From Savannah’s beloved greenspaces to the waterfront and beyond, there is no shortage of ways to get outside and enjoy the coastal weather year-round. Here, we have rounded up 20 family-friendly (including dog-friendly!) ways to start the year on a more active foot.
Written by COLLEEN ANN MCNALLY & LILY AVERY
1. TURN YOUR WHEELS
“People are usually surprised by how bikeable and skateable Savannah is year-round,” says Calia Brown, the executive director of Bike Walk Savannah (BWS), a nonprofit organization working toward safer, more accessible and more convenient biking and walking in the city. “The Oglethorpe Plan really lends itself to slower streets that are more welcoming to people biking, walking and rolling.”
Whether you’re new to the area, trying a different commute or looking to get more exercise, Brown recommends starting slow and making a plan. BWS hosts monthly Cycle Socials in various neighborhoods and provides suggested routes, such as the Truman Linear Park Trail. Between Jenkins High School and Lake Mayer Park (1850 E. Montgomery Cross Road), the 3-mile, multi-use path is ideal for all abilities. “The city will begin construction on the next segment of this trail in early 2023, and when complete, the path will run from Daffin Park to Lake Mayer for a distance of approximately 6 miles — or 9 miles if you include the paths around both parks,” says Brown, who also serves as chair of Friends of Tide to Town — a nonprofit organization in support of the urban trail system that will eventually form a 30-mile loop.
Getting and maintaining the right gear is a must, too. “Most importantly, wear a helmet no matter your age, use lights in darkness and follow the rules of the road,” says David Udinsky, owner of Perry Rubber Bike Shop (240 Bull St.). “Like any sport, make sure the bike is proper for the sport, is in safe operating condition and is the proper size.” Perry Rubber provides everything for the casual tourist rider as well as distance road cyclists. For those aspiring towards the latter, Udinsky encourages all-age cyclists to join a group ride. “There are several groups offering varying rides, in both speed and distance,” he says. “Savannah’s riding community has an average of one ride per day, seven days a week.”
2. HIT THE TRAIL
For those who prefer to keep their feet on the ground, take a walk along the 1.5-mile loop circling Lake Mayer. Dogs are welcome but must remain leashed. Located along Georgia’s Intercoastal Waterway, Skidaway Island State Park (52 Diamond Causeway) offers 6 miles of dog-friendly trails that wind through the park, connecting to a boardwalk and observation tower to fully take in the beauty of the island. There is a $5 parking fee. Nearby, The Landings Nature Trail (1 Landings Way N.) is another option for residents of the gated community and their guests. Small but mighty, the Whitemarsh Preserve (68 Johnny Mercer Blvd.) is a go-to spot for a quick jaunt. Dogs are permitted if leashed. Go off the beaten path to The Dairy Farm (2500 Tennessee Ave.) for more space to roam. Once a private operating farm, the local dog-friendly escape is now a maintained trail system, open from dawn till dusk. Although minimally marked, all trails connect, making it difficult to get lost.
3. GET A HISTORY LESSON
Nothing says Savannah quite like a walk back in time. Completed in 1847, Fort Pulaski National Monument (101 Fort Pulaski Road) is an outdoor exhibit for visitors, with over 4,800 acres of salt marsh. An entrance fee of $10 is required for ages 16 and up to take advantage of the park’s kid-friendly (and dog-friendly) trail system and views, and admission remains valid for seven days. For those seeking a more interactive experience, look no further than Old Fort Jackson (1 Fort Jackson Road). Built in 1808, Fort Jackson is Georgia’s oldest standing brick fort. Visitors can explore the grounds, learn about the typical daily life of a 19th-century soldier and see cannon demonstrations. Admission is $10 per adult and $7 for ages 4-12. And, for those interested in more civilian history, Savannah’s iconic Wormsloe State Historic Site (7601 Skidaway Road) is a must-see, with historical interpreters, a museum full of artifacts to explore and 7 miles of trails to entertain the whole family. Dogs are allowed outside but not inside the museum. Admission is $10 for adults, $9 for seniors, $4.50 for ages 4-17 years and $2 for children under 2.
