How To Take The Ultimate Vacation In Savannah, Georgia

If you love art, history, delicious food and charming scenery, add Savannah to your bucket list.
Illustration: HuffPost; Photos: Getty

Take A Break is your ultimate guide to the perfect trips to recharge, rediscover yourself and your relationships, and reengage with the world. We’ll cover shopping stops, great bars, restaurants worth your money, photo opportunities, memorable drives and experiences, and other important details you need before you book.

Below, we chat with Kate Palmer, executive editor at HuffPost, about why you’ll want to put Savannah, Georgia, on your bucket list.

What drew you to Savannah as a place to visit or explore?

I grew up in Jacksonville, Florida, so Savannah was always just a short drive away, but a world away in its vibe. Two hours north by car, it seemed somehow more Southern. But it was also more centered on the arts, food and history ― three things I love today.

It’s drawn me to it for many different kinds of trips throughout my life: I have fond memories of visiting with my mom as a kid to see the Girl Scout founder’s birthplace, and then in college for concerts and road trips. Later, it became a favorite spot for my boyfriend and I to visit when we had more time than money; it was the obvious place for us to tie the knot 10 years ago. Now, it’s a city we love to return to as often as we can, for world-class food and drinks, great local shopping, and a place to unwind with languorous walks under the Spanish moss.

What are the best times of year to visit?

Although the city is lovely year-round, I’d avoid the hot summer months. Sure, you can wander the historic squares with a mint julep in your hand to keep cool, but it’s just more enjoyable when it’s under 90 degrees.

I’d say February through May and then September through November are great, though there are a few dates to keep in mind. St. Patrick’s Day is a wild affair: The Savannah River is dyed green, there’s a major parade, and you can take your Guinness to go. It’s definitely an experience to do at least once.

Other major events to consider are the Savannah Music Festival in the spring; the SCAD Savannah Film Festival in October, which is hosted by the incredible art school in town; Halloween, which usually features an incredibly fun Pride parade; and the holiday season, which sees the town show off its lights and decor.

Forsyth Park is one of the most picturesque spots in Savannah.
Amy Luo via Getty Images
Forsyth Park is one of the most picturesque spots in Savannah.

What’s your best tip for getting there? How can you make the travel as stress-free as possible?

Driving into Savannah is pretty easy from most points in the Southeast, or as a stop on an I-95 road trip, but one of the charms of visiting is that you really can walk to most places. So I’d suggest flying into the convenient Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport (SAV), getting a ride into the historic district, and basing yourself there on foot. Although there are *tons* of great places to visit outside the historic district (like Tybee Island, Jekyll Island, Hilton Head, Palmetto Bluff, even Charleston), a first trip there can be completely filled up with pedestrian-friendly sights downtown. Plus, parking can be rough, because other people have discovered this gem as well.

Where do you recommend staying when you go?

Savannah is blessed with a great supply of high-end hotels, historic bed-and-breakfasts, unique short-term rentals, and plentiful budget and familiar chain options. A few favorites of mine include:

  • Perry Lane Hotel ― One of the newer, chic hotel options with an excellent lobby bar and restaurant called Emporium Kitchen and a few other bars that will please design and cocktail lovers alike.
  • Marshall House ― One of my favorites for decades. It’s just a great combination of old Savannah, great service, good value, and a wonderful location right on the main commercial thoroughfare of Broughton Street.
  • Planters Inn ― There are newer and hipper options, but I don’t think there’s a better Savannah experience than eating next door at The Olde Pink House, staying in a balcony room here and watching the world go by above Reynolds Square.
  • Mansion on Forsyth Park is a historic, luxe spot from which to explore the part of the historic area that’s a little less touristy. The art collection alone is worth a visit.
  • The Thompson Savannah and JW Marriott Savannah Plant Riverside District are two major new luxury hotels that flank the city’s waterfront and feature new rooftop bars.
Savannah has a strong nightlife scene with many bars, live music venues and events.
Henryk Sadura via Getty Images
Savannah has a strong nightlife scene with many bars, live music venues and events.

What are your go-to restaurants or foods to eat while you’re there?

