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How to spend one Day in Savannah, Georgia

How to Spend One Day in Savannah, Georgia

If you have just one day in Savannah, Georgia, then these are ideas you can use as inspiration. It’s quite food and drink focused, because… well, I made this list. But I have included some non-food activities to do as well.

Embarking on a day trip to Savannah, is like stepping into a beautifully preserved page from history, where each cobblestone street, majestic oak tree, and enchanting square tells a story of the past. It is known for its irresistible Southern charm, captivating historic district, and lush green spaces. Savannah offers a treasure trove of experiences for travelers. 

Whether you’re a history buff, foodie, or simply in search of a day filled with beauty and adventure, Savannah has something special in store for you. 

In this post, I guide you through my ideal day in Savannah, from trying the local cuisine, to exploring the picturesque squares.

Stroll Thru the Squares of Downtown

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If you have one day in Savannah, Georgia, make sure to stroll thru the 22 squares that are located around downtown.
Saxophonist in a Square Downtown

Savannah is a city renowned for its well-preserved historic district that notably features 22 picturesque squares. These squares are the heart and soul of downtown, serving as lush, green oases amidst the urban landscape and playing a crucial role in the city’s charm and historical significance. 

They were designed by General James Oglethorpe, the founder of Georgia, as part of a plan to provide communal spaces for the city’s residents and to facilitate military defense.

Each square in Savannah has its own character and history, often named after a significant figure or event in the city’s or nation’s past. They serve as mini-parks, shaded by majestic live oaks draped with Spanish moss, and are surrounded by some of the city’s most important architectural treasures, including historic homes, churches, and museums. The squares are popular gathering spots for locals and tourists alike, offering a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of city life, as well as venues for public events, festivals, and celebrations.

Some of the most notable squares include:

  • Chippewa Square: known for the “Forrest Gump” bench scene
  • Madison Square: highlighted by the monument to Sergeant William Jasper
  • Johnson Square: the oldest and largest square, which serves as a focal point for financial and commercial buildings.

Each square tells a part of Savannah’s story, from its colonial beginnings through the Civil War era and into the present day.

Lunch at Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room

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Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room is a renowned institution in Savannah, celebrated for its traditional Southern cuisine and unique dining experience. This family-style restaurant occupies the ground floor of a 19th-century boarding house, offering guests a taste of genuine Southern hospitality and home cooking.

Opened in 1943 by Sema Wilkes, Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room has maintained its commitment to serving hearty, homemade meals in a communal setting. The restaurant operates much like a large family gathering, where guests are seated at tables for ten and dishes are passed around, encouraging conversation and camaraderie among diners, most of whom will be strangers at the start of the meal.

The menu at Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room features a rotating selection of classic Southern dishes, including fried chicken, cornbread dressing, sweet potato souffle, collard greens, black-eyed peas, and more. Each meal is accompanied by a variety of sides and desserts.

One of the most distinctive aspects of dining at Mrs. Wilkes’ is that this lunch-only restaurant does not take reservations, so a line often forms outside the door before it opens. Despite the wait, many visitors consider the experience of dining at Mrs. Wilkes’ to be a highlight of their visit to Savannah, offering not just a meal, but a memorable experience that captures the essence of Southern cooking and hospitality.

Try Local Cuisine: Low Country Boil

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When you visit Savannah, make sure to try the local cuisine such as the Low Country Boil.
Low Country Boil

The Low Country Boil is a hearty feast that is deeply embedded in the culinary traditions of Savannah and the surrounding Low Country region. This simple dish captures the essence of coastal living, bringing together the sea and the earth into a single pot. 

Traditionally composed of shrimp, sausage, corn on the cob, and new potatoes, the ingredients are seasoned with a blend of spices and boiled to perfection. The Low Country Boil is also known as Frogmore Stew or Beaufort Boil in some locations. And it has roots that trace back to the local Gullah-Geechee communities, former West African slaves who have significantly influenced the region’s cuisine.

In Savannah, the Low Country Boil is more than just a meal. It’s a social event that epitomizes Southern hospitality and communal enjoyment. Gatherings, family reunions, and outdoor parties often feature this dish as a centerpiece, inviting people to gather around newspaper-covered tables to share in the feast directly from the pot, fostering a sense of community and togetherness.

Wander Forsythe Park

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Forsythe Park is one of the largest and most popular parks in Savannah.
Forsythe Park

Forsyth Park is one of the largest and most iconic public parks in Savannah, spanning approximately 30 acres in the historic district. Named after John Forsyth, a former governor of Georgia and U.S. Secretary of State, the park is a hub of social and recreational activities, drawing both locals and tourists with its scenic beauty and vibrant atmosphere.

Established in the 1840s, Forsyth Park is distinguished by its expansive, open green spaces, shaded walking paths, and the stunning Forsyth Fountain at its north end, which was installed in 1858 and has become a symbol of Savannah. The fountain, with its ornate details and water features, is particularly popular as a backdrop for photography.