4. STROLL THROUGH CEMETERIES
Not just for spooky season, a stroll through one of Savannah’s many historic cemeteries is the perfect outing for nature lovers with a penchant for peace and quiet. Bonaventure Cemetery (330 Bonaventure Road) offers more than 100 acres to meander through, with rows of vibrant camellias and azaleas that begin blooming in winter and early spring, respectively. The gates open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pets are welcome. The Bonaventure Historical Society also provides free guided tours at 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday of the second weekend of the month. In the heart of the Savannah Historic District, the 6-acre Colonial Park Cemetery (200 Abercorn St.) was established in 1750. The park is open to pedestrians from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, with hours extended until 8 p.m. between March and November. Named for the native laurel oak trees that once inhabited the area, Laurel Grove North Cemetery (802 W. Anderson St.) spans 67 acres around a natural ravine, while Laurel Grove South Cemetery (2102 Kollock St.) covers 90 acres, adorned with towering cypress trees. Both are open to the public daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
5. HAVE A DOG PLAYDATE
You never know who you may meet at the dog park. At Daffin Dog Park (1198 Washington Ave.), for instance, you may meet Brio, a mixed-breed dog from Fort Stewart and winner of the Top All-American Dog award at Westminster’s Masters Agility Championship. While his handler, Ali Park, says they often travel to compete or train, Daffin is his favorite local spot for a walk. With separate enclosed areas for small and large dogs, as well as spaces for those looking to brush up on some training, the well-shaded site is the place for pups — and their humans — to mix and mingle.
6. DINE AL FRESCO — WITH DOGS
Any day of the week, Starland Yard (2411 De Soto Ave.) is packed with people of all ages, pups and plenty of entertainment. And with slices from Pizzeria Vittoria plus a fenced border preventing little ones from wandering too far, it’s easy to see why our readers voted the open-air food truck park as Savannah’s “Best Kid-friendly Dining.” With plenty of outdoor space to spread out and watchthe boats go by, The Wyld Dock Bar (2740 Livingston Ave.) claimed its own “Best Waterfront Dining” title in our 2022 reader poll. In nearby Thunderbolt, Finches Sandwiches & Sundries (2600 Mechanics Ave.) puts smiles on faces with its colorful patio, laidback vibes and cute, four-legged customers. (Be sure to follow the shop on social media for updates on events that support local pet rescues, too.) Sea Wolf Tybee (106 S. Campbell Ave.) has elevated takes on familiar foods that are also fun to eat. Case in point: the wagyu hot dog paired with Champagne. Sandy feet are welcome, too.
7. PICNIC IN THE BIG PARK
There’s always something to see and do at the 30-acre Forsyth Park (2 W. Gaston St.). On a Saturday morning, pick up a coffee from the walk-up window at Collins Quarter at Forsyth (621 Drayton St.) while kids tackle the wheelchair-accessible playground, then peruse the Forsyth Farmers’ Market for an impromptu picnic. Or, let the Mansion on Forsyth Park (700 Drayton St.) do the prep for you. The hotel offers customizable takeaway picnics available via OpenTable on weekends from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Starting at $85 for two, options range from artisan charcuterie to kiddie-friendly favorites. For the adults, upgrade the keepsake canvas tote with Tip Top Proper Cocktails, so the only BYOB you need to do is bring your own blanket.
8. TAKE A STAYCATION
Don’t let tourists have all the fun. Savannah’s boutique hotels offer alluring amenities, pet-friendly policies and, often, discounted overnight rates for locals. Head to The Alida (412 Williamson St.) for the heated pool, open year-round for guests (with day passes available for $35 from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.). While there, take a spin in the WeMoke — an open-air electric vehicle that rides low and slow and rents at $125 per hour. Older kids can sit in the back, but drivers must be at least 21 years old to drive. Or, make The Desoto Savannah (15 E. Liberty St.) your temporary home base to exhale from the daily routine and explore the city from a new perspective. The hotel’s “Park, Sip and Stroll” package is designed to let parents slow down with to-go drinks and make special memories with little ones — or stay in with room service.
9. ATTEND AN OUTDOOR CONCERT
While the Savannah Stopover Music Festival takes a gap year in 2023 to better align the festival dates with future growth plans, the fest is sponsoring a free monthly concert series at The Park at Eastern Wharf. This spring, the Savannah Philharmonic continues its Phil the Squares series, with the first concert slated for March 11 at Chippewa Square. Mark your calendar for the 2023 Savannah Music Festival, happening March 23 through April 8 at iconic venues throughout the city — including a series of outdoor performances at Trustees’ Garden from artists such as Buddy Guy, Christone “Kingfish’’ Ingram, Eric Gales, King Solomon Hicks, Jontavious Willis and more. Check the Savannah VOICE Festival website (savannahvoicefestival.org) for dates of its ongoing Songs and Stories in the Squares, a musical tour that begins at Davenport House Museum (323 E. Broughton St.) and continues through Columbia, Greene and Crawford squares.
