River Street Sightseeing and Shopping (Self Guided), Savannah

The story of Savannah's River Street begins in 1733 with General James Edward Oglethorpe's landing on the bank of the Savannah River and founding the British colony of Georgia. Today, the cobble-stoned River Street caters to a variety of interests, combining the rustic beauty of the past with the energy of the present.

The half-mile-long promenade is one of the city's major tourist attractions, featuring over 70 shops, galleries and art studios, restaurants, cafés and pubs housed in the one-time cotton warehouses.

With so much character and scenic nature on offer, setting a foot on Savannah’s Waterfront is a historical experience as such, with many ways to dive deeper. You can stop by one of River Street’s many monuments, such as the African-American Monument, and explore other noteworthy sites, like the Waving Girl Statue.

Alternatively, if you're in the mood for shopping, here are some stops to be made:

River Street Sweets – consistently voted “Savannah’s Best Candy Store,” offering the freshest, highest quality, most flavorful candies and confections in town.

True Grits – family-owned business operational since the early 1970s; featuring an ever-evolving selection of gifts, apparel, and so much more.

Savannah's Candy Kitchen – run by three generations of the owner family, hand-making an array of Southern confections using unique recipes.

And if you’re after a special souvenir, make sure to stop by one of River Street’s classic shops, like Gallery 209. There’s also an old-fashioned open-air River Street Market Place, operational since the mid 1800s, where you can enjoy some true Southern charm and old-fashioned hospitality whilst browsing the stalls.

It can easily take you a whole day exploring what River Street has to offer. And if you're not sure where to start, check out our self-guided walking tour of this iconic street and enjoy yourself!
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River Street Sightseeing and Shopping Map

Guide Name: River Street Sightseeing and Shopping
Guide Location: USA » Savannah (See other walking tours in Savannah)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 7
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 0.7 Km or 0.4 Miles
Author: hollyg
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • African American Monument
  • River Street Sweets
  • True Grits
  • Gallery 209
  • Savannah's Candy Kitchen
  • River Street Market Place
  • Savannah's Waving Girl
1
African American Monument

1) African American Monument

The African-American Families Monument in River Street pays homage to Savannah's African-American heritage and highlights the "invisible story of the Trans Atlantic slave trade".

The bronze and granite statue depicts a family of four embracing after emancipation, facing towards the Savannah River and the west coast of Africa, the starting point of the slaves' journey. Inscribed with a moving quote, the controversial monument was designed by Savannah College of Art and Design Professor, Dorothy Radford Spradley, and recognizes the contributions made by African Americans, as well as symbolizes their new beginning in the Americas.

In January 2001, the city council approved the project, but deferred action on a decision regarding a quote by Maya Angelou that would appear on the base of the monument. The proposed quote would have read, in part, "We lay back to belly in the holds of the slave ships in each others’ excrement and urine together, sometimes died together, and our lifeless bodies thrown overboard together." At the time, this quote was considered a bit too strong in part due to the monument's proposed location along the Savannah River promenade, one of the biggest tourist attractions in the city. A year later, the amended version of the inscription reading, "Today, we are standing up together, with faith and even some joy" was unanimously agreed on by the city council.

The monument was dedicated in 2002. In July 2019, a plaque was added to its base describing the efforts of Abigail Jordan, an African American activist, to erect the monument.
Sight description based on wikipedia
2
River Street Sweets

2) River Street Sweets

River Street Sweets is probably the best candy and sweets store in all of Georgia. With a combined history of 100 years of candy-making experience, the owner Strickland family has made the South synonymous with gourmet southern sweets.

There is so much candy to choose from here that you can easily get lost in the rows. Whether it be the world-famous pralines, saltwater taffy, crunchy, hand-stretched peanut brittle or homemade pecan pies, their made-from-scratch southern delicacies are all extremely tasty. The shop patrons have always loved the nostalgic experience of watching candy makers dip pralines onto giant marble slabs; stir glazed pecans in huge copper kettles; and see the 100-year-old saltwater taffy machine in action.

River Street Sweets smells delectable, with the capturing aroma drifting out the door, luring passers-by inside to taste a wonderful sample of freshly made pecan praline. Afterwards, you can't help buying a few of their other tasty treats! So enter at your own risk.

Tip:
Sweets's baked goods and ice creams are also delicious, so save room to try some!

Operation Hours:
Daily, 9 am-11 pm.
3
True Grits

3) True Grits

True Grits is a beautiful, cozy store that will delight you with items pertaining to the history of the South. Named in honor of the popular John Wayne movie "True Grit", the place itself was founded in 1996. For the past few decades it has aimed to be the go-to shopping destination for those visiting Savannah.

Initially, it started out as a heavily nautical-based store. As a shipwright, the founding member found a deep passion and love for all things nautical. Still maintaining a focus on these items, the selection has eventually evolved over the years, constantly reflecting the interests of the times.

