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Savannah is one of the most beautiful and historic cities in the United States. Located on the Georgia coast in the deep south and only a 45-minute drive from South Carolina’s esteemed Hilton Head Island, Savannah is a great place to visit for a vacation or even a day trip. If you only have one day in Savannah GA, you’ll want to spend most of your time exploring the city’s historic district. Known for its cobblestone squares and shady parks, large oak trees draped in Spanish moss, and picturesque colonial architecture, the historic district of Savannah is a fascinating place to visit.
This one day Savannah itinerary highlights what you can see and do in one day in Savannah GA, plus includes recommendations on where to stay in Savannah and travel tips for visiting the historic coastal city in the southeastern United States.
About Savannah Georgia
With a history that predates the United States, Savannah Georgia is one of the most interesting cities in the country. Although the city now has a thriving culinary scene, unique southern accommodations, and award winning tours and attractions, Savannah’s history is a bit more complex.
As a port city, Savannah was a major hub for the slave trade in early, colonial United States history. The trade of slaves was not only an industry in Savannah, slavery was very ingrained in the way of life in the city, and through the southern portion of the USA. At one point in its early establishment, nearly 35% of people living in the city of Savannah were enslaved. While it is an ugly scar on the beautiful city’s past, it is an important, albeit embarrassing part of US history that should not be forgotten.
Given this dark history, Savannah is also considered one of the most haunted places in the United States. Some of the most popular attractions and tours in Savannah are based on the city’s haunted history.
Where to stay in Savannah for a day
While you can visit Savannah in a day trip, if you have a full 24 hours in Savannah, GA, there are several unique places to consider staying in the Savannah historic district. Here are a few of our favorite hotels located in the heart of Savannah.
One day in Savannah GA itinerary
This one day Savannah itinerary primarily keeps you in the historic district. This walkable district allows you to explore Savannah on foot. You can get an inexpensive audio guide to enhance your self-guided walking adventure. However, if mobility is a challenge or the intense Savannah heat and humidity are too much to handle, you can also book a hop-on hop-off trolley which is a great way to explore Savannah in a day.
Here are the highlights of this one day in Savannah GA itinerary:
- Forsyth Park
- Lafayette Square
- Andrew Low House
- Basilica of St. John the Baptist
- Colonial Park Cemetery
- Chippewa Square
- Owens-Thomas House and Slave Quarters
- Leopold’s Ice Cream
- Lunch on River Street
- Harbor Sightseeing Cruise
- City Market
The best things to do with one day in Savannah Georgia
If you only have one day in Savannah GA, you’ll want to begin your day early with a good breakfast at Collins Quarter at Forsyth Park, which is the first stop on this 1-day Savannah itinerary.
Depending on the time of year you visit Savannah, the weather could also be a reason to start your day off early. While winters are pleasant with highs in the low to mid-60s (Fahrenheit), summers are hot and humid. So, the early start will make a self-guided walking tour more pleasant.
Walk under the large oak trees at Forsyth Park
After breakfast, walk off your meal with a peaceful stroll through Forsyth Park. This large city park spans 30 acres and is filled with large trees, many of which are centuries old. The trees canopy over the walkways creating both shade and atmosphere. Unique to this part of the country, most of the trees are draped with Spanish Moss which grows along the limbs and creates a picturesque southern landscape.
At the center of Forsyth Park, you’ll find the Civil War Monument with a statue of a confederate soldier. The monument has been the target of vandalism several times in recent years, as have other monuments dedicated to confederate soldiers who fought for the south and were largely against abolishing slavery during the American Civil War.
Forsyth Park also has a beautiful fountain, a splash area and a playground for kids.
See Lafayette Square
From Forsyth Park walk north to Lafayette Square. The small square is situated right in front of Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist. You’ll be able to see the twin steeples from the park to help guide your way. During the short walk, you’ll pass the Andrew Low House, which is now a museum. The 1840s historic home was the childhood home of the founder of the Girl Scouts Organization and is the oldest building on the square. And like many places in Savannah, it is believed to be haunted!
Lafayette Square is one of 22 squares in Savannah. At its center is a modest, tiered fountain commemorating the 250th anniversary of the founding of Georgia.
Stop By Cathedral Basilica of St John the Baptist
Standing prominently on the northeast corner of Lafayette Square, The Cathedral Basilica of St John the Baptist is one of the best things to see during one day in Savannah GA. The basilica is widely considered one of the most historic churches in the United States. An iconic symbol and landmark of the city, the cathedral is free to visit, although a small donation is encouraged when touring the church on a self-guided visit.
The cathedral, which dates back to 1876, is still an active Roman Catholic church, so tours are not allowed during Mass or other religious ceremonies, so keep that in mind if visiting Savannah on a weekend.
