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10 things to know before you arrive to Savannah

Your guide to Savannah / 10 things to know before you arrive in Savannah

10 things to know before you arrive in Savannah

Savannah

Historic buildings and cobblestone streets meet the metropolitan conveniences of creative eateries and vibrant shopping districts in Savannah, Georgia's oldest city. With plenty to see and do, here’s what you to know before you visit the historic city of Savannah.

For easy reference: Video transcript
For easy reference: Video transcript
Savannah's Weather
What makes Savannah unique?
Getting around Savannah
Savannah’s history
Savannah's Weather

Savannah’s weather

Savannah has a humid, subtropical climate characterized by long, steamy summers with frequent thunderstorms and short, mild winters that rarely see snow. The nearby Atlantic coastline sees Savannah enjoy much milder temperatures than Georgia's interior cities.

Experts agree warm weather and abundant festivals crowding the Savannah calendar from March to July make these months perfect for visiting. However, with so many tourists sharing the same view, accommodation and flights can be expensive during this time. 

Once Christmas travelers return home, you can usually find a good deal during January and February, so long as you don't mind the chill. For more bargains with warmer weather, consider traveling from mid-September to mid-November. The summer crowds have gone home, so there's less demand for hotels and airlines, and the mercury has dipped to make sightseeing more pleasant. 

What makes Savannah unique?

What makes Savannah unique?

Historic Buildings

Photo of U.S. Customs House
U.S. Customs House - Savannah Attractions

With a host of attractions and landmarks, there’s so many things to do in Savannah. The Savannah Historic District showcases beautiful architecture with 18th- and 19th-century buildings that include:

Shopping

Savannah City Market
Savannah City Market

Savannah is the ideal place for some retail therapy. The city boasts several shopping districts designed to cater for all tastes and budgets, so it's the ideal place for finding souvenirs of your stay and gifts for loved ones at home. Shop up a storm at local shopping districts, including:

Restaurants

Photo of The Grey's mahi mahi dish
The Grey: mahi mahi - Savannah Food and Drink

When hunger strikes, Savannah's eateries have you covered. The city is known for having some of the best restaurants in the South from fine dining to holes-in the-wall that serve homey Southern food. Savannah restaurants celebrate the city's heritage while embracing modern culinary trends. 

Tybee Island

Photo of a beach on Tybee Island
Tybee Island - Savannah Destinations

Escape Savannah’s city limits and take the 13-mile drive to Tybee Island for its tranquil sandy beaches. But you can also kayak along its rivers and enjoy amazing views from the top of the Tybee Lighthouse. The laidback nature of Tybee Island offers fun hole-in-the-wall restaurants like The Breakfast Club and Bubba Gumbo’s.

Art galleries

Photo of Telfair museum
Telfair museum - Savannah Art

While Savannah is a historic city, its galleries represent its contemporary side. Browse these artistic spaces to discover pieces to challenge and change your thinking. Savannah is home to several modern art galleries, including:

Nightlife

Photo of concert at Saddle Bags - Savannah Nightlife
Saddle Bags - Savannah Nighlife

The fun doesn't stop in Savannah once the sun goes down. The Historic District and River Street are the places to be, so grab a plastic “to-go” cup and walk the city. Yep, you can bring your drink with you as you walk between locations. The area is at its most vibrant around St. Patrick's Day, when Savannah's large Irish population celebrates its heritage. Leading local nightspots include:

If you don't want to indulge, you'll find coffee shops with live music, theaters, comedy clubs and movie theaters all serving late-night entertainment without the booze. 

Getting around Savannah

Getting around Savannah

Walking

Savannah is a very pedestrian-friendly city, with flat streets and plenty of attractions located close together. It's possible to spend days exploring all downtown Savannah offers on foot. The Historic District is especially walkable, with abundant attractions, parks and more than 100 restaurants all within a 3-mile radius. However, if you want to venture further than your legs can comfortably take you, there are a few different options.

Cycling

If you'd prefer exploring the city on two wheels, you'll be happy to learn Savannah is recognized as a bronze level bicycle-friendly community by the League of American Bicyclists. Join the Chatham Area Transit (CAT) Bike program before you arrive in Savannah and you can take advantage of the city's innovative bike loan system. Use your CAT card to unlock a bike from a certified station and return it to any station in the city.

Public buses

CAT also operates the local public bus service. There are 15 fixed public bus routes, including the 100x Airport Express service, which transports air travelers from Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport to the Joe Murray Rivers, Jr. Intermodal Transit Center, via popular downtown hotels. One-way fares are affordable at just $1.50, but if you're planning an extended stay, you'll enjoy the discounts of a weekly or monthly pass.


