The Ultimate One Day Savannah, GA Itinerary

Five women posing in front of Gull Lake at Grand View Lodge in Nisswa Minnesota on a girls weekend trip

Discover the Best Things to do in Savannah in One Day

Savannah, Georgia’s no secret. This sweet Southern city has been a United States travel darling in recent years. A pandemic friendly destination with a rich (if not troubled) history, good food, and a distinct personality, you can’t do much better for a laid-back long weekend getaway than Savannah. 

Back in December 2021, we spent a three wonderful, and very full, days in Savannah, GA. I hadn’t boarded a plane in almost two years and this beautiful, Spanish moss draped city proved the perfect travel reentry. We loved the city’s walkability and endless options for dining al fresco.

I definitely recommend at least three days for a visit to Savannah. Ideally, you’ll explore the historic downtown and riverfront your first two days, then get out of Savannah for an excursion on day three. But if you only have one day in Savannah, don’t despair.

I’ve returned from my visit armed with the perfect one-day Savannah itinerary. Whether you’re looking to day trip to Savannah, only have time for a 24-hour visit, or simply want an amazing first day in the Georgia city, I’ve got you covered with Savannah’s must-see sites, tours, and eats.

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One Day Savannah, GA Itinerary
Breakfast: Mirabelle Cafe
Tour the Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist
Go on a Free Savannah Walking Tour
Photos ops: Forsyth Park, Rainbow Row, Jones Street
Lunch: Vinnie Van Go-Go’s or Kayak Kafe
Explore Savannah’s Waterfront and River Street
Tour Owens-Thomas House
Snack: Leopold’s Ice Cream
Shopping in Savannah’s Historic District
Dinner: The Public Kitchen and Bar

Visiting Savannah, GA soon? Pin this post to plan your first day!

How to Spend One Epic Day in Savannah

This one-day Savannah itinerary takes you on a whirlwind tour of the Georgia city’s historic downtown and River Street districts. Savannah’s a small city of about 142,000 residents known for its temperate climate and walkability! We’ll spend almost the entire day outside, so don’t forget your sunhat for this pandemic-friendly Savannah itinerary.

Breakfast at Mirabelle Savannah

Savannah’s rich in adorable coffee shops and brunch places. Honestly, you could plan a whole trip to Savannah just for the coffee shops. This morning we’re headed to the most charming one of all – Mirabelle!

As soon as I walked through Mirabelle’s front door, I was smitten. The café blends European style with southern charm in an 1880s building. Known for Beligan-style liege waffles and speciality coffees, you don’t want to miss either at Mirabelle. I highly recommend the Lemon Zinger Waffle and a Café Miel. While you can take your waffles to go, dine in for a fabulous view of the Cathedral across the street.

In addition to coffee and waffles, Mirabelle sells an extensive selection of international chocolates. They host monthly chocolate tasting events. Above the coffee shop are two floors of rental suites. If the suites are as charming as the shop, they’re worth looking into on Airbnb for a Savannah lodging option.

About Mirabelle Savannah: Located at 313 Abercorn St., Mirabelle opens every morning at 8 a.m.

Visit the stunning Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist

Once you’ve finished breakfast, head straight across the street to the Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist. An absolutely stunning Victorian Gothic church, Irish immigrants and other Savannah Catholics built the Cathedral as a reminder of their homelands’ grand churches. Today, the cathedral’s twin spires are one of Savannah’s most iconic sights.

You don’t need to budget much time for your visit . . .  unless you  stay for mass. Still, you’ll want at least 15-20 minutes to take in the cathedral’s impressive stained-glass windows, sculpted Stations of the Cross, murals, and massive pipe organ. We found several friendly docents eager to share the church’s story and their knowledge of Savannah.

About the Savannah Cathedral: Located at 222 E. Harris St, the Cathedral holds at least two daily masses: 7:30 a.m. and noon on weekdays. Visitors welcome any time outside of mass. A $3.00 donation is appreciated, but not required.

From the Cathedral head north for a little meander through Colonial Park Cemetery. Then continue to Johnson Square to meet up for the 10:30 a.m. Free Savannah Walking Tour.

