Savannah, Georgia can be expensive. If you are headed to Savannah this week to whoop it up for St. Patrick’s Day or planning a visit this summer, here are a few things you can do to stay within your budget.
Savannah’s Public Squares (Free)
Brush up on your history. In 1733, General James Edward Oglethorpe founded Savannah. Based on a series of grids, he centered the city around four open squares. Savannah is a vast network of beautiful parks and trails winding through canopies of dogwoods, oaks, and blooming magnolias. The four squares have blossomed into 22 public squares! Each square offers it’s own unique attraction. At Wright Square, find out about the exciting history of Native American Chief Tomochichi. Take advantage of a photo op in Chippewa Square by sitting on the same bench Tom Hank’s sat on in Forrest Gump. Monterey Square is the home of the towering General Casimir Pulaski monument. Johnson Square, the oldest square, and a nod to Revolutionary War hero General Nathanael Green.
Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist (Free)
One of the most striking pieces of architecture in Savannah is the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. It was dedicated in 1876 and today serves as primary church of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Savannah. It was almost entirely consumed by a fire in 1898. However, in 1899, it was rebuilt and restored to its former glory. The French Gothic cathedral features Renaissance-style murals, stunning Austrian stained glass windows, a 9,000-pound altar made of carved marble, and a Noack pipe organ with over 2,000 pipes. Take a tour of the cathedral daily between 9a and 5p barring an event.
River Street (Free)
Need some souvenirs? River Street is your place to purchase them. There’s something for everyone. Civil War artifacts can be picked up at True Grits. The Peanut Shop of Savannah sells more than 50 varieties of hand-roasted peanuts for the nut enthusiast. Book lovers will find their happy place at Books on Bay. There are also a plethora of galleries, restaurants, bars, candy stores, and an open-air marketplace. Special events are frequent throughout the year where vendors sell their wares.
Cheap Eats (Under $10)
If you are a starving from all of that walking around, tuck into one of the best croissants you’ve ever had. Goose Feather Cafe offers breakfast or lunch at a very budget-friendly price. They provide a complete breakfast menu including, fresh baked bagels, various egg dishes (order the Eggs Benedict) and Belgian waffles. Their lunch menu includes house-made soups, gourmet sandwiches, homemade quiches, and salads. Relax, and people watch the streets of downtown Savannah with a cup of steaming cup of fair trade coffee. You can fill up for $10 or less. goosefeatherscafe.com
At the southern edge of the Historic District sits a 30-acre park. If you watched the movie, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, you would recognize the fantastic two-tiered, white cast-iron fountain, arguably one of the most photographed attractions in Savannah. Two large lawns, divided by a walkway, are perfect for picnics, catching some rays or tossing a frisbee. Two playgrounds are available for kids; one for little ones and one for older ones. The park café offers a quick bite, along with a selection of beverages including coffee, beer, and wine.
Savannah Botanical Gardens (Free)
Under the watchful eye of the Savannah Area Council of Garden Clubs, this spectacular botanical garden features a variety of diverse plant life, including a herb parterrea, rose garden, camellia collection, fern garden, perennial garden, vegetable garden, and children’s garden. They even have a native plant collection. The peaceful green space features an amphitheater, a two-acre pond, quiet walking trails, and the 19th-century Reinhard House. The garden is open every day during daylight hours throughout the year. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated.
Chow Down at Sly’s Sliders and Fries (Under $10)
Chow down on one of the Artisan sliders at Sly’s. Check out the Pain Don’t Hurt with roadhouse style smoked brisket or The Jerk Store with Caribbean jerk chicken. The Great Salmon Caper is a favorite. Yum! At $3.50 a pop, you can afford to try a couple different kinds. They also offer 7 different types of slider dogs for $3.50 each. Sides include slaw or hand-cut fries. Sly’s Sliders and Fries
Tybee Island Beach (Free)
Twenty minutes from downtown Savannah is the perfect place for a chill day at the beach. Tybee Island is a quirky beach town on the Atlantic. Those wanting a relaxing afternoon should head to the North Beach. It’s a peaceful section of the island with a beautiful view of the Tybee Lighthouse. Social visitors can access restaurants, restrooms, and shops will prefer the beach near the Tybee Pier and Pavilion. The island includes the Tybee Island Light Station, Marine Science Center, and Museum. Depending on your timing, you might be able to catch one of the annual festivals, including the Beach Bum Parade in the spring or the Pirates Fest in the fall.
Perched on the bluff, overlooking the Wilmington River, rests the 150-year-old cemetery. The beautiful and haunting cemetery is the final resting place for may famous Savannahians. Lyricist Johnny Mercer and poet Conrad Aiken have been laid to rest here. The 160-acre cemetery features elaborate burial vaults, monuments, and grand oak trees. You will enjoy exploring the old and interesting gravesites. Hike to the cemetery’s Greenwich section, the reflection pond was used in several early 20th-century silent films.
Stop in For a Treats at River Street Sweets (Under $10)
Sample their famous pralines at River Street Sweet, on the riverfront. Watch candy makers dip pralines onto giant marble slabs, purchased from a gravestone company. Witness glazed pecans stirred into large copper kettles. Their shop is home to a 100-year-old saltwater taffy machine that is still used today. All of the sweets are made in their store and shipped all over the world. During the holidays they are one of the United Parcel Service’s biggest shippers in Savannah. River Street Sweet Treats
Bonus Round (Not free but so worth checking out if you can squeeze it in your budget!)
Mercer Williams House ($12.50)
The Mercer Williams House is knee-deep in town lore. It was initially owned by the wealthy ancestors of songwriter and Savannah native Johnny Mercer. The home was later the site of the murder that’s detailed in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.
Club One ($18-$25)
For a rollicking good time, hit up a cabaret show at Club One. Choose from any number of drag queen performances to entertain you. Some of the performers were participants on RuPaul’s Drag Race. The Savannah Comedy Revue is $10-15. Club One has cult following and reputation as Savannah’s party and dance spot.
Walking Tours ($25)
Stroll around Savannah’s squares on a guided tour with Savannah Dan. He’ll entertain you with rich accounts of Savannah’s history in a deep southern drawl. He’ll walk you past churches and mansions dating back to the 1700s. He’ll point out locations used by Hollywood filmmakers. Get the inside “G” on eateries and nighttime hotspots. For an enjoyable, amusing walking tour, check him out.
Blue Orb Tour ($25)
Savannah is one of the most haunted towns in America. For one of the very best ghost tours in the United States, splurge for the Blue Orb Tour. Named by both Trip Advisor and Conde Nast Traveler as one of the ghost tours to go on, this is a can’t miss adventure. Call 912-665-4258 for reservations.
Geocaching is a blast. Click here for a list of relatively easy to do caches in and around downtown Savannah. Many require some walking around downtown, but after all, didn’t you come to Savannah to see the sites? There are several caches in Bonaventure Cemetery that are a must. “Kill two birds with one stone,” so to speak.
What are your favorite free sites to visit in Savannah, Georgia? Let me know in the comments below.
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