IN THE GAME
10. GET ADDICTED TO PICKLEBALL
A cross between tennis, badminton and ping-pong, Pickleball is the fastest-growing sport in America — but you probably already knew that. “It’s hard to go anywhere without hearing about it these days,” says Jaylen Brennan, the head pickleball professional at the Savannah Golf Club (1661 E. President St.), which has increasingly converted tennis courts to pickleball to keep up with demand.
“Once you start, you will be hooked,” agrees Chris Kader, director of court sports at The Landings Golf & Athletic Club (71 Green Island Road). The widening fanbase is often attributed to its appeal to all ages and athletic abilities. “The initial cost to start playing is very low, which makes it appealing to all demographics,” adds Brennan. “It is so easy for beginners to pick up, and it is immediately addicting.” Savannah Golf Club also offers introductory clinics and private lessons for nonmembers. Brennan recommends using an app such as Pickleheads (pickleheads.com) to find places to play, with drop-in groups that match your skill level. As private clubs are typically limited to members and their guests, the city’s only public courts are at Lake Mayer Park.
According to Andrew Jones, founder of the Savannah Pickleball Club, a few places, including the YMCA and Salvation Army, have access for a small fee. “I get calls, emails and Facebook messages multiple times a week from locals (and out-of-town visitors) looking to play or get into pickleball,” Jones says. Still can’t find a court? Krader suggests making your own. “That is how many players start out — some chalk lines, a portable net in their driveway, and soon the entire neighborhood is playing!”
11. GO FOR THE GOAL
In March 2023, the Savannah Clovers Football Club kicks off its inaugural professional season in Memorial Stadium (101 John J. Scott Drive), heating up the city’s soccer fever. Just ask Gary Wright, executive director at Savannah United Soccer, the largest club between Atlanta and Jacksonville, with 2,200 players across 120 teams and programs for all levels playing throughout the year. Started following the merger of Coastal Georgia Soccer Association and Savannah Celtic, the club is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year and boasts both state and national league championship titles amongst some of its higher-level teams. While it’s never too late to start playing soccer — and the club’s affiliate Savannah Soccer organizes an adult league — Wright recommends introducing children to the sport as early as possible. “We start our Early Goals program for 3-year-olds,” he says. “To get good technically and look to progress in the sport to a higher level, the younger, the better.”
12. HIT THE LINKS
In late 2022, Heritage Golf Group bought The Club at Savannah Quarters (8 Palladian Way), marking the first club in Georgia for the fast-growing owner and operator of golf and country clubs in the nation. According to General Manager Philip Linaugh, the private club is seeing increased popularity in the sport — which continues a nationwide trend fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic. In Savannah, the growth is supplemented by an influx of new residents. “Our membership has expanded significantly over the past two years, especially our ladies’ golf program, which continues to take flight,” says Linaugh. “We are excited to see an increase in couples taking up the game together.” He adds that the club also sees more families, young professionals and retirees. In turn, The Club at Savannah Quarters hosts lessons, camps and clinics geared both to beginners and experienced golfers. “It’s never too late or too early to start,” says Linaugh. “One of our members who is new to golf is a Vietnam veteran who lost his leg during the war. His love of golf is a reminder that all can benefit from this great outdoor game.” While play at private clubs such as The Club at Savannah Quarters, The Landings, Savannah Golf Club and Savannah Country Club is reserved for members, public play is available at Bacon Park Golf Course (1 Shorty Cooper Road), Crosswinds Golf Club (232 James B. Blackburn Drive) and The Club at Savannah Harbor (2 Resort Drive).
ON THE WATER
13. HUNT FOR SHARK TEETH
“We live where people want to vacation,” says Bryan Neal, owner of Low Country Drifters. After retiring from a 27-year career in the military, Neal founded the Thunderbolt-based charter company in 2021. Although his business is new, Neal and his family have called the area home for decades.
“While we stay in-shore, the Intracoastal Waterway is an adventure in and of itself. Between the time spent with family and friends, our guests get to see wildlife and scenery they don’t often get to or have ever seen.” Neal says his guests, young and old, revel in the thrill of the search. “They have found megalodon teeth, pottery, fossils, arrowheads and more,” he says. “My kids (ages 10 and 13) have always enjoyed unearthing new treasures, finding crabs hiding under rocks and seeing all the wildlife while headed to our destination.” Four-hour tours start at $500 for up to six people. Pups are usually welcome on board, too — though Neal does caution that some destinations may be off-limits to dogs at certain times of the year due to migratory birds and sea turtle nesting seasons.