A Savannah Must: Free Savannah Walking Tours

As you might expect from a walkable city with a lot of history, Savannah offers a lot of walking tours. We selected the highly rated Free Savannah Walking Tours. We figure since it was free, we could ditch out if it got “snoozy” without losing anything other than a little time.

But we didn’t ditch out early. In fact, I think we would have followed our guide Joe around Savannah for the rest of the day if he’d let us. He even ran over the slated end time (noon) by a few minutes and not a single person in our group left.  

If you’re a first-time visitor to Savannah, this tour provides an excellent introduction to the Hostess City. The tour focuses on Savannah’s history and cultural significance. You’ll learn about the founding of Savannah, see where Forrest Gump sat, and learn about a host of Savannah characters. 

About Free Savannah Walking Tours: Tours start at Johnson Square and end in Forsyth Park. The 1.5 hour tours are limited to 30 participants. Sign up online ahead of time. You’re required to pay $2.85 sales tax per person when you make your online reservation. At the end of the tour, simply tip what feels right. Most people tip $10 – $20. 

Where To Take Photos in Savannah’s Historic Downtown District

Free Savannah Walking Tours conveniently deposits you at one of Savannah’s most photogenic landmarks: the Fountain at Forsyth Park. Talk about the perfect photo op for you and your group! Maybe you’ll be like us and witness both a wedding and an engagement during your brief visit . . . .

If you’re looking for more Savannah, GA Instagram Spots, I’ve got you covered.

From Forsyth Park, zigzag your way back north. For photos at some of Savannah’s most influencer worthy backdrops, swing by Mercer-Williams House off of Monterey Square. Check out one of Savannah’s “Rainbow Rows” located on the north side of the 100s block of East Taylor Street. (You’ll find the other Savannah Rainbow Row at 510 E. Bryan St. To be honest, I don’t think either of them really compare with Charleston’s version.) Be sure to stop at Jones Street. This street absolutely draped with Spanish moss is said to be the most beautiful street in Savannah.

Being an influencer is hungry business, so head to the City Market to grab lunch.

Enjoy a slice for lunch at Vinnie Van Go-Go

Restaurants, shops, and even a museum devoted to Prohibition fill Savannah’s City Market. This four-block, open air market dates back to Savannah’s beginnings in the 1700s. Perhaps the most beloved eatery here is Vinnie Van Go-Go. This New York style pizzeria serves up delicious Neapolitan style pizza by the slice or pie.

While the pizzeria offers some indoor seating, if the weather’s nice, you can’t beat sitting at one of the City Market benches to enjoy some people watching with your slice. Afterward, if you need a little sugar bump, head across the way to Byrd Cookie Company. Their cookies are tiny and delicious!

About Vinnie Van Go-Go:  Located at 317 E. Bryan St, Vinnie Van Go-Go is open for lunch Friday – Sunday and dinner every night. If you’re doing this itinerary on a weekday, I recommend swinging by Kayak Kafe on Broughton Street for a delicious (and much healthier) lunch.

Wherever you grab lunch, once you’re finished continue north until you hit the Savannah River.

Explore River Street and Savannah’s Waterfront

Compared with Savannah’s historic downtown district, River Street feels less manicured and more real world. As the first planned city in America, Savannah can come off as a little twee. Sure, it’s charming to stumble upon a green square every two blocks downtown, but it’s almost too perfect. Happily a stroll down River Street’s cobblestones releases you from the gentrified “copy and paste” of Savannah’s downtown.

Things to do on Savannah’s River Street

The west end of River Street’s definitely party central, especially when the sun goes down. In the afternoon, most people visit River Street for the shops and restaurants in converted warehouses. If you can only make one stop, swing by River Street Sweets for pralines.

Most (but definitely not all) restaurants on River Street are over-priced tourist traps, so it’s best to skip these unless you have a local’s recommendation. What I really loved about River Street was walking along the riverfront. A series of 15 informational plaques provide an excellent overview of Savannah’s history and development.

