10 Things to Do in Savannah at Christmas

Savannah is completely transformed when Christmas arrives. Beyond lights, flea markets and concerts, there are plenty of amazing activities to enjoy the city day and night - find out more!

Sonsoles Jimenez

Sonsoles Jimenez

10 min read

10 Things to Do in Savannah at Christmas

personas a caballo en navidad |©Phillip Sutherland

Savannah is one of the most charming cities in the United States. When December arrives, its streets dress up and in almost every corner there is something wonderful awaiting us. See the illumination from the river or aboard an old trolley bus, look for the ghosts of Christmas or enjoy the typical parades are just some of the plans that await you.

In addition, the mild winter temperatures of this city will allow you to fully enjoy everything you can see and do in Savannah during the holidays and also in the days before. If you're planning a holiday getaway, these plans are a must. Take note!

1. Enjoy the Christmas lights in Savannah

Trolley with Christmas decorations|©Phillip Sutherland
Trolley with Christmas decorations|©Phillip Sutherland

At Christmas time Savannah dresses up, the whole city is illuminated in a special way. But there are events you can't miss. One of the most special events is December Nights and Holiday Lights. More than a million lights bring to life a spectacular display that takes place at the Georgia Botanical Gardens.

If you don't feel like going far from downtown, you can hop on any of the trolley buses or tourist streetcars and take a ride around the city. The image of the historic center illuminated by thousands of colored bulbs and decorations of all kinds is enchanting. Also note the huge tree between Bull and Broughton Streets, which is adorned with 20,000 lights.

Riding on these vehicles, besides being a nostalgic experience, is one of the best plans to enjoy in Savannah with children. Drivers dress up as Christmas characters and Christmas carols are played inside to liven up the atmosphere. The little ones will enjoy every second of the ride.

Book a Savannah Trolley Tour

2. Celebrate Christmas Eve or New Year's Eve on a steamboat

georgia queen with holiday decorations|©RH&XL
georgia queen with holiday decorations|©RH&XL

Put on your finery and get ready for a special, specialevening. Throughout the year you can embark on one of the cruises that travel the Savannah River. These boats are reminiscent of those 19th century steamboats. Doing so during the Christmas season is an unforgettable experience.

Imagine what it is like to dine on a movie boat decorated with garlands, mistletoe and colorful lights. And after that, nothing like taking a stroll along its decks to contemplate the city and see how its lights are reflected in the calm waters of the river.

In case your visit doesn't coincide with Christmas Eve or New Year's Eve, you won't be able to enjoy that wonderful dinner. But a cruise will still be special on any other day. Why? Because on board travels that character capable of making all dreams come true: Santa Claus. If you're looking for family fun plans for at least two days in Savannah as a family, don't miss it.

3. Search for the ghosts of Christmas

People Standing In Front Of The Christmas Tree With Lights At Night|©JÉSHOOTS
People Standing In Front Of The Christmas Tree With Lights At Night|©JÉSHOOTS

I'm sure you've read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Mr. Scrooge and the ghosts of Christmas return every year to remind us of the magic of the season and the importance of being better people. What does it have to do with Savannah if the plot is set in London? Much more than you might think, because you're in a haunted city.

That's what they say about Savannah. There are dozens of haunted mansions here and they say ghosts roam the streets and inhabit many of the buildings. So a fun way to get to know the city and unravel its mysteries this holiday season is to sign up for one of the haunted Savannah tours.

You may not encounter the ghosts from Dickens' novel, but you'll really enjoy the experience. Savannah's historic downtown is reminiscent of the Victorian charm of the era in which the story takes place. So you'll just have to let yourself go. If ghosts are elusive, at the very least, you'll soak up the holiday spirit and beauty of this Southern city.

Book a ghost tour in Savannah

4. Visit the Christmas markets

City Market, Savannah|©bbcamericangirl
City Market, Savannah|©bbcamericangirl

Shopping is always a good plan at Christmas time, after all, there are always gifts to be made at this time of year. Where can you find them? In one of the markets that are set up in the city. The most famous is the Savannah Christmas Market in the Plant Riverside District.

This market is one of the great meeting points for Christmas celebrations in the city. And it has a special feature that makes it special: the place where it is set up, on the banks of the Savannah River.