Wander through Colonial Park Cemetery
Just north of The Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist lays an historic cemetery that dates back to before the United States was a country. The Colonial Park Cemetery contains more than 9,000 graves over six acres of green space, some of which date back to 1750. The cemetery, which became a city park in 1896, is the final resting place for multiple early governors in Georgia, many of Georgia’s early settlers when it was still a colony, and even one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, Button Gwinnett.
You’ll also find a mass grave containing the remains of more than 660 people, including many children, who died during the Yellow Fever epidemic that ravished Savannah in 1820.
Visit Chippewa Square
From Colonial Park Cemetery head west a couple of blocks to the famous Chippewa Square – the filming site for one of the most beloved movies of all time. The bus stop scenes in the movie Forrest Gump were all filmed in this shady public square.
Spoiler alert: the park bench where Tom Hanks, aka Forrest Gump, sat and recounted his life stories to strangers is not actually at the square because it was just a movie prop. But Chippewa Square is still a great place to visit and wish for a box of chocolates to indulge in, just as Forrest Gump did in the acclaimed movie.
Tour Owens-Thomas House and Slave Quarters
One of the most interesting museums in Savannah, the Owens Thomas House and Slave Quarters is a great stop on any guided or self-guided walking tour through the city.
Located just a block north from Chippewa Square and the Colonial Park Cemetery, the historic house museum gives visitors a glimpse of what life was like for both the influential people as well as the enslaved in the early 1800s.
The north half of the house contains the 2-story original slave quarters, where up to 15 enslaved people lived. In the main house, you can see where the family entertained, as well as tour private spaces like bedrooms and the dining room, which are all decorated in traditional 19th century furnishings.
Cool Off at Leopold’s Ice Cream
Leopold’s Ice Cream has been a Savannah staple since 1919. The old-fashioned ice cream parlor has been rated before as one of the best ice cream shops in the world. Famous with celebrities and Georgia locals, you should expect a line out the door when visiting this popular favorite. Some of their ice cream flavors. Like Lemon Custard and Tutti Frutti, remain unchanged since the creamery’s inception.
Whether you choose a single scoop, a sundae, or an old fashioned malt or float, it is the perfect way to cool off on a hot day.
Tip: If you don’t feel like standing in the line at the historic Savannah location, you’ll find Leopold’s in the Savannah airport both before and after security.
Have Lunch along River Street
Along the shore of the Savannah River lies one of the most popular streets in the city. River Street is Savannah’s lively destination for food and fun.
Stop inside any of the restaurants along the riverside street for a nice lunch and enjoy the atmosphere that is often filled with live music and crowds of tourists. River Street is also a great place to find souvenir shops selling unique gifts from Georgia.
Take A Savannah Riverboat Cruise
After lunch, board a Riverboat Cruise and enjoy the views and a nice breeze as you cruise down the Savannah River. A Riverboat Cruise is one of the best ways to see the historic town.
The boats leave multiple times a day, and if you are spending more than one day in Savannah GA or have extra time, you can even book a sunset cruise or a dinner cruise with a full buffet and live entertainment.
Enjoy Dinner at City Market
A fun place to explore Savannah with your taste buds, City Market is an open market that stretches four blocks. The market has been a prime place for shopping and dining since the 1700s. You’ll find food, hand-crafted goods, and art at City Market.
If time allows, the popular American Prohibition Museum is also located at City Market. The museum takes visitors back to the Roaring 20s when alcohol was banned in the United States and speakeasies, or secret saloons, rose to fame.
Join a Ghost Tour
End your one day in Savannah GA with a ghost tour in the historic district. With such a long and troubled history, Savannah is considered one of the most haunted places in the United States. So, naturally, guided ghost tours are among the most popular things to do in Savannah. Board a trolleybus at Simply Savannah Trolley Depot along River Street and set off on a nighttime adventure where your lively guide will tell stories of murder, mayhem, and ghostly spirits that haunt the streets, squares and old homes in Savannah.
The tour includes a good dose of humor mixed in with the dark tales, so it isn’t overly scary and is suitable for families with kids seven and older.
Is One Day in Savannah GA enough?
Although you could spend more time exploring this beautiful city, one day in Savannah GA is enough time to see and explore the historic district. If you like to take more breaks, visit more museums and don’t want to feel rushed, give yourself at least a couple of days or a full weekend in Savannah to see more of the sites and explore at a more relaxed pace.
But, if you have a limited amount or time or are just passing through on your way to Hilton Head, South Carolina or the underrated large city of Atlanta, Georgia, this one day Savannah GA itinerary hits the highlights of the historic city.
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