River Street is one of the most visited parts of Savannah for tourists in the city. During the day, the area offers shops and galleries, historic architecture and monuments to figures and events in the city’s past. Weekend events, pubs and cafés, and boat rides down the river attract many people too.
In the evening, River Street is primarily visited for its bars and restaurants, mostly oriented toward the tourist trade.
It took Savannah well over half a century to erect a monument to its veterans of the Second World War (an earlier monument in Forsyth Park honors its Marines). The resulting memorial, unveiled in 2010, is a large and impressive sculpture of the globe split in two, with a walkway between its halves.
The memorial is located immediately west of the Hyatt hotel, itself just west of City Hall. Read more about the monument and its history
Nearby (facing River Street in the rear of City Hall) is Savannah’s African-American Monument, recently erected to commemorate the contribution of African-Americans to the city’s history and to acknowledge Savannah’s legacy of slavery. Read more about the monument and its history
The third major monument along River Street (in Morrell Park) remembers Savannah’s “Waving Girl.” Local woman Florence Martus, who lived on an island in the channel of the river with her lighthouse keeper brother, was granted this title by visiting sailors for her habit of faithfully greeting every ship that sailed up the Savannah River for more than forty years. Read more about Florence Martus and her monument
One of Savannah’s most unique architectural and landscape features, Factors’ Walk was constructed from the mid-19th century to bridge the gap between the multi-story warehouses fronting on the Savannah River and the bluff-top Bay Street.
The former factors’ offices have long since been converted, now housing an assortment of shops and boutiques, cafés and hotels, connected to Bay Street via a series of little pedestrian bridges and walkways.
Today, Fort Wayne – situated immediately east of River Street – is not all that much to look at, but its buttressed stone wall is one of the few surviving traces of the sytem of walls and fortifications that surrounded much of Savannah from the mid-18th century through the Revolutionary War era and into the early part of the 19th century.
Fort Wayne was once a much larger structure, rebuilt and modified several times during its active decades and eventually superseded by new fortifications built a few miles further down the Savannah River: Fort Jackson and Fort Pulaski.
The shops along River Street and Factors’ Walk to its rear offer a mix of different kinds of stores. Some are mostly purveyors of the more conventional tourist souvenirs — mugs, towels and assorted other Savannah-branded items. Others cater to more specific needs, with shops devoted to local foodstuffs, items of apparel, books and so on.
There are also a few antiques stores in the area, mostly concentrated around the western end of Factors’ Walk just beyond the Barnard Street ramp. See details of these and other antiques stores in Savannah
The old warehouses along River Street and Factors’ Walk are also home to a handful of art galleries, mostly specialising in art works and craft items produced by local Savannah artists.
A much larger selection of art galleries and artists’ studios can be found within a few blocks of River Street, around Savannah’s other tourist center, City Market. More about visiting these art galleries
River Street has a large selection of (frequently tourist-oriented) restaurants and bars. Many of River Street’s restaurants (both casual and upscale) focus on seafood, but you can also choose from a range of pubs, southern- and Italian-style restaurants, casual cafés, and so on.
River Street comes more to life in the evenings, again catering largely to a visiting rather than a local crowd. Several bars offer late-night opening.
Of River Street’s many drinking and dining establishments, a good number claim to be haunted. You can either visit them yourself (many places describe their resident spirits and haunted history on their websites) or participate in one of Savannah’s several guided haunted crawls (though these will not confine themselves to River Street), combining drinking with ghost stories and an opportunity to meet new people.
River Street hosts a fireworks display on the first Friday of most months of the year. The fireworks begin around 9:15pm. See list of upcoming dates
River Street’s biggest events are the festivities surrounding St Patrick’s Day, July 4th and New Year’s Eve, but many other festivals and special events are held there, offering food, music or other entertainments over at least one weekend in most months. See details of upcoming events
Savannah provides a free ferry service between River Street and Hutchinson Island (the large island that sits in the channel of the Savannah River between the city and South Carolina).
The ferry takes a only a few minutes to cross, but offers great views of River Street from either the boat or from Hutchinson Island. On the Savannah side of the river, board the boat at either the City Hall landing or further east, at the Waving Girl landing.
The ferry runs daily. See the current schedule
Several boat rides down the Savannah River are available straight from River Street, with either historical riverboat tours of the Savannah River and its port, or dolphin tours, travelling all the way down the river to its mouth near Tybee Island, where you can see dolphins, birds, and views over the marshes that stretch from Savannah to the coast.
Please note that if you are also planning on visiting Tybee Island on your vacation, cheaper dolphin tours (seeing less of the Savannah River) can also be taken from there. See details of available boat tours