Much more than just stalls selling all kinds of objects, drinks and food await you here. You can also enjoy performances by street artists and listen to live music. For the little ones, fun workshops are organized and, of course, Santa Claus also visits.

You should not miss the city's market, the City Market. When Christmas comes, it becomes a space for entertainment. A place to shop, have a drink and share good times. There are also fun workshops for children.

And, if you are up for it, you can even take a gastronomic tour of Savannah to taste some of the typical delicacies of this holiday season, such as gingerbread cookies or eggnog.

5. Enjoy a Christmas concert

Christmas Theater|©Amanda Sheehan
Christmas Theater|©Amanda Sheehan

At Christmastime, Savannah's atmosphere is filled with Christmas carols and gospel music. You'll hear it in the bars, at the flea markets and on the streetcars. But a classic at this time of the year are the concerts of the Savannah Philharmonic Orchestra.

Concerts are also organized at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist and on various stages throughout the city. Before visiting the city I advise you to consult the cultural agenda of Savannah. You will see that there are concerts for all tastes and all ages.

6. Attend the show A Christmas Tradition

The name of this show says it all. A Christmas Tradition is another of Savannah's great Christmas classics. It is an entertaining play that combines music, dance, comedy and all the Christmas clichés.

The two-hour show flies by, since it is also a show that seeks audience participation. In fact, the play has been performed for 20 years now, delighting young and old alike.

But it is not only the play that is special. So is the stage on which it is performed, the Historic Savannah Theatre. Opened in 1818, it is one of the oldest operating theaters in the United States. In addition, it is located in one of Savannah's movie locations, Chippewa Square, the square where the bench where the unforgettable Forrest Gump sat used to sit.

I speak in the past tense because the famous bench is no longer there. To protect it, it was moved to the Savannah Museum. If you want to see it and visit one of the best museums in the city, you already have another fantastic plan for Christmas.

7. Discover how Christmas was celebrated in the 19th century

Davenport House|©JAmundsen
Davenport House|©JAmundsen

Now I propose a real trip back in time. In Savannah it is possible, after all, you are in a haunted city. But it's not the Christmas ghosts that will guide you on that journey. You'll have to go to a very specific place: Davenport House. Here you will take a candlelight tour of one of the city's historic mansions.

On this tour you will discover all the nooks and crannies of this house, now a museum. But you will also see how the way of celebrating Christmas has changed in two centuries, and you will surely be surprised! Guides perfectly characterized and a scenography taken care of down to the smallest detail, will make you move to 1820. Will you be ready?

I tell you now some curious details of this mansion. It was built in the early nineteenth century by a master carpenter for his family. It is of federal style and was about to be demolished in the mid-twentieth century. It was avoided thanks to the intervention of the Historic Savannah Foundation. To date, they have already saved more than 400 buildings.

8. Enjoy the Christmas atmosphere in private homes

Family Celebrating Christmas Dinner|©Nicole Michalou
Family Celebrating Christmas Dinner|©Nicole Michalou

Christmas is a special time in people's homes. And in Savannah you can be a guest at the celebrations. How is that possible, if you don't know anyone in town? Every year around this time, private homes and historic inns open their doors so anyone can get to know them. You too.

The Holiday Tour of Homes began almost half a century ago. It was Christmas 1974 when the president of the Downtown Savannah Neighborhood Association first opened his home. Every year since then, homeowners in the district invite anyone who wants to discover their history, architecture and décor.

If you're curious about the Savannah lifestyle or want to see unique buildings and enjoy the homey atmosphere this holiday season, don't miss this event. As you can imagine, tours are limited, so tickets must be purchased in advance. So, if you plan to visit any of these homes, I advise you to plan ahead.

9. Welcome the New Year on Tybbe Island

Tybbe Island|©andy lee
Tybbe Island|©andy lee

Located just outside Savannah, Tybee Island is a paradisiacal place thanks to its sandy beaches and calm waters. But now I invite you not to take a swim, but to watch a fabulous fireworks show to welcome the new year.

