If you have only one day in the city and want to hit as many of the high points as possible, my Old Savannah Trolley Tours itinerary is the way to go! You won’t need a car at all — you’ll just use the Hop-On/Hop-Off trolley to get around.
I’ve included my favorite suggested stopping points along the route for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and desserts (of course)! I’ve also noted a few tours you might want to try. Finally, I’ve made note of any reservations you’ll need to make in advance.
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If you’re new around here, first of all…welcome. Thanks for stopping by! My name is Erin, and I authored the Savannah First-Timer’s Guide.
Here’s a handy table of contents in case you want to skip to a specific section.
Trip Planning: Before You Go
If it wasn’t obvious by the title, I’ve based this itinerary on the Old Savannah Tours Hop-On/Hop-Off trolley. It’s the one I recommend most since I always try to promote locally-owned businesses. They’ve been voted Best Trolley Tour in Savannah every year since 2003!
Technically you can do this itinerary using Old Savannah Tours Hop-On/Hop-Off trolley or Old Town Trolley’s Hop-On/Hop-Off option. The stop numbers vary between the two, but otherwise they’re very similar!
NOTE: If you’re trying to decide which trolley tour would work best for you, my Savannah trolley tours review post includes a map and in-depth comparison chart of all the options.
Step 01: Purchase Your Trolley Tickets
Step 02: Research Restaurant Menus
There are a few restaurants along the trolley route that I recommend. I’ve linked to each one so you can check out the menus in advance to see which look the most appealing.
- Breakfast: Collins Quarter Cafe at Forsyth Park, Clary’s Cafe, Mirabelle Cafe, or J. Christopher’s
- Lunch: Vinnie Van Go Go’s or The Pirates’ House
- Dinner: Vic’s on the River
My personal favorites are Clary’s Cafe (locally-owned) for breakfast, Vinnie Van Go Go’s (locally-owned) for lunch, and Vic’s for dinner.
Related Post: A Local’s Guide to the Best Breakfast in Savannah’s Historic District
Step 03: What to Pack
On the day of your trip, bring a refillable bottled water, a pen for note-taking, and your camera. Our rainy season peaks June through September, so you might also want to bring a travel rain poncho. I like that they’re lighter and easier to carry than an umbrella.
Trolley Tour Parking
If you’re driving into Savannah and need to park your car, you can park for free in one of the lots owned by the trolley tour company you selected. Each company owns two lots, and all of the lots are within an approximate 5-minute walk to the trolley departing point.
Old Savannah Tours Parking
– Their larger lot is at 215 W Boundary Street
– Their smaller (but closer) lot is at 255 Montgomery Street
Old Town Trolley Parking
– 234 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. (closest lot)
– 214 W Boundary Street
If the trolley company lots are full or if you have mobility issues and want to park as close to the starting point as possible, then I suggest parking at the Savannah Visitor Center. Parking at the Visitor Center is free the first hour and $1/hr thereafter.
Savannah Visitor Center
– 301 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Old Savannah Trolley Tours Itinerary
Ready? Let’s plan your day.
Stop #1 (Starting Point): Savannah Visitor Center
The trolleys depart from the Savannah Visitor Center. There are restrooms inside the Visitor Center, so you might want to take advantage of them before you depart.
If you forgot to bring a water bottle, you can purchase one inside. Don’t worry too much about breakfast, because you’re going to stop to eat within the first 30 minutes or so of this tour.
NOTE: If you’re a big Forrest Gump fan, the Savannah History Museum is located inside the Visitor Center. It’s where the famous Forrest Gump bench is located.
Breakfast & Non-Stop Trolley Ride
First things first, you’re going to relax and ride the trolley all the way around so you’ll get a good overview of the city and its history. You’ll only hop off for breakfast. Use your pen to make notations on the map of any landmarks that look interesting to you!
Depending on which menu you liked best, you’re going to hop off at Stop 4, 5 or 6 to get some food in your belly! Here are your breakfast options:
- Stop # 4: Collins Café at Forsyth Park – The setting is beautiful — right in the center of Forsyth Park — and the food and coffee are delish. You can’t go wrong with the Raspberry French Toast and a hot latte or refreshing strawberry mimosa.
- Stop #5: Clary’s Café – This is such a classic Savannah spot! It was featured in the movie Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, so there are photos of the cast and crew hanging along the back wall. It’s a no-frills kind of place, but the staff is friendly, and you’ll get a very hearty breakfast. FYI: This is my favorite option!
