Tourist + Moron = Touron… And National Parks Have A LOT of Them

Invasion of the idiots

Ever see a video of a tourist at a National Park and all you can do is shake your head?

I mean, what is with these folks?

They go into completely wild environments and act like they know what’s going on.

No ma’am, that bull elk will kill you, the bison will hit you like a truck, and that grizzly bear is not a teddy.

It’s funny, annoying, and scary all in one when you see a tourist do some stupid crap trying to get a photo of wildlife. We all know you’re not a professional photographer so please tell me why you’re putting your life on the line for a few photos for the ‘Gram?

It just ain’t worth it, not even a little…

On a typical internet search for all things wildlife, a video surfaced on my feed. The video itself was nothing special but I came across a term I hadn’t seen or heard before, touron.

Don’t be a touron! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s pretty simple… Tourist + Moron = Touron!

Urban Dictionary defines it as “any person who, while on vacation, commits an act of pure stupidity.”

Not only does touron roll oddly smooth off the tongue but it also really is just the perfect description of all the people who ignore the painfully obvious signs of what to do and not do with the wildlife.

However, wherever there is a touron with a cell phone, there’s probably someone else close by capturing the stupidity.

These videos are living proof of the kind of idiots that walk into National Parks on a daily basis. It is not a zoo, there are no cages for a reason, and these animals have the ability to seriously harm you…

The one with a fella trying to scare a mother black bear off is insane. Rule number one is stay away from a mother and her young. You are just asking to get attacked.

Don’t be a touron! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You can see a mother bear and her three cubs. The man walks around a vehicle to try and scare a bear. Two big no-no’s! Don’t approach a mother bear or try to scare any bear. That’s a good way to, oh, I don’t know… die?

In this case the man got off lucky. She just bluff charged and slapped at the man as he ran off.

Grade A Touron.

Here is some more helpful information on bear safety: You Come Across a Bear. Your Next Move Is Very Important. Do You Know What To Do?

Once you’re aware of the word touron, it seems to come up everywhere. There’s an entire subreddit dedicated to visitors who hike off trail, get too close to wildlife, and bathe in the hot springs at Yellowstone National Park.

The popular Instagram account @touronsofyellowstone which posts videos and photos of park visitors misbehaving has amassed 486,000 followers while @touronsofnationalparks has 176,000 and dozens more accounts have popped up (there’s @touronsofhawaii, @touronsofthepnw, and @tourons_of_joshuatree just to name a few).

Instagrammer Jackie Boesinger Meredyk (@jaboes) posted video footage of a tourist getting too close to a herd of bison that caused a road blockage near Bridal Veil Falls at Yellowstone National Park.

The video was reposted on @touronsofyellowstone and the caption describes how the person got out of their vehicle about 20 cars back and walked along the mountain road, all while holding an iPad to get a unique picture.

The park’s law enforcement was trying to get the herd moving and they were stunned to see the tourist getting unreasonably close. After calling for the man to follow the park’s rules by standing at least 25 yards away, he retreated.

Don’t be a touron! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The comments section was not impressed.

“Entitled seems fitting,” said one Instagrammer with another adding, “The ranger needs to fine him.”

While getting in the personal space of bison is unwise at the best of times, this bunch featured a couple of calves increasing the risk to anyone who approaches.

“They had their babies with them,” another observed. “He’s lucky he’s still alive.”

The Government of the Northwest Territories advises never to get within a herd of bison or to come between two of the mammals, especially between a mother and calf.

Bison can be unpredictable and charge at any moment and threatening behavior from humans is sure to make this more likely.

Don’t be a touron! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Male bison can weigh up to 2,000 pounds, according to Yellowstone National Park while females can be as heavy as 1,000 pounds. Being charged by either isn’t likely to end well. The park says bison have harmed more people at the park than any other animal.

There are plenty of other reasons to be respectful of wildlife. Yellowstone has noted that feeding animals in its parks can lead to them getting too familiar with humans and reliant on the food they offer meaning they can become aggressive when trying to get it.

We can observe nature from a distance and still be amazed by what we see. Getting too close can be a recipe for disaster.

