Savannah Activities: What to Do in the South's Most Vibrant City

Beyond Savannah’s Historic District: Activities for Every Travel Taste

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Earlier this month, we headed back to Savannah for three nights, something that’s becoming a bit of an annual tradition. It’s hard to believe that I’d never been to this romantic Southern city until my late 20s—and now I’ve visited five times in the past six years. And while eating and drinking are typically the top of our list when traveling to this coastal Georgia enclave, there are plenty of activities in Savannah that don’t actually include five meals a day (though, no judgment here if that’s your preferred travel style!).

Savannah Activities: What to Do in the South's Most Vibrant City

I’ve been asked by many how long one needs to fully soak up Savannah’s charm. With more and more flight options available—Allegiant recently introduced a seasonal direct flight from Nashville to Savannah that we hopped aboard—it’s easier than ever to jet down for a long weekend. And if three days is all you have, then by God, get yourself to Savannah. But if you have a full week, even better—there’s so much to do that you’ll never grow bored, and over the past 20 years, the city has evolved into a bona-fide vacation destination worthy of much more than a mere weekend. Bunk in a vacation rental on Tybee or make your base in downtown Savannah; either way, you can’t go wrong.

What to Do in Savannah, Georgia
What to Do in Savannah, Georgia

I’ve done Savannah in just about every way you could: with my husband, with friends, on a bachelorette party, you name it. My trips have ranged from do-all-the-touristy-things-on-River-Street to only-go-to-the-insider-spots-with-locals.

Savannah Activities: What to Do in the South's Most Vibrant City

And while you could easily spend an entire five-day visit exploring the Historic District by foot—despite being just a square mile, it’s chock-pack with restaurants and bars, museums and historic homes—I encourage you to get outside of it, at least for a day.

Here are seven ways to incorporate various neighborhoods of the city and beyond.

What to Do in Savannah

For the Fitness Buff: A Class at Savannah Cirque

You know I’m always up for anything acrobatic. I think the fact that I wanted to be a gymnast growing up but was neither short enough—I hit 5’5″ in elementary school and wound up gaining another two inches in height later on—or flexible enough to do so led me to fall in love with aerial arts and AcroYoga as an adult. So when my local friend Susan told me that Savannah’s first circus center opened a year ago, I knew how we’d be spending our first morning in town.

Savannah Cirque: Circus Arts

Savannah Cirque: Circus Arts
Savannah Cirque: Circus Arts

Savannah Cirque: Circus Arts

Savannah Cirque is the brainchild of fitness professional Sabrina Madsen, who spent much of her life as a gymnast and now competes in international pole competitions. This is not your average circus studio; there are a ton of classes on offer. I thought we were going to be joining your standard aerial yoga flow class (read: gentle stretching with the assist of the hammock), but nope: We elevated it a level by taking aerial dance. And SVV may or may not have known what he was getting into, but he was a good sport nonetheless! Not only was it a great workout—I was sweating buckets by the end and my thighs were sore for days—but it was a whole lot of fun. SVV, Susan and I giggled our way through the 60-minute workout. This would be a really fun activity for a Savannah bachelorette party or any girls’ getaway (or hey, with your husband like I did!). If aerial dance isn’t your thing, Savannah Cirque also has classes in lyra, aerial hoop, trapeze, pole fitness and hand-balancing.

Savannah Cirque: Circus Arts
Savannah Cirque: Circus Arts

For the Beer Drinker: An Afternoon in Starland District

I first visited the Starland District on my inaugural visit to Savannah as it boasts one of the city’s most famed residents: Back in the Day Bakery. But now, the Starland District has earned its name as it’s blossomed into a neighborhood popular for its artist shops, great eats and, most importantly, brewery newcomer. Two Tides Brewing Co. was started by the ocean-loving couple James and Liz Massey after some critical laws changed in the state of Georgia in 2017 that allowed direct sales to customers. This brewery occupies the top floor of a grand old house and specializes in small-batch beers—with plenty of sours on tap, much to SVV’s and my delight.

Two Tides Brewing Co. in Savannah

Bonus: There’s an eye-catching mural of bees located on the back of the building in the parking lot and a stunning interior mural that wraps around the space by Alexandria Hall. Savannah has another excellent brewery, Service Brewing Co., that I’ll be talking about in the next post for all of you brewery-hoppers out there.

