I’ve been to Savannah a handful of times because it’s the perfect day trip from Hilton Head. It’s a mere 45 minutes away and I love taking the back roads through South Carolina where you pass through Old Town Bluffton (another favorite with its’ charming shops and restaurants under a canopy of oak trees) and you pass by the entrance to Palmetto Bluff which is my dream town fyi. If you’re not familiar, Palmetto Bluff is a planned community on the May River that is meticulously manicured and dotted with beautiful Southern style homes. It’s also home to the Montage where you can rent out your own cottage (yes please), lay by the pool, or take a boat ride on the river among other things. It’s definitely on my bucket list to spend a long, lazy weekend at the Montage with my husband (Brian, if you’re reading this, feel free to surprise me #prettyplease).
Of course, when you have four restless children in tow (three of them being boys), antiquing in Bluffton and laying by the pool at the Montage are just not part of the package so a day trip to Savannah makes more sense. That being said, when we plan a day of sightseeing with children, we try to map it out ahead of time, pack plenty of snacks, and prepare ourselves for the inevitable meltdown. The best way to explore Savannah (and lots of other cities) with children is by trolley. Savannah is a great walking city for adults but their little legs will only take them so far. So, the trolley is an ideal compromise. We get to see all the pretty homes and the famed squares and they get a history lesson and a joy ride around town. Win win. This time, we took the Old Savannah Tour which the kids enjoyed because at certain stops, actors and actresses dressed up as characters from the past hop on board and share a story. My youngest son, Patrick, was especially enamored with a particular pirate. The tour is narrated and 90 minutes long but the best part is that you can get off at one of the sixteen stops, explore a certain neighborhood and then hop back on and pick up where you left off.
We ran into a slight problem this time because it began to pour (we’re talking torrential) so they had to put the covers down on both sides of the trolley and I couldn’t take all the photos I wanted to. Additionally, we had planned on grabbing waffles from Mirabelle Cafe and eating them on a bench in nearby Lafayette Square. But, there was construction at the square and we would have had some very soggy waffles so instead, we stood outside under the awning of the cafe and scarfed them down. You may be wondering why we didn’t sit inside. Well, that’s because the Mirabelle is a pretty popular spot and there were no seats left so we were compelled to improvise. As we were eating and watching the rain, my husband joked that this was an experience we were sure to remember and he’s right. Those warm liege waffles topped with powdered sugar and a cup of coffee really hit the spot. But, the best part was that it turned into an adventure with my five favorite people.
After we ate, we headed across the street to the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist which is a beautiful Catholic church dating back to 1876. It was the perfect respite from the rain and a very nice woman who worked there provided us with an informative lesson about the church’s history. The original church was destroyed in a fire in 1898 and was quickly rebuilt in 1900. How dreamy would it be to get married there and then take your photos across the street at Lafayette Square? (sigh)
From there, we hopped back on the trolley but unfortunately, we had to go back to the Visitor’s Center (where the tour originates) and get on another trolley (long story). It was a tad frustrating but the sun began to peek out from the clouds and I ended up liking our second tour guide better than the first so it actually ended up working out.
After that, the kids were tired and cranky and it was almost time for dinner, so we decided to call it a day and head back to Hilton Head. We ended up going to a quaint low country restaurant that night and it was by far my favorite meal and evening of our trip! I’ll fill you in on that later this week.
In the meantime, here are my recommendations for a day trip to Savannah. Obviously, you can’t do all these things in a day but perhaps over the course of a long weekend or pick and choose one or two things if you’re only in Savannah for a few hours.
- Old Savannah Tour
- Cathedral of St. John the Baptist
- Explore the squares: my favorites are Chippewa (where they filmed Forrest Gump on that infamous bench), Madison, Whitefield, Washington and Warren.
- Take a mansion tour. I toured the Owens-Thomas House and the Mercer Williams House ions ago when I visited Savannah sans children.
- Walk along cobbled River Street on Savannah’s waterfront. There are a plethora of restaurants and shops. It’s a bit touristy but it’s fun to do especially if it’s your first time visiting.
- SCAD Museum: I’ve never been here but the next time we return, I’d love to check out this museum which is part of the Savannah College of Art and Design. Hopefully, the kiddos will cooperate. If not, there is a children’s museum too.
- Mirabelle Cafe: Such a charming spot and it’s centrally located. Plus, their waffles are to die for!
- Paula Deen’s Restaurant: Our tour guide highly recommended the fried chicken so I definitely want to try it out the next time we visit. They also have a great kids’ menu for my fellow moms!
- Back in the Day Bakery: I read so many rave reviews about this place. We were planning on making this our last stop of the day and hopefully returning to Hilton Head with one of their pies (my weakness) but we decided to go while the going was good. I may just have to settle for their cookbook for the time being.
- Azalea Inn and Villas: Such a quintessentially southern bed and breakfast with beautiful gardens and a pool out back. I’d say this inn is ideal for a girls’ weekend or a romantic get-away.
- Andaz Hotel: This hotel is centrally located on Ellis Square so everything is right at your fingertips. Aside from traditional rooms, the Andaz also provides suites with kitchenettes which is perfect for families. This would be my choice if we were to do an overnight with the kids.