Georgia’s oldest city is a tourist hot spot, welcoming millions of tourists a year. One visit to this charming southern town, and you will quickly understand why. Historic Savannah, Georgia, boasts gorgeous tree-lined squares, fabulous historic sites, an incredible food scene, and loads of southern charm. Savannah truly has something for everyone.
Luckily, many of the best things to do in Savannah, Georgia, can be done for free (or nearly free), and I am here to tell you all about them in this post!
1. Savannah’s Historic Squares
Savannah’s Historic District, which is also a National Historic Landmark, was first designed in 1733. Each neighborhood is laid out around four open squares, which are surrounded by four residential blocks and then four civic blocks. This unique design continued throughout the city for many years, creating 24 historic squares around the city, of which, 22 remain today.
Each of the squares in Savannah is like a mini-park. Take time to enjoy strolling along the cobblestone walkways as you rest under the towering oak trees covered in Spanish moss. While each park has a distinct personality, you especially don’t want to miss Johnson Square, the first small park in the city of Savannah.
2. Take A Free Walking Tour
To learn more about Savannah’s rich history, be sure and take a free walking tour. Companies such as Free Savannah Walking Tours take visitors on a 1.5-hour guided tour through the city. These free walking tours highlight loads of Savannah attractions and hidden gems and often include stops at unique places like the bench used in the filming of Forrest Gump.
Just make sure that you register for the tour in advance as they are often limited on space and this is one of the free things to do in Savannah that you don’t want to miss! Of course, you should always tip your guide at the end of any tour!
3. Savannah’s Prettiest Street
If you were to ask any local to name the prettiest street in Savannah, most would not hesitate to tell you, “Jones Street.” Located near Forsyth Park in Savannah’s Historic District, Jones Street still delights locals and visitors to this day. Stroll along the brick-lined street taking in the gorgeous historic homes as you imagine what life was like in Savannah 150 years ago. The historic homes are flanked by huge oak trees and many proudly fly American flags on the exterior of their homes, creating a wonderfully patriotic scene.
During your time on Jones Street, be sure to notice the unique street signs as well, like the concrete sign on the corner of Barnard and Jones. The meticulously landscaped gardens and flower beds only add to the charm of this glorious street. It is truly a photographer’s dream!
4. Forsyth Park
Savannah’s 30-acre Forsyth Park is the perfect place to relax during your time in Savannah, and like most parks in the city, it is completely free! Take a stroll along the one-mile paved trail to walk off some of that delicious southern food you are eating, or enjoy a quiet picnic on the grass under the trees. Of course, the highlight of a visit to Forsyth Park is the gorgeous (and famous) white cast iron, two-tier fountain that was made famous in the movie, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.
If you are traveling with children, then you will be happy to know that Forsyth Park is also home to not one, but two playgrounds. There is also a great little park café that serves breakfast and lunch items, including coffee, beer, and wine!
5. Tour Savannah’s Historic Churches
Savannah is home to several historic churches and many are worth a visit during your time in the city. One of my personal favorites is the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist. I just found it so charming with its glorious white exterior and beautiful stained glass windows. You can take a free self-guided tour Monday through Saturday to learn more about the church’s history and architecture.
Other historic churches in Savannah include the Independent Presbyterian (which was rebuilt in 1891 after a fire) and the Christ Church on Bull Street, which was built in 1733. The Christ Church has special historical significance as it was the first house of worship in the state of Georgia. The Historic First African Baptist Church first began welcoming worshipers in 1774. This historic church features pews built by slaves and has a subfloor that was used by the Underground Railroad.
Pro Tip: History lovers will want to take a tour of the First African Baptist Church as it is a fascinating part of American History. Just note that there is a small fee involved.
6. Savannah’s Cemeteries
Ok, I know, this free thing to do in Savannah is a bit unconventional, but trust me, the cemeteries are truly gorgeous! One of the most famous (and beautiful) burial grounds in Savannah is the Bonaventure Cemetery, which was featured in the movie Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Sitting on the banks of the Wilmington River, the cemetery is home to huge moss-covered oak trees and rows of elegant headstones and statues. Prominent Savannah residents Conrad Aiken and Johnny Mercer are buried here. Free guided tours are offered every Sunday at 2 p.m., 2:30 p.m., and 3 p.m., or you can take a free self-guided tour any time during opening hours.
Colonial Park Cemetery near Downtown Savannah was established in 1789 and is the final resting place for many of Savannah’s plague victims. Another cemetery in Savannah that may pique your interest is the Laurel Grove Cemetery. Here you will find the final resting place of Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of the Girl Scouts, in addition to many plots dedicated to slaves and free people of color.
7. River Street
Savannah’s historic River Street is the perfect place to do some shopping, even if you are only window shopping. The gorgeous cobblestone street is home to numerous fun and eclectic shops, so you are sure to find something that appeals to you. Housing a bookshop, an amazing candy shop (that gives free samples of pralines), boutique clothing stores, and art galleries, it is easy to spend the entire day on River Street.
Of course, you will also find numerous bars and restaurants on River Street, perfect for when you need a break from all of that shopping. The area is also known to host special events throughout the year in which vendors are selling their items in open-air markets.
Pro Tip: Savannah’s River Street has a very tumultuous past and is said to be one of the most haunted places in the city. If you are interested in learning more about this, be sure to take a tour of the River Street area.
8. Savannah Botanical Gardens
Savannah’s Botanical Gardens is a must-visit for nature lovers. This beautiful oasis in the city features numerous gardens including a rose garden, a perennial garden, a fern garden, a children’s garden, a vegetable garden, and more. In addition to the gardens, the property also includes walking trails, a two-acre pond, an amphitheater, and a 19th-century historic home. The large walkway through the garden is wheelchair accessible and the garden offers several areas to sit down when you would like to take a break. The Savannah Botanical Gardens is one of the best free things to do in Savannah.
Pro Tip: If you don’t want to walk the entirety of the property, then download a garden map so that you can head straight to the areas that interest you.
9. Tybee Island Beach
When you are ready for a change of scenery, head to Tybee Island. The island is located about 20 minutes drive from Downtown Savannah and while you will pay to park (around $2), the beach is completely free to visit. Tybee Island is the perfect day at the beach during your visit to Savannah. The North Beach area is quieter and has a great view of the Tybee Lighthouse, while the beach near the Tybee Pier and Pavilion offers a livelier experience thanks to its proximity to restrooms, bars, and restaurants.
In addition to the beach, there are also several historic sites on the island that you can explore. The Tybee Lighthouse has been in operation since 1732 and is considered one of America’s most intact historic lighthouses. Please note that there is a fee to go inside the lighthouse and museum. More information can be found on their website.
The Fort Pulaski National Monument is an example of the fortifications put into place to defend the United States from overseas threats. There is a small fee to enter the fort. Please visit their website for more information.
Pro Tip: Tybee Island is such a fun experience. Be sure to explore the little town as it has several quirky shops. Also, grab a scoop of ice cream at the Sugar Shack, you will be glad you did!