Two Tides Brewing Co. in Savannah

For the Historian: A Walking Tour

Genteel & Bard came about when broadcast journalist T.C. Michaels lost his radio show, an unfortunate outcome of the media industry’s unstable nature this past decade and one that plenty of my friends and colleagues have seen, too. Instead of letting the news get them down, he and his wife Brenna took that experience and spun it into Savannah’s most interactive tour company, peppered with personality and Southern grace and accentuated with a top-notch audio integration by way of earbuds that connect to T.C.’s microphone and iPad (I even stopped for a bathroom break and could hear him in my ears a block away!).

Genteel & Bard Walking Tour of Savannah

The result is a laid-back and immersive dive into the culture and history of a quintessential city in the American lexicon. I’ve taken plenty of Savannah tours and this was my favorite so far; the audio effects—music, readings and more—really enhanced the experience. And I take my time with photography, so I love that I could wander around and snap while T.C. talked without feeling rude or missing out on any clutch details.

Genteel & Bard Walking Tour of Savannah

Genteel & Bard Walking Tour of Savannah
Genteel & Bard Walking Tour of Savannah

Genteel & Bard Walking Tour of Savannah

For the Beach Bum: A Day at Tybee Island

It took me until my fourth visit to Savannah to venture out to Tybee Island, which is just bonkers given that it’s less than a half-hour’s drive from downtown. On this visit, we were met with cloudy skies much of the time, which just meant, apart from the surfers and fishermen, that we had the beach relatively to ourselves.

What to Do in Savannah: Tybee Island

Tybee has gorgeous tracts of unblemished sand, marshes filled with wildlife, and a lovely lighthouse that dates to the 1700s and was also the site of a major turning point in coastal defense during the Civil War, with the bombardment by Union troops of nearby Fort Pulaski introducing the rifled cannon to the world of warfare.

What to Do in Savannah: Fort Pulaski on Tybee Island
What to Do in Savannah: Fort Pulaski on Tybee Island
What to Do in Savannah: Fort Pulaski on Tybee Island

What to Do in Savannah, Georgia

Filled with brightly painted cottages, bed and breakfasts, hotels and some camping/RV spots, the island town has plenty of options by way of lodging, and there’s nary a chain in site. It’s truly the bohemian vibe that Millennial and DINK travelers like us crave, while also well-suited for families of all sizes.

What to Do in Savannah: Tybee Island

For the House Nerds: Architectural Tour of Savannah

The very last of the original 13 colonies, Georgia was founded at the height of the Enlightenment and during a period of rapid expansion of the European powers into the New World. Named after King George II, the province was established under the leadership of an English general named James Edward Oglethorpe for the British crown in the early 1730s as both a bulwark against the French and Spanish and, originally, in Oglethorpe’s vision, a place for the poor, jailed debtors and others in London to get a new start.

Architecture Tour in Savannah

It was an idealistic place from the beginning, and featured, among other paternalistic decisions, a ban on slaves and rum, a rarity for the nascent colonies. The town plan for Savannah, the first settlement in Georgia, conceived a series of geometrically laid out wards, with a central square anchoring each one together. Twenty-two of these squares remain in the city and lend this moss draped town a unique flavor of urban design that’s often heralded as the benchmark for smart social planning.

Architecture Tour in Savannah

Architecture Tour in Savannah
Architecture Tour in Savannah

Architecture Tour in Savannah

Jonathan Stalcup, a 2004 alum of SCAD, the premier design school of the South, runs an impressively thorough 90-minute Architectural Savannah tour that breaks all of this down and opens your eyes to the system that Oglethorpe had in mind. Jonathan’s historical knowledge of these buildings makes this tour riveting.

Architecture Tour in Savannah

For the Nature Lover: Isle of Hope

Looking for your postcard-perfect coastal Georgia scene? It’s right there on the Isle of Hope. Our friend Susan, a local, took us here on our spring visit last year, and it remains one of the prettier places I’ve seen in an area widely known for its natural beauty.

Isle of Hope in Savannah, Georgia

While the peninsula (not actually an island) largely comprises residences, the Isle of Hope Marina is worth a visit; on a warm, sunny day, plan on nabbing a table outside at the Wyld dock bar and enjoying the weather—and the view. Note: Wormsloe Historic Site Isle is also close by.

