One Day in Savannah: Mini-Itinerary for a Perfect Day Trip

One of the most interesting and visually stunning places you’ll find is the coastal city of Savannah, GA!

This historical and haunted city is home to Georgian-style architecture, towering green trees adorned with willowy Spanish moss, and one of the premiere art colleges in the USA!

Keep reading to learn about all the places to go and things to do in this gorgeous city — all laid out easily so you can tackle the best of Savannah in a one-day trip!

This post was written by Rachel Elliott, an Atlanta, Georgia local who frequently visits Savannah. 

What to Know Before Visiting Savannah

view of savannah's historic buildings, churches, and bridges from above on a sunny day
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Flying into Savannah

The Savannah/Hilton Head Airport is the nearest airport, located a short distance from downtown Savannah, only about 8 miles away.

Over a dozen airlines serve the airport, including Allegiant Air, American Airlines, Delta Airlines, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue, Southwest Airlines, and United Airlines.

Depending on your departure city, many flights will have a stopover in Atlanta first.

Renting a Car in Savannah

If you’re using one day in Savannah as a launching pad to travel to other nearby destinations — such as Hilton Head, Tybee Island, and Charleston — you’ll definitely want to rent a car for your road trip.

I always use Discover Cars to find the best price available for my car rental. They search over 500 different agencies in order to find the lowest price possible. Check car rentals in Savannah here!

That said, if you’re just visiting Savannah as a day trip from elsewhere, you won’t need to rent a car, especially for this one day Savannah itinerary — everything on here is walkable!

Where to Stay

Photo Credit: Brent Moore via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

If you’re only visiting for a day in Savannah, you may not need to spend the night. However, if you do, I suggest picking somewhere centrally located.

Here are a few suggestions:

BUDGET | The Thunderbird Inn is a funky revitalized motel from the 1960s is now a delightful place to stay close to Savannah’s downtown area, just a 5-minute walk away. It has fun vintage features and design that you’ll love the retro feel of!

Check rates, reviews, and availability here.

MID-RANGE | The Justine Inn is a charming, historic B&B in a cute French-Renaissance style mansion that dates back to 1877. The rooms are really elegantly designed and it’s an absolute visual delight!

Check rates, reviews, and availability here.

LUXURY | Perry Lane Hotel is the best option in town for a bit of that luxe life! Get greeted with complimentary champagne and enjoy the beautiful design of this stunning boutique hotel located right on Chippewa Square. Enjoy the rooftop bar, pool area, and other 5* amenities.

Check rates, reviews, and availability here.

Best Time to Visit Savannah

blooming azalea bushes in the springtime in savannah georgia

Savannah has a similar climate to other Deep South destinations, although its position near the coast offers up a bit more breeziness to cut through the heat and humidity.

Summers in Savannah are long, hot, and humid — it may be best to visit during another time of year if you can!

The most pleasant months for a Savannah getaway are the shoulder season months of spring and fall (April-May and October-November).

Winter is also a great time to visit Savannah!

Winter temperatures are mild — typically around 60° F in the daytime and 40° F overnight — making it a great time to do activities that would be unpleasant in the summer, like walking tours.

What This Savannah Itinerary Skips

spanish moss draping from the trees (oak trees) in savannah's cemetery bonaventure cemetery

With only one day in Savannah, we’ve had to make a few cuts in order to make it doable as a day trip… meaning a few important places are not on this itinerary.

One thing we’ve cut is the Wormsloe Historic Site, a plantation that is (unfortunately) better-known for its “Instagrammable” live oak avenue leading up to it than for the horrors that happened here.

You can certainly visit, but I encourage you to do so with a critical eye, and ask what stories are being told and what stories are being erased.

There are also some places that are commonly featured on Savannah travel guides, like Bonaventure Cemetery, one of the oldest cemeteries in Savannah.

It’s a beautiful place, but it’s a bit out of the way if you only have one day in Savannah.

Optional Reading

If you’re the type of traveler who likes to read a bit about your destination before your trip, skip the Savannah travel guide book and instead, grab a copy of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt.