These reckless actions by uninformed or careless tourons put themselves, park resources, and others at severe risk of injury or death. Responsible behavior and respecting all park rules and regulations is crucial for safety.

These accounts and numerous news stories reveal that touron activity is often found in national parks and according to the Topical Dictionary of Americanisms, the term is considered “park ranger slang.” Urban Dictionary agrees. “The term has its roots in the resort, park service, and service industries and can easily be dated back at least as far as the mid-1970s,” the entry states.

Don’t be a touron! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The lists could go on and on…

Either way, I’m very happy to have stumbled upon the word Touron, it’s just so perfect.

Friggin’ Tourons….

Here are a few great articles to help you stay safe in national parks:

Worth Pondering…

I love the term touron. It’s a delicious portmanteau.

—Aspen Daily News

Outdoorsy Releases Generations in the Wild: The 2024 U.S. Family RV Travel Report

Teens drop tech and look to faith for meaning during family road trips. Baby Boomers beef up multigenerational camping plans this summer. Economic constraints and appetite for travel push GenZ to search for free campsites. Demand for developed campgrounds booms.

Outdoorsy, a leading outdoor travel and accommodation marketplace recently released Generations in the Wild: The 2024 U.S. Family RV Travel Report. The company’s inaugural independent research explores motivations behind travel, benefits of time on the road, and cultural values restoring human relationships across four generations of RVing American families.

“This independent research was deliberately designed to span not just generations, but to represent Americans from all walks of life who seek the benefits only the outdoors can provide,” said Outdoorsy Co-Founder Jennifer Young. “Resoundingly, every group acknowledged that RV travel provides a powerful way to strengthen family bonds, reconnect with themselves, and draw closer to their faith.”

Spending time in nature at Snow Canyon State Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Notably, Outdoorsy’s survey found that today’s always-on work culture is negatively impacting young families on the road—cutting into quality time and reducing enjoyment for GenZ parents in particular. GenZ is most likely to take work on the road with 74 percent saying they work at least sometimes during a trip and 96 percent of those who do reporting that their work hours negatively impact their time with family. By comparison, GenX has a healthier work life balance with only 53 percent reporting that they work during family trips.

“Creating time for a digital detox is closely correlated to better reported trip outcomes, but we found that only one in five families will always take the time to do so,” said Young. “However, we discovered that disconnecting from tech isn’t the only way to reliably improve your summer vacation. Our research showed that parents who involve their children in every aspect of trip planning—from meal planning to destination selection to activity mapping—report improved journeys across almost every metric.”

Families with children who are highly engaged in trip planning report lower stress (+21 percent), an increase in positive attitudes (+12 percent), and increased excitement (+16 percent). Families who engage their children in every aspect of trip planning are also more likely to report strengthened faith after a trip (65 percent vs. 39 percent) and a higher likelihood of tech-free time (66 percent vs. 52 percent).

Spending time in nature hiking Old Baldy Trail, Madera Canyon, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Additional key findings from this year’s report include:

  • GenZ: The changing face of RV travel: The youngest generation of RVers are notably different from their peers. They’re the most likely to travel with the majority (65 percent) saying they plan to take at least five RV trips this year. However, this cost-conscious generation is also the most likely (47 percent) to seek out free RV accommodations this year signaling that this cohort especially is feeling the strain of inflation. This group also tends to stay closest to home with an average trip length that is 100 miles less than that of older generations.
  • Developed campgrounds are the most in-demand in 2024: This year, developed campgrounds are in high demand with 83 percent of families preferring their RV campground to be packed with amenities like showers, pools, biking paths, pickleball courts, and more.
  • RV trips reduce tech time and increase spiritual connectedness for teens: Nearly half of all teens (48 percent) report reduced screen time during family RV trips and the vast majority (88 percent) report at least some level of spiritual connectedness with more than half (59 percent) engaging in prayer, reflection (34 percent), and reading sacred texts (21 percent) during family RV trips.
  • Baby Boomers beef up multigenerational camping plans this summer: In their youth, Baby Boomers popularized backcountry camping. However, over time they fell into travel patterns that were less likely to include outdoor experiences. Now that they’re entering their retirement years, they are much more likely to turn to RV trips as an affordable means of travel that can include their children, grandchildren, and extended family. Three fourths (74 percent) of Baby Boomers will include their adult children in their next RV trip and 31 percent will include their grandchildren.
  • Millennials: The experience-first generation: This formidable travel group started the trend of investing in experiences instead of things and their desire to fully lean into family travel shows up in a variety of ways. Seven out of 10 Millennials say RV trips are an important time to disconnect from technology and this generation is less than half as likely to always work while traveling as their GenZ counterparts (11 percent vs. 26 percent) signaling they have a better handle on work/life balance.
  • Nearer, my God, to thee: RVing families tend to be highly religious or spiritual with 96 percent of parents and 88 percent of teens reporting at least some connection to faith or spirituality. 82 percent of religious families report being Christian. And although teens are less likely to say they’re very connected to religion or spirituality, they’re just as involved (and in some cases more involved) as their parents in spiritual pursuits while in nature. 

