Written by Ariel Felton
3 p.m. | Stop at the market
The Grey, an upscale restaurant housed in an old Greyhound bus station on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, was named one of Time magazine’s Top 100 World’s Greatest Places in 2018. That same year, its founders, Johno Morisano and the James Beard-award-winning chef Mashama Bailey, opened the Grey Market, part bodega, part lunch counter, just two blocks away. While it can be difficult to land a reservation at the Grey, the Market offers lunch-counter service and convenient to-go options like a chicken salad sandwich ($7), a crudité spread ($10), cookies ($3) from the bakery and soft drinks.
5 p.m. | Stroll in Forsyth
Forsyth Park, the city’s oldest and most popular public green space, covers 30 acres, and features two playgrounds, as well as tennis and basketball courts. The fountain, modeled after the fountains at the Place de la Concorde in Paris, is at the north end of the park. Here you will likely see local artists selling their work, and wedding and prom photographers setting up for the perfect shot. On the Whitaker Street side of the park, look for the Garden of Fragrance, designed for the blind with fragrant flowers and Braille plaques, in an old fort.
7 p.m. | Hang out in midtown
While Savannah’s downtown gets a lot of (deserved!) attention, you’ll also find plenty of dining and nightlife options in midtown. Start at Starland Yard, a lively open-air food-truck park, complete with patio seating, a bar and the brick-and-mortar Vittoria, a Neapolitan-inspired pizzeria. Within walking distance, you’ll find late-night options like Two Tides Brewing Company and the Wormhole, a loud dive bar with local comedy nights. For a cozier venue, try the Black Rabbit, a small sandwich shop and pub selling beers, specialty cocktails and sandwiches (from $7 for a half and $14 for a full). The $10 cocktails have almost lyrical names: the Affectionate Reverence combines hibiscus-and-apricot-infused tequila with lemon and tops it with an egg-white-and-tempranillo float.
9.30 a.m. | Have coffee
Beat the downtown brunch crowd by staying in midtown. Troupial, a Venezuelan coffee bistro, landed this year in the Starland District, in a 1915 two-story yellow house near the railroad tracks — just follow the smell of espresso. In addition to more than a dozen coffee options, Troupial also offers fresh pastries, sandwiches with housemade bread and street-style food. Start with an order of tequeños, Venezuelan cheese pastries (five for $10), then try one of their many arepas ($10), a cornmeal pocket stuffed with fillings like scrambled eggs, ham, cheese, black beans and avocado.
11 a.m. | Spend time downtown
After brunch, hop in a car to Broughton Street. Take advantage of the city’s open container policy and grab a to-go mimosa from Common Restaurant while you explore downtown. Nourish, a family-owned store for natural bath and skin products, is perfect for anyone who can’t resist the smell of lavender or a fizzy bath bomb. Nineties nostalgia aficionados and video-game lovers should visit Planet Fun, Savannah’s favorite toy and comic-book store. A few blocks away from Broughton is River Street, the popular cobblestone street lining the Savannah River. Here you’ll find seafood restaurants, dive bars and souvenir shops housed in old cotton warehouses, as well as street musicians playing Johnny Mercer’s “Moon River.”
1 p.m. | Discover Black history
Savannah is also home to the First African Baptist Church, one of the oldest Black churches in North America and a prominent landmark. For a tour of the sanctuary, purchase a $15 ticket from their website and arrive 10 minutes before the 1 p.m. start time. Inside, a guide will explain that the sanctuary was completed in 1859 while pointing out original elements, like the solid oak pews in the balcony that were made by enslaved Africans in the 1800s — some of which still bear carvings in classical West African Arabic script. Other important Savannah Black history sites include the Beach Institute on Harris Street, a Black history and art museum housed in Savannah’s first school for African Americans; and Second African Baptist Church on Houston Street, where Gen. Rufus Saxton relayed Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman’s “40 acres and a mule” proclamation. Although the church does not host tours, visitors are welcome to join a service.
3:30 p.m. | See (and touch) the art
For all of the South’s sleepy stereotypes, Savannah boasts a thriving art scene with more than 20 museums, art galleries and artists’ markets in the downtown area alone. Grand house museums, some built or once maintained by enslaved people, display centuries-old art and furniture. For a more contemporary experience, visit the Jepson Center for the Arts. Located off Telfair Square, this museum holds six different exhibition galleries, including an interactive digital gallery called TechSpace, and an ArtZeum, a totally touchable upstairs space featuring 14 activities that invite kids to rethink concepts of art and play. Your $22 ticket to the Jepson also includes visits to two other locations: Telfair Academy and Owens-Thomas House and Slave Quarters.
