Haunting and Beautiful, Savannah Earns Its Nickname as Hostess City of the South
Georgia's founding settlement carries a lot of weight in the history department. Founded in 1733, Savannah, GA still retains its original street grid laid out with shady public squares every couple of blocks. The city was mentioned often in Robert Louis Stevenson's children's classic of pirate lore, Treasure Island. Families can still find that historic lure in this idyllic port town, much of it free to explore and experience.
It's easy to get lost in Bonaventure Cemetery (330 Bonaventure Rd., Savannah, GA), whether you're driving or exploring on foot–it's so big. More important is how haunting and scenic Savannah's largest cemetery is. Set on a bluff beside the Wilmington River, the cemetery dates to 1846 and spreads out over 100 tree-covered acres. Walk the sun-dappled lanes, spook yourselves by telling ghost stories, marvel at the elaborate sculptures at the gravesites where famous Savannahians, such as songwriter Johnny Mercer, are buried. Download and print a free map from the city's website to help you navigate the cemetery and find your way out.
Savannah Belles Ferry
Walk River Street to experience it up close, then hop on the ferry to get a great view from a distance. Savannah is a water town, and one of the best ways to experience it is from offshore. While many boat tour companies charge money, the Savannah Belles Ferry service costs nothing (1 W. River St., Savannah, GA). These public transit ferries carry residents and tourists between downtown and the convention center on Hutchison Island. The ferries are dog-friendly, so if you're traveling with your favorite furry friend you can take a short cruise–about two or three minutes–to the island. Then, continue walking along the riverfront for a great view of downtown.
Incredible Green Spaces
Savannah wouldn't be Savannah without Forsyth Park (Drayton and W. Gaston Sts., Savannah, GA) and the 22 squares scattered at major intersections throughout the historic district. The squares are eye candy and also traffic calmers that have kept the city's pace slow and easy for centuries. Forsyth Park is the 30-acre green lung of the district, like a front yard where locals unwind, exercise, listen to the buskers belting out tunes, have a picnic, throw pennies in the historic fountain, play on two playgrounds or take in special events like free movie screenings.
The Pier and Pavilion on Tybee Island
Only 20 minutes from downtown, Tybee Island is Savannah's beach. The nexus point of free fun on Tybee is at the pier and pavilion (16th St., Tybee Island, GA). This is the place to see and be seen on the beach and where holiday festivities take place. There's no cost to walk out on the long pier jutting into the Atlantic Ocean, nor to sit in the pavilion that anchors it–the best place on the island to watch beach life unfold.
Fireworks on the River
On the first Friday evening of every month the Savannah Waterfront Association stages Fireworks on the River. The fireworks go off between 9:30 and 10:00 p.m. Find a spot anywhere along the River Street waterfront area and enjoy the show over the water.
Best time to go
Savannah's summers can be brutal. The old Southern cliché is true: It's not so much the heat as the humidity. Spring and fall are the best times to visit. Winters are mild and less crowded, but can be chilly and you'll miss the verdant splendor of spring or the vibrant fall colors when the temps are much closer to fine.
Blake Guthrie covers travel, entertainment and outdoor recreation for many outlets, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where he is a regular contributor. With years of experience as a professional cook, Guthrie also relishes writing about food and beverage topics. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in mass communications from Auburn University.