How to Explore Savannah, GA for $10: A One-Day Itinerary!
Hello, and welcome to the Mandala Traveler!
I'm excited to share one of my favorite adventures of the year with you today: Savannah, Georgia!
Honestly, I wasn't really sure what to expect when we planned this trip. Almost on a whim, we decided to alter our journey home to accommodate a day in this history-rich town, but I am so glad we did!
If you're like me, the name "Savannah" brings to mind visions from Gone with the Wind and sprawling plantations basking in the warm summer sun.
Some of this has changed with time, but I was pleased to find that much of Savannah was just what I'd always pictured: grand, moss-laden oaks bending over long, quiet roads, cobblestone streets winding between brick-buildings and the river, music filling the air, and a permeating sense of age and history everywhere I went.
I loved the quaint roads, the colorful buildings, and the energy in the city. And outside the city's borders, I loved the beauty and peace we found as we explored.
As the title states, Daniel and I explored Savannah's historic district and three beautiful outdoor sites while we were there for only $10 apiece. For this visit, I wanted to steer clear of the many house museums in the city and focus on the more natural side of things. However, I'd love to go back someday and explore the Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters, the Telfair Museums, and the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.
Instead, we ventured out to the Wormsloe Historic Site and the Bonaventure Cemetery and meandered around Forsyth Park and the Savannah Historic District. The only thing we had to pay for was gas and entry into the Wormsloe Historic Site, and we got an entire day of adventure in return!
1. Discover Savannah's Roots at the Wormsloe Historic Site (1-2 Hours)
Although you may not recognize the name, you probably know the Wormsloe Historic Site from its highly Instagramable front drive. The stunning tree-tunnel is often featured as one of Savannah's most beautiful sights to see, and really evokes that sense of traveling back in time.
We arrived bright and early at the Wormsloe Historic Site (WHS) to avoid the crowds and capture some good shots of the mossy oaks. As soon as we passed through the entry arch, it felt like we were transported. The sun was shining brightly outside, but beneath the trees, the world was dim and quiet like a scene from a fairy tale. The tunnel stretched on as far as I could see with only a tiny point of sunshine marking the other end of the 1.5-mile drive.
We purchased our tickets in a small building located right beside the archway. The cost was $10 for each of us to enter, but it's significantly cheaper for anyone under 18, making it a good expedition for families.
Gift Shop & Museum
After driving slowly through the tree-tunnel, we finally emerged at the central parking lot next to the gift shop and museum.
The gift shop offered some colonial-themed souvenirs, while the museum focused on the history of Wormsloe and its original owner, Noble Jones. He has an incredibly fascinating story beginning with his arrival in Georgia in 1773. A small theater attached to the museum provides additional insight into his tale and the beginnings of Wormsloe.
After the museum, we wandered through the nature trails toward the WHS central attraction: The Tabby Ruin. But first, I have to mention how gorgeous the nature trails were. The paths were clearly defined, but either side of the trail looked like a jungle. Palm trees stood alongside towering trees with chandeliers of moss dripping from their branches. Brightly colored lizards darted through the underbrush and sunned themselves on logs while minuscule crabs scuttled along the edge of the marshes. And beneath the shady cover of the trees, it was utterly peaceful.
I felt completely transported.
Eventually, the trails led us to the Tabby Ruin, which is the oldest standing structure in Savannah, and the remains of Noble Jones' home. All that remains of his home are a few bits of walls, but it was interesting to see how fortified he originally built it. The house also had a beautiful view of the marshes.
Just a few steps away from the Tabby Ruin sets a large stone tomb marking Noble Jones' resting place.
The path led us in a short loop away from the ruin and toward the marshes. Here, the trees thinned, and we had a clear view of the emerald green grasses spreading out toward another distant forest. The ground was sandier here, and as I mentioned, we found several tiny crabs crawling around the roots and rocks (see if you can find one in the last pic).