This book enjoyed one of the longest streaks on the NYT bestseller list for a reason! While technically a work of nonfiction, it reads like fiction and is gripping, compelling, and tells Savannah’s story beautifully.

One Day in Savannah Itinerary

Morning: Savannah Historic District & Savannah’s Squares

Wander around the Savannah Historic District.

stairs of old buildings and facades in the savannah historic district - where to stay your one day in savannah itinerary

The perfect way to start off your day in Savannah is exploring the Savannah Historic District!

Various museums, architecturally stunning buildings from the 18th century and 19th century, and historic attractions are situated amongst the tree-lined streets of this section of the city.

For getting around, you can walk, bike, or take a trolley tour. If you’re up for it, walking around the city is perhaps the best way to explore historic Savannah.

Additionally, Savannah has a bike sharing program, which allows you to rent bikes located throughout the city.

Old Town Trolley Tours transports you to 15 set locations throughout the city, and you can get off and back on as you like.

Grab a tasty coffee and breakfast snack.

Photo Credit: Jack Kennard via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

To start off your day on the right foot, grab a coffee and some breakfast food.

Luckily, Savannah has a fantastic array of local coffee shops to choose from — here are three of our favorite choices.

  • The Foxy Loxy Cafe is a coffee shop and Tex-Mex cafe frequented by the art college students. Try the Horchata, which is Mexican sweetened milk served over ice.
  • Another staple in the city is Savannah Coffee Roasters. In addition to their coffee menu, they also offer brunch dishes like Belgian waffles, quiches, and egg scrambles.
  • The Sentient Bean is an eclectic coffee shop, where you can grab a latte and dishes breakfast burritos. After you’ve ordered, settle in at one of their comfortable tables to savor your food and drink!

Take a stroll through Forsyth Park.

the fountain with a statue in forsyth park with trees, greenery, and spanish moss

A real gem in the Historic District is Forsyth Park. This 30-acre park is full of azalea bushes, tall oak trees, and a spectacular fountain!

You can walk around the park to enjoy the fresh air and surrounding scenery. This is a great photo spot to take some great shots to remember your trip.

Check out some of Savannah’s architectural gems.

cathedral of saint john in savannah with white and royal blue ceiling with stars and wooden pews and a reddish altar with nave

Savannah is home to lots of visually interesting buildings, with one of those being The Gingerbread House.

Head over to this property, which is a prime display of Steamboat Gothic architecture — a unique style of architecture you’ll only find in the American South.

The Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist is also one of the most incredible historical site not just in Savannah, but in the USA! Come here for stunning architecture and make sure you have your camera.

Check out the Mercer-Williams House.

reddish brick building with four white pillars and several windows with juliet balconies and decorative black detail on the windows and greenery in front of house

Another interesting place along here is the Mercer-Williams House on Bull Street, done in the Italianate style.

This historic house is where the murder that inspired the true crime nonfiction work, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, took place.

As a result, many fans of the book (and the movie based on the book) opt to take a tour of the house while they’re visiting. You’ll want to make a reservation online ahead of time if so!

Explore the historic Chippewa Square.

sign for chippewa square in front of some plants, with a statue visible in the distance surrounded by trees in the square

One of the most historic squares in Savannah is Chippewa Square. The name comes from The Battle of Chippewa, fought during the War of 1812.

However, Chippewa Square is most famous for its time on the silver screen. Remember in Forrest Gump, when Forrest waited for the bus?

The location for that iconic scene was none other than Chippewa Square!

Come here to stroll under the towering trees and Spanish moss, or sit on one of the benches and take in your incredible surroundings.

This beautifully green and scenic space is the type of atmosphere that Savannah is known for! It feels like you’ve been transported to a magical place, and it’s a really special experience.

Admire the Savannah Theatre.

vertical sign reading savannah in front of the historic theatre
Photo Credit: Brent Moore via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

After visiting Chippewa Square, check out the nearby Savannah Theatre. Look for its trademark vintage marquee and vertical lit-up Savannah sign — another great photo spot!

This historic property opened in 1818 with a performance of the comedy “The Soldier’s Daughter”.

And today, you can still catch a live performance!