Since I’m talking the outdoors, here are a few related articles:

Spending time in nature at Padre Island National Seashore, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Methodology

The results of the first Outdoorsy U.S. RV Family Travel Report are based on a total of 3,200 surveys completed among a random sample of U.S. families and a corresponding sample of n=400 teens. Within the sample of families, quotas were established for each of the four primary census regions: Northeast (n=800), Midwest (n=800), South (n=800), and West (n=800). Overall, a sample of n=3,200 U.S. families is associated with a margin of error of +/- 1.63 percentage points and a sample of n=400 teens is associated with a margin of error of +/- 4.9 percentage points. All surveys were completed only via an outbound solicitation sent to a randomly selected cross-section of families. The sample of respondents was statistically balanced to ensure that the results are in line with overall population figures for age, gender, and ethnicity. Some results may not add to 100 percent due to rounding.

Spending time in nature at Roosevelt State Park, Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

About Outdoorsy

Outdoorsy transformed access to the outdoors with the launch of its RV and campervan rental marketplace in 2015 and expanded to offer marketplace insurance in 2018. Today, Outdoorsy’s partnership with its hosts has resulted in over 7 million travel days through RV rentals that are available in 4,800 cities across North America. Outdoorsy’s marketplace, insurance, and retreats provide life-changing financial benefits for RV hosts and retreat communities and offer guests the trust and guidance they need to enjoy memorable rustic travel experiences. Outdoorsy’s team is inspired by a mission to restore our relationship with the outdoors and each other by inviting guests to Live Outdoorsy.

Worth Pondering…

There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,

There is a rapture on the lonely shore,

There is a society, where none intrudes,

By the deep sea, and music in its roar:

I love not Man the less, but Nature more

—Lord Byron, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage

Spending Time in Nature Just Might Save the World

Nature is not a refuge—it’s a forge that transforms us

Spending time outdoors can serve as a forge that brings out the best in us.

Nature transforms us

What’s come down are medical studies showing time in nature does a multitude of good things for our health. Add to that the brainwave studies showing the benefits to our mental health. Top it off with the sociological studies showing time in nature leads to increased creativity.

Improved health and creativity are just what the doctor ordered.

In sum, we now have the science to justify it: nature is a forge in which much-needed world-saving values are brought to life.

Ajo Scenic Loop in southern Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Still stuck in the old paradigm

While our appreciation of what nature does for us has evolved, the way our culture looks at time spent in nature, unfortunately, is still much the same. Despite what we know about the benefits of spending time in nature, our culture still views time spent there as passive. It’s often spoken of as a retreat or escape.

Our attitude reflects the society we grew up in. “Nature is so relaxing.” “I go hiking to get away from it all.” “The outdoors is my happy place.” We hear these phrases. The problem is that they’re limiting. They pigeonhole nature and the role nature can play for us.

Even though we now have awe theory and forest therapy, even though we know about the three-day effect and have books like The Awakened Brain and The Comfort Crisis we’re stuck in the old paradigm that defines time in nature is a form of recreation—and holds that the real work takes place when we’re sitting at a board meeting or behind our laptops.

It’s not nature that needs to change, but us.

Wells Gray Provincial Park, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The new paradigm

These are dire times and the old paradigm of nature as recreation no longer makes the cut. If we as a species are to shift onto a less self-destructive path, we need to access the values-shifting awarenesses nature can provide.

