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Plan Your Trip to Savannah

Savannah azaleas

Alamy

When to go

Savannah is a year-round destination. Winters bring crisp sweater-laden mornings that turn into enjoyable midday warm-ups. For bursts of color that will prompt a few oohs and ahs, visit in the spring, March-April, when azalea blooms present an enviable backdrop for your selfies, provided a late frost stays north. But just when the perfect temperatures (60s and 70s) arrive in the late spring, so do the “no-see-ums,” tiny flying bugs that bite at dusk and drive you inside for happy hour.

Summers in Savannah are sauna-like, and every day is a bad-hair day. But many businesses offer misting stations to cool you off as you hop the shops. Fall is nearly perfect, with cool fronts arriving in late October or early November.

Try to avoid graduation weekend for the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), which brings thousands to town, along with long waits in restaurants and few vacancies in hotels.

Two special events are worth adding to your calendar. For people-watchers, St. Patrick’s Day in Savannah boasts the third-largest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the world, with floats, bands, dancers, Irish groups — and plenty of debauchery and mischief. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade this is not! Book your trip early to attend the month-long festival and try to reserve a hotel on or near the route. Staking out a parade-watching spot starts early, along with the green grits and Bloody Marys served in many hotel breakfast rooms. Hotel rates will be higher then, and some require a three-day minimum.

If you’re a music lover, the two-week Savannah Music Festival (usually late March to early April) stages events at different venues throughout the Historic District, with world-class musicians and vocal performers — from country to chamber music to opera.

Ways to save: The St. Patrick’s Day Parade is free, and tailgating is welcome. Pack a picnic for the parade with tasty supplies from Parker's Market Urban Gourmet. Tickets for the Savannah Music Festival are discounted 10 percent for those 65 and up.

Where to stay

Savannah’s 2.5-square-mile Historic District, America’s largest urban National Historic Landmark, is the place to stay. From eclectic room decor, formal tea times, happy-hour traditions and unique-to-Savannah treats, hotels here lay on the Southern charm. They cost from $250 to upward of $350 per night, but are worth it just for the foot access to downtown.

Consider the Kimpton Brice (pets welcome!), a fashionable restored hotel near Savannah’s famed River Street. For more contemporary flavor, check into the Bohemian Hotel Savannah Riverfront, a stylish boutique hotel. If the Bohemian’s $400-a-night rates knock you back, at least toast your Savannah visit at its Rocks on the Roof, one of Savannah’s hottest nightspots, overlooking the Savannah River. The stunning new riverfront Homewood Suites by Hilton may be a chain hotel, but it boasts a rooftop bar with a 360-degree view of Savannah, replete with church spires, passing ships and ferries crossing the river to Hutchinson Island.

If you’re spooked by high prices but brave enough to try a "haunted” hotel, stay in the 17Hundred90 Inn, with a rustic bar and restaurant — and resident ghosts — for about $139 a night, within walking distance of the Historic District. Another haunted lodging is the historic Marshall House, where wounded Civil War soldiers were hospitalized and guests have reported seeing images of wounded figures.

Romantic inns abound. The 1892 Kehoe House offers quiet luxury (no children allowed) amid Victorian antiques. Historic Inns of Savannah offers six lavishly appointed properties filled with gardens, courtyards andhistory. The 1853 Savannah Bed & Breakfast Inn is another popular lodging.  

Interested in alternative accommodations? Savannah’s local home-rental agency, Lucky Savannah, offers everything from multibedroom antique-furnished mansions to quaint cottages, garden apartments and carriage houses.

Ways to Save: Save 10 to 20 percent on the cost of many accommodations from January through February. Avoiding a stay in the Historic District will save you money, too. Stay near I-95, about 20 minutes from downtown, and you’ll pay less throughout the year. But keep in mind that daily parking downtown can be expensive and inconvenient.

Home rental agencies like HomeAway, VRBO and Airbnb may save you money over a hotel stay. For instance, a new three-bedroom townhome on Airbnb on fashionable Gaston Street goes for $79 per night with a three-day minimum, plus a cleaning and service fee of $364 — roughly the price of one night in a hotel downtown.

How to get there

Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport, replete with rocking chairs and '50s-era music, is on the outskirts of the city, about a 15-minute drive to the Historic District. A taxi ride costs about $28; a car-share service like Uber or Lyft, $25-$33. Amtrak serves the Savannah Amtrak station, accessible by taxi or car-share. But don’t expect Grand Central Station: There are no accessible restrooms or WiFi, and vending machines are your only food option.

Ways to save: Many hotels in the Historic District offer free shuttles to and from the airport. A shuttle information center in the airport provides free phone service to those hotels.

What to pack

Savannah’s predictable weather makes it easy to pack for a visit. Bring your most comfortable walking shoes and leave the stylish clogs and stilettos at home. Dining year-round, no matter the restaurant, is always casual, so collared shirts for men (no ties) and casual pants, skirts or dresses for women.

With summer’s extra-high temperatures, keep your clothing thin. Winter, spring and fall require sweaters and only occasionally a heavy coat. It’s always safe to bring a foldable umbrella or a light rain jacket for sudden downpours, which are more frequent during the spring and summer months. And don’t forget bug repellent to ward off the pesky sand gnats that descend in late spring.

Safety

Savannah’s lively nightlife comes with cautions. Try not to go solo. Stay in well-lit areas and out of dark alleys. Don’t keep valuables in your car if you’re parked in a hotel garage. And always keep your wallet and purse secure.

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