Several tour companies offer horse-drawn carriage rides through Savannah’s Historic District. Most tours last around 45 minutes to an hour, and many include some sort of historical narration.
Many people have concerns about the welfare of carriage horses. Savannah does regulate the conditions under which the horses work, but not as fully as other cities. If you are concerned about Savannah’s draft horses, read the section below on horse welfare so you can make an informed decision about your carriage ride.
!The information below is correct as of February 2017, but please check all details directly with the company or guide when planning your trip. Availability may vary by season, and operators may withdraw or change specific tours without notice.
Four companies in Savannah specialize in providing carriage rides through the Historic District. Other tour companies also offer carriage rides as part of their services.
You can either take a public tour or hire a private carriage. Most offer some sort of historical narrative to go along with the ride, and last about 40-60 minutes. Most public tours do not require a reservation; you can pay at the company’s carriage stands (see below for locations).
Prices listed below are exclusive of tax and gratuity.
Call 912-658-1364. Carriage stand at Barnard and West Congress Streets, Ellis Square. Website
Public Tour, 45-50mins. Narrated history tours. Call for availability. Adults $22, children (6-12) $11, young children (0-5) free. More details
Paula Dean Carriage Tour (6 max). Carriage ride and lunch at Paula Deen’s restaurant. $60 per person (lunch included). Available at times between 11:30am and 3pm. Reservations required. Also available as a private tour. $175 for two, $50 per additional person. More details
Book online or call 912-236-6756. Carriage stand at Jefferson and West St Julian Streets, City Market. Website
Public History Tour, 50mins. Availability varies by season. Adults $22, children (5-11) $12, young children (0-4, riding in adult’s lap) free. More details
Public Ghost Tour, 50mins. Availability varies by season. Adults $22, children (5-11) $12, young children (0-4, riding in adult’s lap) free. More details
Private Tour, 50mins. Private ghost, history or sightseeing tours available for up to 6 adults. $115 for first two adults, $22 per additional person. Pickup available for additional fee ($15-$50 depending on location, if schedule allows), call for information. More details Private group tours also available, call for pricing and other information. More details
Book online or call 912-443-9333 or 888-837-1011. Carriage stand in front of the Hyatt Regency Hotel off Bay Street. Website
History Tour, 45-50mins. Narrated history tour. Call for availability. Adults $23, children (5-11) $12, young children (0-4) free. More details
Ghost Tour, 45-50mins. Call for availability. Adults $23, children (5-11) $12, young children (0-4) free. More details
Youth Group Tour, 45-50mins. $16 plus $3 gratuity per person. Call for more information. More details
Private Tour. Customized pick-up and drop-off available. $115 for first two, $15 per additional adult, $12 per additional child (5-11). More details. Specialized private tours include the Romance Tour, Moonlight and Roses Tour and Proposal Tour (prices vary).
Book online or call 912-659-9005. Carriage stand at Barnard and West Congress Streets, Ellis Square. Website
Public Tour (small pets welcome) 50mins. Narrated history tour. Tours available daily. Adults $22, children (6-11) $11, young children (0-5) free.
Private Tour. Call for pricing and details.
Private Carriage Tour, 1hr. Savannah Dan Walking Tours Private carriage tour for 2 adults, $250. Reservations required. Call 912-398-3777.
The American public is beginning to question the ethics and safety of urban carriage tours, with several cities banning horse-drawn carriage rides altogether.
Supporters of a wider ban on carriage tours, such as the Humane Society of the United States, argue that the traffic and noise of city streets are stressful to horses and that the heavy work and air pollution cause unacceptable levels of injury, ill-health and discomfort.
Others, including the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, think that the carriage horse industry can be acceptable if strict regulations on the care and working condition of horses are enforced: adequate veterinary care, stabling and feed; access to water while working; maximum loads and working hours; a full stoppage of carriage rides if the weather is too hot or too cold for the horses to work comfortably.
Savannah’s carriage tour industry meets some, but not all, of these standards. Its city ordinance on Horse-Drawn Carriages For Hire obliges carriage tour operators to meet minimum standards of veterinary care, harness upkeep and off- and on-duty treatment of the horses. It also restricts the number of people a horse can pull.
The city currently also imposes some restrictions on the temperature in which horses may work, and does not allow horses to work in temperatures exceeding 98°F (36.7°C). More information here
This is one of the highest maximum allowable temperatures employed in the United States, with other cities such as New York limiting carriage rides to temperatures below 90°F.
What this means in practice is that Savannah’s carriage horses are not permitted to work in conditions that will be excessively dangerous to their health (and it would not be to the advantage of their owners to allow this – horses are a valuable asset) but they are obliged to work in conditions that may be very unpleasant for them.
If you can, before reserving a carriage tour take a look at the horses at the carriage stands if you pass them and at the horses that go by in the street, to see whether they seem calm, well-kept and willing to work.
If you don’t feel good about what you see, strongly consider taking another kind of tour instead. Welfare problems are particularly likely to arise in the summer, when Savannah can get very hot and humid.
Savannah has numerous motorized trolley and bus tours, some with air conditioning, that can provide a comfortable ride. You could also take a bike or segway tour, or a walking tour at a cooler time of the day.