We walked along the edge of the marshes for a bit, passing the backside of the ruin and stopping to enjoy the view from a designated lookout area. Again, I was fascinated with how bright the grass was, and how stunning it looked beneath the bright blue sky.
Colonial Life Area
After the lookout, the trail led us back into the woods and to the Colonial Life Area. For programs and special events, costumed actors populate the huts and workshops here, but we didn't come across any during our visit, unfortunately. However, the website mentions a variety of events that "highlight(s) aspects of 18th-century life, such as music, dancing, crafts and military drills."
We managed to walk the site in about an hour, but we could have spent longer in the museum and movie if we wanted more details. Additionally, we probably would have enjoyed sticking around to talk to the actors had they been there. However, I was entirely pleased with the beauty and intriguing history of the Wormsloe Historic Site and how much we were able to see in that one hour.
*Note: If you're not a huge history buff, you can always stop by the driveway for a picture and then continue on to the next place on the itinerary. You only pay to enter the main site, so your day would be entirely free!
2. Find Beauty and Art in the Bonaventure Cemetery (1.5 hours)
About 17 minutes away from the WHS lies one of the most beautiful cemeteries in the world. Now, for some of you, visiting a cemetery may sound like a genuinely morbid way to spend your vacation, but the Bonaventure Cemetery is far from gloomy. If anything, it's closer to an outdoor museum of history and art.
The Bonaventure Cemetery is a sprawling 100-acre area with thousands of graves laid in neat rows beneath the shade of ancient trees and Spanish moss. In some spaces, mausoleums of clean white stone dot the scene while the occasional monolith reaches toward the sun. Other plots are almost unmarked due to age and weather destroying the gravestones.
While the whole cemetery is lovely, the true beauty lies back in the 14.3-acre historical section where the graves date back to 1846.
The Historical Section
When we arrived at Bonaventure Cemetery, we headed directly back to this historic section. I could immediately see a difference in the gravestones here: many were stained by age and weather, and most were decorated with a sporadic covering of lichen and moss. Some were nothing but crudely-carved chunks of rock with names no longer recognizable.
But others were remarkable works of art standing proudly among the smaller stones. Obviously, these grander grave markers belonged to the wealthier families of the area who wanted to leave something memorable behind.
We saw an arc of tall pillars reminiscent of a Roman temple, grand marble mausoleums that included benches for visitors, dozens of intricately carved angels and girls bearing flowers, and pedestals bearing Grecian-style urns.
Everywhere we turned, there was beauty.
One of the most famous gravemarkers in Bonaventure Cemetery is Gracie, a statue carved in the image of six-year-old Gracie Watson, who died of pneumonia. Her monument has a fascinating history with the townspeople, and she's a beloved centerpiece of the cemetery.
Celebrities Buried in Bonaventure
Within Bonaventure Cemetery's historical section, you can also visit the graves of some famous people, including Johnny and Hugh Mercer, Conrad Aiken, and Edward Telfair.
At the far end of the cemetery, the path runs alongside the Wilmington River, offering a peaceful outlook to the water.
We had such a wonderful time meandering through the trails and discovering the beauty left behind by those who've already passed on.
3. Relax at the Iconic Forsyth Park (1 hour)
From the Bonaventure Cemetery, the central city of Savannah is only a few minutes away. And on a bright sunny afternoon, Forsyth Park, on the edge of town, is the perfect place to spend some extra time.
This 30-acre park is best known for the iconic Forsyth Fountain. The large white fountain bordered by colorful flowers and a decorative fence is a gorgeous sight. On either side, a long, broad sidewalk lined by more of the classic moss-laden oaks leads up to the fountain, creating a beautiful visual frame.
Besides the Forsyth Fountain, you can enjoy a weekly Farmer's Market on Saturdays in the park, as well as daily access to tennis and basketball courts, a cafe, and two playgrounds. You'll also find plenty of shady spots to set up a picnic and room to have a pickup game of football or ultimate frisbee on the lawn.
