Updated: Sep 5
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Savannah, Georgia, is known for its charming public parks, cute boutiques, good food, walkable downtown, and Southern charm. All that and more has made Savannah a popular tourist destination along the Georgia coast.
History is also a significant draw for many to come to Savannah, especially its Black history, even if visitors don't consciously recognize it.
Consider one of the defining features of Savannah's built environment, the well-preserved antebellum architecture of many of the city's historic buildings. These buildings are often the backdrop for weddings and photoshoots, drawing visitors who are attracted to their grandeur and intricate design. These same buildings are also the focus of architecture magazines and design blogs.
However, many of these historic buildings were built and maintained through wealth gained through slavery. In the case of Savannah and many other cities in the US, these historic buildings may have also housed enslaved peoples as well. In city environments, slavery often involved close living quarters between enslaved peoples and enslavers.
Beyond the significance of its architecture, much of Savannah's history is also Black history. You can't truly explore Savannah without also exploring a bit of this history. And even better, modern-day Savannah also has a host of fabulous Black-owned businesses to explore as well. The recommendations below will ensure you get a taste of Savannah's Black history and cuisine together on your next visit!
How To Get There And Get Around
To fly directly into Savannah, check out flights into Savannah/Hilton Head Airport (SAV), about 25 to 30 minutes from downtown. The city is also about a two-hour drive from Charleston, SC, another must-visit destination if you're interested in exploring Black history in the US.
Once you're in Savannah, you can get around easily without a rental car, depending on your plans. If you stay close to downtown for your visit, most restaurants and activities are accessible by walking or taxi/rideshare. However, there are a couple of destinations that I'd recommend renting a car to see the Pin Point Heritage Museum as it's a quick drive outside of the downtown area and might be difficult to get back from if you are using rideshare like Uber or Lyft.
What To Do In Savannah, Georgia
Explore the Pin Point Heritage Museum
The Pin Point Heritage Museum, located about 20 minutes drive from downtown Savannah, explores the history of a local Gullah Geechee community founded by freedmen after the Civil War. This is an incredible stop to take in the gorgeous coastline, learn about this historical community, and also a bit about the Gullah Geechee people.
Tour The Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters
Though most people think of rural plantations when they think of slavery, cities were also deeply tied to slavery in the US and Savannah through trade, economic and political ties, and urban enslavement. Visit the Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters to learn more about urban enslavement and the politics of slavery and abolition in the antebellum South. When you visit, I recommend taking a guided tour, which operate on a first-come, first-served basis from 10 am to 1:30 pm.
This permanent collection at Savannah's School of Art and Design's Museum of Art features African American art from the 18th century onward. Spend an hour or two to visit and take in the beauty, creativity, and storytelling featured in the collection.
Visit The Beach Institute
Explore multiple floors of Black history and art at the Beach Institute, an African-American arts, history, and cultural preservation center housed in a building that once operated as Savannah's first school for African Americans.
Where To Eat & Drink In Savannah
This award-winning Black-owned bakery is a great stop to get your favorite baked treat and outstanding biscuit sandwiches on weekend mornings. There are also a variety of curated gifts and foodstuffs for sale in the shop as well, perfect for gifts or the foodie in your life.
The Grey, chef and partner Mashama Bailey's famed restaurant in Savannah is a popular spot for dinner and now offers brunch. Make your reservations far in advance to snag a spot if you plan to visit while you're in Savannah.
If you missed out on reservations, you can also walk in at the bar at The Grey, separate from the formal dining room. There's both bar seating and a few booths, and that section operates on a first-come, first-served basis. Try to get there early to get seated right away. Alternately, for a more relaxed dining experience, you can snag breakfast or lunch at The Grey Market, the casual market and dining concept just a block away.
For a fabulous dinner, cocktails and zero-proof options, and fun late-night eats on the weekends, don't miss The Garage, another Black-owned restaurant in Savannah. I ate at this relatively new Savannah spot twice during my week-long trip and loved everything I tried!
I admit I'm not really into Jazz. However, for those who are or just want a good plate of shrimp and grits, try out Good Times, a Black-owned jazz bar and restaurant. Make a reservation in advance to catch dinner while live music plays, or try out their gospel brunch on Sunday!
Just a few minutes walk from the Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters, Ashford Tea Company is an oasis of calm and excellent tea. Explore a wide selection of teas and tea blends at this Black-owned shop and get some to take home or sip while you're there!
This Black-owned cafe and market will open on Broughton Street in Savannah in the Spring of 2023! You'll be able to shop specialty foods and wine as well as stop in for a meal or carry out.
Fox & Fig is *not Black-owned,* but I'm including this vegan cafe here for a reason. Black Americans are almost three times as likely as other groups in the US to be vegan and are moving towards some version of a plant-based diet faster than other demographics. For those folks, Fox & Fig has some really tasty options and a solid coffee program as well!
Where To Stay in Savannah
Unfortunately, I couldn't find any Black-owned hotels or bed and breakfasts to try out during my stay in Savannah. Instead, I stayed at a Sonder property in the city, and I highly recommend it. The rates are affordable, plus the units are large with laundry and a fully-equipped kitchen and centrally located.
Savannah is really a gem of a city! I had a great time during my visit and highly recommend it as a destination for not only girls' trips and romantic getaways but also for folks who want to learn more about Black history, about US history, and eat really well while they do! If you have any questions about Savannah, drop them in the comments! I'm happy to answer as much as I can based on my experience.
Try out these incredible Black-owned and Black-led restaurants in DC