There are so many fabulous options in Savannah that it’s hard to name a favori— just kidding, The Grey is my favorite restaurant in the South. Chef Mashama Bailey has created something truly special in this restored Greyhound Station. Her spot invites you to enjoy African-inspired Southern food that’s inventive and beyond delicious. Book a reservation before you book your flight. (If you can’t visit, catch her episode of “Chef’s Table on Netflix or her excellent book about race, friendship and food with business partner John O. Morisano, “Black, White and The Grey.”)

I always visit The Olde Pink House. The dining rooms are gorgeous, but I prefer the tavern downstairs. I like their house-made pink lemonade with or without vodka, or the Planter’s Punch. Both were everyone’s favorite guests at our wedding. The fried green tomatoes here are also divine.

A few other favorites include Elizabeth on 37th for elevated Southern food and seafood, the Crystal Beer Parlor, Husk, and Leopold’s Ice Cream for dessert.

What bars or entertainment spots do you make sure to hit? What’s good to drink there or what else should people know?

Savannah is a drinking town, so you don’t have to walk too far to find a nice cocktail or local brew. I have ended a lot of great nights at Abe’s on Lincoln, Pinkie Masters, and Lone Wolf Lounge. If you’re looking for something more upscale, hit a rooftop bar like Myrtle & Rose on the river or Perch closer to Forsyth Park. Check listings before you go for concerts at the gorgeous, historic Lucas Theatre. (I’ve caught Emmylou Harris and Josh Ritter there; it’s a great venue.) You can also find wonderful live music at venues like The Wormhole, Jazz’d, The Jinx, and lots of others.

Ask for some of the local-made booze while you’re there: Ghost Coast Distillery, Savannah Distilling, and woman-owned The 1970 are all great bets.

What are your favorite shops and what do you look for when you’re there?

Shopping in Savannah is a great way to connect with local designers, entrepreneurs and tastemakers. A few places I always visit include:

  • Shop SCAD ― The store of the Savannah College of Art and Design. Find work from the next great textile artist or jewelry designer. Prices are reasonable, and the atmosphere is fun. It’s the opposite of mass-produced.
  • Paris Market ― Right on Broughton, this store is the next best thing to a flight to France. It’s expertly curated and has a great selection of gifts, homegoods, jewelry and furniture. There’s a great coffee shop inside, too.
  • Satchel ― A Savannah gem featuring locally and lovingly designed bags, shoes and luggage. You can buy something in stock, or work with the designers to create something just for you. I get compliments all the time on the Betty bag I bought on my last trip.
  • Picker Joe’s Antique Mall and Vintage Market — I dare you to visit and not find something you love.
  • Chocolat by Adam Turoni ― Avoid the tourists at the fudge shops by the river and head to this amazing little shop that’s like a magical jewel box of delicious sweets. I love this spot!
  • E. Shaver Booksellers ― One of my favorite independent booksellers anywhere. Don’t miss it.
There are ample historic homes and other notable buildings throughout Savannah.
Daniela Duncan via Getty Images
There are ample historic homes and other notable buildings throughout Savannah.

What’s your single favorite spot to go for photos and why?

You can’t go wrong at Forsyth Park. The massive fountain is iconic Savannah, and the dripping moss is IG gold.

What tourist attraction should people skip and what should they do instead?

I’d skip the touristy City Market and head to some of the stores and restaurants listed here. Or seek out a walking tour that can dive deeper into Savannah’s complicated history or architecture.

Where do you feel the most relaxed, calm or happy?

Any of the squares are relaxing, especially in great weather, but I wouldn’t miss Reynolds Square, Oglethorpe Square, Monterey Square, or Johnson Square. Walking between them all is just delightful.

What’s one thing you make sure to pack if you’re going and why?

A good camera or my iPhone, great walking shoes, and a book I want to get lost in.

What are some specific planning tips to know before you go so you’re not stressed?

Get one great restaurant reservation, and then just play everything else by ear. Maybe plan a tour or a concert, and allow yourself plenty of time to walk around and get lost. Don’t overschedule!

What surprised you about Savannah when you went the first time?

I’m always pleasantly surprised by the density of events, openings, new stores and bars. And how open and friendly and proud everyone is of the town. I shouldn’t be surprised necessarily, being from nearby, but it always leaves such a great feeling about the town to meet people who put so much into the city they love.

Anything else visitors should know?

If you’re not from the area, discard your ideas of what you think you know about the South. Try to talk to people and ask questions. Let yourself fall in love with the place. It’s hard not to!

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