It’s a bold claim, isn’t it? Favorite U.S. city among the hundreds of cities that we’ve visited that are sprinkled throughout 50 states? And yet this isn’t a superlative we use lightly—we love this coastal Georgia city more with each passing stay, and if you don’t already have it on your travel list, we’re here to tell you exactly why should visit Savannah right now.
What is so special about Savannah, you might ask? When travel is booming, the world is your oyster and you can effectively go anywhere within a plane’s reach, why should you pick a coastal town in Georgia of all places to visit? Well, I’ll give you a few reasons that make this a dreamier U.S. destination than ever.
This is part of a partnership with Visit Savannah. All opinions and love for the city are our own.
The boutique hotel scene is popping
Even if you’ve visited Savannah many times before, you may be surprised to see the boom that’s taken place in the last few years since your last visit, particularly when it comes to lodging. Sure, Savannah has inns and five-star bed and breakfasts, chain hotels and vacation rentals galore, and I’ve stayed in Savannah in every which way. But the city has also gained quite a few new boutique hotels in recent years, and we are loving the transformation that these fashionable inserts make into the community.
On our most recent stay, we made our base at the Thompson Savannah, which debuted slightly late in summer 2021 after a neighboring fire broke out during construction down on the eastern wharf. The final product, though, was worth the wait—it’s not only a work of art, but our favorite hotel in Savannah yet.
This part of downtown Savannah has historically been a heavy industrial development, but in 2018 a handful of investors started working on connecting the riverwalk and extending it further toward the Atlantic, thereby opening up space for a smart community that has 40,000 square feet of retail and 80,000 for offices spaces in addition to wide open expanses of greenway, a dog park, skatepark and regular parks right along the Savannah River.
Additional single family homes and condos are starting to come online in the area as part of the development, and we love to see this! Building a comprehensive and smartly planned addition to this once-neglected waterfront has the potential to attract new business and entrepreneurs who are looking for the livability factor, which Savannah already has in spades, with 22 parks and every block that connects them a lovely visual of architecture and gardens.
Another thing we love about the Thompson Savannah? It’s actually pet-friendly, both in concept and execution. The hotel welcomes all dogs with no breed restrictions and at no additional charge, which is rare and amazing. Ella has already requested to return to Savannah with us!
A second high-end boutique property we’ve visited a time or two is the Alida Savannah, a 173-room located in the downtown Plant Riverside District that opened in 2018. A prime option for travelers who want easy access to the heart of the city, the Alida balances the convenience of being in the tourist-favorite district with top-notch modern design and comfortable accommodations.
With the ground-floor restaurant The Rhett and two other bars, including one on the pool deck upstairs, the hotel makes it easy to languish within its walls as you take breaks from exploring the city attractions. The Alida does accept pets with a cleaning fee of $100 per stay and a weight limit up to 40 pounds per animal.
The Kimpton Brice Hotel
The Kimpton Brice Hotel is another option for a luxury, boutique hotel in Savannah; it’s where we stayed on our visit before this one. With commanding views of the river and dynamite access to the heart of downtown, this 145-room accommodation is home to Pacci, an Italian eatery that offers classic dishes in addition to small bites that you’ll want to nibble on while sipping on a mandatory cocktail.
The Brice also has a great pool and garden scene to cool off in if you’re traveling during the hot season, but above all my favorite thing about the Kimpton brand is that the properties are all dog-friendly. The Kimpton Brice Hotel allows two dogs at no additional charge and has pet relief areas, plus provides guests with pet amenities if requested.
Perry Lane Hotel, a 167-room luxury hotel near Chippewa Square and located a few blocks off the riverfront, is another beloved Savannah stay for those looking for a high-end experience in the center of everything (and not even a half-mile up from Forsyth Park). Like our other favorite Savannah hotels, pets are also welcome at Perry Lane for a fee of $150 per pet (up to 50 pounds) and an additional $20 a night.
The eclectic and exquisitely curated artwork that is displayed throughout the hotel is reason enough for a visit, but the hotel also has three food and beverage locations, with the Wayward Bar being drinks focused and having a polished funk vibe to the decor and playthings like Skee-Ball and pinball machines located in a discreet game room separate from the main bar.
The Emporium is an expansive French-inspired restaurant on the ground floor with a large wine list and dressy feel while the Peregrin is the hotel’s rooftop lounge that serves killer cocktails, small bites and offers an elegant setting for any time of the day.
The rooftop bar scene is unmatched
So many rooftop bars, so little time—that was the story of our mid-week visit to Savannah. Here are a few of Savannah’s rooftop bars that we love.
Myrtle & Rose
The best perch in Plant Riverside District is its resident rooftop bar, Myrtle & Rose. With inspirations ripped from the stories of mythology, this flower-themed rooftop garden is nearly as majestic as Savannah itself. The only problem is that everyone else has discovered the secret and it can be hard to nab a seat during prime hours, so make a reservation or plan to visit mid-week and as soon as it opens for the evening.
Did I mention how great the Thompson Savannah is? Well, it also has a pretty rad rooftop bar to boot! With an expansive view of the Savannah and creative cocktails to match the view, Bar Julian also serves small bites like Kafta flatbread, pita spreads and hand-crafted pizza, in addition to offering bar and lounge style seating in a highly elevated atmosphere.
