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!).
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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!).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Looking for more Savannah travel ideas? Start here:
- Your Ultimate Weekend in Savannah
- Eating and Drinking Our Way Through Savannah
- Planning a Bachelorette Weekend in Savannah
- Shopping Till You Drop in Savannah
- The Inside Scoop on Savannah’s Famed Ice Cream Shop
- A History of the Girl Scouts in Savannah
This post was produced in partnership with Visit Savannah. All opinions are our own.