If the next generation is to care about protecting the natural world, they need to have had positive experiences in it. If these changes are to come about, we need to value nature more broadly and spend time in nature with broader intentions. We need more access to green spaces for those who live in cities. Nature needs to be more than a place to relax. And, so of course, it’s not nature that needs to change, but us.

We need a new paradigm. We need a new story to tell ourselves about nature and the time we spend in it.

Simply put, we need to embrace the idea that nature isn’t so much a place to retreat and relax but rather a forge that can transform us.

Bernheim Forest, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For the good of the people

The idea that spending time in nature can lead to personal transformation is not new. Far from it! Seers and prophets have been going out into the wild since the beginning of human civilization. When they went, they weren’t going on vacation. They weren’t sipping mai tais by a pool.

Native Americans—and many other indigenous cultures—had a tradition of the vision quest in which young people on the verge of adulthood would go out into nature alone in order to experience spiritual growth.

Black Elk of the Oglala Sioux tells a story from his childhood in which a tribal leader welcomes a group of young men back from a scouting mission with the words, “Whatever you have seen, maybe it is for the good of the people you have seen” (Niehardt 65).

Those simple words signify recognition of what the young people did and its importance. The young people left the community and went forth into the wild. Their purpose was to see. Their seeing was beneficial not just to themselves but to their community. It was “for the good of the people.”

Roseate spoonbills in Sabine National Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nature helps us save ourselves from ourselves

It’s a small shift—thinking of nature as a forge rather than a retreat—but it makes a big difference. I’m reminded of the well-known Thoreau quote, “In wildness is the preservation of the world.”

Wildness and wilderness can strengthen and preserve us. I have no doubts about that. But the bulk of the world seems to have little interest in wildness. How then could the wildness be important to the world or have a chance of saving it?

The solutions to the problems of today are unlikely to spontaneously show up on the screens of our cell phones. The solutions might just manifest themselves when we’re out in nature, however. This is because nature is a rich source of complexity, mystery, and inspiration; nature is a bottomless well, a source that counters and supplements all that is human.

In light of the new paradigm, in light of what we now understand in terms of how crucial nature is to our health, in light of our dependence on nature for everything from new medicines to new technology, and in light of the popularity of rewilding now—more than ever—we can see Thoreau’s words as being amazingly prospicient.

Custer State Park, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In wildness is the preservation of the world.

Over the course of history, our preoccupation with technology has led humanity to stray from nature but if we’re to survive and if our planet is to thrive (some would say survive) we must ever circle back. And so the time ahead may later in history be seen as the great circling back—a time when people rediscover the power of nature to strengthen our bodies and nurture our spirits. A time when we acknowledge that to be the best versions of ourselves, we need nature—and that nature is an inexhaustible source of new understandings.

Worth Pondering…

I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.

—John Burroughs

The Beginner’s Guide to Hiking

Hiking for beginners can be intimidating but there’s really not much to it. You don’t need any special skills to hike; you just have to be able to walk and know where you are. It’s a great way to immerse yourself in nature, get a good workout in, and recharge your batteries. This guide will give you some essential hiking for beginners’ tips to make your hike safe and fun.

Hiking is a wonderful way to immerse yourself in the outdoors. Transported by your own two feet and carrying only what you need for the day on your back you can discover the beauty of nature at whatever pace you’re comfortable with. And, with a little planning and preparation, it’s an activity that almost anyone can do.

Hiking, a timeless and invigorating outdoor activity has been a favorite pastime for individuals seeking a harmonious blend of exercise, nature, and adventure. Whether you’re a fitness enthusiast or a novice to the world of outdoor activities, hiking provides an excellent opportunity to reconnect with nature, improve physical well-being, and embark on a journey of self-discovery.

In this article, I’ll delve into the essence of hiking, highlighting its benefits and why it is an ideal activity for beginners. Moreover, I’ll underscore the inclusivity of hiking, catering to individuals of various fitness levels.

Hiking Catalina State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What is hiking and its benefits

Hiking is a form of outdoor recreation that involves walking or trekking through natural landscapes, often along trails or footpaths. Unlike more structured exercises, hiking allows participants to immerse themselves in the beauty of nature offering a refreshing break from the hustle and bustle of daily life. The benefits of hiking extend beyond the physical realm encompassing mental and emotional well-being.