Toward the back of the park, a small walled "Graden of Fragrance" is also available to walk through on Mondays through Fridays.
Don't forget to stop by the Confederate Memorial while you're there, and check the city's schedule in case there's an event at the half-shell theatre.
4. Experience the Magic of Downtown Savannah (2-3 hours)
The perfect way to end your day lies on River Street in Downtown Savannah. This historic part of the town lies north of Forsythe Park and borders the Savannah River.
On the weekends, Savannah offers free parking from Friday night to Sunday night, so the town will be crowded if you visit then. It's best to find a spot early to save yourself from circling the streets (lesson learned from experience!).
We found parking just as the sun was setting, and booked it directly to the Rousakis Riverfront Plaza. We hurried through narrow cobblestone-paved alleys and down steep stairways until we reached the river and the Savannah Belles Ferry.
The Savannah Belles Ferry
The Savannah Belles Ferry is a FREE service that the city offers to transport passengers from one side of the river to the other. It has a total of three stops and runs from 7 a.m. until midnight at approximately 15-minute intervals.
The interior of the ferry had plenty of padded benches for passengers, but they were largely ignored as everyone pushed to the rails for the sunset view. The boat was rather crowded, and it seemed many others had the same idea to see the sunset from the river, but once we found a place on the rail, it was worth it.
It was a very short ride across, but we went to the Convention Center and back and had a stunning view of the sun setting behind the Talmadge Memorial Bridge (above). And as the sun went down, the river lit up with the lights from towering river cruise boats and the city behind.
Historic Savannah Riverfront
After our ferry boat ride, we wandered along E. River Street. The buildings here were all old--many made from brick--with colorful flowers and umbrellas set out front. Near the ferry, a trumpeter performed jazz for tips, while classical music spilled from the restaurants across the street, filling the air with joyous tones.
Along our walk, we passed a plethora of restaurants, shops, and charter tours. We also saw at least two lines of tourists prepping for a ghost tour through the historic district.
The Candy Kitchen
We eventually wandered into "The Candy Kitchen," a gigantic candy shop taking up three storefronts along the river. Walls of candy greeted us as we entered, along with the smell of fresh chocolate and sugar.
Taffy abounded along with hand-made confections, ice cream, and candy apples as large as both my fists together. I caved and bought a nut-covered caramel apple for about $9, and I regret nothing. It was absolutely delicious!
Once we'd cleared River Street, Daniel and I decided to head back through the main town and explore. Although it was now dark, we still enjoyed sightseeing by streetlight.
We headed south and passed through streets busy with music and shows into quieter residential streets. Eventually, we found Chippewa Square, lit by the yellow glow of lamps and the neon lights of the Savannah Theatre. By that light, we found Forrest Gump's famous bus bench (unfortunately occupied by another couple), and read the inscription on James Oglethorpe Monument.
As we headed back to where we parked around 10 pm, we also passed right by the Harper Fowlkes House, which is a gorgeous Greek-Revival style mansion, and many other beautifully-curated row houses.
I loved seeing the city at night with all the music and laughter surrounding us, and the enchanting glow of the lights setting the cobblestones and mossy trees into high contrast. It was one of those magical hours that I know I'll remember for a long time.
And that was how we explored the highlights in Savannah, GA, for only $10 (plus a candy apple)! We absorbed so much beauty and history in one day and saw so many of Savannah's most iconic sites. Plus, we experienced the nightlife and energy of the city. And it hardly cost us anything.
I hope you enjoyed this post and that you're inspired to follow our footsteps through Savannah someday! It is a gorgeous city with so much to offer any visitor.
Please feel free to post any questions below!
If you liked this blog post, please don't forget to subscribe to the Mandala Traveler so you never miss an adventure, and be sure to share this with someone who would LOVE Savannah, GA!