The 11 Best Museums in Savannah

SCAD Museum of Art
SCAD Museum of Art.

 Courtesy of SCAD Museum of Art

In between strolling historic River Street, wandering through the city's famed oak-covered squares, and dining on everything from soul food to seafood, you'd be remiss not to add a museum stop to your Savannah, Georgia itinerary.

From collections of contemporary art to exhibits dedicated to the area's Gullah/Gechee community and local marine life, the city's best museums give visitors an up-close look at Savannah's unique culture and history.

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Telfair Academy of Arts and Sciences

Telfair Museum Savannah
RAUL RODRIGUEZ / Getty Images
Address
121 Barnard St, Savannah, GA 31401-3612, USA
Phone +1 912-790-8800

The first public art museum in the South, Telfair Museums was founded in 1883, when local philanthropist Mary Telfair donated her mansion and all its furnishings to the Georgia Historical Society. Three years later, it opened to the public as the Telfair Academy of Arts and Sciences, now one of three buildings that make up the Telfair Museums campus downtown.

Today, you can take a self-guided or docent-led tour through the ornate, Neoclassical Regency mansion, which houses a collection of more than 6,000 19th- and 20th-century American and European paintings, drawings, decorative arts, sculptures, and other works. Be sure to step inside the Sculpture Gallery, where you'll find classical architectural elements like four Ionic columns and clerestory windows, as well as works like Childe Hassam’s "Brooklyn Bridge in Winter" and George Bellows’ "Snow-Capped River." Another museum highlight? The "Bird Girl" statue, which once watched over the city's iconic Bonaventure Cemetery.

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Jepson Center for the Arts

Jepson Center for the Arts

Courtesy of Jepson Center for the Arts 

Address
207 W York St, Savannah, GA 31401-3636, USA
Phone +1 912-790-8800

The second of the three Telfair Museums, the Jepson Center for the Arts is housed in a striking, 7,500-square-foot building designed by internationally acclaimed architect Moshe Safdie. Heavy on contemporary art, the permanent collection includes pieces from artists such as Roy Lichtenstein, Jasper Johns, and Richard Avedon. The museum also hosts a series of rotating exhibits that range from digital installations to decorative arts from both traditional and contemporary artists. Don't miss ArtZeum, a large, interactive children’s museum space with hands-on activities for budding artists.

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Savannah History Museum

Savannah History Museum

Courtesy of Explore Georgia

Address
303 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Savannah, GA 31401-4217, USA
Phone +1 912-651-6840

To learn about the city's history from its first inhabitants all the way through the American Revolution to the present day, head to this museum in the passenger depot of the old Central of Georgia Railway in Tricentennial Park. Interactive exhibits document everything from Indigenous life, to the role of the railroad in the city's growth, to military uniforms and period clothing. Collection highlights include the bench from the feature film "Forrest Gump" and a carriage owned by Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts.

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SCAD Museum of Art

SCAD Museum of Art

Courtesy of SCAD Museum of Art  

Address
601 Turner Blvd, Savannah, GA 31401, USA
Phone +1 912-525-7191

An extension of Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), one of the world's premier art colleges, the SCAD museum boasts a permanent collection with more than 4,500 works from international artists. Within these walls you'll find 19th- and 20-century photography, a costume collection, and the Walter O. Evans Collection of African American Art. Purchase pieces from current students, professors, and notable alumni at the ShopSCAD gallery; stop into TAD café for a coffee or art book to take home as a souvenir; and check the schedule for lectures, film screenings, and other events in the museum's 250-seat theater.

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05 of 11

American Prohibition Museum

Prohibition Museum

Courtesy of Visit Savannah

Address
209 W Saint Julian Street, Savannah, GA 31401-2513, USA
Phone +1 912-220-1249

The country's first and only museum dedicated to the Prohibition era, this museum includes 20 exhibits devoted to the temperance movement and the financial and societal impact of the 18th Amendment on the state of Georgia, which went dry in 1908—11 years before the national law was passed. Afterward, enjoy Roaring 20s-inspired cocktails at the on-site speakeasy, which hosts cocktail classes and spirits tastings as well. The museum also has a small gift shop.