6 p.m. | Enjoy drinks and jazz
For dinner, head to Rancho Alegre Cuban Restaurant, a lively, family-owned restaurant serving authentic Cuban and Caribbean cuisine. Start with a mojito ($10) or sangria ($8) — both are potent. For dinner try the lechón asada ($12), their famous roasted pork with mojo sauce, with a side of plantain chips or Yuca fries. During the weekends, you’re in for a treat: every Friday and Saturday night at 6:30 p.m., Rancho hosts the local Jody Jazz Trio. The combination of strong drinks, large plates and live music makes this restaurant a popular option among locals, so reserve ahead.
9 p.m. | Bar hop Congress Street
When you leave dinner, take a right and head down Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard until you reach Congress Street, where you’ll see a line of late-night bars and cocktail lounges, most open until 3 a.m. For a rooftop view, walk a block down to the Grove Savannah and order the Champagne pop, a large fruity ice pop in a glass of brut. Across the street, the American Prohibition Museum will have opened Congress Street Up, the museum’s late-night lounge serving 1920s cocktails. End the night dancing at the Peacock Lounge, a speakeasy hidden in the basement of the Chinese restaurant Flock to the Wok. Look for the blue-neon-lit entrance in the alleyway behind the restaurant.
10 a.m. | Explore the beach
Pick up a muffin or chicken biscuit from Back in the Day Bakery before heading to the beach. Just 20 minutes east on U.S. 80 (30 minutes with traffic), Tybee Island is a barrier island with more than 3 miles of beaches. On the drive in, stop by the Fort Pulaski National Monument, built in 1829 to protect the port of Savannah, and inspect the damage left by Union rifled cannons in the Civil War. On South Beach, you’ll find the Tybee Island Pier, beachy shops and lively bars. For a quieter spot, continue down U.S. 80 until it becomes Butler Avenue and eventually dead ends at a paid parking lot (download the Park TYB app). This is Back River Beach, known for dolphin sightings, good fishing and calm waves.
1 p.m. | Climb Tybee Lighthouse
Before leaving the island, visit the Tybee Island Light Station & Museum. On 3 acres, it is one of the most intact light stations in the country, featuring the oldest and tallest lighthouse in the state and all of its historic support buildings. Inside the Tybee Island lighthouse, originally built in 1773 and partly destroyed by fire in 1861, you’ll find 178 steps to the top, offering aerial views of the island. Consisting of masonry and metal only, the rebuilt lighthouse is now completely fireproof. Your $12 ticket (free for kids age 5 and under) also gains you entrance into additional buildings at the Light Station, such as the 19th-century keepers’ cottages and kitchens, where lighthouse keepers and their families lived.
Jepson Center for the Arts has interactive exhibitions and kid-friendly galleries that encourage play.
Troupial, a Venezuelan cafe, serves 18 espresso options in a repurposed Victorian house.
First African Baptist Church is one of the oldest Black churches in North America.
Forsyth Park is 30 acres of spacious lawns perfect for strolling and picnicking.
WHERE TO EAT
The Grey Market, part bodega, part lunch counter, serves Southern-style brunch and to-go lunch options.
Back in the Day is a bakery run by cookbook author Cheryl Day.
Rancho Alegre Cuban Restaurant is family-owned and has live music on the weekends.
Starland Yard is a popular food-truck park in the artsy Starland District.
The Black Rabbit, a sandwich shop and bar, is tucked away from the noise of downtown.
Two Tides is a local brewery that “specializes in sour, haze and funk.”
The Wormhole is a loud dive bar with local comedy nights.
The Grove Savannah, a three-story restaurant with a rooftop bar, makes Instagrammable cocktails.
Congress Street Up is a late-night lounge serving 1920s cocktails inside the American Prohibition Museum.
Peacock Lounge is a neon-lit speakeasy hidden in a Chinese restaurant’s basement.
WHERE TO STAY
The Alida Hotel is a downtown luxury hotel in a converted brick warehouse. Soak up sunset views of the Savannah River at its rooftop pool from $360 per night.
For a cozier option, consider one of the city’s many mansions turned bed-and-breakfasts, like the Printmaker’s Inn, which offers four private suites ($175 to $300 per night) showcasing Italianate architecture, original ceiling medallions and beautiful heart pine floors.
The Thunderbird Inn, a former roadside motel on the west side of downtown, has bright ’60s furniture, rotary phones and a Moonpie on every pillow. Doubles from around $150.
There are plenty of short-term rental options, particularly in the downtown area and surrounding Forsyth Park.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.