The stately Georgia Queen riverboat isn’t the only ship cruising the Savannah River. Each day at least a half a dozen massive container ships with an entourage of tugboats make their way up the Savannah River. In fact, Savannah is the largest container port in the United States and watching these oceangoing vessels cruise by was a true highlight of my visit.

When you reach the Waving Girl statue on River Street’s eastern end, head inland towards Oglethorpe Square.

Owens-Thomas House: The Best Historic House to Tour in Savannah

An almost dizzying amount of Savannah’s historic houses offer tours. I love a good house tour, but with so many to choose from, it felt overwhelming to choose. We stuck our heads inside four different historic houses during our visit. Trust me, if you can only visit one house in Savannah, it should be the Owens-Thomas House and Slave Quarters.

Built in the early 1800s, the property covers an entire quadrant off Oglethorpe Square. (If you’re wondering why a city founded in 1733 only has examples of 19th century architecture, it’s because Savannah suffered two major fires in 1796 and again in 1820.) Don’t expect a picture-perfect property. The house is in a state of ongoing restoration which the docents are happy to discuss. While you can talk paint colors with the docents, one thing the house doesn’t whitewash is its slave owning past.

The first owner of the house, Richard Richardson, made some of his money through slave trading. Today, a tour of the Owens-Thomas starts in the slave quarters before crossing through an English style garden to the big house. A phone download audio tour guides you through the property. Even inside the house, the tour continues to highlight the dissonance between the reality of the house’s inhabitants and their slaves.

About Owens-Thomas House: Located at 124 Abercorn St and normally open form 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. every day. You can reserve tickets in advance, but you can’t reserve an entrance time. Tickets cost $20 per person. Your ticket also good for entrance into the Jepson Center and Telfair Academy for seven days after purchase.

A Savannah Must: Leopold’s Ice Cream

Leopold’s Ice Cream is an absolute Savannah institution. This century-old family business now operates on Broughton Street. While it’s known for having lines around the block, when we swung by around 4:30 p.m., we walked right in. I highly recommend the coffee chocolate chip! The Savannah Socialite isn’t too shabby either.

About Leopold’s Ice Cream: Located at 212 E. Broughton St and open 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. Sunday – Thursday, and 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

Once you’re finished your ice cream, meander west on Broughton Street.

Savannah Historic District Shopping

Savannah has tons of sweet little boutique shops in the historic district. Be sure to check out the Paris Market at 36 W. Broughton Street. Not only does the Paris Market boast “the most beautiful coffee shop in Savannah,” this French-inspired multi-story shop has a trippy, flea market vibe. Continue on to the Savannah Bee Company for free honey samples and all things bee related, including mead tastings.

Other Savannah Historic District shopping we enjoyed beyond Broughton Street included Salacia Salts (148 Abercorn St.) and Asher + Rye (348 Whitaker St.).

 

Dinner at Public Kitchen and Bar

Savannah’s known as a food destination with tons of amazing restaurants to choose from. Although it’s not quite the dining experience you’d get from a better-known Savannah restaurant like The Olde Pink House, we all agreed that the food we had at the Public Kitchen and Bar right off Bull Street was the best of our trip. Our walking tour guide said Public Kitchen and Bar does the best shrimp and grits in Savannah. The beautiful bowl of Southern meets Spanish inspired shrimp and grits Ashley enjoyed lived up to the hype.

About Public Kitchen and Bar: Located at 1 West Liberty Street. Open for lunch Wednesday – Sunday, and open for supper every night. The Public doesn’t take reservations.

Where To Stay in Savannah, GA

 

 

If your day in Savannah is more than a day trip, it’s time to think about turning in for the night.

We can’t say enough good things about our stay at the Olde Harbour Inn on the east end of River Street. Located in an old warehouse, this boutique hotel offers standard hotel rooms as well as suites. We stayed in a two-bedroom suite and absolutely loved it.

The hotel’s website makes it very clear that the suite is located on the building’s fourth floor and there’s no elevator. However, in many ways our fourth-floor suite was like having a ground floor suite. We could access it via one of the wrought-iron “skywalks” that crisscross Factors Walk. When we walked out our door, we immediately entered Emmet Park and Savannah’s historic downtown district.