This hip little spot on the rooftop of Perry Lane has wide city views and a tropical beach-inspired cocktail menu. With plenty of room to sit around a table or sidle up to a high-top with your group, it’s also easy to make a full lunch or dinner from their menu, which includes burgers, wraps and large charcuterie boards.
Lost Square Rooftop Bar
As if the spaces on the lower level of the Alida Hotel weren’t enough to make you want to renovate your own home, the Lost Square Rooftop Bar has an elegance to match. This playful space mixes patterns, textures and riverfront views with delectable food like oysters, tartines and poke bowls in addition to alcohol-forward cocktails.
There are some seriously drool-worthy new restaurants
Whether you’re looking to dine inside an old Victorian at Common Thread or have a casual lunch in the kitschy double wide-themed Trailor Park or taste your way through the the Grey—which brought home with the Outstanding Chef accolades from this year’s James Beard Awards—Savannah’s restaurant scene leaves little to be desired (and little room left in your stomach for that matter).
Savannah has long been a favorite among foodies with enough top restaurants to fill all your meals twice over, but it only continues to get better as the years progress. Honestly, if you plan a trip to Savannah and do nothing else but eat five meals a day, I wouldn’t blame you.
The Plant Riverside District is way cool
Of all the things to do in Savannah, the riverfront district hovers very close to the top of my list. Built around the site of a former power plant, the district thrums with the energy of commerce and art now. A $270 million renovation project that officially was completed in 2020, the area hosts numerous restaurants, shopping options, bars and rooftop lounges.
Since the riverfront is still an active part of the shipping industry at the Port of Savannah, the river is always filled with interesting ships carrying freight from around the world into and out of the heartland of the United States, with the port being the fourth largest deepwater entry into the country.
Spend an afternoon flitting in and out of the various buildings and experience the concept of placemaking firsthand. In particular, the lobby of the JW Marriott is striking with its chrome-dipped dinosaur fossil sculpture (yes, you read that right!), glass-encased meteor and larger-than-life gemstones.
And Starland District has gotten a glow-up
My first time visiting the Starland District was a decade ago, and like so many travelers before me, I was there for one reason: Back in the Day Bakery. It was so good, in fact, it became my first stop when I arrived in Savannah and my last stop on my way out. But there wasn’t a lot of other things drawing me to Starland back then.
Today is a very different story: There are plenty more reasons to visit Starland than just the best bakery you’ll ever visit in your life. Back in the Day still holds court, as does Two Tides Brewing Co., Starland Strange & Bazaar, and some delightful new bars and spaces like Starland Yard, which is a total hipster venue made out of shipping containers that hosts live music, a rotating cast of food trucks and is family-friendly for those traveling with youth who are under 21 years old.
They take payment information before you enter so that you can enjoy a wide selection of vendors without having to complete a transaction each time and you settle up as you leave. For those who know us, Starland Yard encompasses everything we love about activating your environment: It creates a sense of place while also adding art, repurposing old materials and giving the locals (and tourists like us) a third space in which to hang. Starland is also home to a few of Savannah’s murals.
The cocktail-forward concepts are delightful
Cocktail bars in Savannah are having a moment. In addition to Savannah icons like Artillery and the many rooftop bars, we stumbled into so many newish spots like Savoy Society with its signature pickle martini and Water Witch tiki bar where the drinks and design were equally inspiring. More of this, please!
SCAD is adding reasons to swoon
Savannah College of Art and Design’s impact on the revitalization efforts in Savannah is widely evident around every turn, from the preservation of the buildings near the campus to the many creative entrepreneurial ventures that have sprung from the genius minds of SCAD alumni. But I never knew the origin story of SCAD until this trip.
The brainchild of Atlanta-area dreamer Paula Wallace who desired a new way of learning, SCAD’s multiple creative disciplines have brought in students from across the globe since its founding in 1978. A 4D immersive experience created by the students, SCADstory is one of many reasons to visit Savannah right now, but it will also shed some light on the creative arts and how collaboration and thinking out of the box are always worthwhile endeavors.
Bonus: It’s free to attend. Just make sure you poke around the shopSCAD store after you’re done.
Note: You can’t take photos within the exhibit, so you’ll just have to visit to see for yourself what it’s like!
The Black history is being told
Like many places in the South, there’s a lot of untold slave history lying beneath these cobblestone streets. Underground Tours is filling that void with deeply honest storytelling.
Gullah Geechee storyteller, activist and retired ACLU lawyer Sistah Patt leads daily tour groups through two hours and 200 years of history that started from when West African slaves were chained and sent by the ship full to the shores of the United States, with Savannah being one of the ports that served as their entry point to a life of chattel slavery.
I’m constantly shocked by how little I learned in school of the devastating slave history within my own small region of the country, and I’m grateful to educators like Patt for starting to fill in the gaps for me. Tours like this one are why travel is more important now than ever. Reach out to her by phone (912-547-5937) or Facebook to book as the website has been down for awhile.
For even more Savannah travel advice, start here:
- Your Ultimate Weekend Itinerary to Savannah
- Savannah Activities for Every Taste
- Where to Eat in Savannah: A Restaurant Guide
- The Spirit of Savannah: Best Beer and Cocktail Spots
- Shop Till You Drop in Savannah
- The Inside Scoop on Savannah
- Tea and Honey: Sweet & Savory in Savannah
- Girl Power in Savannah: The Girl Scouts Legacy