While CAT buses are inexpensive, many tourists find they are satisfied with the service of DOT, a free-fare shuttle service operating in downtown Savannah. The DOT stops at 24 locations in the Historic District and the Savannah Belles Ferry port. Shuttles run every 10 minutes, so you're never left waiting too long for the next one to arrive. The shuttles are ADA-accessible and equipped with free Wi-Fi. Services do stop at 7 p.m. on Mondays to Saturdays and 6 p.m. on Sundays, though, so make alternative transport arrangement if you want a big night out.

Ferry

Photo of Savannah Ferry Boat
Ferry - Savannah Transportation

The Savannah Belles Ferry connects downtown Savannah with nearby Hutchinson Island and the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center. A ferry ride is one of the most scenic ways to admire Savannah. The ferries, modeled after the boats that traveled around Savannah's harbor a century ago, were named after the group of women who helped shape the city. All services are ADA-accessible. The ferry operates from 7 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. daily, although its service may be interrupted in bad weather.

Uber

Uber drivers service the entire Savannah-Hilton Head area. Taking an Uber is a great way to get to where you want to go fast while meeting the locals. Cashless payments also make the city's Ubers very convenient.

Tours

If these options don't appeal to you, you can always take a tour of the city. Guided tours can provide insight into the city's history and attractions from a trolley, a horse-drawn carriage, a Segway and more.

With its rich history and buzzing contemporary facilities, Savannah is a city worth exploring. Let this urban center welcome you with its Southern hospitality on your next vacation.

Savannah Hilton Head International Airport

Photo of Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport
Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport - Savannah Transportation

Air travelers arrive in Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport, (SAV), Savannah's only airport. The airport lies 8 miles northwest of Savannah's central business district, just off Interstate 95. It is the second-busiest airport in Georgia after Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport also serves as Gulfstream Aerospace's world headquarters and the base for the Georgia Air National Guard's 165th Airlift Wing.

 Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport welcomes airlines from a number of leading carriers, including: 

Transportation options at SAV

Travelers have several options for traveling to and from Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport. They include:

  • Free shuttle services to and from many hotels
  • Car rentals
  • Taxi from ground transportation area
  • Uber
  • Chatham Area Transit Airport Express 100X bus
Savannah’s history

Savannah's history

As you stroll around Savannah's streets, you may wonder how this charming city came to be. The area was home to several native people, including the Westo, Shawnee, Tomochichi and Yamacraw tribes. Traders John and Mary Musgrove lived with these people for many years. However, official settlement of Savannah didn't begin until General James Edward Oglethorpe reached the area in 1733. He laid out the city in four distinct squares.

Civil war history

Photo of Fort Jackson gate
Fort Jackson - Savannah History

Civil War buffs will love visiting Fort Jackson, one of the three Confederate forts built for the defense against Union forces and the only one located within Savannah's city limits. 

Several local companies run walking tours catering specifically for Civil War enthusiasts. These tours visit the homes of famous generals, including Joseph E. Johnston and James Bartow, and other sites related to this significant period of American history.

1700s

General Oglethorpe was sent by King George II to find a buffer location south of the Savannah River to protect the Carolinas from the invasion of Spanish Florida and French Louisiana. He arrived on the ship Anne, along with 114 men, women and children. The general received a warm welcome from Chief Tomochichi and the pair became lifelong friends. The native people and settlers worked in harmony for the betterment of the new city. By 1751, Savannah was a royal colony and Georgia's colonial capital.

British troops seized Savannah as part of their American Revolutionary War efforts in 1778. They remained in the city, fending off American and French soldiers, until 1782. The city grew rapidly after the war, and by 1851, the city had 24 squares. While some were lost to development, 22 remain, providing green spaces for picnicking and relaxing under the large oak trees.

1800s

Savannah again became embroiled in military efforts during the American Civil War. While battles weren't staged in the city, General William T. Sherman's Union army seized the city in December 1864. They established a prison camp on Bay Street, and Sherman moved into the historic home now known as Green–Meldrim House (14 W Macon St.). There he penned his famous telegram to President Abraham Lincoln, offering the leader all of Savannah's cotton, guns and other weaponry. While Sherman took so many of the city's resources, it was thankfully spared the destruction seen in Atlanta and, later, Columbia.

1900s

Savannah lost several key buildings, including the old City Market, during the 1950s as developers tried to make way for parking lots and gas stations. Disappointed by the city's transformation, several local women created the Historic Savannah Foundation, pooling their money to preserve Davenport House. In 1964, they created a fund to purchase historic properties in danger of demolition. While several buildings fell to wrecking balls, many are still standing thanks to the foundation's work.

Savannah became a tourist hub in the mid-1990s upon the release of the book and later the film, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.” It seemed everyone wanted to see the city where prominent antiques dealer Jim Williams was tried for the murder of his assistant, and Green–Meldrim House where he allegedly committed the crime. Today, Savannah is the fifth-largest city in the state of Georgia. It attracts approximately 6 million visitors every year.

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