- Stop #6: Mirabelle Café – This adorable Parisian-style café has a perfect view of the Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist. You absolutely can’t go wrong with any of the waffle options!
- Stop #6: J. Christopher – This is a nice all-around spot if you’re traveling with picky eaters. There’s something for everyone here! Service is usually quick, so it’s also a good option if you’re traveling with a large group of people.
After breakfast, hop back on the trolley and listen as the guide provides an overview of Savannah’s history. If you opt for Old Savannah Tours, a few characters will hop on the trolley to help bring history to life!
Savannah Visitor Center Break
After you’ve done the entire loop once, hop off at the Visitor Center for a little break. This is a good time to “check out the restrooms”, as my mom likes to say, or to pick up brochures for some of the attractions that looked interesting to you.
Afternoon Hop-Off Trolley Ride
The second time around, you’re going to exit at any of the stops that looked appealing to you. You’ll essentially create your own itinerary from the notes you made on your map, but I’m going to provide some suggestions to help out!
Stop #2: Chippewa Square – Hop OFF & Back ON
I adore this square and think it’s a good place to hop off. Chippewa Square is known as the “Forrest Gump square”, since it’s where his famous bench scenes were filmed.
The bench was just a movie prop, so you won’t actually see it in the square (although there are plenty of other benches scattered about), but the square is very beautiful and so are the surrounding buildings.
Photo Opportunities: My top suggestions include The Historic Savannah Theatre, Independence Presbyterian Church (also of Forrest Gump fame — the feather blew past it in the opening scene of the movie), and the haunted Foley House Inn. There are two beautiful homes on the square that you might also want to photograph.
Stop #3: Madison Square – Hop OFF & Back ON
Architecture fanatics should hop off at this stop to see the stunning Scottish Rite Building. It’s not open for touring, but the street level is currently home to SCAD’s Gryphon restaurant. The restaurant is a cozy place to stop for tea and a light lunch on a rainy day.
Another compelling reason to hop off is to venture inside adorable E.Shaver, Booksellers. It’s one of my favorite bookstores in Savannah! It’s a great place to pick up local souvenirs or to visit with the cats that freely roam about the store.
If you’re a history buff (Civil War-era), make note that the Green-Meldrim House is where General Sherman was headquartered when he stayed in Savannah.
Souvenir Opportunities: Consider purchasing something by a local author at E. Shaver, Bookseller. My current favorite book by a Savannahian is “Sketching Savannah” by Ivan Chow.
Photo Opportunities: The top photo opportunities at this stop include the stunning Scottish Rite Building, the charming E. Shaver Booksellers, the haunted Sorrel Weed House, and the historic Green-Meldrim House.
Stop #4: Forsyth Park – Hop OFF and Walk
Hop off here to see the famous Forsyth Fountain — one of the most classic photo locations in Savannah. If you want to take a stroll, the homes on the Whitaker and Gaston sides of the street are prettiest.
My advice is NOT to hop back on the trolley when you finish at Forsyth Park, but to instead walk directly north on Bull Street. You’ll pass an impressive white house at the north end of the park — that’s the Armstrong-Kessler Mansion. You’re probably going to want to snap a selfie in front of it since it was in the movie Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.
Keep walking straight for one block and you’ll run into Monterey Square, which is one of my all-time favorite squares in Savannah. So many incredible homes and landmarks surround this square!
From there, stroll down Taylor Street two blocks east to Calhoun Square, where you’ll hop back on the trolley. You’ll pass some beautiful homes on the way.
Souvenir Opportunity: V&J Duncan Maps and Antiques is a true hidden gem and a great place to purchase locally-authored books and unique maps.
Tour Opportunity: The Mercer Williams House is available for touring.
Photo Opportunities: The stunning Alex Raskin Antiques building, which is one of the oldest unrestored mansions remaining in Savannah; Congregation Mickve Israel, the third oldest Jewish synagogue in the country; and the Mercer Williams House, which was also made famous by Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.
Stop #5: Calhoun Square – Hop Back ON
Massie Heritage Center is the main draw at this stop. Venture inside if you want…they have a cool 3D model of the Historic District.
There’s also a beautifully renovated home located at 432 Abercorn Street that’s so pretty you might want a picture of it. You’d probably never guess by looking at it, but some people think it’s one of the most haunted homes in Savannah!