The park serves as a community gathering spot, hosting various events throughout the year, including concerts, farmers’ markets, and outdoor movies, making it a vital part of the city’s cultural life.

It has recreational facilities, which include tennis and basketball courts, and areas for soccer and Frisbee. But Forsyth Park is also home to memorials that honor historical figures and events, adding a layer of educational value to its natural and recreational attractions. The Confederate Memorial, dedicated to the Confederate dead, is among the notable monuments within the park.

Forsyth Park is more than just a green space; it is a living, breathing part of Savannah that reflects the city’s history, culture, and community spirit. Whether for a leisurely stroll, a picnic, or to partake in one of its many public events, Forsyth Park offers a picturesque slice of Savannah life.

Sip on a Chatham Artillery Punch

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When visiting Savannah, try a Chatham Artillery Punch.
Chatham Artillery Punch at River House

Chatham Artillery Punch is a potent, alcoholic punch that has a storied history in Savannah. It’s famously associated with the Chatham Artillery, one of the oldest military organizations in the United States. This unit was formed by Savannah citizens who wished to organize a well-regulated militia for the defense of their city and state.

The punch’s origins are somewhat murky and clouded with anecdotes, but it’s believed to have been created in the late 18th century for the militia’s gatherings and celebrations. And officers likely sneaked in whatever alcohol they had available.

The recipes for Chatham Artillery Punch have evolved over time, but a traditional recipe might include rum, brandy, and bourbon as the base spirits, complemented by sugar, lemon juice, and champagne or sparkling wine. Some versions also incorporate tea as a diluting agent and to add a subtle depth of flavor.

It’s known for being deceptively strong, with a sweet taste that masks the high alcohol content. Traditionally, it’s made in large batches and served at gatherings, celebrations, and special occasions, contributing to its reputation as a social lubricant and a celebratory staple.

And with Savannah’s open container laws, you can order one to-go to enjoy while you walk around and explore downtown.

Dinner at The Olde Pinke House

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The Olde Pink House is one of the best restaurants in Savannah, Georgia.
The Olde Pink House

The Olde Pink House is perhaps the best known and certainly one of the most romantic restaurants in Savannah. It is also a cherished landmark and historic mansion known for its distinctive pink façade and its place in the heart of Savannah’s rich history. 

This Georgian mansion was built in 1771 for James Habersham Jr., one of Savannah’s most prominent early cotton factors and a leading advocate for the colony’s independence. It was constructed of red brick, which, over time, has been covered with pink stucco that gives the building its iconic appearance and name. 

The interior of the Olde Pink House is as captivating as its exterior, with multiple dining rooms that retain the original colonial charm through architectural details like wood floors, fireplaces, and period decorations. The restaurant is famous for providing an elegant dining experience in a setting filled with the charm and history of old Savannah.

In addition to its main dining areas, the Olde Pink House also features the Planters Tavern, a cozy, atmospheric bar located in the mansion’s basement. The tavern offers a more casual atmosphere, with live music, cocktails, and lighter fare, all enveloped by the building’s historic ambiance.

Alternatives: If you are willing to go past Forsythe Park, then Elizabeth’s on 37th is one of the best restaurants in Savannah and also has a romantic setting. Or closer to the river, The Grey or Alligator Soul both have great southern food.

Dessert at Leopold's Ice Cream

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Leopold's Ice Cream has been an institution in Savannah for over 100 years.
Leopold's Ice Cream

Leopold’s Ice Cream is an iconic ice cream parlor founded in 1919 by three brothers from Greece—George, Peter, and Basil Leopold. In the summer evenings, it is common to see a line of people waiting to order the home-made ice cream.

The parlor has an old-fashioned charm, featuring a retro decor that transports patrons back in time to the early 20th century. This includes a black-and-white tiled floor, vintage soda fountain, and antique wooden booths, as well as a jukebox that adds to the ambiance with tunes from the past. 

In addition to ice cream, Leopold’s offers a variety of sundaes, milkshakes, floats, and sandwiches, making it a full-service soda fountain. It is the place to go for an after-dinner dessert.

Rooftop Drinks at The Grove Rooftop

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The Grove has one of the best rooftop bars in Savannah, GA
The Grove Rooftop

While it hasn’t been around as long as other establishments in Savannah, The Grove is has become one of the best places for happy hour and evening drinks.

One of The Grove’s standout features is the rooftop bar, which provides views of Savannah’s historic district. This space is particularly popular for its ambiance, offering an ideal setting for enjoying sunset drinks, social gatherings, or simply taking in the sights and sounds of the city from above. Plus, there is often live music.

The rooftop food menu is relatively limited with a few appetizers and sandwiches, but a more complete dinner menu is available in the first-floor restaurant.

Alternative: Go for chocolate martinis at LuLu’s Chocolate Bar