Brimming with historic sites, oozing with Southern hospitality, and chock-full of award-winning restaurants for both casual and high-end cuisine, Savannah is one of the coastal gems of the South. Nestled on the Savannah River, this charming city is known for its many cobblestone squares surrounded by shady oak trees, horse-drawn carriages, and impeccably preserved antebellum architecture.
“There aren’t many cities like it in America,” says Sara Peterson, a frequent traveler who visited Savannah for the first time last year. “I should have known it was super walkable because it’s historic. Everything I wanted to see was close together.”
The best way to get a feel for the Hostess City is to hop on a narrated, open-air Old Town Trolley Tour, which stops at various points throughout the Savannah Historic District — it’s one of the best things to do in Savannah. Take the tour all the way through on your first day to familiarize yourself with the sites you most want to visit, such as the landmark Gothic Revival Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist, the marketplace known as City Market, and almost 100 other points of interest.
Throughout the tour, drivers share the rich history of Savannah, from the founding of the colony and its role in the Civil War to the movies that have been filmed there. In Chippewa Square, for example, you can sit on the same bench where Forrest Gump waited for his bus.
If you love historic homes, you’ll quickly find you’re in the right place. Not to be missed are the Sorrel-Weed House — an exceptional example of Greek Revival and Regency architecture that’s said to be the most haunted structure in the city — and the Owens-Thomas House, another stunning example of Regency architecture, this one owned by the Owens family for 121 years. The house and adjacent slave quarters are the only intact slave quarters open to the public in historic Savannah.
Wind down with a drink and a view at Peregrin, a rooftop lounge right smack in the center of town. For dinner, The Grey is one of the city’s most beloved restaurants. The rotating seasonal menu features savory dishes like smoked catfish deviled eggs, peach gazpacho, fried sweetbreads, and scallops with ham-hock consommé — all created by Chef Mashama Bailey, the current James Beard Award winner for Outstanding Chef.
Begin your day in majestic Forsyth Park, the city’s crown jewel. Take a stroll through the 30-acre park, snap a selfie in front of the charming 1858 fountain modeled after the fountains at the Place de la Concorde in Paris, and enjoy breakfast on the patio at The Collins Quarter. From crabcake benedict to café au lait, this outdoor brunch spot with park views has what you need to fuel up. Just north of the park and flanked by live oaks and majestic Greek Revival homes, Jones Street is considered the prettiest lane in town.
Saturdays are made for shopping, and it’s one of the best things to do in Savannah. Broughton Street is the main drag downtown with a plethora of nationally known shops as well as unique stores such as the Paris Market, a French-inspired shop and café surrounded by smaller stores selling made-in-Savannah souvenirs. For boutique shopping, the stylish Bull Street corridor is tops — don’t miss Satchel for locally made, handcrafted leather bags — and for vintage finds, the eclectic Starland District is home to all things artistic and the city’s popular food truck bazaar known as Starland Yard.
End your day with a sunset stroll along historic River Street. The waterfront location is the city’s hub for nightlife and even more souvenir shopping. Between the Old Cotton Exchange building and City Hall, Vic’s on the River is a favorite for live music and Southern dishes such as fried green tomatoes, shrimp and grits, and sweet beignets.
Kick off your day with biscuits and gravy at B. Matthew’s Eatery on the eastern edge of the Savannah Historic District, then take time to explore the nearby Fort Pulaski National Monument. Located on the tip of Cockspur Island between historic Savannah and Tybee Island, the fort is where the Union Army successfully tested rifled cannons in combat during the Civil War, the success of which rendered brick fortifications obsolete. From reenactments and exhibits to nature trails, the family-friendly landmark has something for everyone, and is one of the best things to do in Savannah.
Wrap up your Sunday with soul food at Sisters of the New South. Don’t let the cafeteria-style dining fool you — this is one of the most authentic local restaurants in Savannah. From skillet cornbread to sweet tea and heaping plates of smothered shrimp, you’ll leave satisfied with plenty of memories and the lingering taste of sweet, Southern cooking.
Where To Stay
While in historic Savannah, spend your downtime in luxury and comfort at the DeSoto, an historic hotel originally built in 1890. In its more than 130 years, the DeSoto has welcomed many celebrities through its doors, including four presidents and a never-ending list of the rich and famous. The DeSoto’s original crystal chandeliers blend seamlessly with its modern conveniences and sleek style, and its location in the Savannah Historic District will put you in perfect proximity to many of the city’s key attractions.
The DeSoto offers hotel-style suites with stunning city views that comfortably sleep two or four guests. Featuring stylish furnishings, marble accents, and luxurious bed linens and towels, you’ll find it easy to relax and unwind in your well-appointed suite after a busy day exploring the Hostess City. The DeSoto offers three onsite farm-to-table restaurants, meeting and event space, pool terrace with seasonal cabana bar, organized “sip and stroll” walking tours of the Savannah Historic District, and even an art gallery. You’ll feel like an A-lister at this elite award-winning hotel.
Additional Resort Details: The DeSoto #RR15