Calhoun Square itself is also considered haunted, since it’s reportedly the site of a mass slave burial ground. Historic Wesley Monumental Church, established in 1868, also sits on this square.
It’s a fairly boring stop, so I don’t recommend spending too much time here. Hop back on the trolley at this location to head to the next one!
Photo Opportunities: Calhoun Square and Wesley Monumental Church, plus a few of the surrounding homes
Stop #6: The Cathedral of St. John – Hop OFF & Back ON
The Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist is one of the most incredible sights in all of Savannah. Definitely go inside, since the interior is breathtaking and very photo-worthy.
There’s no cost to enter, but you’re welcome to leave a few dollars at the donation station by the door. Donations help with the maintenance of the building…and that lovely air conditioning you’ll enjoy while inside.
If you’re not running low on time, walk across Liberty Street to see historic (and haunted!) Colonial Park Cemetery. It’s filled with historic gravesites from duels, wars, and the Great Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1820.
Head back to the Cathedral to hop back on the trolley after you’ve seen the cemetery.
Photo Opportunities: The interior and exterior of Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist. The east wall of Colonial Park Cemetery.
Stop #7: The Pirates House – Lunch Option
This is the first lunch option out of two spots, so if you’re getting hungry you might want to hop off and grab a bite to eat at their buffet.
The She Crab Soup and the Pecan Crusted Fried Chicken are two of their most popular dishes. Both are on the buffet, but you’ll have to request the honey pecan sauce for the chicken from one of the servers. (Insider tip: This dish is better for when you order it as your entire meal [only available on the dinner menu] vs. ordering from the buffet!)
The Herb House portion of the Pirates’ House was constructed in 1734, so it’s one of the oldest still-standing structures in the state of Georgia. And yes, the building is aptly named since actual pirates used to hang out there.
If you aren’t hungry, you can take photos of the building from the trolley and head on the next stop.
Stop #8: Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters
While I absolutely love the work that has gone into restoring this home and consider it one of the top tours in Savannah, they have a frustrating check-in process and it’s rather difficult to fit it in if you only have one day in Savannah. For that reason, I suggest staying on board and photographing it from the trolley.
If you’re ever in town for a longer period of time, definitely include this as a “must-see” on your list! It’s actually one of the top ten tours I recommend in Savannah in my Savannah First-Timer’s Guide.
Stop #9: Telfair Museum
Unless you’re an avid art lover, this is yet another stop where you can photograph the buildings and adjacent square from inside the trolley.
Stop #10: City Market – Lunch Option – Hop OFF
By now I imagine you’re probably getting pretty hungry. I suggest hopping off at this stop to grab a slice of Vinnie Van Go Go’s pizza. The price is right at less than $5 for a giant slice.
Be sure to request extra crispy crust!
If Vinnie’s has too long of a wait (it’s very popular), you can opt for a fancier meal at Belford’s or walk over to Little Duck Diner — an adorable retro diner at the corner of Barnard and W. Saint Julian Street.
While you’re in City Market, stroll around and check out some of the talented artists in their studios. Be sure to sample the sweets at Byrd Cookie Co. and Savannah Candy Kitchen! You’ll be back in this area for Stop #16, so wait to make your purchases then. (That way you won’t have to lug items around with you.)
Tour Opportunities: One of my favorite tours in Savannah is the First African Baptist Church tour (also a “top ten” in my ebook). The church is located just west of City Market and Franklin Square. If you have the time, I highly suggest it! Tours are Wed-Sat at 3 pm only. Plan to spend an hour and a half inside. Another really fun tour to try in this area is American Prohibition Museum. I suggest purchasing tickets in advance.
Stop #11: Reynolds Square
The Olde Pink House restaurant is the main attraction at this stop. It’s an iconic restaurant in Savannah and so popular that you need to make reservations months in advance.
Take photos from the trolley or hop off to get better shots. There’s a tavern in the basement if you’re in the mood for drinks!
If you’re craving dessert and don’t mind standing in ridiculously long line to get it, stroll one block south to Broughton Street to enjoy some Leopold’s Ice Cream.
Photo Opportunities: The Olde Pink House Restaurant, Lucas Theatre, and the Leopold’s Ice Cream sign with the SCAD sign in the background.