14. ESCAPE TO A PRIVATE ISLAND
Of course, Low Country Drifters isn’t the only local business that offers excursions of this nature. Based at Plant Riverside District, Outside Savannah (300 W. River St., Unit 6B) is the local outpost of Outside Brands. What started as a windsurfing school on Hilton Head Island in 1979 has grown into a leading local outfitter, with daily boat tours of the historic Savannah Riverfront, Georgia Ports Authority and even its own private destination: Page Island in Beaufort County, South Carolina. A full-day adventure to Page Island can include a long list of activities such as tubing, fishing and crabbing, dock jumping, dolphin and bird watching. However, Outside’s founder and CEO Mike Overton notes that just being immersed in the location is an experience within itself. “I know of nowhere else in the area that offers the sense of peace and tranquility more than Page Island,” says Overton. “Simply being there, connected with the flow of the tides and opportunity provided by the wide-open space and vistas often makes an ideal day.”
15. SET SAIL
Prefer to be your own captain? Freedom Boat Club at the Savannah Boathouse Marina (8020 U.S. 80 E.) and Carefree Boat Club at Isle of Hope Marina (50 W. Bluff Drive) cater to those who want a low-maintenance, recreational boating experience Membership fees include cleaning, repair, insurance and storage so that you can spend more time out on the water without all the worry.
16. LEARN TO SURF
There is so much more to surfing than just catching waves, according to Turner Horton, owner of Tybee Surf Lessons. “There are so many life lessons to be learned and shared,” he says. For first-timers, Horton emphasizes the importance of starting with an experienced coach, especially as the beach becomes more crowded. “When I started, there were a few really great surfers who’d scare off beginners, and then there were some old-timers on longboards who were really friendly but would run laps around you in the lineup and catch all the best waves,” he says. “We also have swimmers and fishermen to share the wave areas with, too. As a surf community, we need to remember to actually educate the campers and beginners on safety, etiquette and respecting the beach.” In addition to private, semi-private and group lessons from the spring through the fall, Tybee Surf Lessons offers “Uke N Surf” (ukulele and surfing) camps in June and July — with his youngest students starting at just 3 years old.
17. GO PADDLING
East Coast Paddleboarding offers stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) for all abilities along the Back River, Horsepen Creek and Little Tybee. Get up close and personal with wildlife on any of the two-hour paddling sessions starting at $50. For longer trips out on the water, Savannah Canoe and Kayak (414 Bonaventure Road) has you covered. Offering both half-day and full-day tours, paddle enthusiasts can pick from tours including the Skidaway Narrows, Cockspur Lighthouse and Ebenezer Creek. Catch a sunset or a full moon across the salt marsh with one of its well-timed paddle tours, starting at $69. Getting out on the water is even better with man’s best friend. Aqua Dawg Kayak Company (1 Old U.S. 80) offers a variety of guided excursions, including some that are dog-friendly, starting at $55 for a tandem kayak.
18. CAST A REEL
We’re not talking about short Instagram videos. Rather, get your kids to put down the screens and pick up a fishing line to create a day that they’ll remember longer than the current dance craze. Not sure where to start? No sweat. The guides at Rivers & Glen Trading Co. (103 E. Broughton St.) will point you in the right direction — whether booking a fishing charter directly or through their network of local guides. In particular, Rivers & Glen specializes in sight-fishing for redfish and other inshore species found along the coast of Georgia and South Carolina. The company primarily practices catch-and-release, teaching future generations that local species are a valuable resource to protect and preserve. Half-day charters start at $450 for up to two anglers.
19. SADDLE UP A HORSE
Live out your “Yellowstone’’ daydream with a horseback ride at Red Gate Farms (136 Red Gate Farms Triangle). Tucked off Chatham Parkway, the 92-year-old, 440-acre farm offers rides around the farm’s grounds and trail system for ages 12 and up. Individual lessons and horse camp begin at age 7 and pony rides begin at age 4.
20. GO WILD
Open daily, rain or shine, Oatland Island Wildlife Center (711 Sandtown Road) covers over 100 acres of maritime forest with a 2-mile nature trail loop featuring five main exhibits. Before you go, check the calendar for special activities, such as Toddler Tuesday, summer camps and other seasonal happenings. Admission is $3 to $5, depending on age. Across the Talmadge Memorial Bridge, the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge (694 Beech Hill Lane) offers another quick escape. A current habitat restoration project scheduled to be complete by spring 2023 may affect trail access, so double-check before making the trek.