The first time I visited Savannah, it was for a week-long art camp at Savannah College of Art and Design. The five days I spent there were a dream full of walks in the park, Spanish moss, and hot summer rain. I loved it so much I returned a year later as a student. And it seemed like in the time I was gone, almost nothing had changed. As author John Berendt wrote in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, “Savannah’s resistance to change was its saving grace. The city looked inward, sealed off from the noises and distractions of the world at large.” And he was right. A year later, the smell of paper mill still permeated the air, it was still common to get stuck behind a horse carriage, and the old couple making dolls out of corn husks was still sitting on the same bench in the same square. It seemed like the outside world had no effect on the slow magic of the town.
But then again, it had changed. And while I was there, I quickly realized that it changes more and more every day—in the best way possible. After all, since SCAD first started in 1978, it’s grown to over 13,000 students who have taken over the city in a way that only art students can. Old buildings have been transformed into testaments to the creativity of the artists who learn there, trendy coffee shops have popped up on nearly every corner, and, despite its sleepiness, it’s now nearly impossible to find yourself without anything to do anymore thanks to the constant parades, fairs, and festivals that take place year-round. It’s surprising that such an old southern place can contain so many new, interesting things, but that’s the beauty of Savannah. And SCAD students know that all too well, which is why I asked them the best way to take it all in. Whether you’re a new student exploring the city, an old student looking for new kicks, or you just want to show your parents a really good time for the weekend, here are all the must-dos the next time you find yourself in Savannah, Georgia.
Must See: The Exhibits at the SCAD Museum of Art
Why you should go: According to SCAD student Sidney Ruebensaal, the museum boasts impressive artists. Last year, the museum featured the work of the famous Carlos Cruz-Diez. If you’re looking for a quick, fun activity, this place is perfect.
Insider tip: It has the perk of being right by the SCAD bookstore, Ex Libris, which hosts a great little cafe as well as fun art supplies, books, and fashion magazines.
Cost: It’s free to SCAD students, and general admission is $10. You can purchase tickets here.
How to get there: You can find it at 601 Turner Blvd., Savannah, GA. It’s attached to the architecture building on the SCAD campus, and it’s within walking distance of the freshman dorms.
Who you should go with: Someone you want to impress.
Must Do: Have a Sundae at Leopold’s
Why you should go: According to Sidney, “Not only does it have amazing ice cream, the place still has its retro-style interior.”
Insider tip: “The neon lights out front and its placement next to the historic Trustees Theater are ideal for a good Insta pic!” says Sidney. Plus, it was founded by an old-time film producer, which is just cool.
Cost: Prices range from $3 to $9. You can view the full menu here.
How to get there: It’s located at 212 E. Broughton St., Savannah, GA.
Who you should take: Anyone with a major sweet tooth.
Must Hang: At Forsyth Park
Why you should go: Out of all the students I asked, Forsyth Park got a unanimous vote for the best place to hang out in Savannah. Sidney says, “Forsyth Park is the spot to be on the weekends in Savannah. Whether you’re walking your dog, having a picnic, or playing soccer on one of the fields, it feels like just about everyone in Savannah is at Forsyth once Friday hits. Being at the park can feel like a dream.”
Insider tip: Go on Saturday mornings to walk the farmer’s market, where you’ll see Savannah-made honey alongside vegetables and homemade bread. And whatever you do, don’t miss the fountain—it’s especially beautiful at sunrise.
How to get there: You can find it between Drayton and Whitaker Streets (east and west) and Gaston and Park Streets (north and south) at the southern edge of the Historic District.
Who you should take: A blanket and all your friends!
Must ‘Gram: The Paris Market
Why you should go: According to SCAD student Morgan Daniels, “It’s decorated like it was ripped straight from Paris inside and out. This space is definitely Instagram-worthy.”
Insider tip: There’s also a ridiculously Insta-worthy café inside, and tons of adorable French trinkets and antiques for sale.
Cost: Free—plus however much money you want to spend shopping.
How to get there: It’s located at 36 W Broughton St., Savannah, GA.
Who you should take: Your Instagram-loving friend and any Francophiles in your life.
Must Grab: Lunch at Zunzi’s
Why you should go: “If you’re looking for the best sandwich, Zunzi’s, which boasts South African cuisine, is where it’s at,” says Sidney.
Insider tip: It’s a small walk-up venue, so be careful not to miss it!
Cost: Around $11 for a meal.
How to get there: It’s located at 108 E York St., Savannah, GA.
Who you should take: Anyone who appreciates ridiculously good food (and doesn’t mind taking it to go).
Must Dine: At Little Duck Diner
Why you should go: An adorable little diner with a vintage but modern feel that “has the best milkshakes in Savannah,” according to SCAD student Camryn Hall. Get The Snooty Club and the Vintage Mac ‘N’ Cheese.
Insider tip: Be prepared: It’s a little more expensive than a typical diner (but still worth it).
Cost: You’ll probably spend about $20 a person, but it all depends on what you order. You can find the menu here.
How to get there: It’s located at 150 W Saint Julian St., Savannah, GA.
Who you should take: Your friend who loves taking pictures of their food.
Must Caffeinate: With Coffee at Savannah Coffee Roasters
Why you should go: According to SCAD student Camryn Hall, this coffee shop has “amazing breakfast sandwiches, smoothies, and coffee.” It doesn’t hurt that it’s an adorable place to hang, either.
Insider tip: They’re super friendly and work quickly, so go there if you’re in the area and in a hurry.
Cost: Coffee ranges from about $2 to $7. You can view the full menu here.
How to get there: It’s located at 215 W. Liberty St., Savannah, GA.
Who you should take: Yourself and a good book.
Must Shop: The Vintage at Civvies on Broughton
Why you should go: Terrian says, “Civvies on Broughton is a really fun and eccentric thrift shop with really cool and unique vintage clothes for a good price.”
Insider tip: Plan on spending a lot of time there. It’s part of the experience to take a while looking through bins and clothing racks for the perfect addition to your closet.
Cost: Prices range from about $10 to $40.
How to get there: It’s located at 14 East Broughton St., Savannah, GA.
Who you should take: Any vintage-obsessed friends who don’t mind spending a few hours going through old clothes.
Must Browse: Through the Shelves at E.Shaver Books
Why you should go: “E. Shaver Bookseller is the oldest independent bookstore in Savannah, and by far my favorite,” says SACD student Brinna Feist. “t’s located right next to Chippewa Square, and they specialize in regional and new books.”
Insider tip: Brinna explains, “They have loads of little rooms filled with books to browse, and you can even stop and pet the two store kitties that live there, Bartleby and Eliot. Expect to spend at least an hour here, maybe more if you get caught up in snuggling the cats (I always do).”
Cost: Prices range from about $20 to upwards of $100.
How to get there: It’s located at 326 Bull St., Savannah, GA, right next to Chippewa Square.
Who you should take: Anyone—they have books for everyone.
Planning your trip? Save our map of Savannah, Georgia below to your Pinterest, or print it out to take with you on-the-go!
Opening image by Brinna Feist. Artwork by Kali Concepcion.