By Helana DeRossett
When I first visited Savannah, I honestly had no idea what to expect. But after arriving, I realized that no matter how hard I would try (and I didn’t try very hard), the city would grab hold of me and never let go.
But I often hear that this is the case for most first-time visitors. You hear about River Street, the cobblestone squares, the open-cup laws that allow you to stroll around and get your drink on. You might go on a walking tour, read a few facts online about the city, or happen to stop and observe one of the sturdy green history plaques scattered around the city. But in your short time here, it’s likely you’ll only get a small sampling of Savannah’s true beauty and history.
I remember walking around and wishing that I could just get a glimpse of the inside of the houses guarding the squares, covered in wrought-iron ivy, their bay windows flung open to let in the cool autumn air.
It wasn’t until after I moved to Savannah to attend SCAD to study writing (I told ya, it grabs on and never lets go) that I was able to fully appreciate its history. When you get to take more than a day or two to wander through the streets, you encounter some local secrets along the way.
Not only is Savannah’s history abundant, but so is its art.
“I was surprised at how many museums there are here. I highly recommend seeing them, I learned so much about the city,” says Amy Sanders, a visitor from Wisconsin.
If you decide to walk through one of Savannah's many museums, you could get a history tour, an impressive stroll through art-lined hallways and exhibits, or both. In order to prioritize if you’re crunched for time, I have compiled a list of a few of the top historic sites around the city.
The modern glass and concrete museum draws you in with its wide open spaces and its stark contrast to the lush square it sits on. This museum is really fantastic because it often includes a lot of interactive art a children’s section (a bonus for those who have a few kiddos exploring with them) and a fabulous café.
This museum sits just across the street from its sister the Jepson Center, and the two are practically opposites of one another. While the Jepson Center boasts contemporary art, the Telfair Museum is a throwback to the 1800s and 1900s. The mansion itself, built in 1818, it one of the museums greatest “pieces.”
The third museum in the Telfair Trifecta is the Owens-Thomas House. Built in the early 1800s, the house is a virtual time capsule from the 1830s when George Welshman Owens owned the property. You can experience both the elegant history of the house, as well as the art that originally graced its walls.
Many walk right past SCAD’s imposing art museum, thinking that it is only for students. I believed this for the longest time as well, but everyone can head inside and take in world-renowned exhibitions. It was recently home to the exhibit “Oscar de la Renta: His Legendary World of Style,” showcasing the famous designer’s works from over the years, but the main showroom is constantly fluctuating with new, high-profile art.
Many of us were a part of the Girl Scouts when we were younger. At the very least, you love the cookies. Take a step into the birthplace of the Girl Scout’s founder, showcasing her life’s work of inspiring young girls and women.
Check out the historic railroad museum that still houses old train models and wide open spaces showcasing the scale and grandeur from the old locomotive era. It is also home to the Savannah Children’s Museum, an outdoor interactive play experience that is both educational and fun.
I had to include at least one (admitted) haunted house on the list. The Sorrel Weed house is said to be one of the most haunted houses in Savannah, and has even been host to the TV show “Ghost Hunters.” Take an architectural history tour pf the home during the day, or test your courage at night with a ghost tour. Either way, you will enjoy a guided tour of the mansion’s interior, basement and carriage house. And as some visitors have claimed, you might see more than you expected.
There are definitely more museums and historic sites to explore in Savannah, but the list above is a great place to start and should keep you entertained and learning for a good while. For more recommendations on things to do in Savannah, browse our blog or reach out to our team.
Looking for lodging during your trip? Check out our extensive collection of unique vacation rentals in Savannah's historic downtown.