Check out the spooky Colonial Park Cemetery.

sign for colonial park cemetery with trees and gravestones in the background

Not far from Chippewa Square, you’ll find the Colonial Park Cemetery which dates back to the late 18th century.

This cemetery is the final resting place of many Revolutionary War soldiers, and it’s said to be one of the more haunted places in Savannah!

Haunted or not, it is a beautiful place to go for a stroll and learn a bit about Savannah’s centuries-old history.

Explore the Savannah College of Art & Design area.

facade at the savannah college of art & design

The city is home to one of the premiere art colleges in the U.S., the Savannah College of Art & Design, otherwise known as SCAD.

A truly unique feature of Savannah is the juxtaposition of having a very contemporary art college nestled amongst the cobblestone streets and Georgian style architecture.

If you enjoy art, check out the SCAD Museum of Art. This modern art museum features a variety of exhibitions from international artists, and they also have film screenings and lectures.

For something a little different, SCADstory is an immersive 4D exhibit about the college, where you can take a trip through SCAD’s history that covers four decades.

For book nerds, the Ex Libris Bookstore is a fun place to scope out.

You can see where the SCAD students shop for their books and art supplies, and the interior of the store has some interesting design elements!

Grab a bite to eat in Savannah’s City Market.

sign that reads city market outside of savannah shops

One of the most bustling areas in Savannah is City Market. This open-air market dates back centuries, and has become one of the most popular destinations in the city!

This is a great place to walk around for a bit, with different kinds of shops to explore and several dining options.

It’s typically buzzing with people strolling the area, and there is a palpable sense of excitement.

This is a great place to grab a bite for lunch, as there are casual and formal options. Here are a few of our suggestions:

  • Belford’s Savannah is a nice restaurant for delicious seafood, steaks, and a relaxing drink — great if you want a slightly upscale meal.
  • Vinnie Van Go-Go’s is a great spot to pop in for some New York style pizza.

There is a fun and diverse selection of shops and boutiques to browse at City Market. It’s a great place for window shopping, and easy to venture in and out of places that catch your interest.

The City Market stalls sell a wide variety of things, include jewelry, food, clothing, souvenirs, and even toys!

In addition to the shops, there are several art galleries to view pieces on display.

Another cool place to visit here is the American Prohibition Museum, which chronicles the story of Prohibition.

Take a step back in time and explore more than 20 exhibits, and then visit the nearby speakeasy for a perfectly crafted drink!

If no food is piquing your interest here, you may want to grab lunch at Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room, a famous Savannah diner, open from 11 AM to 2 PM, weekdays only.

Take a narrated riverboat harbor sightseeing cruise.

a white and red riverboat in savannah with a bridge in the distance, docked and ready for people to get on board

One of the best things about Savannah is its location on Georgia’s coast, and therefore its close proximity to water.

Getting out on a riverboat to cruise along the waterfront is a must-do activity in the city!

This riverboat harbor sightseeing cruise is the perfect activity to include on your one day itinerary when visiting Savannah.

Over one and a half hours, you’ll listen to commentary from the captain as they discuss Savannah’s history.

Take in the sights of the waterfront as you slowly make your way along the river!

It’s a cool way to see the Savannah in a different light, and it is also a prime photo opportunity.

The cruise goes all the way to Old Fort Jackson, where you’ll get the unique experience of seeing and hearing the active cannons.

This Savannah riverboat cruise is a perfect activity to take a break from walking all over the city. Relax your feet and enjoy some time on the water, enjoying the cool breezes!

Book your riverboat cruise online here!

Take a stroll down River Street.

sunset scene at river street, with cobblestone, fall trees, american flags in savannah

One of the things Savannah is best known for is its riverfront — and since we just experienced it from the water, let’s go over it by foot next.

River Street overlooks the Savannah River, and was the site of the original port of Savannah.

Today, this electric area is home to shops, restaurants, and events throughout the year.

This is the perfect place to traverse the cobblestone streets and browse all that this area has to offer!

One of the most popular and famous attractions is River Street Sweets.

Pick up some of their world famous pralines, and try not to be tempted by all the incredible treats in the shop.

