Savannah, Ga., is famous for its hospitality. That’s why people call it the Hostess City of the South! Every year, millions of visitors flock to this coastal Georgia city famous for its historic character and hard-partying reputation.
Sure, you could spend your trip at all the usual spots — or you could experience the city like a real Savannah resident. Here’s how to avoid looking like a tourist on your next trip.
About Savannah, Ga.
Savannah lies a few miles inland from the northernmost tip of Georgia’s coast, along the Savannah River. Established in 1733, it quickly became an important port in colonial America and acted as a center of southern trade following independence.
The city’s historic district has a distinctive layout. Clusters of homes surround grassy public squares that break up the grid pattern of the streets. Unlike many other Georgia cities, it maintained much of its antebellum architecture. This is due to an effort by city leaders to convince Union Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman not to burn it during his famous “March to the Sea” during the Civil War.
Today, Savannah is a well-known vacation destination within the southeast and the country as a whole. Visitors can enjoy the dining and nightlife of River Street, the architecture and museums of the historic district, and even beaches just a short drive away on Tybee Island.
Tourist Traps to Avoid in Savannah
Savannah has so much to offer visitors if you know what to look for. But all too often, first-timers get sucked into the city’s most notorious tourist traps. These waste your time and money. Here’s what to avoid.
Segway Tours and Pedicab Rides
They may seem like a great way to experience the city. But unfortunately, they can end up as a serious tourist trap and a waste of your time and money. Riding a Segway can be a fun novelty, but once you’re over it, you’re essentially paying a major premium for a walking tour.
Pedicab rides can be a change of pace. However, the drivers may be more interested in chatting you up than telling you about the city or letting you soak in your surroundings. Savannah residents won’t be caught dead on either of these, meaning they’re a surefire way to look like a tourist.
This 30-acre park, ringed by some of Savannah’s finest homes, is usually one of the top destinations for first-time visitors. While it may be worth a quick stroll, you might find it overcrowded or without much to do. Savannah has a ton of green space via the squares of the original city, and you may find more interesting and diverse history (and company) there.
Wormsloe Historic Site
Wormsloe’s top attraction is apparent almost immediately upon arrival. The famous Avenue of Oaks includes massive live oak trees that form a canopy that nearly covers the road.
Still, it may be difficult to get a good picture with the crowds this place routinely draws. It’s also eight to 10 miles from downtown, meaning you’ll need some kind of transportation.
Olde Pink House
When many people think of fine dining in Savannah, the Olde Pink House comes to mind. This restaurant lies within a restored mansion and features a menu stacked with southern classics.
Still, with such a noteworthy reputation, you may find it difficult to get a table, and the prices aren’t always budget-friendly. Savannah is a city full of fantastic dining, so there’s no need to feel the need to go here simply because it’s famous.
Calling the heart of Savannah a tourist trap may be a little harsh. But a surefire way to spot a tourist is someone who spends an entire Savannah vacation in this historic district.
After all, this is a big, diverse city with much more to it than fancy homes, hotels, restaurants, and shopping. While many Savannah residents take the occasional trip into the Historic District, much of the city’s authentic life takes place elsewhere.
9 Ways to Not Look Like a Tourist in Savannah, Ga.
So what should you do to experience the real Savannah the way that most visitors never will? There are some under-the-radar spots that you shouldn’t miss. Here’s a few of the best.
Walk the City
Slow down and experience Savannah on foot. This historical city was laid out hundreds of years before the invention of the car, making much of it very compact and walkable. Most of Savannah’s most popular neighborhoods and attractions sit in a five- or six-square-mile area stretching along the historic River Street and two to three miles inland. Get out on foot and explore, taking in the stately homes, unique bars and restaurants, and more.
Visit the Starland District
One of the areas beloved by locals but often ignored by tourists is the Starland District, located between Forsyth Park and East Victory Drive. The once-rundown area got new life in the late 1990s through the help of two Savannah College of Art and Design graduates.