Nowadays, it has an amazing collection of Civil War artifacts and all things country. There are plenty of cowboy hats, screen print t-shirts, fake guns, and ideal things on the walls that make great backgrounds for selfies. Also available here are some kitschy items, like a cute mug or a small pirate ship figurine.

Overall, it's a nice place to stop in to get out of the heat and spend money on something that says Savannah or highlights that you'd be drinking and wearing green whilst bar hopping in the touristy part of Savannah.
4
Gallery 209

4) Gallery 209

Opened in 1975, Gallery 209 in River Street's Factors Walk district is housed in a renovated 1820s cotton warehouse with exposed beams, original stone walls, brick floors and a floating staircase. Since then the shop has been Savannah's showcase for a coop of over 30 of the area's best known and most prominent artists. The latter take turns operating the gallery, thus allowing visitors an ideal opportunity to meet with the art creators while perusing the gallery and enjoying beautiful riverfront views.

Spread over two floors, here you will find original paintings, etchings, wood engravings, one-of-a-kind pottery, raku, gold and silver jewelry, enamels, sculpture, photography, turned wood, stained glass, fiber art and batik & other locally crafted items. The gallery also features, for true connoisseurs of art, a wide selection of its artists' limited-edition reproductions and note cards with local scenes.

Gallery 209 is a popular place for both tourists and locals alike, and a must-see attraction for every visitor of Savannah.

Operation Hours:
Daily, 10:30am-9pm
5
Savannah's Candy Kitchen

5) Savannah's Candy Kitchen

Savannah's Candy Kitchen is the largest candy and sweets shop in all of the South!

Founder of the business, Stan "the Candy Man" Strickland, opened the first of his family's candy stores in Savannah, named River Street Sweets, in 1979. That shop quickly gained reputation for its Pecan Pralines, hand-rolled Pecan Logs, Glazed Pecans, old-fashioned hand-stretched Peanut Brittle, Divinity Candy, and everyone's favorite Turtle Gopher, and eventually paved the way for Savannah's Candy Kitchen to appear in 1990.

Now run by the third generation of the Stricklands, the place has been churning out an array of hand-made Southern confections using their family's unique recipes. Among their favorites there are towering, fluffy, golden Praline Layer Cake, the iconic Pecan Pie, and Caramel Apples so large and crisp that simply calling them colossal hardly seems fair.

Outside, you will find a copper kettle hanging above a red awning, while inside there is a sense of heritage and love that goes into every hand-made candy. The Candy Kitchen will surprise you by making some of the sweets in front of your very eyes.

The selection is great, and you are guaranteed to not leave disappointed!
6
River Street Market Place

6) River Street Market Place

The River Street Market is worth wandering through when enjoying the Savannah riverfront, especially if you want to kill time while waiting on your table at any nearby restaurant. It sits right in the popular area of the downtown river walk, with the river on one side and the cobblestone street on the other. There is a coffee, drinks and smoothies food cart right outside with picnic tables to lounge on, as well, should you be so inclined.

Pretty much every booth has a vendor in it, and there is a ceiling overhead so rain is not an issue when deciding whether to visit or not. Among the most interesting things to check out are the wood burning and carved home décor designs, as well as the candles you could use as lotion, made out of essential oils. There are tons of other random, unique items, some handmade (jewelry, carvings, wind chimes) and some pricey, but it's fine to walk through and see all the local culture.

Tip:
Check out the delicious praline/candy shops and the honey store, as they are among the highlights.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Wed: 10am–7pm; Thu-Sun: 10am–8pm
7
Savannah's Waving Girl

7) Savannah's Waving Girl

Savannah's Waving Girl has been the source of legend for ages. Living in a lighthouse, she would by day wave a handkerchief and by night a lantern to every passing ship entering or leaving Savannah. As she did this religiously for over 50 years, she became a living legend as all sailors watched to be greeted by her. Most of her admirers never knew her real name, Florence Martus, and called her the Waving Girl.

Martus waved hello and goodbye to the ships passing by her home from 1886 to 1931. Nobody knew why she did it, but conjecture was rampant – one of the favorite myths about the Waving Girl is that she'd fallen in love with a sailor in the 1890s. Promising she'd be the first to greet him, she began waving at every ship. When he never returned, she continued waving in the hopes that one of the entering ships would have him aboard. Waving wasn't all Martus did, though – in 1893, she and her brother risked their lives to save several men from a sinking ship using nothing but a flat-bottomed rowboat.

Now, a bronze statue of Florence Martus sits on the waterfront. It was designed by famous sculptor Felix de Weldon, the creator of the equally famous Marine Corps War Memorial showing the flag raising on Iwo Jima. It was erected in 1972 at Riverside Park and depicts Florence waving her kerchief, and her pet collie by her side. The little park is a great place to sit and watch the barges and boats go by.

Tip:
There are plenty of other statues around the riverfront that are also worth taking the time to enjoy.

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