I first visited Savannah 2 years ago, when Conor was considering SCAD as a top college possibility (he’s now finishing up his freshman year there and LOVES it). I’ve been down 3 more times since – our last visit as a family, to coincide with my dad’s 80th – and I fall in love with this city every time I’m there.
The historic district of Savannah is only about 2 miles in each direction, and is charming with a capital “C”. Stunning architecture, beautiful squares and parks – Savannah is a picture-perfect postcard city.
Since Noah would be with us this time, I did a bit of research on “things to do” with kids in Savannah – much like our trip to Austin last year. Turns out there’s a LOT to do!
What we did:
Trolley Tour A trolley tour is the most efficient way to get an overview of Savannah – you’ll see most of the important buildings and landmarks, get the lay of the land and hear a highlighted history. The two big companies – Old Savannah Tours and Old Town Trolley Tours – run pretty much the same way: you purchase your ticket and then can hop on and off as often as you like at about 20 different stops around town. The drivers are all personable and very knowledgable. If you’re traveling with kids I’d probably suggest Old Savannah Tours – they feature “historical re-enactors” who appear from time to time, boarding and walking the aisles of the trolley (think Forrest Gump, Georgia founder General James Oglethorpe, or a pirate from The Pirate’s House restaurant). They’re a bit over the top, but Noah got a kick out of it.
Georgia State Railroad Museum This was definitely one of the highlights for Noah. The museum is a National Historic Landmark, and is the oldest and most complete antebellum railroad manufacturing and repair faciility still in existence in the country. Kids can get a close-up view of a fully operational turntable, learn about the many historic railcars and rolling stock on display, and experience the handcar with the help of the knowledgeable and very friendly staff.
Savannah Children’s Museum Located in Tricentennial Park (alongside the Railroad Museum), the museum is a two-level outdoor exhibit area set in the ruins of the old Central of Georgia Railway Carpentry Shop. There are lots of hands-on exhibits, including an exploration maze, a reading nook and a sensory garden.
We bought a combination ticket for the Railroad and Children’s museums, giving us access over 3 days – which was great as we found ourselves making a return visit to each. The Railroad Museum had a magic show on our 2nd visit, where this happened:
ArtZeum at Jepson Center Jepson Center is the contemporary arm of the Telfair Museums. Housed in a stunning new building, the museum has an impressive collection of contemporary art – including works by Chuck Close, Roy Lichtenstein and Jeff Koons. It’s also home to ArtZeum – a 3,500-square foot interactive gallery for children. Kids can “curate” an exhibit, choosing from reproductions of works from the Telfair Collection. There’s a magnet wall where kids can create art from household items. There are magnetic tiles, architectural blocks, and capital “caps”. And there’s also a very good (and kid-friendly) cafe, and a nice gift shop too.
The Pirates’ House Housed in one of the oldest buildings in Savannah, The Pirates’ House opened in 1753 as an inn for seafarerers (legend has it that Captain Flint from Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island” died in an upstairs room). The restaurant serves classic Southern cuisine, and characters in pirate costume wander through to chat. The kids’ menu turns into a pirate costume, and Noah wasted no time getting into character.
For more fun kiddie spots check out the splash fountain in Ellis Square, as well as Forsyth Park.
Where we eat:
Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room Probably my favorite restaurant. Only open Monday-Friday – and only for lunch – you have to queue up early to get a spot. Once inside you are seated at a communal table, where a seemingly endless array of food emerges – fried chicken, cornbread dressing, sweet potato souffle, black-eyed peas, okra gumbo, corn muffins and biscuits, to name a few. A must-do.
Sisters of the New South It does NOT get more real than this place. Authentic, delicious Southern cooking.
How we shop:
Broughton Street is the main drag for shopping – with all the big chains (Gap, J. Crew, etc.), but vintage shops and unique-to-Savannah spots too. My fave is Prospector Co.. Other nice shopping hubs are City Market (a four-block pedestrian mall filled with retail shops, restaurants and artists’ studios) and River Street – a 9-block row of converted cotton warehouses along the Savannah River, filled with shops, galleries, bars, restaurants and hotels.
Finally (WOW, this was a long post!), there are some SCAD spots you should check out while you’re visiting. SCAD does not have a campus per se, but rather took over and renovated over 60 historic buildings for use as residences and classrooms. You can feel the presence of the school all over the city, which has totally embraced the students. The SCAD Museum of Art is a beautiful example of the university’s commitment to historic preservation. Set within the original walls of an 1850’s railroad depot, this gorgeous museum houses a small but impressive collection of permanent and temporary exhibits.
ShopSCAD is a retail-gallery space where you can purchase works created and designed by SCAD students, alumni and faculty. And Gryphon is a stunning 1920’s apothecary-turned-tea room, staffed by SCAD students (and it’s just 3 blocks from Chippewa Square, where Forrest Gump sat on that famous bench).
Can you tell how much I love this city?
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