guided tours Monday-Saturday at certain times. Tours are not allowed during Masses, Holy Days, or other religious events, as well as during funerals and weddings. The Church was dedicated on 1876, and rebuilt and re-opened after a fire in 1900. The Cathedral is listed as one of the top 10 historic sites in the U.S.
For more information, visit: https://savannahcathedral.org/visit/
If you’re in the mood to shop, this is the street to do it. Designer names jostle against up against pop up shops and artsy boutiques along this main street. At the very end of the street you’ll find one of my favorites, Blick Art Materials, supplying SCAD students with all imaginable types of art supplies for years. Another favorite shop is Savannah Bee Company, a shop full of everything honeybee, from honeys to hand crèmes and everything in between!
Known as “Savannah’s Beach” Tybee Island is a wonderful spot to enjoy the ocean while visiting Savannah. A short drive from downtown Savannah, Tybee Island offers several attractions of its own, from the Tybee Island Light Station, to the Tybee Museum and the Marine Science Center next to the pier. The beach itself is open to the public and very large, even featuring wooden porch swings available on a first-come-first serve basis. Vending machines, public restrooms, and a bar are available on the pavilion at the pier, as well as numerous picnic tables. Tie your hammock to the pier, or stroll or bike along the beach looking for shells or jellyfish. If you visit during certain times of the year, you may even see a fisherman catch a baby great white shark along the pier.
The Crab Shack
For a fun and family-friendly entertaining dinner, The Crab Shack on Tybee Island is the place to eat. True to its name, from the outside it does appear as a shack, but the packed parking lot should clue you in that appearances don’t matter when the food is good. Outside the restaurant, you’ll find lots of kitties roaming around and a sizeable lagoon, home to live baby alligators. For a small fee, you can buy bait and bait sticks to feed the alligators yourself, or just watch them swim around the lagoon. You can also view rescued exotic birds at the gift shop next door to the restaurant. The Crab Shack is located right along the riverfront, and you can dine indoors or outdoors. I recommend the Captain Crab’s Sample Platter, or the Low Country Boil.
For more information, visit: http://thecrabshack.com/
Wormsloe is located a short drive from the historic district of Savannah. A beautiful avenue of live oak trees draped in Spanish moss leads to a small museum, visitor’s center, and the ruins of the original house. Several nature trails wind around the park as well. If you get there after hours, or you’re not interested in the trails, but want to see the trees, you can still park outside the gate and view and photograph the beautiful tree lined drive, as well as the historic gates and archway.
For more information, visit: http://www.gastateparks.org/Wormsloe
If you have a few weeks before your Savannah trip, I would recommend visiting http://visitsavannah.com/ and requesting a free visitor guide. You can also find helpful information at http://www.savannah.com/.
If you are looking for budget accommodations, there is an IHG at Hunter Army Airfield, a short drive from the Savannah Historic District.
Packing for Savannah?
Savannah has a humid subtropical climate, with very mild winters and very humid summers. Early spring and late fall offer the some of the most comfortable temperatures for visitors.
Bring these items along, and enjoy your trip!
-Comfortable walking shoes-walking is one of the best ways to see the sights in Savannah.
-Lightweight layered clothing- the mornings may be cool, but the afternoons are very hot and humid!
-Water bottle- Again, humid, hot, sticky weather. Water is your friend.
-An umbrella/rain jacket- the high humidity leads to frequent rain showers, and it’s no fun to be caught in the middle of a park square without an umbrella!
-Swimsuit- Tybee Island and the ocean are just a few minutes away! Even in the winter months it’s sometimes warm enough to sunbathe.