Physical fitness

One of the primary advantages of hiking is the positive impact it has on physical health. As a weight-bearing exercise, hiking helps improve cardiovascular health, strengthen muscles, and enhance overall endurance. The varied terrain encountered during hikes engages different muscle groups providing a comprehensive workout for the body.

Mental well-being

The therapeutic effect of nature is well-documented and hiking serves as a conduit to experience it firsthand. The serene landscapes, fresh air, and the rhythmic act of walking contribute to reduced stress levels, improved mood, and enhanced mental clarity. Hiking provides a valuable opportunity to unplug from technology and connect with the present moment.

Hiking Badlands National Park, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Social interaction

While hiking can be a solo endeavor, it also presents an excellent opportunity for social interaction. Group hikes allow individuals to share the experience with friends or meet like-minded individuals fostering a sense of community and camaraderie. Conversations flow more freely in the relaxed setting of nature strengthening social bonds.

Why hiking is ideal for beginners

Hiking’s appeal lies in its simplicity and adaptability making it an excellent choice for individuals new to outdoor activities. Here are several reasons why hiking is an ideal starting point.

Low entry barrier

Unlike some sports or fitness routines that require specialized equipment or skills, hiking has a remarkably low entry barrier. A comfortable pair of walking shoes, appropriate clothing, and a water bottle are sufficient for a beginner’s hike. This simplicity encourages more people to try hiking without the need for significant initial investment.

Hiking Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Flexible intensity

Hiking offers a wide range of intensity levels accommodating individuals with diverse fitness backgrounds. Beginners can choose trails with gentle inclines and shorter distances gradually progressing to more challenging routes as their fitness improves. The ability to tailor the intensity of a hike makes it accessible to individuals of all ages and fitness levels.

Connection with nature

For those unaccustomed to regular physical activity the prospect of heading to a gym can be intimidating. Hiking, on the other hand, provides a natural and scenic environment offering a more appealing setting for exercise. The desire to explore nature often serves as a strong motivator for beginners to lace up their hiking boots and hit the trails.

Varied terrain

Hiking trails come in various forms from easy, well-groomed paths to more rugged and challenging terrains. Beginners can choose trails that match their comfort level and gradually progress to more demanding routes. This adaptability ensures that hikers can tailor their experience to suit their fitness and skill levels.

Hiking Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Accessibility for people of different fitness levels

One of the most remarkable aspects of hiking is its inclusivity. Regardless of age, fitness level, or prior experience, there is a hiking trail suitable for everyone. Here’s why hiking is accessible to people of different fitness levels:

Trail diversity

Hiking trails are available in a range of difficulty levels from beginner-friendly to advanced. Novices can start with flat, well-marked trails, gradually progressing to more challenging routes with steeper inclines and uneven terrain. National and state parks often classify trails by difficulty helping hikers make informed choices.

Customizable distances

Hiking allows individuals to customize the length of their journey based on their fitness level and preferences. Beginners can start with short, leisurely hikes and gradually increase the distance as they build stamina. The ability to set one’s pace makes hiking an accommodating activity for people at different fitness levels.

Hiking Custer State Park, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Supportive hiking communities

The hiking community is generally welcoming and supportive providing resources and encouragement for individuals at all levels. Local hiking clubs and online forums offer valuable advice, trail recommendations, and shared experiences fostering a sense of inclusivity and making the transition into hiking smoother for beginners.

Adaptability to health conditions

Hiking can be adapted to accommodate various health conditions and mobility levels. Many trails are wheelchair-accessible and nature reserves are increasingly mindful of creating inclusive outdoor spaces. Those with health concerns can consult with healthcare professionals to find suitable trials and modifications that cater to their specific needs.

Hiking Catalina State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Choose your hiking gear

One of the wonderful things about hiking is that you don’t need a bunch of high-tech gear to get out there. With a few essential items for the trail and a sense of adventure, you’re ready to head into the wilderness.