The fireworks show is incredible and the best place to watch it is the Tybee Island boardwalk. Afterwards you can continue the party there or head back to downtown Savannah. There are plenty of places where you can continue the fun until well into the wee hours of the morning.

And a little tip: beyond the Christmas celebrations, it is worth spending a few hours during the day to discover the beauty of this place. It is a real natural sanctuary that you can admire on a boat trip to Tybee Island. If you are traveling with children it is a great plan because from the deck they will be able to see dolphins and countless birds of all kinds.

10. Don't miss the Christmas parades

Man dressed as Santa on the street|©Nichelle Stephens
Man dressed as Santa on the street|©Nichelle Stephens

In Savannah, Christmas begins to be celebrated long before December 24. So you can immerse yourself in its festive atmosphere even if your stay in the city does not coincide with those days marked in red on the calendar. The parades are the ones that open the Christmas season and it is very easy that during your stay you can see one of them.

The most traditional is the Christmas Parade. It involves countless floats decorated in an amazing way, vintage cars dressed for the occasion and, of course, Santa Claus. This parade usually coincides with the traditional lighting of the Christmas tree.

But if there is a spectacular parade, it is the one that takes place on the Savannah River. The Harbour Boat Parade of Lights brings together dozens of boats carefully decorated with thousands of colored bulbs. Watching them glide down the river after dark is quite a spectacle.

The big drawback is that this parade is the earliest of all, in fact, is the kickoff of Christmas celebrations in Savannah in late November. But don't worry, there are always alternatives in the city. As I have already told you, the tourist boats are also decked out, so you can always go on one of the Savannah river cruises. They operate during the day and also at dusk.

Book a Savannah river cruise at sunset

Other plans to enjoy Savannah at Christmastime

Plant Riverside District|©505Design
Plant Riverside District|©505Design

The plans to see Savannah in one day will force you to choose among all these Christmas activities. But if your stay is for several days, the list of interesting proposals is almost endless. Here are just a few of them, many others you will find as you walk around the city:

  • Take a look at the cultural agenda of Savannah. During Christmas there are events of all kinds: music, theater, magic, street shows, etc.. You're sure to find more than one interesting date.
  • Museums and historical sites as well as also organize special activities and exhibitions during the Christmas season. These are usually aimed at children.
  • In the Plant Riverside District, Savannah's entertainment district par excellence, you can enjoy good proposals for Christmas, from baking workshops for children to exhibitions or live music.
  • In addition to the Christmas markets, visit the Forsyth Park Farmers Market. Also, don't miss the Savannah Holyday Magic on River Street, where artisans and artists gather the weekend before Christmas Eve.
  • In the mood for something different? Head to The Paris Market. It is a curiosity store where you are sure to find an original gift. But at Christmas, in addition, the decoration of its windows is so particular that it has become a real tourist attraction.
  • If you have time, visit the cathedral of San Juan Bautista, the Christmas decoration, made with poinsettias, is exquisite. In addition, you can see a beautiful nativity scene.

Tips for an unforgettable Christmas in Savannah

Woman Standing While Holding Her Jacket|©Kristin Vogt
Woman Standing While Holding Her Jacket|©Kristin Vogt

Savannah is a welcoming city where you will feel almost at home. But it is important that you take into account some details to fully enjoy every second you spend there:

  • Winters in Savannah are not excessively cold. The maximum temperatures in December are an average of 16 ºC, while the minimum temperatures are 6 ºC on average.
  • Despite this, don't be overconfident. My advice is to pack some warm clothes and also something light. Why? Because the weather in Savannah is very particular. From time to time there are days with freezing temperatures or, on the contrary, with temperatures more typical of spring.
  • Stores have special opening hours at this time of year and are closed on Christmas and New Year's Day. As far as leisure and catering establishments are concerned, opening hours can vary quite a bit from one to another, so keep this in mind.
  • If you plan to enjoy special activities such as a Christmas dinner on a tourist boat, a visit to Davenport House or enjoy a concert, it is best to book tickets in advance. Demand tends to be high.
  • Savannah has a lively nightlife at any time of the year, but even more so at Christmas. If you are traveling with friends, reserve energy to enjoy its entertainment venues. You can go on your own or, if you prefer, take a guided tour of Savannah's best bars.