Amenities at the Olde Harbour Inn include the friendliest staff in the world, a wine and cheese happy hour, and a simple breakfast offering of pastries and coffee. Since we visited during a pandemic, we knew our hotel needed to be a pleasant destination in and of itself. Olde Harbour Inn definitely fit the bill.

 

About:

Hi! I’m Ada, a travel writer who believes “there’s no place like home.” I started Beyond the Yellow Brick Road to share my travel experiences and lessons learned from the road to help fellow travelers have the best travel experiences possible.

Home Airport:

DLH/YQT

Next Trip:

Hawaii

Where I’ve Been:


Dining hall barn at Hunt Hill Audubon Sanctuary

Have you ever been to Savannah before? If so, what’s your favorite thing to do in Savannah?

 

Before You Go:

15 Comments

  1. Leopold’s Ice cream would be my first stop, but the beautiful historic houses in Savannah would be so fun to look at. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    • Yes to the free walking tour! We did that on our one day visit to Savannah and learned so much! Good restaurants too. 😋 I bet I would love that ice cream place.

      Reply
  2. We almost went to Savannah in December, but we ended up in Texas instead. I am so happy to have this guide! Savannah is on our short list and I will definitely be revisiting this post when planning our trip. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  3. Savannah looks glorious and well worth a visit. That food – incredible – I’d visit for that alone 🙂

    Reply
    • This is such a comprehensive itinerary that could definitely fill more than a day. The waterfront, gothic cathedral and the walking tour are my highlights. Savannah is somewhere I didn’t know much about but now a place I’d like to visit

      Reply
  4. Walking tours are the best! And I was excited how many tour operators offered specialized tours on topics such as architecture & gardens.

    Reply
  5. I would love to do a walking tour in Savannah. There’s so much history to learn about. Thanks for this great itinerary!

    Reply
  6. I have never been to Georgia–just passed through. I really want to visit just to see the variety of trees. Looks like you had a great trip!

    Reply
  7. Savannah looks so beautiful and so many things to do and so many places to explore. Fantastic post and great photos!

    Reply
  8. I have only ever visited Savannah on business but it has been on my list for a long time for a return pleasure visit. We would definitely plan for many days to enjoy all the southern treats. I am sure a walking tour would be a great start to get more information about this city and the history. We would love to wander the streets and maybe check out a river tour too.

    Reply
  9. I had planned a trip last year to Charleston, SC and to Savannah, two seemingly-comparable small and old (for the U.S.) cities. I still haven’t made it there, but it seems a one-day trip is yes way too short. Being so old in U.S. history, I guess it’s not surprising that so much seems to remind me of Europe. Cathedrals and Belgium-style coffee shops. They don’t quite make cities like that anymore, paying attention to parks and squares, and of course a central market. Located on a river too, as a city should be. Most U.S. towns could easily sell themselves better if they just put in a central market. As someone who lived in the south for a while, I would never touch grits—unless it was a shrimp and grits dish.

    Reply
  10. My father was born in Savannah and I am grateful that I was able to visit it with him about 13 years ago. It is so adorable and the perfect size, so now goes on my list of favorite US cities. One meal that we loved was the buffet at Lady and Sons.

    Reply
  11. Savannah has been high on my list for years but I haven’t had the opportunity the visit yet. I love this detailed and easy to follow one day itinerary. I will definitely go to The Public restaurant when I visit, shrimp and grits is one of my favorite meals!

    Reply
  12. I spent a day in Savannah a few months before I started my blog, and I have to say, I wish I had a resource like this when I was there! I got a general sense of the city but definitely could’ve planned my time better. I totally agree that three days would be a perfect amount of time here. The fact that there are lots of interesting cafes here makes me want to go back even more!

    Reply
  13. Surely one day cannot be enough to experience all the best out there! This travel guide is really well written! I’m going to Downtown Savannah Georgia next week and I already have accommodations that I found on visitsavannah.com . Now all I have to do is do some research on the places featured here!

    Reply

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