When you visit Savannah for the first time, it’s hard to decide which area of the city is the best place to look for lodging. Because the city is so charming and each section has unique things to offer that it’s hard, very hard to choose.
In this comprehensive guide, I’ll look at the different sections of Savannah, helping you choose the location that’s best for your budget.
Recommended Areas to Stay in Savannah
Before delving into specific sections, let’s provide a brief overview of some of the most touristy areas in Savannah: River Street, Plant Riverside, Bay Street, City Market, and Broughton Street. Additionally, the southern portion of the Historic District exudes a classic Savannah vibe, characterized by picturesque charm.
1. The Enchanting Savannah Historic District
Arguably the most well-known district, the Historic District encompasses key attractions such as River Street, City Market, Jones Street, and the northern half of Forsyth Park. It is undeniably the heart of Savannah.
This district, adorned with beautiful brick-paved streets and iconic Southern oaks, is divided into various zones. If your budget permits, staying within the Historic District is a top recommendation.
The boundaries are as follows:
- North: River Street
- East: E Broad Street
- South: Gwinnett Street
- West: Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.
The Northern Zone of the Historic District: River Street
River Street, the original warehouse district, retains its rustic charm with souvenir shops, restaurants, and art galleries housed in centuries-old warehouses. While bustling with activity, it is a tourist hotspot with both pros and cons to consider.
- Pros: Abundance of restaurants and bars, captivating views of passing container ships, talented street artists, and stunning sunsets.
- Cons: High tourist traffic, potential noise, expensive dining options, limited parking, and occasional wildlife sightings.
Ideal for those who enjoy a lively atmosphere, historical significance, and waterfront views.
The Northern Zone of the Historic District: Bay Street
Situated 40 feet above the water, Bay Street provides a unique perspective. While offering a variety of restaurants and bars, it comes with its own set of considerations.
- Pros: Convenient access to street-level dining options.
- Cons: High traffic, potential street noise, congested sidewalks, limited river views from lower floors, and steep steps to River Street.
A suitable choice for those desiring proximity to River Street and City Market.
The Northern Zone of the Historic District: City Market & Broughton Street
City Market, a two-block radius of shops, restaurants, and nightlife, and Broughton Street, known as Savannah’s “shopping street,” cater to different preferences.
- Pros: Center of action with a high concentration of dining, shopping, and nightlife options.
- Cons: Possible noise in rentals above businesses, challenging parking, and high tourist density.
VERDICT: Perfect for those seeking a vibrant tourist experience.
The Southern Zone of the Historic District
Characterized by a more residential feel, the southern zone offers beautiful historic homes shaded by Southern live oaks. While quieter, it has its unique considerations.
- Pros: Stunning historic homes, residential ambiance, safety, and proximity to landmarks.
- Cons: 20-minute walk to River Street, fewer dining and shopping options, and limited parking facilities.
An excellent choice for those seeking a residential, quieter experience removed from the bustling crowds.
2. Exploring the Charming Savannah Victorian District
The Victorian District commences approximately halfway through Forsyth Park, offering a beautiful landscape, though some may still view it as transitional. Key boundaries of this district include Gwinnett Street to the north, E Broad Street to the east, Anderson Street or 31st Street (depending on the source) to the south, and Montgomery Street to the west. Featuring a mix of full-time homeowners and SCAD students, many homes in this area have been converted into vacation rentals available on platforms like VRBO and Airbnb.
- Pros: Ideal for admirers of Victorian architecture, close proximity to grocery stores and Forsyth Park, free street parking, and relatively lower accommodation rates compared to River Street.
- Cons: A 15 to 20-minute walk to River Street, advisable to use transportation at night, and fewer historic landmarks compared to the northern districts.
Forsyth Park – A Verdant Oasis
Dedicated as a separate section due to its unique positioning, Forsyth Park spans both the Historic and Victorian Districts, with Gwinnett Street acting as the dividing line. This park, known for its beauty, serves as an excellent place for leisure and socializing, particularly if you have a large dog. Accommodations around the park offer a chance to immerse yourself in the local atmosphere, although pricing can rival that of riverfront options.
- Pros: Scenic park surroundings, a hub for locals, free street parking south of Gaston Street.
- Cons: Accommodations overlooking the park can be expensive, consistent traffic on nearby streets, and a 20-minute walk to River Street.
Opt for this area for a local experience, especially if you have a dog or appreciate the park’s beauty.
3. The Artistic Flair of Starland District
With a personal fondness for the Starland District, it is celebrated for its diversity and was named the #1 Neighborhood in the South by Southern Living in 2020. Quirky and vibrant, this area is home to SCAD students, professionals, and long-time residents. While some view it as transitional or undergoing gentrification, it exudes a unique charm.
The district’s borders, though not precisely defined, roughly extend from 31st Street to the north, Price St or E Broad to the east, Victory Drive to the south, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd to the west.
- Pros: Eclectic shops, fantastic restaurants, a hub for the arts community, vibrant nightlife, free street parking, and residential with limited touristy sections.
- Cons: No hotels in the area, but reasonably priced room rentals are available within historic homes, a 30 to 40-minute walk to River Street.
Ideal for those seeking an artsy and local experience, LGBTQ-friendly, and more affordable than the Historic District.
4. Plant Riverside District – A Novel Waterfront Experience
Situated at the far west end of River Street, the Plant Riverside District is a newly developed area, distinct from the rest of River Street. Most businesses in this area opened in 2020 and 2021, with the JW Marriott Plant Riverside being a notable anchor business, housed in a refurbished power plant from 1912.
- Pros: Spectacular river views, new restaurants, shops, bars, and a vibrant atmosphere.
- Cons: Expensive, limited riverfront parking, and a distinctly touristy ambiance.
Suitable for those with a more flexible budget, seeking a “riverfront entertainment destination” similar to a blend of Savannah and Vegas.
5. Midtown & Outskirts of Savannah – Suburban Comfort
Midtown is characterized as a typical suburban zone, encompassing neighborhoods like Ardsley Park. While it includes busy streets and retail centers, it’s primarily inhabited by full-time residents, limiting the availability of vacation rentals. Hotels on Abercorn Street cater to visitors seeking modern amenities.
Pros: Cheaper accommodations than the Historic District, abundant grocery stores and chain businesses, free parking.
Cons: Need for a car, especially if staying south of Victory Drive, extra cost for transportation to the Historic District.
An economical choice for those prioritizing savings on accommodation.
6. Tybee Island – A Relaxed Beach Retreat
Tybee Island offers a laid-back beach town experience, ideal for family vacations. Approximately a 20-minute drive from the Historic District, it provides casual dining options, souvenir shops, and various accommodation choices.
- Pros: Beachfront setting.
- Cons: Not in Savannah, restricted pet regulations on the beach, potential traffic delays.
Perfect for beach enthusiasts seeking a more relaxed vacation.
This guide aims to distill the essence of Savannah’s diverse sections. Remember, proximity to the river correlates with the level of tourism and accommodation costs. Choose the district that aligns with your preferences for an authentic Savannah experience.