Hiking footwear

Footwear is one of the most important items you need to choose and it’s a very personal choice. Some hikers prefer supportive over-the-ankle boots while others enjoy lightweight trail-running shoes. The terrain you’ll be walking on can also affect your decision. 

Food and water

As a beginner hiker, it can be tough to know how much food and water you need. A good general recommendation for how much to eat is 200–300 calories per hour. About a quart for every two hours of moderate activity in moderate temperatures is a good starting place for water intake. These amounts depend heavily on several factors such as the intensity of your hike, the weather, your age, your sweat rate, and your body type. As you gain more experience, you’ll get a better sense of just how much you need.

Hiking Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Appropriate clothing

Wide-brimmed hat or hat with a neck cape protects the head, face, and neck. Light-colored, light weight, long sleeve shirt protects shoulders, arms, and back. Light color reflects back more heat and light weight allows perspiration to evaporate.

In the realm of outdoor activities, hiking stands out as an accessible, adaptable, and immensely rewarding pursuit. Whether you’re seeking a stroll through scenic landscapes or a more challenging trek to test your limits, hiking offers something for everyone.

The physical, mental, and social benefits make it an ideal activity for beginners. So, lace up your hiking boots, explore the trails, and embark on a journey that not only enhances your well-being but also allows you to discover the wonders of nature.

Hiking Badlands National Park, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Here are some helpful resources for hikers of all levels of experience:

Worth Pondering…

As soon as he saw the Big Boots, Pooh knew that an Adventure was about to happen, and he brushed the honey off his nose with the back of his paw and spruced himself up as well as he could, so as to look Ready for Anything.

—A. A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

15 Best Free Things to do in Savannah

From exploring picturesque squares to attending iconic festivals, you’ll find that some of the best things to do in Savannah don’t cost a dime

Savannah, Georgia has been named one of the best destinations in the United States by countless publications and I certainly agree! It’s a great place to explore historic sites, to see locations from your favorite films like Forrest Gump and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and much more.

You can indulge in a luxurious vacation in Savannah but there also are plenty of activities around town that won’t cost a thing. Here are 15 of the best free things to do in Savannah.

Chippewa Square © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Spend time in the squares and parks

What sets Savannah apart from so many other Southern cities is its layout. The streets are in a grid format usually surrounding small parks called squares that are usually centered around a statue of a notable Georgian. Chippewa Square is known as the site of the Forrest Gump bus scene even though the bench no longer sits there. Johnson Square was the first to be established in the city while Oglethorpe Square honors the city’s founder. While not a square, Forsyth Park is Savannah’s most beautiful public park with its iconic white fountain.

The waving girl statue © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Visit the statues

While you’re in the squares, don’t miss the statues in nearly everyone. Wave to Johnny Mercer in Ellis Square, James Oglethorpe in Chippewa Square, Columbia in Columbia Square, Nathanael Greene in Johnson Square, Sergeant William Jasper in Madison Square, and John Wesley in Reynolds Square. And don’t forget about the Waving Girl on River Street.

3. Go on a free walking tour

Take a free walking tour of the city and get a dose of history while visiting Savannah’s most famous landmarks including the famous squares and the Mercer Williams House. This tour, led by local historians is based on tips so you pay what you think it’s worth. While it’s technically free these guides are supported by visitors. The 90-minute tours can be booked online and meet at Johnson Square.

The Old Sorrel-Weed House © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Explore Savannah’s final resting places

Featuring Spanish moss-draped oaks and historic graves, Bonaventure Cemetery is Savannah’s most famous burial ground. Established in 1907 in nearby Thunderbolt, this Victorian-style cemetery is where Johnny Mercer and Conrad Aiken are buried.

But Bonaventure isn’t the only historic cemetery in town. Colonial Park Cemetery downtown was established in 1789 and includes the graves of plague victims. Laurel Grove Cemetery has a large section of plots for slaves and free people of color as well as the grave of Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of the Girl Scouts.

5. Re-enact your favorite moments from Forrest Gump

Did you know that the Academy Award-winning film used several Savannah locations? I’ve already mentioned Chippewa Square which is free to visit. The Independent Presbyterian Church (at the corner of Bull and Oglethorpe) was seen in the opening scenes where a feather floats past the steeple. Debi’s Restaurant and Love’s Seafood also were used. It’s not free to eat at the restaurants but it’s worth the cost for film fans.

