Charming Savannah is a city as green as they come: recognized for its sustainability efforts, including installation of solar panels on city buildings, and lush greenery that flourishes along city streets. Let’s not forget how the city bleeds green every March to celebrate its large Irish Catholic community, too.
As green as this southern city may be and as lavish as its architecture may seem, visitors shouldn’t think it takes a lot of green to visit the Hostess City. Thanks to a number of measures taken by city officials and tour operators, Savannah welcomes visitors from every walk of life – especially budget travelers. Outside of the many free things to do in the city, there are also affordable attractions that, for just a little spend, deliver a meaningful, memorable experience.
Average daily costs
- Hotel room for two: $120-$160/night in downtown Savannah in the low season (Jan-Feb)
- Drip Coffee: $2-$3
- Latte: $4.50-$7
- Sandwich: $8-13 at places like Quinn’s, Clary’s Cafe; otherwise $12-$16
- Nice dinner for two: $50 per person at most popular restaurants/gastropubs (app, entree, dessert); Otherwise ~$25 per person
1. Visit in low season: January-February
Travelers looking to snag the lowest rates on accommodations should plan to visit outside of the peak spring and summer months, from March and August. This is festival season in Savannah, which kicks off with the city’s acclaimed St Patrick’s Day celebrations that run through March, the most popular month to visit. Warm-weather festivals in nearby destinations – like Music and Taste on the Harbour in Hilton Head and the Tybee Island Beach Bum Parade – attract visitors for the rest of the peak season, which is then followed by hurricane season lasting through November. The early part of the year the most ideal time for budget travelers to visit.
Beat the crowds, ‘canes and fares by planning to visit in January and February. This is an ideal time to book a romantic getaway to the Hostess City, as there are fewer crowds. The weather is cooler, and there are still plenty of events to enjoy, including the annual Martin Luther King Day Parade, Valentine’s-themed cycle races, half-marathons and performing arts events taking place. Since the temperatures are lower, this is also a pleasant time to stroll through outdoor attractions like the Bonaventure Cemetery and Savannah National Wildlife Refuge.
2. Commute through the city for free
The Chatham Area Transit has made a free trolley and ferry route available to the public. Within the historic district, the most popular area to visit, the Express Shuttle connects travelers to about 20 stops, including a stop near City Hall, where riders can switch over to the free Southern Belles Ferry. Commuters can catch free WiFi aboard the trolley as well.
The ferry shuttles commuters across the river to the Savannah Convention Center and down the river to the iconic Waving Girl Statue, which commemorates the life of one of Savannah’s historic leading ladies, Florence Martus, who greeted ships entering Savannah’s harbor with the wave of her cloth for more than 40 years.
For a few extra bucks, visitors can take the Chatham Area Transit bus service to explore beyond the downtown area.
3. Soak up the city’s history for a fair fare
Though it’s referred to as Free Savannah Walking Tours, this 90-minute guided tour requires $2-3 per person up front to cover the tour tax, and visitors are invited to pay what they feel is reasonable after the tour. Typically, a $20 gratuity is suggested. It’s well worth it for anyone who wants to get a lay of the land and learn about the various forces and events that have shaped Savannah’s history spanning more than 200 years.
Tour guides weave from the oldest square in America’s first planned city – Johnson’s Square – to Forsyth Park Fountain, regaling visitors with stories: how Union General William T. Sherman “gifted” Savannah to President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War, or how American Revolutionary Catharine Greene partnered with Eli Whitney to develop the cotton gin. The tour is informative and objective, with guides presenting multiple perspectives or theories in the cases where historical facts have been unconfirmed.
4. Go sightseeing the affordable way
Savannah is one of about 50 cities featured on the WalknTours app, an affordable walking tour app available for visitors to learn about sights at their own pace. In Savannah, two tours are offered: The Old Squares of Savannah, starting at Johnson Square, and The Ghosts of Savannah, a haunted walking tour starting at Moon River Brewing Company.
Visitors can download the location-aware, audio walking tour app from App Store or Google Play and access individual tours for $6.99 each. The app allows you to even pause and save tours to listen to later if a visit is interrupted. Tours do not expire.
5. Grab cheap eats at City Market
Stop by City Market, a quintessential open-air market housed in a complex of restored warehouses. Today, the building houses restaurants, bars, boutique shops and art galleries. It’s an ideal place to have an economical meal, like a slice of New York Style pizza at Vinnie Van Go-Go’s.
Wash it all down with some sweet Georgia wine from the Georgia Tasting Room, which offers a $3 tasting to try six of Georgia’s local wines. This includes the typical variety sourced from the region’s sweet Muscadine grapes.
On the weekends, you can catch a live show in the City Market courtyard.
6. Score free sweet samples
Among City Market’s various shops is Savannah’s Candy Kitchen, tantalizing passers-by with its window of decadent desserts and colorful candies.
If you pass by at just the right moment, you can grab a free praline sample. These luscious nut combinations, including Georgia’s typical pecans, are coated in a mixture of caramelized sugar, butter, and cream.
If you miss your chance here, try River Street Sweets just a few streets over, which also flaunts displays dripping of chocolate and caramel, and barrels overflowing with sugary bonbons.
7. Save money on attractions through the museum passes
Georgia’s Coastal Heritage Society operates six museums in Savannah. They offer a “See 3 Sites” Pass providing complete access to three museums of your choosing for a discounted single pass price of $21 (tickets to each are normally $10 per adult). History lovers can enter, leave and return to a site anytime within the same day. Each museum covers a different aspect of the region’s heritage.
For example, Savannah History Museum takes visitors on a chronological journey of the city’s past beginning in prehistoric times. Special sections of the museum pay tribute to Savannah’s rich jazz culture and cotton textiles, which drove much of the economic growth. An interactive area allows children to touch, feel, and interpret what they saw. On weekends, costumed educators take tourists outside to the battlefield of the 1779 Siege of Savannah.
From here, one could head one mile out of town to the state’s oldest standing brick fortification, Old Fort Jackson, to see live cannon firings twice a day. Guides here dress up in uniforms of different eras based on the time of year.
Meanwhile, at the Pinpoint Heritage Museum, a former oyster and crab factory, visitors get a glimpse into the lives of the Gullah/Geechee community. The museum’s exhibits focus more on the people who kept this business thriving, rather than the factory itself. Tour guides were born and raised in the community, and some are fluent in Gullah, a Creole language with elements from various West African languages.
For art and architecture lovers, Telfair Museums are the way to go. A regular ticket for $25 provides admission to all three museums operated by Telfair. Each of their buildings features a unique architectural design (modern, neoclassical, Regency styles) and houses distinct art collections and furnishings.
8. Check the Visit Savannah website for deals
While budget travelers might be used to checking sites like Hotels.com or Kayak.com for deals, perusing the Visit Savannah website is a must. This is the destination marketing arm of the Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce, and it works with its member businesses to promote the growth of its local economy. Its website features some of the best deals offered by hotels, restaurants, tour operators and recreational vendors, so visitors can take advantage of spa discounts, cheaper tee-times, affordable accommodations and economically-priced tours.