The mid-Atlantic is chock full of American history. Boston, New York City, D.C. — all beautiful and interesting locales. But if you’re looking to up your travel game and explore more of how the United States came to be, consider scooching further south to the historically rich city of Savannah, Georgia.
Savannah was colonized by the British in 1733. With blocks and blocks of preserved plantation-style homes centered around beautifully manicured historic squares, it is a place to slow down and savor. You will absolutely fall in love with the old-fashioned charm of this city. It has been dubbed ‘the Hostess City of the South’ for good reason, and it’s bound to make an impression.
As you walk the streets, you’ll be sheltered from the southern sun by hundred-year-old oaks dripping in Spanish moss. You’ll be greeted by monuments, fountains and some notable statues along the way.
Due to its age and historical significance, Savannah will be of natural interest to students of history. Situated on the Atlantic Ocean, at the mouth of the Savannah River, it became an integral part of both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.
Here are just a few of the must-see historical sites Savannah, Georgia has to offer.
First on our list is Forsyth Park. Its iconic fountain adorns many of the postcards tourists send home, and draws them in to take photos and stop for a spell. This fountain is the centerpiece of the park, but luckily not the only great thing about the area. It was erected in 1858 and interestingly enough, was ordered from a catalogue!
Covering 30 acres, the park hosts a children’s play area, walking paths, and a fragrant garden for the blind. It’s a great place to explore, kick up your feet, and snap a few photos.
American Prohibition Museum
Savannah has no open container laws, so you often are encouraged to take your drink to go as you tour the city. Enjoying one of the city’s classic drinks, Chatham Artillery Punch, allows you to literally drink in some history.
Learning more about local drinking habits, you realize how fitting it is that Savannah is home to America’s only Prohibition Museum. Inside, there are 13 different galleries in which to learn about the driest years of America’s History.
The American Prohibition Museum is located in the City Market area, which is also a worthy quarter to tour in its own right and the ideal spot to hunt for souvenirs to take home.
Located down the hill (and some steep, old steps) from the dripping green squares, you can spend an afternoon touring historic River Street and enjoy the views of the Savannah River and the port.
The buildings along the river were originally cotton mills, but have since been converted into shops and restaurants. (You absolutely must stop in and try a sample of the pecan pralines at Savannah Sweets!) Near the end of River Street, you can shop the booths of local artists at the River Street Marketplace for some unique finds. Or, if shopping isn’t your thing, you can catch a ride on the Georgia Queen or Savannah River Queen steamboats for a scenic detour.
The Savannah History Museum
The Savannah History Museum is located in the Central of Georgia Railway Train Shed. Battlefield Memorial Park lies just across from the museum, the site of the Battle of Savannah during the American Revolution.
The Museum spans the history of Savannah, from 1733 all the way to the present day, even featuring some newer pieces of pop culture. If you are a movie fan, you can see the bench where Tom Hanks delivered his famous “box of chocolates” line in the film Forrest Gump. You can also spend some time learning about the founder of the Girl Scouts, Juliette Gordon Low, who was born in Savannah.
While it might seem odd to suggest you visit a cemetery during your visit to Savannah, this one is a must-see for visitors. Bonaventure Cemetery is ranked fourth among Savannah’s 200+ tourist sites by TripAdvisor for good reason, as it’s rich in history, beauty, and mystery.
The preservation society offers free guided tours the weekend of the second Sunday of the month. Tours are held at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, and at 2:00, 2:30, and 3 p.m. on Sunday. However, you can also hire a guided tour with a local company for a variety of times and dates during the week to fit your schedule.
Apart from the gorgeous shade of ancient oak trees and the ubiquitous Spanish moss, the cemetery is dotted with unique and breathtaking memorials for its residents. It’s quite literally a hauntingly beautiful place! While you’re here, you can also visit the graves of musician Johnny Mercer and author Upton Sinclair to pay your respects.
The “Bird Girl” statue, made famous by the book and movie Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is no longer located in the cemetery due to its notoriety; it can now be found in Savannah’s Telfair Museums. But there is still plenty to see during your visit to Bonaventure that will make it worth the trek!
The Telfair Museums
You’ll get great value from your visit to the Telfair Museums! With the purchase of one ticket, you gain access to all three museums and you can spread your visits out over a week.
The Jepson Center opened in 2006 and houses many unique art exhibits and educational opportunities, with over 7,500+ square feet of gallery space. You can spend time exploring the community gallery, education studios, terraces and interactive art exhibits.
The Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters is the site of one of the only intact urban slave quarters in America and provides a unique look into life before the Emancipation Proclamation.
Included in your ticket is access to the Telfair Academy, which opened to the public in 1886 as the first public art museum in the South. It also is the first museum in the United States founded by a woman.
Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum
Given the mantle of Georgia’s “Official Civil Rights Museum”, the Ralph Mark Gilbert is named in honor of the late leader of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Dr. Gilbert is remembered as the father of Savannah’s modern day Civil Rights Movement, and this museum pays tribute both to him and the movement he helped shape.
During your visit, you will learn about the recent and ongoing history of the Civil Rights Movement in the south as you tour the three floors of photographic and interactive exhibits.
There are so many amazing historical sites in Savannah. Your visit will undoubtedly leave a lasting memory after you depart. You’ll be in awe of the city’s beauty, both natural and architectural and it’s history will stick with you.
Have you visited Savannah? What are your favorite places to visit? Let us know!