Savannah is a great vacation destination for families, offering numerous attractions perfect for young visitors and their adult companions.
The Savannah Children’s Museum, a two-level outdoor playspace located in the ruins of the old Central of Georgia Railroad station, is a great place for kids to burn off steam and let their imaginations run wild. The museum is adjacent to another kid-friendly attraction--the Georgia State Railroad Museum, an outdoor landmark featuring antique locomotives and an intricate model train.
Savannah’s Civil War forts provide an excellent opportunity for children to learn about history while exploring fascinating 19th-century structures. Fort Pulaski National Monument’s moats, drawbridges, ramparts and tunnels provide hours of entertainment for curious kids and their parents, and the Saturday cannon firings are always a hit.
Animal lovers will adore Oatland Island Wildlife Center, which features winding nature trails and dozens of species native to Georgia, and the University of Georgia Marine Education Center and Aquarium, an intimate attraction with an array of indigenous marine life.
Girl Scouts can’t leave Savannah without touring the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace, home of Girl Scouts of the USA founder Juliette Gordon Low. The historic home features original antiques and artwork and tells the story of the founding of the Girl Scouts.
Other must-see attractions for kids include Forsyth Park, the Jepson Center for the Arts, River Street, Skidaway Island State Park, Old Fort Jackson, the Pirates' House restaurant, the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force and the Massie Heritage Center.
Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace
The first National Historic Landmark in Savannah, this iconic gem is the birthplace of Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts of the USA. Built in 1821, the English Regency-style townhouse has been elegantly restored and is furnished with many original pieces from the Gordon family. Whether you're a lifelong Scout or clueless as to the difference between a Daisy and a Brownie, you'll be captivated by the home's lavish antiques, Gordon Low's original artwork and GSUSA memorabilia, such as a Thanks Badge presented to Mrs. Woodrow Wilson in 1917. The Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace welcomes more than 65,000 visitors a year, including Girl Scouts from around the country. (912-233-4501)
Skidaway Island State Park
Among the most picturesque places in Savannah, this peaceful 588-acre park borders Skidaway Narrows, part of Georgia's Intracoastal Waterway. Its soaring palms and live oaks are dripping with Spanish moss and veil an abundance of wildlife, creating a secluded natural wonderland that seems straight out of a Southern storybook. The private campgrounds are spacious and well equipped, while the nature trails, interpretive center and daily ranger programs provide myriad ways to explore this enchanting paradise. Skidaway Island State Park is home to several indigenous wildlife species, including deer, fiddler crabs, raccoon, egrets and more and is a favorite spot for birders, who enjoy looking for the area's elusive painted bunting. (912-598-2300, 800-864-7275)
University of Georgia Marine Education Center and Aquarium
Nestled on a gorgeous tract of land at the very end of Skidaway Island, the University of Georgia Marine Education Center and Aquarium is a small yet fascinating place for visitors to learn about indigenous marine life. The aquarium--the first saltwater aquarium in the state--features 16 exhibit tanks showcasing a variety of Georgia's marine life, including horseshoe crabs, stingrays, striped mullet, jellyfish, pompano, longnose gar, lionfish and seahorses. The aquarium also features a freshwater tank with two American alligators and a touch tank that gives visitors a chance to interact with snails, crabs and other invertebrates. After checking out the marine life on display, guests can head outside and explore the beautiful grounds, which boast walking trails and a boardwalk over the salt marsh. (912-598-3325)
If you're looking to pick up some Savannah souvenirs during your visit, River Street is the place to shop. But Savannah T-shirts and magnets aren't the only reason to hit up the historic street that overlooks the Savannah River. There's something for collectors (True Grits, a shop that specializes in Civil War artifacts), peanut lovers (The Peanut Shop of Savannah, a store that sells more than 50 varieties of hand-roasted peanuts) and book lovers (Books on Bay, a bookstore that features thousands of books from the 1700s to the late 1900s). There are also lovely galleries, an open-air marketplace, a good selection of restaurants and bars, and not one, but two candy stores. So many great shopping options, plus numerous special events held throughout the year in which vendors sell their arts and crafts, make River Street a one-stop shopping destination that you don't want to miss. (912-234-0295)
Fort Pulaski National Monument
