Savannah: A Weekend Guide for the Curious Traveler - Atlas Obscura

Weekend Guides for the Curious Traveler
Savannah

Find surprises around every corner in a U.S. city that embraces history like no other.

Explore
Day 1
A Warm Welcome

There's a reason people still call this place the "Hostess City of the South."

Statue

1. The Waving Girl

Start your day with a stroll along East River Street, at the end of which you’ll find Savannah's most memorable statue, commemorating the original host of the Hostess City, Florence Martus (1868-1943). From her spot on the Savannah River, you can easily picture Martus’s view of incoming ships as she welcomed them to the city, with her dog standing at her side. Martus spent the bulk of her life on nearby Elba Island, and it's said that between 1887 to 1931, no ship arrived or departed here without her waving a handkerchief by day or a lantern by night. 

2 E Broad St, Savannah, GA 31401

The Lucas Theatre in Downtown Savannah. NiKreative / Alamy
Arts Venue

2. Lucas Theatre

Walk (carefully!) back up the historic steps and over to Abercorn Street, following the glittering marquee lights of the Lucas Theatre for the Arts. Travel back to the 1920s with a self-guided tour of the Italian Renaissance exterior and ornate Italianate interior. Arthur Melville Lucas Jr.'s grand movie palace is remarkable for a number of reasons, not least of which is its claim to being the first public building in Savannah to feature air conditioning. While you're there, check the schedule in case you want to catch a midday matinee, hosted by the Savannah College of Art and Design. You can also visit Vedette, the cafe inside the Lucas serving sweet and savory crepes, coffee, and teas.

32 Abercorn St, Savannah, GA 31401

Tavern

3. The Pirates' House

Just a few blocks away from the Lucas, this historic seaman's tavern might look like a shack from the outside, but don’t be fooled. There are 15 separate dining rooms inside filled with maps, ship helms, skulls, and other pirate-themed paraphernalia. You can browse the gift shop while you wait on a table, or ask one of the staff to show you the Captain’s Room and Treasure Room, where you can see pages from an early edition of Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. The current owners like to claim that Captain Flint, a fictional pirate mentioned in the book, died in the upstairs bedroom. Real pirates will definitely want to order one of the speciality rum drinks that come in a skull-shaped ceramic mug, which you can take with you. 

20 E Broad St, Savannah, GA 31401

The Paris Market. Courtesy The Paris Market
Shop

4. The Paris Market

Operated by a speech pathologist and emergency physician, the Paris Market reflects its owners' clear love of travel. Upstairs you’ll find handmade clothing and accessories, jewelry, soaps, and lotions. If you need souvenirs, the greeting cards on offer here are some of the most original and humorous around. Downstairs is a treasure trove of curiosities, both practical and whimsical, from all over the world. 

36 W Broughton St, Savannah, GA 31401

The Grey occupies the city's former Greyhound Bus Terminal. Courtesy The Grey
Restaurant

5. The Grey

The most interesting thing about the Grey, Johno Morisano and Chef Mashama Bailey's high-end Southern eatery, is its location, but that's by no means to suggest the menu isn't a knock-out, too. This award-winning restaurant occupies the city's original 1938 Greyhound Bus Terminal, now painstakingly restored. Solo travelers can usually grab a seat at the bar and enjoy a variety of sandwiches and small plates in the art deco dining room. Couples might prefer reserving a table in the downstairs area for a more intimate atmosphere. The oysters are always a good start, but the real treats live under the "Water" section of the dinner menu, which includes dayboat catches and salted fish toast.

109 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Savannah, GA 31401

The speakeasy inside the American Prohibition Museum. Courtesy American Prohibition Museum
Cocktail Bar

6. Congress Street Up

One of the newer entrants to Savannah's already rich slate of museums, the American Prohibition Museum is well worth a visit to gain a fuller understanding of the impact the Volstead Act had on the United States. But it's the speakeasy tucked away in an upstairs gallery of the museum, the Congress Street Up, that's the real draw. You’ll find no PBRs here; all drinks trace their origins to the 1920s. The bar is open after 6:30 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. If you skip the museum, speakeasy guests can still walk through one of the smaller exhibitions and view black-and-white photography around the bar. 

Keep in mind, Congress Street Up suggests guests “dress to impress,” and will turn away anyone in jeans, flip-flops or t-shirts.

220 W Congress St, Savannah, GA 31401


Day 2
Books and Beacons

A day with the Historic District's hidden heroes.

An interactive journey through the civil rights movement. Geoff Johnson
Museum

1. Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum

The Ralph Mark Gilbert is located on Savannah’s Westside, in the heart of Georgia’s oldest African-American community. Tour guides here typically have deep ties to this community, or are descendants of important local figures, and can speak from personal experience about life in Savannah during the civil rights movement. The museum is known for its interactive exhibitions, so don’t be shy. Press the button at the replica of the once whites-only Azalea Room in Levy’s Department Store to hear a customer-employee conversation in the middle of the famous 1960 sit-in.

