I made my first trip to Savannah in the spring of 1996 as part of a multi-day field trip to study architecture. Mesmerized by the sheer volume of historic structures preserved in this riverside town, I would later make historic preservation tax credits part of my practice as an attorney before abandoning the practice of law to write for Forbes and ESPN.
Although historic preservation is no longer part of my career, it’s still one of my favorite things about Savannah, alongside the walkability, lack of open container laws and growing foodie culture. Only a two-hour drive from where we live on Amelia Island, I often visit multiple times a year—and not only am I never disappointed, I also never get tired of this Southern gem.
Friends often come to me for advice on where to stay, eat, drink and otherwise seek out merriment in Savannah. So, I give you this post on my very favorite things to see and do in Savannah.
Best Hotel: Bohemian Hotel Savannah Riverfront
I have stayed in about a dozen different hotels in Savannah and three short-term rental houses/condos. But, by far, my favorite is the Bohemian Hotel Savannah Riverfront.
The list of the Bohemian’s positive attributes goes on and on: rooms with balconies that overlook River Street and the Savannah River, original artwork more befitting a private residence than a hotel, exposed brick and hardwood floors that add to the historic flavor, one of the most hospital staffs I’ve ever encountered, a fantastic restaurant (Rocks on the River) and a rooftop bar with the best views in the city (Rocks on the Roof).
If I didn’t love the rest of Savannah so much, I’d never even need to leave the hotel to have a nice time on a trip here. It’s one of the pricier options in Savannah, so I don’t always treat myself to a stay here, but even when I stay elsewhere I always find myself in the restaurant or at the bar and wishing I had booked a room.
Best Vacation Rental Company: Savannah Luxury Rentals
I often find myself in town for girls’ weekends and bachelorette parties, so I’ve rented houses and condos from three different companies in town. Earlier this year, I stayed in a condo in an amazing location but with horrific noise issues. Still enamored with the location, I contacted Mary at Savannah Luxury Rentals about another condo in the building for another stay I was planning for the following month.
Mary texted back and forth with me a dozen or more times, answering all of my questions about the noise issues I had elsewhere in the building and assuring me I would have a wonderful stay in another part of the building. She got me all set up with a two-bedroom condo for a girls’ weekend I had planned with a friend, and we had a fantastic stay. Mary couldn’t have been easier to work with, and I’ll be calling her again next time I need a condo or house in town.
Best View: Rocks on the Roof
If you’re looking to enjoy great views while you enjoy a perfectly-crafted cocktail, Rocks on the Roof is the way to go. A balcony encircling the rooftop bar at Rocks on the River allows you to take in the river or the city—or both if you snag the right spot.
The vibe here is very hip and modern, and the barrel-aged cocktails never disappoint. It was tough not to name it for “Best Bar,” but I wanted an excuse to tell you about all four of my favorite bars in town (see also “Best Entertainment” and Best Dive Bar”).
Best Bar: Planter’s Tavern
It took me far too many years to discover Planter’s Tavern, but I might not have appreciated it at a younger age. This small, candlelit basement-level bar is tucked underneath one of the most popular restaurants in town, The Olde Pink House Restaurant (also worth a visit). If you’re looking for a romantic spot, or simply a slower, quieter evening, this is the spot.
If you’re really lucky, you’ll be there one of the nights Diana is at the piano. If you close your eyes, you’ll think you’re listening to Carole King.
Best Dive Bar: Kevin Barry’s Pub
One of the first bars I ever went to in Savannah was Kevin Barry’s Pub, a great bar on River Street that often features live Irish music. There’s nothing fancy or modern about this bar, but it’s a Savannah institution that draws in just as many locals as tourists.
Beware, however: one of the longtime performers doesn’t tolerate speaking during his music. My friend and I were singled out and yelled at by him 14 years ago and I still haven’t recovered.
And yet, it’s still one of the stops I have to make every trip to Savannah for old time’s sake.
Best Entertainment: Savannah Smiles
To round out my favorite bars, there’s Savannah Smiles if you want some entertainment to go with your favorite adult beverage. It was my first introduction to a dueling piano bar, and I’ve been seeking them out on my travels ever since. We even had dueling pianos at our wedding reception!
