Much of Savannah’s charm lies in meandering through the Historic District’s verdant squares — all 22 of them. Along the way, you’ll happen on numerous historic homes like the Mercer Williams House, popularized by “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” and the Juliette Gordon Low home. There’s the famous Bonaventure Cemetery for a Spanish moss-canopied stroll, and there’s the City Market, which is an ideal place to pick up a few souvenirs. You can also take a quick car ride over to the beach at Tybee Island. Here are the top 5 things to do in Savanah.
#1 Forsyth Park
Go to this 30-acre park in the heart of Savannah’s Historic District to relax after a long day of sightseeing. However, you should still keep your camera ready, as there is plenty to see here as well. Stroll past the stunning white-stone Forsyth Fountain, memorials dedicated to the Confederacy and the Spanish-American War, the Fragrant Garden for the Blind and the 300-year-old Candler Oak tree. From the park, you can see several historic sites within walking distance, including Hodgson Hall (home to the Georgia Historical Society) and the old Poor House and Hospital, which was used to treat wounded soldiers during the Civil War.
If you are looking to take a break, Forsyth Park features a beautiful shaded walking path and plenty of open space for picnics. A pool and a playground help keep the kids entertained, while a small cafe will help to satisfy your appetite. Forsyth Park is open every day and entry is free.
Savannah’s history stretches all the way back to 1733, when General James Oglethorpe docked his ship on the Savannah River and named this new territory (and America’s 13th colony) “Georgia.” You can hear all about Savannah’s past and the events that shaped its present on a history tour. What’s more, you won’t have any trouble finding a tour that suits your interests, Savannah boasts a bevy of city tours — from architecture to ghosts to photography — for a variety of travelers.
Walking tours of the Historic District and Bonaventure Cemetery are most popular among recent visitors (be prepared to hear some ghost stories if you sign up for a cemetery walking tour). There are several walking tours, including those provided by Savannah Dan and Old City Walks, which both received praise from travelers.
If your feet are weary from traversing the city’s many squares, consider hopping on a trolley. Old Savannah Tours and Old Town Trolley are both popular for their variety of tours and knowledgeable guides.
And, of course, you’ll have your pick of ghost tours. Any outing you take in Savannah, whether it’s by foot or by trolley, will likely touch on the city’s haunted sites and ethereal atmosphere. But to learn even more about the spirits that supposedly pervade the city’s cobblestone streets, sign up for a ghost tour. To up the chill factor, most take place after dark. Recent visitors were fans of Ghost City Tours and Blue Orb Savannah Ghost Tours.
#3 City Market
If you’re planning to tour Savannah’s Historic District, City Market is a great place to start. Spread out across four blocks, the open-air marketplace features restored warehouses sheltering everything from restaurants to boutiques to art galleries. When you’re not shopping, listening to live music or enjoying a casual bite to eat, simply sit and people-watch: past visitors said this area is great for resting weary feet and taking in the Savannah scene. Plus, City Market is also home base for trolley and carriage tours, so if you need to kill time before or after your tour, you’ll find plenty to see and do here.
Recent travelers said City Market was a great place for a leisurely stroll or a relaxing break from sightseeing with plenty of seating in the shade. This area is also home to several bars, so keep this in mind if you’re here in the evening: some visitors said the market can get a bit rowdy. You’ll find City Market less than a mile southeast of River Street. Because of its heavy pedestrian traffic, City Market is best reached by foot. You can also take a CAT bus; all routes except Nos. 6, 12 and 20 stop here. Each of the businesses within City Market operate on their own hours; check the market’s website for more information on individual businesses and to find out more about special events.
#4 Bonaventure Cemetery
While a stroll through a cemetery may sound a little morbid, recent travelers agreed that a visit to the nearly 100-acre Bonaventure Cemetery is a must for lovers of the written word. Keep your eyes peeled for the tombstones of such celebrities as poet Conrad Aiken and lyricist Johnny Mercer. You should also make a point of looking 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.”
According to visitors, the hauntingly beautiful Bonaventure won’t disappoint, but travelers said that bug spray and comfortable walking shoes are a must. You can tour the cemetery on your own, but recent visitors said you should also consider signing up for a guided tour to gain a better understanding of the cemetery’s awesome history.
You’ll find Bonaventure Cemetery on the eastern edge of Savannah, about 3 miles from the historic district center. If you want to explore the grounds on your own, admission is free, or you can tag along on a guided tour. If you do decide to go it alone, you’ll want to stop by the cemetery’s visitors center first to pick up a copy of its “Historical Society Guide.” The pamphlet features a list of the prominent citizens buried here, plus a map for finding famous graves. The cemetery is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
#5 River Street
Running alongside the Savannah River in the Waterfront district is River Street, a lively area perfect for afternoon strolls. According to recent visitors, this area has renounced its seedy identity from 30 years ago; once a hot spot for cruising sailors and unruly teens, the cobblestone street is now lined with more than 75 souvenir shops, galleries, restaurants and pubs housed in old cotton warehouses. However, River Street is still the place to go for pub crawls, making it attractive to party-seekers and slightly less family-friendly after dark. Plus, the area comes alive with street musicians after the sun sets.
Recent visitors recommended spending a few hours here for the gorgeous river views and excellent people-watching, though they do warn that you shouldn’t expect much from the shops as most are filled with kitschy souvenirs.