Isle of Hope in Savannah, Georgia

For the Designer at Heart: Visit SCAD

SCAD—or Savannah College of Art and Design—is responsible for infusing the city with the creative energy that pulses throughout it. So many architects, designers and entrepreneurs are products of the private university, which was founded just 40 years ago, and its buildings, numbering upward of 70, are now scattered throughout the Historic District. You’ll see them just walking around, but worth visiting is the campus store ShopSCAD with its collection of original art for sale, as well as Poetter Hall in which it is housed.

SCAD Shop in Savannah

Another fun place to wander inside if you merely want to ogle some impressive art is the Mansion on Forsyth Park, now owned by Marriott. This 1888 building was once a funeral home—so I’m dead certain ghosts reside within!—and opened as a hotel in 2005. Even if you aren’t a guest or a patron, you can enter the restaurant side at 700 Drayton and climb the stairs to see the whimsical paintings and other fun accents that give this famous spot some color.

Mansion at Forsyth Park in Savannah

Mansion at Forsyth Park in Savannah

Mansion at Forsyth Park in Savannah

Looking for more Savannah travel ideas? Start here:

What to Do in Savannah: Tybee Island

This post was produced in partnership with Visit Savannah. All opinions are our own.

 

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Best Activities in Savannah: What to Do in Coastal Georgia
Best Activities in Savannah: What to Do in Coastal Georgia
Best Activities in Savannah: What to Do in Coastal Georgia
COMMENTS
  • November 21, 2018

    The Genteel & Bard tour looks fantastic! I’ve only had earbuds with a tour once (in the Hermitage in St. Petersburg) and I absolutely loved the way you could roam around by yourself while taking in the information!

    • November 21, 2018

      Right? I’d never seen that before on a tour, and I loved that I could do my photography thing and not feel rude to the guide while doing it!

  • November 22, 2018

    I always like to watch you photos! I liked the place with colorful chairs ont he walls, this looked so cool!

    • November 26, 2018

      Thanks so much, Anita! Savannah is definitely a colorful place to visit.

  • November 24, 2018

    Lovely photos!

  • November 26, 2018

    The cooking school at the Mansion on Forsyth Park is calling my name! I’d love to take to learn to cook some low country dishes like dirty rice and low country shrimp stew.

    • November 27, 2018

      Right? Let’s do it together! Scott would definitely appreciate if I finally learned how to cook 🙂

  • November 26, 2018

    The tours, the tours! Give me all the tours! I love historical (particularly walking so I can eat after!) and architectural – 2 of my favorite things to do in a city, add in a food tour and it is a trifecta. Savannah has been on my list of US cities to visit for a very long time and I need to get off my tush and head over that fast!

    • November 27, 2018

      Girl, how have you not been to Savannah? Or Nashville for that matter? 😉 We need to start your Southern education, ASAP!

  • November 26, 2018

    I haven’t been to Savannah in SOOO long (despite my niece graduating from SCAD.) I’m going next week for just ½ a day before I fly out after a weekend on the GA coast and I need to figure out where to have one great meal. Any suggestions?

    • November 27, 2018

      YES! I’m excited you at least get half a day. Is it for lunch/brunch? If so, I’d definitely have to say Collins Quarter. I haven’t had their dinner yet, but I’m sure it’s excellent for that, as well.

  • November 28, 2018

    Your photos are making me want to take a trip back to Savannah! I love it! The history, the architechture, and the food are just amazing. I read Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil as a pre-vacation primer!

    • December 12, 2018

      I still haven’t read it, but we watched the movie the day we came back from Savannah! So good.

  • November 29, 2018

    I was in Savannah just a mere 6 months ago and all of these tours and attractions unfortunately did not make my to do list this time around. Looks like another trip back ( or 2 or 6….) are in order!

    • December 12, 2018

      Right? There’s never enough time!

  • December 2, 2018

    So many fun things to do! I’ve never been to Savannah, but my mom used to love going there, and it’s been in my imagination since the first time I heard her stories from there. I love how you captured the beautiful shapes of the tree branches in so many of your photos.

    • December 12, 2018

      I think you need a Nashville-Savannah-Charleston ultimate Southern vacation with your family!

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