Savannah on a Budget with Kids
History, architecture, art, and a heaping dose of Southern charm make a day in Savannah an urban adventure everyone in your party will love. Time your day well and you can be on the riverfront in time for a second (or third) cup of coffee, then work up an appetite exploring this very walkable and affordable city.
Less than thirty minutes from our camp at Skidaway Island State Park, you'd be hard pressed to find an excuse not to visit "The Hostess City of the South" Savannah, Georgia. In mid-March, we found plenty of on-street parking meters close to the riverfront. Depending on the zone, it is either $1 per hour or $2 per hour with unlimited time. Check out the city website for additional parking at city parking garages and access to the free downtown shuttle.
Established in 1733, Savannah is Georgia's oldest city. Be prepared for narrow, steep sets of stairs and cobblestone walkways. Comfortable walking shoes are a must! A slow tour – on foot, horse drawn buggy, or bicycle – is your best bet to get a real sense of how lovely Savannah really is with its gorgeous flowering shrubs and arching live oaks draped in Spanish moss. Part of its irresistible charm is the design of the city. Frequent town squares encourage a slower pace and sense of community.
Our first stop was at the River Street Visitor Information Center to pick up a map to the city. Public restrooms are available here, too. Before heading into the city center, we enjoyed walking the riverfront and exploring the various shops along the way.
Things to Know:
- Street parking $1-2 per hour depending on zone (unlimited time).
- Parking available at city garages
- Free downtown shuttle: Mon-Fri 7am - midnight; Sat 10am - midnight; Sun 10am - 9pm
Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters
A guided tour of the Owens-Thomas House and Slave Quarters gives a biopic view into the complicated relationships between the most and least powerful people in the South and into the stark contrast between their living quarters. A sobering realization that the wealth found in the fine furnishings and elegant home on one side of the courtyard was derived from human suffering and enslaved labor on the other.
The curators meet the past head-on and rightfully begin the tour in the two-story slave quarters, opposite the main house, where enslaved servants lived in meager conditions. After years of modern surfaces like dropped ceilings and drywall had been torn away, what has been preserved helps tell part of the story of the nine to fifteen enslaved people – half of which were children – who lived there till the end of the Civil War.
Original haint blue 'paint' can be seen on the walls and ceilings - the largest example known in America. Haint blue is an indigo, lime, and buttermilk mixture believed by some African cultures to have spiritual properties to ward off evil. The second level has been partially restored to period and gives you an idea of the sparse conditions the enslaved domestics had to endure.
Across the courtyard garden looms the Regency-styled home designed by architect William Jay for banker, shipping merchant, and slave trader Richard Richardson and his family in 1816. A technological wonder of its day, the tabby-walled home featured indoor plumbing – a technology that predated the White House by fifteen years. In 1830 George Owens, a wealthy planter, lawyer, and politician, purchased it for his wife, six children, and nine slaves.
The upper house features finely furnished public spaces that were meant to impress presidents, bankers and powerful businessmen of the day. The working cellar of the main house includes the kitchen scullery, cellar, and cistern. Visitors can examine replica artifacts, interactive exhibits, and copies of documents such as census records, wills, and family letters that reveal much about the families and the slaves that served them.
Things to Know:
- Admission: includes Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters, Telfair Academy, Jepson Center
- Price: $20/adult; $18 seniors & military; $15/student (13-25 with student ID); $5/child (6-12)
- Tickets: Good for one week from time of purchase
- Budget Tip: We have a NARM membership pass that got us all in FREE - purchased on our Florida trip.
- Hours: Sun/Mon 12-5pm; Tue-Sat 10am-5pm (last tour 4:20pm); see website for holiday closures
- Time Needed: 1 to 1.5 hours for tour and exploration of working cellar area