Rich in history and beauty, Savannah is a no-brainer as a fun family destination if you live in the southeast. It ranks right up there close to St. Augustine, if you are making your way south or north on I-95 and need a good overnight spot. Now, I may be a little biased since I lived in Savannah for two years when I was single, but it was always on my must-visit list with my husband and son. We went over President’s Day weekend, and it was unseasonably warm ( like 80 degrees!).
Our first stop was Fort Pulaski. Since it’s a national park, admission is reasonably priced. On the day we were there, admission was free in honor of the holiday. Now there’s a great “See 3 Pass” where you can get discounted admission to your choice of historic or educational sites, and it includes Fort Jackson in its range of choices. However, Fort Jackson is much smaller and doesn’t have the history that Fort Pulaski does. Fort Jackson might be closer to downtown and have daily cannon firings, but Pulaski saw actual battle action and offers a lot more to see and learn. Especially if you’re only in town for one day, I would opt for the slightly longer drive to Pulaski (located on the road to Tybee Island) and choose one of the “See 3” destinations, depending on the ages of your children.
The Georgia State Railroad Museum is also a a great stop for your kids who like transportation. I think it’s fun even for someone who isn’t that much into trains. You might find a new hobby or passion there, because the place is so interesting! Be sure and catch one of the guided tours of the old passenger cars that happen throughout the day. My son and I spent a good hour and a half at this museum but could have easily spent longer. If you’re interested in visiting the Savannah Children’s Museum , be aware that it is adjacent to the Railroad Museum. If you have kiddos interested in both, you should definitely go ahead and buy admission to both. It makes sense.
A walk down River Street is a must. The cobblestones and the steep, uneven staircases can be treacherous, but knowing that you are climbing the same stairs that pirates and merchants used hundreds of years ago is pretty fun. Your children might convince you to board one of the riverboats for a tour or a meal. You have been forewarned. If you’re lucky, you might get to see a freighter ship coming or going. It’s quite the close encounter and pretty neat.
If you have any Brownies or Girl Scouts in your family, you can’t miss the Juliette Gordon Low house, of course. Otherwise, I would save that for a grown up trip, unless your children are way into historic home tours.
As for trolley tours, the green and orange trolley never does us wrong. This is one of those hop-on-hop-off affairs and can be quite handy for seeing as much as possible without moving your car a lot.
Where to eat? Definitely Pirates’ House. This is an experience, even apart from the dining aspect. Check the website for menu choices and times, because you might prefer to go for the lunch buffet while you’re already walking around downtown. This building has been a restaurant for a couple of hundred years, but served as a place for pirates to gather back in the days of yore. Kids get a special hat (that also serves as their menu), but what will entertain them more than anything is the ghost stories and staring down into the old tunnel under the restaurant. There is said to be an underground tunnel that leads all the way down to the waterfront. Legend has it that unsuspecting drunks would pass out at the bar, then be carried through the tunnel to the pirates’ ships. By the time they woke up, they would be out to sea, kidnapped, and enslaved.
If you’re looking for a good pizza, don’t pass up Vinnie VanGogo’s. It was one of my favorites when I lived there, and it’s still the hip place to go for a pie.
Where to stay? If you’re looking to save a few dollars, try a Southside chain hotel. You will be near all the malls and chain restaurants, but with the Truman Parkway, you won’t be terribly far from downtown. There are a few good chains in great downtown locations, too, such as Hampton Inn or Doubletree. But if you’re going to stay downtown, the fun places with ghost stories and local charm are River Street Inn and East Bay Inn. Parking costs in downtown Savannah, whether it’s at your hotel, metered places on the street, or garages.
One more thing – I downloaded the ePass app on my phone, and I do recommend it for a weekend or more. It provides you with discounts and specials all over town for dining, activities, and more. I only used it once – at the Pirates’ House – but it paid for itself after one use.
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