Stroll down one of Savannah’s cobblestoned streets shaded by Southern live oak trees, and you’ll find haunted mansions, horse-drawn carriages and curious local shops and restaurants. This southern jewel offers visitors several charming attractions from River Street to Forsyth Park.
But what if you’re making a pitstop in Savannah and only have an hour or two to spare in Georgia’s historic coastal city? I recommend a brief rendezvous on Savannah’s River Street, where southern sweet delights, steamboats and more await.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to explore River Street in two hours or less. You can also check out the interactive step-by-step map.
Step One: Park Near West River Street
Commence your tour on West River Street and work your way east. This way, you’ll start off on the district’s busy side, and conclude on the street’s less-crowded, more tranquil east side.
Park your car in a garage along Bay Lane. Consider Whitaker Street Parking Garage ($10/3 hours), which is only two blocks away from West River Street.
Step Two: Pose with Historic Stairs
After parking your car, walk a few blocks to Barnard Street. You’ll encounter centuries-old stairs leading down to River Street, where various caution signs warn you of steep steps (they are indeed steep and date back several hundred years). Not only are they historic and steep, but they make for a quick and easy photo op.
Step Three: Spot a Steamboat
Savannah is home to the “largest and grandest riverboat of its kind in the United States”: Georgia Queen. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch the dolled-up steamboat’s wheels churning and turning along the Savannah River. Thankfully, the 38,000 square-foot steamboat takes its sweet time while sailing, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to snap the perfect selfie with Georgia Queen and other steamboats out for the day.
Note: If you have more time on your hands, you can take a ride on Georgia Queen herself. Treat yourself to a brunch, lunch or dinner cruise where signature Savannah dishes like shrimp and grits, fried chicken, greens and more will satisfy your cravings while taking in the city’s skyline.
Side note: Do you see Georgia Queen’s resemblance to Scarlett O’Hara’s outfit in Gone With the Wind’s opening scene?
Step Four: Nibble on Pecans & Pralines at River Street Sweets
A River Street Sweets employee handed out bite-sized praline samples when I strolled by, and naturally, I couldn’t refuse. Just one bite in, I couldn’t help but enter the candy store and treat myself to a full-sized version.
River Street Sweets is dangerous, especially if you’ve been driving all day and haven’t exercised in a while. But when in Savannah, you must experience the traditional southern delight. Throw your diet away and splurge. If you’re not a fan of pecans, the candy shop offers plenty of other options to handle your sweet tooth.
Step Five: Experience Paranormal Activity (and Learn Some History)
If you’re superstitious, you’ll sense strong energies throughout your hour on River Street. In Savannah’s early days, warehouses lined River Street. When imports arrived on boats along the Savannah River, or ships were ready to take exports, slaves and immigrants working the docks would bring heavy cargo to and from these warehouses. Of course, mishaps occurred. Some of these men were crushed by goods and construction projects, while others drowned. According to sources, these men haunt River Street in 18th and 19th century clothing.
Moreover, slaves brought in from Africa were forced to live in buildings along River Street. One can only imagine the hardships they faced. Some locals and visitors claim hearing chains rattling, which may allude to the unjust circumstances these men and women were thrusted into. Supposedly, these sounds along with moans, the smell of cigars and more can be heard at Olde Harbour Inn on East River Street.
Step Six: Head Back and Walk through Emmet Park
You’re on a sugar high and energized by the hustle and bustle of River Street. Wind down before driving to your next destination with a walk through Emmet Park. The park pays homage to Robert Emmet, an Irish patriot and orator, in addition to the city’s Irish inhabitants.
Southern live oak trees blow gently in the wind as you walk toward the parking lot along East Bay Street. Their wispy, spooky leaves will surely provide a hauntingly authentic finale to your two-hour sojourn on River Street.
‘Til next time,