Pop into True Grits, which has been selling gifts and apparel on River Street since the 1970s. This is a great place to grab some souvenirs for yourself and others!

If you just snacked earlier and now you’re getting hungry, there is a good selection of dining establishments in the area. Here are two suggestions.

  • For an incredible view, head over to the Electric Moon Skytop Lounge + The Moon Deck. Enjoy food and a drink as you gaze out over the waterfront!
  • At Churchill’s Pub, you can dine in their open air terrace, wine cellar, or street level main bar. This is a great place to unwind and rest for a while.

River Street is one of Savannah’s most treasured destinations, so be sure to make your way to this part of town when you’re here!

Learn some of Savannah’s history at the Owens-Thomas House.

exterior of the owens thomas house, now a museum that covers the living conditions of enslaved people as well as the history of this house

A historically significant and educationally important site to visit in Savannah is the Owens-Thomas House, run by Telfair Museums.

This mansion was constructed in 1819, and included a carriage house, gardens, and slave quarters.

The family that built the home, the Richardsons, used the labor of free and enslaved men to erect the property.

A little over a decade later, the mayor of Savannah purchased the residence. He moved in his wife and children, as well as a dozen enslaved people, who lived in the slave quarters.

Here, you can take a guided tour and learn about the people who lived here and were forced to build this property in the nineteenth century.

There are several exhibits to experience, many of which center the experience of the enslaved people who were forced into labor at the Owens-Thomas House.

There are also period rooms with antique items which you can visit to get a sense of what life looked like back in the 1800s.

This is an interesting and informative place to visit, and it will provide insight to a time period that should not be forgotten.

Go on an evening ghost tour.

a dark shot of savannah at night

Despite Savannah’s charming and almost fairytale-like atmosphere, it is actually known as America’s most haunted city.

Perhaps it’s not that surprising, given Savannah’s history, marked by its role in the Atlantic slave trade and its battles during the Civil War.

To learn more of Savannah’s haunted history, the Ghosts & Gravestones Trolleybus Sightseeing Tour is an interesting way to interact with this history!

As you board the fittingly-themed black trolley, you will be greeted by your guide for the evening. Then, you’re off for a tour of haunted destinations onboard the so-called ‘Trolley of the Doomed’!

One of the areas this tour will take you to are River Street’s Perkins and Sons Ship Chandlery.

This nautical establishment is a shipwares shop that has historical items on display — and is supposedly haunted by spirits, with several apparitions sighted.

You will also pass by the Columbia Square and Ellis Square in the Historic District, as well as Madison Square by the Savannah Waterfront Association District.

Sit back and listen to your guide tell creepy tales and Savannah history, all while exploring the dark, shadowy streets of Savannah.

Book your ghost trolley sightseeing tour here!

End your day with delicious Southern fare at the Olde Pink House restaurant.

Photo Credit: Samantha via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

One of Savannah’s most well known restaurants is The Olde Pink House restaurant. Here, you can feast on elevated Southern dishes, in one of the city’s historic mansions.

As far as the name of the restaurant goes, what does the color pink have to do with it? The origin of the name dates back to when the property was built in the eighteenth century.

Red bricks were used for construction, and then they were enclosed in white plaster.

For some reason, the red bricks would appear through the white plaster, making the visual appearance of the building pink.

After the property changed hands a few times, a new owner purchased the residence in 1920.

They made the decision to just paint the whole mansion pink, hence the name!

Some of the dishes you can order here include jumbo sea scallops, crispy scored flounder, and pecan crusted chicken breast.

The sides include southern staples like collard greens, mac & cheese, and fried green tomatoes.

This is Southern food at its finest!

Grab dessert at Leopold’s Ice Cream afterwards.

pink building with sign that reads leopolds ice cream
Photo Credit: Katarina via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Having dessert at Leopold’s Ice Cream is a Savannah tradition, and it’d be rude to skip it even if you only have one day in Savannah!

This is where you’ll find the best ice cream in the city — and the lines to match!

Luckily, the line moves pretty quickly, so you can spend it making up your mind of which of the dozens of flavors you want to try!

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