They helped spark a neighborhood revival. These days, it’s home to an eclectic mix of restaurants, bars, record stores, tattoo parlors, and other small businesses. It’s also the site of the Starland Yard, an outdoor bar and event space that hosts a rotating group of food trucks.
Eat Breakfast at Foxy Loxy Cafe
Southern food may be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Savannah. But stop at Foxy Loxy Cafe, which bills itself as “equal parts coffee shop, bakery, and Tex-Mex cantina.” Located on bustling Bull Street, it’s a great place to grab a coffee and one of their specialty kolaches (a Texas Czech baked good usually filled with sausage, cheese, or fruit).
Plan out a busy day ahead at one of their outdoor tables. Foxy Loxy also supports local art and music with weekly live bands and artist showcases.
Treat Yourself at Leopold’s Ice Cream
Savannah’s culinary treats don’t stop when dinner is over. Head to the famous Leopold’s Ice Cream on East Broughton Street. They’ve been serving up frozen delights for more than a century. Try a scoop of their signature tutti-frutti, rum ice cream with candied fruit and roasted pecans. This old-school soda fountain often has lines out the door, but it’s worth the wait!
Shop at the Savannah State Farmers Market
Whether you’re looking for a few groceries, a Christmas tree, or a tasty Georgia peach, Savannah State Farmers Market can supply it. This year-round market offers seasonal fruits and vegetables, as well as the bounty of other local farmers.
With both wholesale and retail vendors, you may find yourself rubbing elbows with chefs for some of Savannah’s top restaurants. There’s even an on-site restaurant if looking at all these beautiful products gets you too hungry to wait!
Don’t Miss Out: The South has so many amazing culinary dishes. Check out our top 8 southern foods you have to try on your next vacation!
Watch a Savannah Bananas Baseball Game
It may be a mouthful, but it’s also a fantastic way to spend a spring or summer evening in Savannah. Just don’t expect a typical baseball game. The Bananas have risen to fame since 2016 with their elaborate walk-up routines, choreographed dances, scoring celebrations, and other hijinks.
But there is some actual baseball involved, too, a tweaked style, with new rules designed to make the game more entertaining. You can even help record an out if you catch a foul ball! Without a doubt, it’s an evening of sports and entertainment you won’t find anywhere other than Savannah.
Tour the Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum
Like most southern cities, Savannah experienced the struggle for African-American civil rights during the 1950s and 1960s. The story of Savannah during the Jim Crow and civil rights era plays out at this museum, located in an area that was once the heart of the city’s black business community.
Visitors can check out three floors of exhibits, documents, photos, and more. Learn about Savannah civil rights pioneers like Rev. Ralph Mark Gilbert, whose name graces the museum. By experiencing an often-ignored part of Savannah’s history, you’ll certainly set yourself apart from the typical tourist.
Browse the Book Lady Bookstore
Small, local bookstores are vanishingly few these days. Since 1978 the Book Lady has operated as Savannah’s only independent, full-service bookstore. With more than 40 genres, there’s something for everyone, from southern and Georgia history to Black literature to graphic novels. There’s even a Rare Books Room for those who genuinely appreciate the art of the written word. You can spend hours browsing this local favorite.
Grab a Sandwich from Zunzi’s
Zunzi’s offers a unique brand of South African-inspired takeout with roots right here in Savannah. The menu is headlined by unique French bread sandwiches stuffed with fried chicken, smoked sausage, and portobello mushrooms.
They have names like “Conquistador” and “The Booty Roll.” They even offer a semi-profane guarantee that you’ll love your food and experience.
Traveler’s Tip: Savannah is less than an hour from Hilton Head, S.C., and we have 5 ways to tour this island like a local, too.
See Savannah Like a Local
It’s easy to see why Savannah is one of Georgia’s top vacation destinations. But all too many people get stuck in the same old tourist traps. Fortunately, that won’t be you! Check out these authentic Savannah spots, and you’ll enjoy an amazing side of the Hostess City that most never get to see. Where will you go first?