8 Best Things To Do On River Street In Savannah

Historic spots and new classics line this staple Savannah street.

Savannah, Georgia, USA bars and restaurants on River Street

Sean Pavone/Getty

If it’s been a few years since you walked down Savannah’s famous cobblestone-lined waterfront, you’re missing out. River Street has entered a renaissance, with revamped buildings, new shops and restaurants added to the not-to-be missed classics and inspiring new areas to stay and play in the historic district. It’s time to make a reservation.

River Street in Savannah

River Street was originally a center of import and export commerce in the colonial South. It was the original port of Savannah and at one time, the leading export location of cotton in the world.

The cobblestones that line the street can make it challenging for a pair of high heels or a wheelchair, but are historically significant. The stones travelled from ports of call around the world as ballast, eventually unloaded and used to build the ramps that lead to Bay Street. 

In the 1970s, the street became a tourist location, full of restaurants, bars, and shops. The atmosphere was always fun, full of music, cruising cars, and entertainment.

It was the place to be on St. Patrick’s Day with tens of thousands of people crowding the area to celebrate the second largest parade in the United States. The city began to control some of the access and stretch the festival zone across all of downtown to manage the crowds. River Street’s traffic was still present, but not as massive. 

For a while, Savannah’s tourists have enjoyed what River Street had to offer without a ton of change. Recently, a sort of revival was born at the ends of the fabled walkway.

The Eastern Wharf at one end created excitement with a selection of new restaurants and activities around Savannah's Thompson Hotel. On the other side, the Plant Riverside District set a new standard for entertainment and excitement with a three-hotel complex and enough activity to satisfy every member of a family. The new age of River Street is born. 

If you find yourself in Historic Savannah, try these suggestions for the best things to do on River Street during your visit. You won’t be sorry. 

01 of 08

Have a cool drink on a rooftop

The Lost Square
The Lost Square.

The Alida

This is one of Savannah’s newest trend: All across downtown, restaurants and bars are making full use of the Lowcountry’s mild weather and gorgeous sunsets by developing their rooftop areas.

On River Street, it’s no different. There are many spots to enjoy a view of the bridge and the brilliant red and purples in the sky.

A few favorites come to mind: Electric Moon Skytop Lounge & The Moon Deck has a selection of adult-sized games, complete with a slide. The Lost Square has a panoramic view of the sunset in a relaxed, nautical setting. The Cotton Sail Hotel’s Top Deck serves as much regional food as they can source, resulting in a menu packed with Lowcountry taste. It’s a sure way to beat the summer heat while celebrating the end of the day. 

02 of 08

Visit a natural history museum that’s a hotel made from a power plant

Plant Riverside JW Marriott

Plant Riverside JW Marriott

Local hotelier Richard Kessler created a show-stopping hotel while preserving a decommissioned historic power plant. The result is the JW Marriott Savannah Plant Riverside District, but the creativity of turning this unique building into a place to stay didn’t stop when construction finished. Instead, to add to the wonder, Kessler filled the interior with pieces from his personal collection.

It’s filled with curiosities from mammoth tusks to giant amethysts. There’s even a replica of the largest dinosaur ever discovered suspended from the foyer ceiling. Make sure you check that a few times as it moves positions throughout the day. Visitors could easily spend a day exploring all the hotel has to offer.

03 of 08

Eat from one end to the other

Smokestack room at the JW Marriott

JW Marriott

The Eastern Wharf’s Bar Julian and Fleeting begin a culinary journey under the guidance of Chef Rob Newton that’s full of fresh bread, innovative cocktails, and sustainable modern fare.

Walking further down River Street, you’ll find more culinary genius. Try a locals favorite, the chicken fingers from Spanky’s for a classic taste of Savannah. Stop at Huey’s for a beignet, try a warm praline as the staff at River Street Sweets pours out ribbons of caramel. Save room for Byrd Cookie Company and maybe even some shrimp and grits or Lowcountry boil.

If your budget allows, reserve a spot in the smokestack room at the JW Marriott. You guessed it: Dinner is served in one of the power plant’s smokestacks, with a view all the way to the top. 

04 of 08

Celebrate a holiday, any holiday

New Year Fireworks over Savannah


Every holiday seems to have a celebration planned on River Street. Fireworks explode over the river for July 4th, a lighted Christmas parade travels from the Plant Riverside District to City Market, and live entertainment and more fireworks usher in the New Year. There are countless other celebrations full of food and live music to enjoy. 

05 of 08

Shop local

River Street Sweets

Visit Savannah

River Street is a shopping extravaganza from one end to the other. So many local stores operate on the street, like J.Parker Ltd., a gentlemen’s clothing tradition, dressing men in St. Patrick’s Day green blazers and that certain Lowcountry flair since 1972. Or the Byrd Cookie Company, making their signature Scotch Oatmeal cookies in Savannah since 1924.

There’s so much more—nautical gifts and souvenirs from True Grits, botanical bounty from Urban Poppy and the open air River Street Marketplace are just a few.

06 of 08

Watch the cargo ships

Container Ship and Belles Ferry from Westin

Visit Savannah

The Port of Savannah is the fastest growing container terminal in America. It’s located just past the Talmadge Memorial Bridge, a small distance away from the bustling Plant Riverside zone.

When the giant container ships travel from the sea to start their shipping journey or arrive at the busy port, they move down the waterway directly in front of River Street. They’re often flanked by other vessels, steering ships and tug boats, to facilitate the tricky entrance to the Savannah River, offering an active and fascinating view of cargo and impressive vessels.

Dozens go by every day, but you just don’t get used to the incredible site. Locals and tourists alike take a moment to be impressed. 

07 of 08

Climb the "Stone Stairs Of Death"

Historic Savannah Cobblestone Riverfront Street, Stairs, Walking Bridge, GA

Katie Dobies/Getty

Savannahians know an old city can be scary. Heck, this one is even full of ghosts. However, there’s nothing scarier than the Stone Stairs of Death that form a pathway from Bay Street down to River Street. The hard, steep stairs are marked only by a sign that reads, "Historic steps. Use at your own risk."

These famous steps are known for their dangerous pitch and they’ve caused many accidents traversing their craggy pathway. They’re so infamous, they have their own race where participants run all 33 stairs for several hours to earn a T-shirt. You might hear them referred to as Savannah’s Death Steps, or Savannah’s Stairway to Heaven.

If you’re visiting, just take a picture from the bottom. If you’re up top, whatever you do, don’t look down.

08 of 08

Be Irish for the day

Green water in the fountains of Savannah Georgia at Saint Patricks Day


Savannah has one of the biggest St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the country, a surprise for many due to the city’s small size.

Businesses close on March 17, the fountains in the downtown area are dyed green, and locals host breakfasts with green food while waiting for the start.

It doesn’t matter if you’re one of the city’s famous Irish families or just Irish for the day, the entire town gets into the event. The parade lasts for hours with bands, soldiers, floats, and fun at every turn. Remember to wear some bright green, or you’ll get pinched. 

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