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Georgia State Railroad Museum

Georgia State Railroad Museum

Courtesy of Explore Georgia

Address
655 Louisville Rd, Savannah, GA 31401, USA
Phone +1 912-651-6823

Located in Tricentennial Park, inside the Central of Georgia Railway, Savannah Shops & Terminal Facilities, the Georgia State Railroad Museum gives visitors an opportunity to learn up-close about Savannah's history as a railroad and transportation hub. Watch an introductory film, tour historic freight trains and railcars, get a behind-the-scenes look at how locomotives are restored, and try to pump a handcar down a short track—just like engineers used to do. The museum also has a model train room and offers guided train ride tours of the city.

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Pin Point Heritage Museum

Pin Point Heritage Museum

Courtesy of Visit Savannah

Address
9924 Pin Point Ave, Savannah, GA 31406, USA
Phone +1 912-355-0064

Housed in the old A.S. Varn & Son Oyster and Crab Factory, this museum celebrates the history and culture of the tight-knit Gullah/Geechee community, which was founded by freedmen after the Civil War. Learn directly from residents, who are on hand to answer visitor questions, and explore exhibits dedicated to the culture's unique foodways, maritime habitat, and language. The factory's remnants, including the crab boiling pavilion, are also open for exploration. While on the Southside, don't miss other nearby attractions like Skidaway Island State Park, the Isle of Hope, and the University of Georgia Aquarium.

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Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace

Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace

WikiCommons / Ebyabe/Savannah

Address
10 E Oglethorpe Ave, Savannah, GA 31401, USA
Phone +1 912-233-4501

The founder of the Girl Scouts, Juliette Gordon Low, grew up in this Federal-style home on Oglethorpe Avenue. The home's carriage house served as the group's first headquarters, and both buildings are now designated National Historic Landmarks and open to the public for guided group tours. Advanced tickets are recommended to view the buildings, which include original furnishings, details like carved millwork and a mahogany stair railing, and Low's artwork. Stop into the gift shop to purchase special patches, stationery, apparel, and other Girl Scouts memorabilia.

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09 of 11

Savannah Children's Museum

Savannah Children's Museum

Courtesy of Savannah Children's Museum

Address
655 Louisville Rd, Savannah, GA 31401, USA
Phone +1 912-651-6823 ext. 203

Those traveling with children won't want to miss this museum, located in the old Central of Georgia Railway Carpentry Shop in Tricentennial Park. The all-outdoor space features more than a dozen hands-on exhibits, including a reading nook, a sensory herb garden, slides, and an outdoor maze. Daily programming is on offer, too, with regular arts and crafts events, storytime, and more. Visiting on a hot summer day? The minsters will keep you cool after a long day of exploring the city.

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Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum

Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum

Courtesy of Explore Georgia

Address
41 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Savannah, GA 31401-2435, USA
Phone +1 912-232-1511

Explore nine galleries of model ships, antiques, paintings, and other nautical items at this museum located inside the William Scarbrough House in the city's Historic District. With both commercial and military artifacts, the collection gives visitors a sense of Savannah's role as a port city in the 18th and 19th centuries. Among the items is a model of the Steamship Savannah, the 98-foot longship that was the first steamship to cross the Atlantic Ocean. Spanning an entire city block, the museum's gardens are free and open to the public. Stroll through groves of citrus and maple groves and manicured lawns to a belvedere offering views of the city.

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University of Georgia's Marine Education Center and Aquarium

University of Georgia Marine Education Center and Aquarium

Courtesy of Explore Georgia

Address
30 Ocean Science Cir, Savannah, GA 31411-1011, USA
Phone +1 912-598-2496

Georgia's first saltwater aquarium, this small but stellar museum is located about 20 minutes from downtown on the idyllic Skidaway Island. Showcasing more than 200 species of local marine life, the exhibits range from an interactive public touch tank stocked with whelks and crabs to freshwater tanks with two American alligators. Other aquatic creatures housed here include seahorses, horseshoe crabs, and stingrays. The aquarium also features prehistoric animal fossils of whales, wooly mammoths, and sharks found in the adjacent Skidaway River. Stroll the ADA-accessible boardwalk overlooking the river, part of the Jay Wolf Nature Trail that traverses through salt marshes and maritime forest. Or, pack a picnic to enjoy on one of the outdoor tables.

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The 11 Best Museums in Savannah