460 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Savannah, GA 31401

Museum

2. Girl Scout First Headquarters

No trip to Savannah is complete without paying homage to the founder of the Girl Scouts, but instead of the more well-known Juliette Gordon Lowe Birthplace, visit her later home, now the First Girl Scout Headquarters. The headquarters offers daily tours and programs, including geocaching and historical preservation classes that are just as fun for adults as they are for children. Donate to the Girl Scouts by purchasing a commemorative engraved brick to be placed in the courtyard. Reservations for tours and programs are highly recommended. 

330 Drayton St, Savannah, GA 31401


E. Shaver Booksellers, since 1975. @bookbimbo
Bookstore

3. E. Shaver Booksellers

It's difficult not to get lost in the shelves of Savannah’s oldest bookstore, locally owned and operated since 1975. Take your time browsing the wide collection of fiction, nonfiction, and especially the sections dedicated to local and regional history. If you’re looking for anything in particular, the staff is friendly and knowledgeable, especially when it comes to Savannah history and the Civil War. Say hello to Bartleby and Mr. Eliot, two very spoiled rescue cats, and visit the newly added space shared with the Tea Room, which sells loose leaf teas, teaware, gifts, and jewelry.

326 Bull St, Savannah, GA 31401

Bar and Restaurant

4. American Legion Post 135 and Betty Bombers

Get a double dose of patriotism with lunch at Betty Bombers and drinks at the cash-only American Legion Post 135. Originally built in 1913 for the Chatham Artillery, the American Legion took over this structure in 1946. Today it still looks a bit like a fortress from the outside, but inside it's a relaxed bar open to anyone. While at the Legion, don’t miss the array of military badges under glass by the bar, or the black-and-white photos of military airplanes hanging on the walls. Betty Bombers, located in the back of the main building, has excellent burgers, fries, and milkshakes, which you can enjoy inside the restaurant or at the Legion.

1108 Bull St, Savannah, GA 31401

An impressive collection of hats. Lisa Hueneke
Exhibit

5. A Century of Hats

Tucked away in the Mansion on Forsyth Park is a parade of historical ladies’ hats, dating from the 1860s to the 1960s. The exhibition, commissioned by the hotel developer and avid art collector Richard C. Kessler, includes casual daytime coverings as well as specialized wedding bonnets. Have a friendly concierge lead you to the display, which is past the hotel lobby in a hallway outside the lounge, and “try on” the different hats by standing in front of the display case and placing your reflection under each lid.

700 Drayton St, Savannah, GA 31401

The venerable Pinkie Masters. Courtesy Wit & Delight
Dive Bar

6. The Original Pinkie Masters

Follow the glowing PBR sign to the corner of Drayton and Harris streets and cap off the day at the best pub in town. Pinkie’s friendly service, cheap drinks, and wide variety of jukebox offerings pulls in an eclectic crowd. Snap a photo with the plaque commemorating President Jimmy Carter’s 1978 visit to the bar, as well as the black-and-white photographs and '70s beer advertisements decorating the walls. If you’re feeling brave, order one of the potent slushies—it may be the only drink you need.

318 Drayton St, Savannah, GA 31401


Where to Stay
Ballastone Inn

You're in Savannah, so stay at a historic inn. Among the most luxurious options is the Ballastone, an 1838 historic landmark that's served both as a bordello and as office space for the Girl Scouts. Today most of its 16 lavish guest rooms boast working gas fireplaces.

Check Prices Or Availability
Thunderbird Inn

A more affordable and decidedly quirkier option is the Thunderbird, which plays up its retro roadside motel theme in every possible way. Recently renovated, each room pops with bright colors, and guests are always greeted with hot popcorn upon arrival.

Check Prices Or Availability
Find Hotels
Keep Exploring
The RV/MH Hall of Fame.

Motown to Music City Road Trip

Detroit and Nashville are synonymous with two all-American music genres. It’s no surprise that visitors flock to these cities each year to get a feel for the places where artists such as Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross & The Supremes, Johnny Cash, and Dolly Parton began their careers. A (relatively) straight, north to south route connects the two cities, as does musical heritage. Load up the RV, make sure your speaker system is in tip-top shape, and create a playlist filled with old-school Motown and Country hits. If you're not driving on the trip down south, you should be dancing.

Explore
The East Texas Bayou.

Gulf Coast Road Trip

The terrain along the Gulf of Mexico is sometimes called the “Third Coast,” but for an offbeat road trip, it’s second to none. Starting in Houston and ending in Pensacola Bay, this journey takes you through some of America’s most diverse landscapes. You’ll cross Cajun swamps, drive along sparkling white sand beaches, and even spend some time in the Big Easy. Take an RV and camp along the way to truly immerse yourself in this wondrous region. The world’s largest gulf, it turns out, holds some of America’s best-kept secrets.

Explore
Coachella Valley Preserve.