If belting out your favorite 80s tune while taking a jello shot out of a plastic syringe sounds like a good time, they’ve got you covered. As you can imagine, it’s popular with the bachelor/bachelorette party crowd, but it’s tamer and a more mature crowd earlier in the evening.
Best Brunch: The Ordinary Pub
I’m a creature of habit, so sometimes I get in the bad habit of not trying new places when I visit Savannah. However, when I spot a sandwich board on the sidewalk for $10 bottomless mimosas and the tagline “Brunch Life,” I tend to stop and take notice.
Since discovering The Ordinary Pub on Broughton Street last spring, I’ve eaten here five times in four visits. They serve brunch seven days a week and offer the $10 bottomless mimosas from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. (except Sundays when they can’t serve alcohol until 12:30 p.m.) and also offer a gastropub menu for the evening hours.
I’m partial to the grilled cheese (swiss, gouda & cheddar with cranberry jam) and tomato basil soup and the friends I’ve taken have all enjoyed the Avocado Smash. You really can’t go wrong with anything on the menu.
And if you order the bottomless mimosas, you’ll get a “Tigosa” to take with you when you leave. Hard to beat.
Best Coffee/Tea: The Coffee Fox
Prefer a local coffee shop to that big national chain (you know the one I’m talking about)? Hit up The Coffee Fox on Broughton Street. I stumbled upon this corner coffee shop while staying at a condo nearby, and now it’s a must-visit for me on every trip.
I’m not a huge coffee person, but they also have a wonderful selection of teas and a friendly, helpful staff.
Best Butter: River House
Yes, the butter is so good at River House that it deserves its own category. They make their own mixture with blue cheese and serve it with wonderful hot dinner rolls—I don’t even like blue cheese, but this butter is unbelievable and I can’t get enough.
They also have good steaks and seafood, so it’s worth going even if blue cheese butter isn’t your thing. And make sure you read the placemat, as it has the intriguing story of Chatham Artillery Punch, an important part of Savannah history.
Best Tour: Savannah Hauntings Ghost Tour
Over the years, I’ve been on nearly every ghost tour in Savannah—and as one of the country’s most haunted cities, there are a lot of them. However, the Savannah Hauntings Ghost Tour has always been my favorite. I even have a signed copy of the owner’s book, Savannah Hauntings.
If you’re thinking a ghost tour sounds hokey, I assure you it is not. I’d say these tours are 80% history and 20% ghostly, so you’ll learn plenty about the founding of Savannah, its battle with Yellow Fever and General Sherman’s occupation during the Civil War.
And, maybe you’ll feel differently about ghosts by the time you’re done.
Best Photo Spot: Forsyth Park
I could spend all day, every day walking around Savannah taking photos of everything from the architecture to the flower-filled squares. One of the most popular spots for photographs, however, is Forsyth Park.
On any given day you’re likely to see everything from a pick-up soccer game to a wedding on the great expanse of green lawn. Perfectly manicured, the main focal point of this park is a large fountain at its center. That’s where you’ll want to snag your pictures—selfies or otherwise.
Best Art Gallery: Daedalus Gallery
Chadd and I have become amateur art collectors over the past couple of years, so any time we see a gallery we generally duck inside. We passed the Daedalus Gallery on a trip last spring but found it closed, so we tried again on our most recent trip and wound up spending a good chunk of our day inside.
The Daedalus Gallery is owned by artist Jacqueline Carcagno and is filled with her own artwork hung alongside her late husband William Weyman’s paintings. We were immediately drawn to her work as we flipped through giclees of French scenery in the impressionist style—something we’ve purchased in the past.
A lovely woman with a beautiful story about meeting her husband and living in France, Costa Rica and Savannah painting with him, it was easy to want to own a piece of her work and preserve that feeling of kinship we had with her in the gallery. We took home an original oil on canvas of a scene in a market in Aix-en-Provence and we hope to return in the future to purchase a beautiful Savannah scene painted by her late husband.
When you visit Savannah, do yourself a favor and venture into this gallery at the corner of Liberty and Abercorn and meet the wonderful Jacqueline for yourself.