Family Vacations to Savannah, Georgia

Forsyth Park Savannah, Georgia
Forsyth Park (courtesy, Georgia DED)

Savannah Family Travel Tips

  • Stroll streets shaded by huge oaks draped with Spanish moss.
  • Learn the city's history on a horse-drawn carriage ride, a pirate tour, or a ghost walk.
  • Hear the boom of canon firings at Old Fort Jackson.
  • Visit the birthplace of the founder of the Girl Scouts.
  • Explore Tybee Island's beaches, lighthouse, and Marine Science Center.

Savannah is a city made for strolling, with atmospheric streets lined by ancient oaks draped in Spanish moss and park-like squares adorned with fountains. First settled in 1733, the city's 2.5-square-mile historic area exudes Southern charm; to avoid historic-tour over-saturation with the kids, intersperse the exploration of the houses with outdoor rambles. (Be warned, though, that summer brings hot, humid conditions so pack plenty of water, hats, and sunscreen, and don't overexert already tired little legs.)

Start at the Savannah Visitor Center then visit the adjacent Savannah History Museum for a background film and look at the diverse regional artifacts, from a dugout canoe to 19th-century women's dresses to fictional Forest Gump's bench (much of the movie was filmed here, as was Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil). Forsyth Park, 30 acres of greenery and fountains between Gaston Street and Park Avenue, is perfect for an impromptu game of tag or a picnic.

Cotton combined with river access made Savannah an 18th- and 19th-century boomtown. At Factor's Walk, cotton merchants once perched on the iron catwalks to judge the price of goods paraded below. Nearby River Street, fronting the water, houses more than 75 boutiques, cafés, restaurants, and galleries, plus showcases another city icon, the Waving Girl Statue. The sculpture commemorates Florence Martus, a city native who, from 1887 to 1931, reputedly waved at every ship entering the harbor in hopes of greeting her husband who sailed away just after their marriage, never to return. Continue the nautical theme at the Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum, where scores of models plus ship-in-the-bottle collections enthrall kids. At the Roundhouse Railroad Museum, train buffs get to see a diesel engine, steam locomotive, red caboose, and a large model train exhibit of the city.

The archways, pillars, and fanciful iron railings of Savannah's stately, historic homes will delight design and architecture aficionados, but with kids, a tour of one or two of these is generally enough. A good choice, especially if there's a former or current Girl Scout in your family, is the Juliette Gordon Low Girl Scout Center, the home of the organization's founder. To make the city's history slide down easily, try a carriage ride, good for young kids who enjoy the slow pace and the horses; the Pirates Walk, led by a costumed buccaneer who recounts tales of swashbucklers; or the Ghost Tour, whose spooks, legends, and strange tales appeal to gradeschoolers.

The crackling boom of canon fire (daily in summer) at Old Fort Jackson helps kids travel back to a time when Savannah stood as an important strategic prize for warring navies including the Brits and the French. Cockspur Island's Fort Pulaski, captured by Union forces during the Civil War, impresses with massive walls, a drawbridge, moats, and even nature trails. Drive two more miles and you're on Tybee Island, a barrier island with a beach, lighthouse, and the Tybee Island Marine Science Center, which along with an aquarium and touch tank, offers naturalist-led beach walks.

Tip: Line up early for the family-style (ten guests to a table) lunch, served 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., at Mrs. Wilkes' Boarding House. At this Savannah classic, sample heaping plates of fried chicken, stew, rice, beans, biscuits, collared greens, sweet potatoes, plus several types of pie.

Recommended Side Trips: Georgia's Golden Isles (including Jekyll Island, St. Simons Island), Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Jacksonville (Florida)'s resident family expert Candyce Stapen has written the book on family travel, having authored some 1,400 travel articles and 27 books, 26 of them on family travel. She is the winner of the 2004 "Caribbean Travel Writer of the Year for North America" award and a three-time winner of the Society of American Travel Writers' Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism award. Her articles have appeared in publications including Nick Jr , FamilyFun , Parents , Better Homes & Gardens , Conde Nast Traveler , National Geographic Traveler , and the Family Travel Network , among others. Her book, the National Geographic Guide to Caribbean Family Vacations is available from

Published: 3 Oct 2007 | Last Updated: 23 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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