This 19th-century fort, which was occupied by the Confederate Army during the Civil War, is a must-see for history buffs. Only a 15-minute drive from Downtown Savannah, Fort Pulaski was designed by Napoleon's engineer, and though it fell during the Civil War, it still remains intact, with moats, drawbridges, enormous ramparts and mysterious tunnels. After learning about the Fort's fascinating history, visitors can access one of the historic site's many walking trails, which feature magnificent views of the marsh and Savannah River. Be sure to keep your eyes out for one of the Fort's 11 protected species, including bald eagles, manatees, loggerhead sea turtles and peregrine falcons. (912-786-5787)
Georgia State Railroad Museum
Train-loving tots and railroad buffs alike adore the Georgia State Railroad Museum, considered the largest and most complete antebellum railroad repair facility still in existence. Guests can enjoy lunch in a restored dining car before heading across the street to the museum, where they will find beautifully restored antique locomotives and enchanting model trains, as well as a working roundhouse and old-fashioned repair shop. Visitors can tour the luxurious presidential cars, ride a 1913 steam locomotive or 1947 diesel locomotive and even operate a vintage handcar. Kids especially love the Baggage Car, an old railway car that's been transformed into a children's play space. (912-651-6823)
This 30-acre park at the southern edge of the Historic District has a little bit of something for everyone. The park's magnificent two-tiered, white cast-iron fountain, which was made famous in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, is a visual masterpiece and probably the most photographed attraction in all of Savannah. Two large expanses of grass, separated by a walkway, are perfect for throwing a disc, sunbathing or having a picnic. Two playgrounds, one for younger kids and one for older ones, give children an opportunity to burn off steam while adults can relax and keep an eye on them in the nearby shade. The park cafe serves breakfast and lunch items, along with an array of beverages including Starbucks coffee, beer and wine. (912-651-6610)
Jepson Center for the Arts
This striking 64,000-square-foot modern art museum features an impressive permanent collection and hosts major traveling exhibitions from around the world. The Kirk Varnedoe Collection, the Jepson Center's permanent collection, includes works by renowned artists such as Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg , Chuck Close and Richard Avedon. The museum also boasts a 3,500-square-foot interactive gallery for children and families called ArtZeum. The Jepson Center itself is a work of art. Designed by architect Moshe Safdie, the museum's sleek design includes hung-glass ceilings and cantilevered walls. The Jepson Center is part of the Telfair Museums, a series of three unique art venues in Downtown Savannah that also includes the Telfair Academy and the Owens-Thomas House. ((912) 790-8800)
Oatland Island Wildlife Center
At Oatland Island Wildlife Center, the intimate wildlife experience of a zoo meets the untamed beauty of nature, creating an unforgettable outdoor adventure for all ages. Along a two-mile trail through tranquil marshes and maritime forests, families discover spacious enclosures housing such awe-inspiring creatures as bald eagles, majestic cougars, falcons, bobcats, red foxes, enormous bison and toothy gators. Little adventurers especially love the farm area and the "Wolf Wilderness" exhibit featuring unbelievably close-up views of gray wolves. Oatland Island's educational building features reptile exhibits, classrooms and a gift shop that sells everything from stuffed animal replicas of the center's animals to locally roasted coffee beans. (912-395-1212)
Savannah Children's Museum
This two-level, outdoor museum, which opened in June 2012, encourages kids to use their hands, make noise and interact with their surroundings. The Savannah Children's Museum features more than a dozen exhibits in the Imagination Station, including an underground archeology table, imagination playground, giant building blocks and life-size games such as tic-tac-toe. Other unique exhibits include a maze that features a giant Lego panel, an interactive garden and a misting station to keep kids cool on hot days. The museum is located in the ruins of the old Central of Georgia Railroad station, which adds an element of historic charm to the unique play space. (912-651-4292)
About Amy Pine
Amy's thrilled to have the opportunity to share her love of Savannah with the world. A Savannah native, Amy has more than 15 years of experience as a writer and editor, and her work has appeared in numerous local, regional and national publications. Prior to launching a freelance career, she was executive editor at the Savannah College of Art and Design, where she served as editor of the college’s alumni magazine. Amy received a B.A. in English and communications from the University of Pennsylvania. She's currently putting the finishing touches on her young adult novel, The Girl in a Picture Frame.
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