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10 Ultimate Things to Do in Savannah

Cemeteries, Southern food, and so much more.

From the cobblestones of River Street to the sands of Tybee Island, The Hostess City of the South offers unlimited experiences, adventures, and discoveries for travelers. Add these must-dos to your list.

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PHOTO: Casey Jones/Visit Savannah
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Visit Historic Bonaventure Cemetery

The final resting place for many Savannahians, including songwriter Johnny Mercer and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Conrad Aiken, is more than your average graveyard. Poised on a bluff overlooking the Wilmington River, Bonaventure Cemetery is full of ornate monuments that captivated Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil writer John Berendt and even naturalist John Muir, who camped in Bonaventure for several days. It’s free to wander through the cemetery yourself, but a tour will reveal Bonaventure’s many stories and legends. For a history-centered tour, take a stroll with Bonaventure Don; for those on the hunt for a spookier fare, visit the cemetery under the cloak of night through Bonaventure Cemetery After Hours with Shannon Scott.

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PHOTO: Chia Chong
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Eat Locally-Sourced, Upscale Southern Cuisine at The Grey.

One of the hottest restaurants in the country can be found on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in the heart of Savannah’s downtown. Housed in an elegantly restored Greyhound Station, The Grey serves Port City Southern cuisine crafted by James Beard award-nominated chef Mashama Bailey. With unparalleled service and a menu that champions close-to-home ingredients and honors them through beautiful plating, a meal at The Grey is unlike any other. If fine dining isn’t in your travel budget, grab a cocktail and shareables in the restaurant’s diner bar, or head over to The Grey Market on Jefferson Street and belly up to the counter for breakfast, lunch and delicious meals to go.

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PHOTO: The Original Pinkie Masters/Facebook
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Order an Ice-Cold PBR at Pinkie Masters

Few bars in Savannah boast the history of Pinkie Masters, an unassuming watering hole on the corner of Drayton and East Harris streets. The hundreds of photos and memories adorning the walls tell stories dating back to the 1950s, but take a look at the bar itself. A plaque commemorates Pinkie’s most famous occasion: the day President Jimmy Carter jumped on top of the bar and, according to lore, announced his run for president for the very first time. Bring dollars for the jukebox (old rock ‘n’ rollers and soul lovers should bring a generous stack) and for cold tallboys and to-go cocktails—after all these years, Pinkie’s remains cash-only.

 

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PHOTO: Visit Savannah
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Paddle to Cockspur Lighthouse and Visit Tybee Island

The best way to experience the natural beauty of the Savannah River estuary is by paddleboard or kayak. See dolphins, otters, turtles, and coastal birds firsthand through a half-day tour with Savannah Canoe and Kayak. The three-hour tour starts at the Lazaretto Creek boat ramp and leads to the Cockspur Lighthouse, the smallest lighthouse in Georgia, perched on an oyster and mussel bed. After your tour, cross the Lazaretto Creek Bridge by car and treat yourself to a seafood feast at North Beach Grill. Walk it off on the shores of North Beach, and catch a glimpse at Georgia’s oldest and tallest lighthouse, Tybee Island Lighthouse.

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PHOTO: Richard leo johnson/Telfair Museums
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Visit the Telfair Family of Museums

With a Telfair Museums ticket, you’ll have access to modern art, beautiful antiquities, and a traditional 19th century Savannah mansion for a full week. Start at the Jepson Center, a luminous white marble building with galleries of contemporary artworks, impressive rotating exhibitions, and ArtZeum, an interactive children’s area. Adjacent on Telfair Square is Telfair Academy, a Neoclassical mansion housing 19th and 20th-century American and European art. The Owens-Thomas House and Slave Quarters is just a short walk away and offers a rare look at how the stately home’s residents and its enslaved staff lived.

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PHOTO: © Geoff L Johnson Photography
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Tour Pin Point Heritage Museum

At Pin Point Heritage Museum, visitors get a first-hand look at life in the isolated Gullah/Geechee community of Pin Point. Situated on the banks of the Moon River (popularized in a song by Johnny Mercer), Pin Point was home to A.S. Varn & Son Oyster and Crab Company, and guests learn all about the catching, preparing, packaging, and distributing their product. Knowledgeable guides, many of whom call Pin Point home, also teach guests about the English Creole language, the lives of the descendants of slaves in Georgia, Gullah/Geechee lore, and beyond.

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PHOTO: Two Tides Brewing Company/Facebook
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Sip Local Beer and Shop Local Goods

Head south of the Historic District’s hustle and bustle to the Starland District, a haven for hip restaurants, boutiques filled with handmade goods, and original art and local beer. Try a small-batch, handcrafted beer at the airy Two Tides Brewing—their free pinball games get the competition going, and colorful murals throughout the renovated home space are perfectly Instagram-worthy. Stroll the boutiques of DeSoto Row, Bull Street, and 41st Street: hit House of Strut for fine vintage, Forest & Fin for naturally-minded handcrafted goods and Graveface Records & Curiosities for vinyl and oddball collectibles. Night owls can hang with the locals at The Wormhole, a divey neighborhood watering hole with a rotating selection of comedy, live music, trivia, and karaoke almost every night of the week. In town on the first Friday of the month? Stop by the Starland District for a gallery hop.

 

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PHOTO: Casey Jones/Visit Savannah
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Walk Savannah’s Squares

There are 22 squares—small parks designed by Savannah founder General James Oglethorpe—in Savannah’s Historic District. Each has its own special characteristics, from sculptural fountains to historic monuments to beautiful plantings. The trek is best made from north to south; start at Savannah’s iconic River Street, a cobblestone road peppered in restaurants and gift shops overlooking the Savannah River, and begin your trek up the bluff. Pulling out a map and stepping into each and every square is a great way to discover all that downtown has to offer. Finish your self-guided tour with a picnic in the finest “square” of them all: the 30-acre Forsyth Park. Pick up a famous baked cheese and avocado sandwich and lemonade for the occasion from the beloved parkside organic grocer and eatery Brighter Day Natural Foods.

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PHOTO: Casey Jones/Visit Savannah
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Wander The Corridor of Oak Trees at Wormsloe Historic Site

A short drive from downtown lies Wormsloe, the estate of Noble Jones, a crucial member of the first group of English settlers to arrive in Savannah. Though the historic site features many views, including a lush maritime forest and the oldest standing structure in Savannah, its oak-lined entryway is its most famous. For a solid mile, oak trees bow over the estate’s gateway, dripping in Spanish moss and swaying in the salt marsh breeze. After passing through the oak corridor, learn about the estate’s history in the museum and walk the trails to see tabby ruins, interpreters, and native Georgia wildlife.

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Tour the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist

An architectural treasure, the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist is an icon perched on Lafayette Square. With soaring arches, robin’s egg blue ceilings, intricate stained glass windows, and its signature spires, the historic building is a sight to behold. Visitors can stop in for a peek from 9 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. and 12:45 p.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and the church also offers tours led by docents. The Savannah Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus often fill the hallowed halls with song and might be performing during your visit. Visit their website for the schedule.

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