Savannah, Georgia is one of the most iconic historic towns in the United States. With its educational tours, tasty restaurants, shops galore, artistic flare, and vibrant nightlife, Savannah has mass appeal and is visited by around 14 million people every year.
But the city is near and dear to my heart for more reasons than just its cultural significance. At 3:00pm on a Friday about 22 years ago, I was born in the historic city. I only lived there until I was two months old, but my family and I still have life-long friends and family that live in Savannah. If you ask me, the best way to spend a day in Savannah is catching up with loved ones.
But if you don’t have old friends to visit, there’s tons of great ways to spend a day in Savannah, Georgia. And you can explore the city on a budget, too!
When to Visit Savannah:
Before you plan a day trip to Savannah, it’s important to pick the right date. While Savannah will be great pretty much any time of year, there are some times when it’s best to avoid (unless you like large, sweaty crowds).
First of all, I would avoid St Patrick’s Day or any day near St Patrick’s Day. March 17th is a day marked with countless festivities in Savannah including the well-renowned St Patrick’s Day parade. While this can be a fun adventure, it also attracts large crowds. If you plan to visit Savannah on or around St Patrick’s Day, just be aware that your trip will be marked with festivities for the holiday that could overshadow the other amazing things the city has to offer.
Though less iconic that St Patrick’s Day in Savannah, other holidays can get crowded in the historic city as well. People are often looking for an easy getaway on holiday weekends, and Savannah tends to be a choice destination. Again, if you’re not looking to join the masses, it’s probably best to avoid braving Savannah on holiday weekends.
As far as weather is concerned, summers can get downright hot and humid in Savannah, Ga. On a normal summer day, the weather wouldn’t be unbearable for walking and/or biking around the historic district, but it could tend to be uncomfortable. If you don’t want to be sweating, aim for spring, fall, or winter.
Overall, to get the most out of a trip to Savannah, finding a random, commonplace weekend on a day when the weather is forecast to be pleasant is the way to go.
How to Spend the Day in Savannah:
If you want to get the most out of Savannah, you’ll want to arrive early. Downtown in the historic district is the place to be. I’d recommend finding a nice free parking spot near Forsyth Park. This will put you at the top of the historic district, and from there you can work your way down to River Street, passing all the top sight-seeing spots on the way to and from.
As an alternative, there are several parking decks closer toward the river including a couple on Liberty Street and State Street. From there, it’s few blocks walk up to Forsyth Park.
In my personal opinion, one of the best ways to see Savannah is via bicycle. You can create your own pace, choose your own path, and get a good little workout while doing it without reaching quite the same level of exhaustion as if you were walking everywhere. Plus, it’s more reasonable to rent a bike and give yourself a tour of the sites at your own leisure than it is to pay for a trolley tour around the city (you can save between $30 – $40 for two people renting bikes instead of taking a trolley tour).
There are a few places to rent bikes around Savannah, but my personal favorite is Savannah on Wheels located right by Forsyth Park. Not only are the bikes high quality and service great, the location is ideal for hitting all the best spots in historic downtown. Of course, you can always bring your own bikes, too, if you prefer.
Whether you rent a bike or bring your own, though, be sure to grab a map of the can’t-miss sights around Savannah. If you’re starting your ride at Forsyth Park, you can work your way down one path toward River Street and then make your way back toward Forsyth Park via another path that’ll take you past any sights you may have missed.
Bike to River Street
After renting bikes, be sure to take a wheel around Forsyth park. There’s always lots of fun energy, and, on certain weekends, you may just hit the farmers market. Then make your way through the historic district in the morning toward River Street.
If you’re in need of a little pick-me-up on the way, there’s sure to be several great coffee shops along your path. Gallery Espresso is a personal favorite.
Explore City Market on Foot
A couple of blocks up from W Bay Street, you’ll find an adorable hub known as City Market. With a smorgasbord of restaurants, shops, and art galleries, it’s the perfect spot to dock your bike at one of the many racks and take a stroll.
At City Market you’ll be able to visit the famous Prohibition Museum, stop for a gourmet cookie at Byrd’s Cookie Company, and shop for souvenirs you’ll truly love at Trolley Shop Gifts. And for a cherry on top, explore the countless art galleries hosted right in City Market. You’ll get to see the amazing works of local Savannah artists, and, on most days, you may even see an artist hard at work.
After exploring City Market, you’ll likely be ready to grab some grub! Of course, there’s lots of choices right in City Market – Belford’s, Wild Wing Café, and more. But you can also take a stroll outside City Market and find plenty of other exciting places to dine.
One of my personal favorites is B&D Burgers. Some might say this restaurant is still a part of City Market, and they have some of the best burgers, sliders, and wings Savannah has to offer, and you can’t beat the price or atmosphere.
Walk River Street
After eating all that good southern food, you’ll likely want to get some more walking in. Good thing the iconic River Street is just a couple blocks away.
A stroll up River Street has lots to offer from its fun shops to its beautiful views. You’ll likely see a few street artists or may happen upon a small arts market. Without a doubt, you’ll want to stop inside River Street Sweets and grab some of their world famous pralines and bear claws. There’s plenty of souvenir shops along the way, too.
But don’t spend your whole time walking River Street. Kick back on a bench and just enjoy the views.
Explore the Historic District by Bike
Once you’ve spent all the time you want at River Street, its time to head back toward Forsyth Park to drop back off the rental bikes and make your way to your car.
The good news is, you’ve got time on your journey back to explore even more of the historic district. Refer to your map for the best return path so you can see as many sights as possible that you may have missed along your trip toward City Market and River Street in the morning.
You may want to swing by the Olde Pink House Restaurant (a great place for a picture even if you don’t plan to eat there), Colonel Park Cemetery, or the James Oglethorpe Monument at Chippewa Square. There’s also quite a number of beautiful churches worth the stop including the Cathedral of St John and the Wesley Monumental Methodist Church. On your ride, you’ll be certain to pass through quite a number of lovely squares with age-old oaks, gardens, and benches for enjoying the view should you need a little break.
Once all is said and done, you may be ready to head on back to where you came from at the end of a full day in Savannah. But in case you’ve got some extra time for dinner, here’s a few of my personal recommendations:
- For Seafood: Love’s Seafood – you’ll enjoy a casual atmosphere away from the bustle of downtown with some of the best seafood and steaks you can find.
- For Barbecue: Carey Hilliard’s – There’s several locations, so pick the one that makes the most sense for your journey home. The down-home country atmosphere is the perfect cap to a trip to Savannah, and you won’t find a better cup of sweet iced tea.
- For Italian: Bella Napoli’s Italian Bistro – If you’re looking for a little less casual of an environment and want to stay in the downtown area, you can’t go wrong with the place voted Best Italian Restaurant in Savannah. The service is great and the food is second to none.
Make the Trip Your Own
When all is said and done, have fun! Savannah is a city of many adventures. You may find an old bookstore along your bike ride and want to stay awhile. You may decide to jump on one of the iconic trolley tours. Wherever your time in Savannah, GA takes you, don’t forget to take it all in. The fun is in the journey.