Savannah, GA. Do you think of stately homes, history and tree-lined squares? Savannah has those, for sure. Like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates, my family went to Savannah not knowing quite what else we would get. Would I be able to find enough to keep three boys ages 7-13 engaged? In our quest, we stumbled upon a gold mine of things for kids to do in the Hostess City of the South! And saw Forrest’s bench, too.
Disclosure: As an ambassador for the Publix Savannah Women’s Half Marathon I was given free admission to the following museums from VisitSavannah.com. All opinions are my own.
I’ve lived in Atlanta for over 35 years and to my great shame had never spent any amount of time in the city of Savannah. It was always something I saw out the car window on my way down to one of the beaches of Georgia’s beautiful coastal islands.
Once there, I was surprised by how much family fun, much of it low cost, was available in Savannah. I’m a researcher by nature but with two kids diagnosed with ADHD, I spend a little extra time trying to make sure that what we do has an element of activity to it. If not, the natives get restless and unruly. It may seem counter intuitive to take my kids to four different places that have “museum” in the title, but these attractions are throwing off the “DO NOT TOUCH” mantle and inviting you and your kids to have a great time!
Lucky you – the first three museums are associated through the Coastal Heritage Society and you can buy one discount pass that gains you admission to all three! Even better is that all three establishments are neighbors, so this really is one-stop touring. The fourth museum listed is on the edge of the historic downtown area in close proximity to City Market, well within walking range from most historic district hotels.
Savannah Children’s Museum
For right now, this space is completely outside. An indoor component is in process, but this stop is not to be saved for a rainy day. The Children’s Museum is ensconced in a partially demolished railroad building and is the best use of space that I have ever seen. It utilizes every single nook and cranny, every perfect architectural touch, to carve out spots for the most low-tech childhood fun.
There are mazes and gardens. Foam blocks and dress up nooks. An open field with giant bouncy balls and over-sized foam construction blocks. Even my tween and teen had a blast exploring and constructing. Mom and Dad got into the act when an impromptu soccer match happened. My kids love spaces that provide materials for them to make their own fun and the Savannah Children’s Museum certainly fills that need.
Georgia State Railroad Museum
I’ll be honest and tell you that I took one look around and thought, “We won’t be here long.” I have taken my kids to enough places where I should have known not to make “judgey” first impressions, but it still happens. I’m happy to tell you that I was proven incredibly wrong. If you have a kid who is obsessed with Things That Go, you need to come here. My boys are older now but I still remember the hours they played with trains. Clearly some things always stay with you because they explored this place with happy abandon. There are some train cars that are off limits, but others are available for your little engineer to climb up into and sit in the driver’s seat!
Situated next to the Children’s Museum, this attraction is housed in what used to be the Central of Georgia Railway building that serviced the rail cars. The buildings were set for demolition but got a stay of execution and are now really cool reminders of Savannah’s railroad history! With a working turntable, hand cars that the kids can experience and machine shop exhibits, there are plenty of things here to fascinate. Be sure to take the free guided tours of the various cars and buildings.Our docent was a great storyteller and my teen, who made it clear that he did not want to be there (there seems to be an extended disco version of this song), was ready to follow him around for the rest of the day. Some of the buildings and cars are only accessed through the guided tours so these really add a lot to your experience.
Savannah History Museum
Housed behind the Savannah Visitor Information Center in the old Central of Georgia Railway train shed, this gem has plenty of ways to engage the kids. The displays are all easy for kids to see – no constant lifting and shoving a sibling out of the way.
There are “Touch and Learn” spots all over the museum! You’ll see signs inviting children to touch various items that are similar to what is housed in the displays. Look for nooks around the museum that offer kids the chance to express what they are learning. There is a creative corner with books, paper and drawing utensils. It encourages kids to create their own versions of what they are seeing. They can hang their creation on the wall for future visitors to find. In an exhibit of various fashions throughout the years, there are racks of hats for trying on and kid-height mirrors for admiring your new look.
Immerse yourself in Revolutionary history with the Loyalists and Liberty experience! Included in your admission, this program offers a musket demonstration and a visitor reenactment in adjacent Battlefield Memorial Park.
Be sure to check out the mini exhibits on the wall in the corridor next to the main museum. There are all kinds of funky things that kids will love – a snake in a jar, a wreath made out of human hair and other items you would think only of seeing in a Ripley’s museum.
Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum
This museum is kind of a two-fer. It’s housed in the historic William Scarbrough House so you get a look at some great architecture as well. My boys were immediately drawn to the ginormous models of ships from long ago. Don’t worry – the models are encased in heavy duty glass. I was nervous about my boys touching it, but the docent on hand reassured me that noses and fingers pressed up against the glass were perfectly fine. He went the extra step to pull out a small flashlight from his pocket and show the boys all the different parts of the ships. Instead of boring them with a lecture, he asked my kids what they thought different parts of the ships were for and engaged them in a conversation that warmed a mama’s heart. Upstairs there are all kinds of artifacts like a giant ship’s wheel and crazy items that sailors used to collect from various ports. You’ll see examples of different hobbies that sailors had to pass the time while on board ships. When the kids have had enough and are getting squirrely, take them outside. There are garden paths and a lawn that is begging to be run upon.
Your trip to Savannah with kids doesn’t have to be a stuffy experience. Visits to these museums will guarantee fun and a place in their heart for Savannah & its history.