Cathedral of St. John the Baptist © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Tour the historic churches

It’s impossible to walk around Savannah without noticing the church steeples. The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist is the most well-known with its stained glass windows and white exterior. They have free self-guided tours most days of the week but they also accept donations. Independent Presbyterian which we just mentioned was rebuilt in 1891 after a devastating fire. Christ Church on Bull Street was built in 1733 making it the first house of worship in the state. The Historic First African Baptist Church opened in 1774 and features pews built by slaves and a subfloor used on the Underground Railroad.

7. Spend a day on Tybee Island

If you’ve had enough fun downtown, head over to Tybee Island, Savannah’s beach town. You will pay to park (around $2) and to dine at the many cafes and seafood restaurants but the beach itself can be accessed free of charge. Check out the famous pier and admire the lighthouse, one of the few left on the Georgia coast.

8. Ride the ferry

The Savannah Belles Ferry connects River Street with Hutchinson Island, home to the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center and the Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa. It also stops in front of the Waving Girl statue at the Savannah Marriott Riverfront. You don’t have to be a guest of the hotels to ride the free ferry which operates daily from 7 a.m. to midnight. There are four boats each named for an important woman in Savannah history: Juliette Gordon Low, Susie King Taylor, Florence Martus, and Mary Musgrove.

City Market © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Window shop on Broughton Street

If you’re short on cash, visit Savannah’s shopping district to admire what they’re carrying. Make a mental list of all the items you want to buy at The Paris Market and Brocante inhale the delicious chocolate aroma at Chocolat by Adam Turoni and browse for funky vintage goods at Civvie’s.

10. Wander the Savannah Botanical Gardens

The stunning natural Savannah Botanical Gardens boast a rose garden, herb garden, camellia and azalea garden, beehive, nature trails, and a pond. The historic Reinhard House, an 1840s farmhouse was built near present-day Savannah and preserved for future generations to enjoy.

First Baptist Church © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

11. Join the fun at Savannah’s events and festivals

There’s always something going on in Savannah and many events are free to attend. The St. Patrick’s Day Parade is a local favorite held every March 17 in the historic district. The SCAD Sidewalk Arts Festival is held in late April and features artwork on the sidewalks of Forsyth Park.

12. Hit the nature trails

Savannah is also home to several nature preserves where visitors can disconnect. The McQueen’s Island Trail is a six-mile trail home to native plants like palms as well as animals like turtles, bobcats, and pelicans. It starts at Fort Pulaski National Monument, the site of Revolutionary and Civil War battles. Skidaway Island State Park is a retreat from the city offering camping, boardwalks, an interpretive center, and the opportunity to spot countless species.

13. Admire the historic homes (from the outside)

The most beautiful historic homes in Savannah typically charge a fee for tours but that doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate the architecture. The Mercer Williams House is known as the setting for The BookMidnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. The Flannery O’Connor House is where the writer lived during her childhood. The Juliette Gordon Low House was the home of the woman who is credited with starting the Girl Scouts of America. Jones Street is one of the best for admiring homes.

Historic River Street © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

14. Explore Plant Riverside District

Marvel at the enormous geodes from around the world and life-sized chrome dinosaur in the lobby of the JW Marriott. Ooh and aah at the high-end shops, carefully curated retailers, and original galleries. And people-watch in Martin Luther King, Jr. Park on the river in the high-energy Plant Riverside District.

Art gallery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

15. Peruse the art galleries

Savannah has a thriving arts scene which can be seen at the Telfair and SCAD museums. But, to see the up-and-coming artists visit the galleries especially those around City Market. Sue Gouse Inspirations, Gutstein Gallery, and Oksana Fine Art are just a few of the many worth checking out.

With so much to see and do in and around Savannah, one visit simply isn’t enough. Fortunately, that same Southern hospitality is ready to welcome visitors back again and again.

Check this out to learn more:

Worth Pondering…

Savannah is a lovely pastel dream of tight cobbled streets. There are legendary scenes to rival any dreamed up by Tennessee Williams.

—Rosemary Daniell