Hidden Coachella Valley

The Coachella Valley and its environs boom in the spring, when tens of thousands of music lovers flock to catch their favorite artists perform in front of a dramatic, mountainous backdrop. But this region stays wonderfully weird all year long. If the festival drew you to the area and you only have a day to explore, choose a direction: Either head north, toward Joshua Tree and Landers, or southeast to the Salton Sea and nearby oases for a blissful respite. If you can spare a couple of days, lucky you—go forth and see it all.

Explore
A view of L.A. from the top of Highland Park.

Highland Park

Los Angeles’ Highland Park is a diverse, eclectic neighborhood that Native Americans and Latinx communities have inhabited for centuries. Celebrated for its history, art scene, ethnic diversity, and cuisine, Highland Park is filled with surprising delights that more and more people are discovering every day. Exploring the neighborhood's nooks and crannies is one of the most rewarding ways to spend a day in L.A.

Explore
The heart of Venice.

Venice

Once referred to as “The Coney Island of the Pacific,” L.A.’s beachfront neighborhood of Venice has long been a popular tourist destination. Its colorful characters, quirky architecture, and carnivalesque atmosphere are well-known the world over. But take a moment to look past the kitsch, and you’ll discover a place where artistic ingenuity thrives more than a century after Abbot Kinney endeavored to bring a grandiose version of Venice to America. The bohemian beehive has always attracted artists and performers, and everyone is welcome to enjoy the show.

Explore
Artist Colette Miller's tribute to the City of Angels.

L.A.’s Downtown Arts District

The 1970s brought a wave of artists into this former industrial area in Downtown Los Angeles. They sparked a fuse of creative imagination that burned for years. Up-and-coming creators took advantage of the then-low rents and built a foundation for the creative mecca that exists here today. In its infancy, L.A.’s Downtown Arts District came to life behind-the-scenes, with artists mostly working in closed studios. Today, the art has spilled onto the streets in the form of colorful murals, attractive gallery spaces, and stylish storefronts. But the curious explorer can still find literal and figurative traces of the ‘70s. In addition to the more historic spots that remain, a creative, entrepreneurial spirit abounds.

Explore
The Whitehall Banqueting House is full of topsy-turvy views.

Hidden Trafalgar Square

Wedged between Charing Cross and Leicester Square, Trafalgar Square is known for the throngs of people flocking to its famous attractions. Weave around the tourists on the National Gallery stairs and dodge the crowds clogging the street corners. Instead, duck down dreamy alleys and pop into unique, overlooked museums and shops. There, a secret side of this busy area waits to reveal itself.

Explore
An elevator shaft in Tribeca opens to reveal a museum of small wonders.

Secrets of NYC’s Five Boroughs

Few cities on Earth are as well-trodden as New York–but as any intrepid traveler knows, the more you explore a place, the more wonders you find. You may not be able to discover all of these spots in a single trip, but that could be a good thing. No matter how many times you return, the city that never sleeps never ceases to surprise. Visit NYCGo to uncover more of the city’s secret spots.

Explore
Plenty of sweet treats are on offer at Pastelería Ideal

Mexico City's Centro Histórico

Anchored by the Zócalo plaza and the architectural splendor of the Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City's historic center rightfully draws scores of visitors from around the world. If you look, smell, and taste carefully, you’ll also find a universe of culinary offerings that tells stories of immigration, adaptation, and imagination. With the help of Culinary Backstreets, we assembled a primer on eating and drinking your way through the district.

Explore
View of the Hollywood Sign from Babylon Court

Hidden Hollywood

Hollywood Boulevard is world-famous—for the Oscars and the Walk of Fame, for schlocky souvenir shops and crowded tour buses. But beyond the terrazzo stars and the occasional celebrity sighting, there’s plenty left to discover. Here’s how to make Hollywood’s acquaintance, whether you’re a visitor or a local who keeps a practiced distance from these busy, saturated blocks. Look closer and you'll find a neighborhood full of nature, history, and wonder.

Explore
A subway entrance in Times Square.

Hidden Times Square

There's the Times Square you know, full of blazing billboards, selfie sticks, and costumed characters. Then there's the less familiar one, beyond the lights—the nooks and crannies that most visitors to Midtown Manhattan overlook. They're not obvious, but surprises can still be found along this world-famous stretch of real estate.

Explore
Upper Hoh Road, Olympic National Park, Oregon.

Summer Radio Road-Trip

Follow along on our 2,200-mile adventure with NPR's 'All Things Considered.'

Explore

Amsterdam

Forge your own path in this tourist magnet, toward places that are less crowded but no less wondrous.

Explore

Buenos Aires

Find faded grandeur and vibrant street life in Argentina's largest city.

Explore

Chicago

Just when you thought you knew the Windy City, it finds new ways to surprise you.

Explore

Detroit

Find secret vistas, labyrinthine bookstores, and eclectic public art.

Explore
The dome of Estrela Basilica in Lisbon.

Lisbon

In the homeland of explorers, your best bet is to keep looking.

Explore

Miami

Go beyond the beaches in the continental United States’ only truly tropical city.

Explore

Queens

New York City's most diverse borough is also its most rewarding.

Explore

San Diego

Southern California's second city holds plenty of sparkling secrets.

Explore