Stop #12: E Factors Walk
I’m a huge fan of Factors Walk, but in the interest of saving time I’m going to suggest you stay on the trolley here and hop of two stops later on West Factors Walk. There’s more to see on the west end. Enjoy the scenery in this area as you make your way down towards River Street!
Stop #13: Market Landing – Hop OFF and Back ON (or walk!)
River Street is one of the most well-known streets in Savannah, so you’ll definitely want to hop off here! The east end of River Street is the quieter and less crowded end of the street.
Head over to the Waving Girl Statue to take a photo of Florence Martus, who gained notoriety for waving at all the passing ships. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a giant container ship coming into port while you’re there!
There’s an open-air marketplace where you can do more souvenir shopping, but nothing there particularly screams “Savannah” to me.
If you’re in the mood to stretch your feet, you can walk from this area along the riverfront to get to the next stop…or you can hop back on the trolley to ride to the next stop.
Photo Opportunities: The Waving Girl Statue, River Street, and any giant container ships that happen to pass by
Stop #14: Cotton Exchange Building – Hop OFF
If you haven’t already read my post about Factors Walk, you should! There are so many unique things to see in this area. The Old Cotton Exchange Building is the famous building that most people think of when they picture River Street, and the winged lion stands guard in front of it.
You can actually walk underneath the Cotton Exchange building to get to River Street, and I recommend doing so just to say you’ve done it! When you get to River Street, you’ll see the Georgia Queen Riverboat (if it isn’t out on a cruise) and you’ll be near my favorite candy shop — River Street Sweets.
To get back to the trolley, walk up the ramp located next to Olympia Café (you’ll be walking towards the City Hall building with the gold dome at the top). You might want a photo of the exterior of the cafe, since it will be in the upcoming Joe Jonas movie, “Devotion”.
Once you round the corner of the ramp, you’ll see the unique Cluskey Vaults, which are worth exploring. Be sure to look to your left and make note of Vic’s on the River, since I suggest dinner there later!
Souvenir Opportunity: River Street Sweets is the top seller of pralines in the world. I suggest sampling them while they’re warm, and then buy a half-dozen (or more!) to take home with you.
Photo Opportunities: The Old Cotton Exchange Building, the Old City Exchange Bell, the winged lion statue, the Georgia Queen Steamboat, and the Cluskey Vaults
Stop #15: City Hall
There’s no need to hop off at this stop. City Hall is a pretty building, but if you only have one day in the city you can certainly find better ways to spend your time.
Stop #16: Franklin Square
This is essentially the same stop as stop #10. If you were smart and took my advice about not purchasing souvenirs to lug around earlier, now is the time to revisit City Market to purchase lots of sweet treats from Byrd Cookie Co. and Savannah Candy Kitchen.
After you’ve made your purchases, you can hop back on the trolley to head back to the Savannah Visitor Center and place your purchases in your car, OR you can walk a few blocks north to River Street where I suggest having dinner. Just make note that if you plan to stay late, you’ll need to have your car out of the Visitor Center by 8 pm!
Souvenir Opportunity: Key Lime Coolers, Salted Caramel, and Georgia Peach cookies from Byrd Cookie Co. or pralines from Savannah Candy Kitchen
After the Trolley Tour: Dinner Options
I run a private Facebook group for people who are planning trips to Savannah, and Vic’s on the River is consistently one of the most popular restaurants mentioned in the group. Sometimes it even gets higher marks than The Olde Pink House! I highly suggest it for dinner, but make note that it’s best to make reservations at least few days in advance.
If you still have energy to explore after dinner, you might want to stroll down to the Plant Riverside District. It’s the new development on the far west end of River Street. Just look towards the Talmadge Bridge and you can’t miss it…you’ll see two giant smokestacks reaching towards the sky.
Whew, that was a pretty jam-packed itinerary, wasn’t it? Hopefully you feel like you were able to fit a lot in and get a good overview of the city!
Don’t Forget: If you’re reading this post to get inspiration for your trip, don’t forget to book your Old Savannah Tours Hop-On/Hop-Off trolley ticket!
Savannah Travel Resources
If you had fun and want to plan a return trip, I’ve created some Savannah travel resources to help you out.
My Savannah First-Timer’s Guide is the easiest way to plan a future trip. You’ll get free updates for the life of the guide with your purchase! These blog posts are also a great place to start…
You can also sign up for my email list, and you’ll get a handy list of 50 things to do on-foot in the Historic District.