Southern Charm

BY Sandra Chambers

Savannah tugs at the heartstrings of all who visit. With her moss-draped trees green parks and picturesque city squares she is one of the most elegant and beautiful cities in the South filled with romance history and serious Southern hospitality. Savannah is known for her year-round celebrations the city serves as host to more than 200 festivals and events each year. The month of March offers visitors three of the citys most popular annual events: Savannahs Music Festival her Annual Tour of Homes and her largest and most famous event the St. Patricks Day Celebration.

The 185th St. Patricks Day Parade March 17

Savannah has been celebrating her Irish heritage for almost two centuries since 1813. The St. Patricks Day celebration is the citys largest celebration and the second largest St. Patricks Day event in the United States. Plan to rub elbows with 400 000 Irish and honorary Irish revelers as they sport green hats and green hair eat green eggs grits and ham and drink green beer. Even the citys fountains flow green on St. Patricks Day.

While Savannahs well-known St. Patricks celebration is often compared to New Orleans Mardi Gras with streets and parks filled with music dance and food the citys very first parade more than 180 years ago was a small private affair for a group of men to honor the death of their patron saint. Remaining true to that tradition the day will begin with the celebration of Mass at the beautiful 120-year-old Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.

The highlight of the day is the two-hour parade through the Historic District (beginning at 10:15 a.m.) but numerous celebrations can be found all over the city. Two of the largest galas are on historic River Street and at the City Market.

Savannah Music Festival March 18 through April 5

For nearly three weeks from mid March to early April Savannah plays host to the largest musical festival in Georgia. The Savannah Music Festival (SMF) attracts international and world-class performers both Bonnie Raitt and Chick Corea will perform this year from many musical genres including bluegrass jazz blues gospel and classical.

“The Savannah Music Festival combines elegance and soul in a way that mirrors the history and culture of Savannah ” says Ryan McMaken communications director for the SMF. “I think this event is so popular because people crave authenticity and the festival presents authentic music from all genres.”

The festival sponsors more than 100 concerts for both adults and children in a wide variety of venues. This year the SMF will highlight the music of native son Johnny Mercer as part of the citys yearlong Johnny Mercer Centennial celebration. 

Savannahs 74th Annual Tour of Homes and Gardens March 26-29

For more than 70 years Savannah has opened its doors to share the beauty of its homes and gardens in this nonprofit fundraising event sponsored by the Women of Christ Church and the Historic Savannah Foundation.

“The tour is an opportunity for visitors to see a side of Savannah they dont usually get to see ” says Katherine Albert director of the Annual Tour of Homes. “Each home on the tour is a private residence and contains beautiful period-specific furnishings.”

The Annual Tour of Homes is self-guided and features approximately six sites with a different neighborhood tour each day. Tickets are $40 per day and can be purchased online.

In addition to the walking tours the annual event also includes an evening tour: “Trolley Back in Time ” with six to eight stops at some of Savannahs most well-known historic homes. Other events include a cemetery tour seminars luncheons and hands-on gardening opportunities. 

Where to Stay

Savannahs charming historic district is one of the largest in the United States (2.5 square miles) with more than 1 800 buildings of varied architectural styles: Federal Georgian Regency Greek Revival Italianate Gothic Revival Romanesque Revival and Second French Empire.

Accommodations fill up fast in March so make reservations in advance. If you want to experience the romance and charm of Savannah along with the festivities stay at a bed and breakfast in the heart of the historic district. The AAA four-diamond Foley Inn is an excellent choice (located at Chippewa Square also known as Forrest Gump Square). Owners Grant and Allison Rogers offer their guests outstanding Southern hospitality with 19 rooms beautifully decorated in period furnishings. Be forewarned that you might gain a pound or two with their gourmet breakfast afternoon sweets evening hors doeuvres and wine. But you can walk it all off as you explore the historic district on foot from the Inns ideal central location.

If you want to experience the cosmopolitan-chic side of Savannah you cant beat the Hyatt Regency Savannah which overlooks the Savannah River and River Street with its upbeat street performers old cotton warehouses filled with unique shops pubs restaurants and nightlife.

Ask for a river-view room where youre likely to catch massive ocean-crossing container ships gliding by your window as they slip in and out of the harbor. Enjoy an authentic Southern breakfast in their Windows Chophouse restaurant overlooking the Savannah River.

Where to eat

The Pirate House Restaurant is as much a historical relic as it is a restaurant. A former tavern and Savannahs oldest house (circa.1753) it was frequented by pirates and is reportedly the inspiration behind Robert Louis Stevensons novel Treasure Island. Bring a big appetite; their down-home southern Plantation Buffet offers a wide variety of delicious choices.

For upscale dining Alligator Soul with Chef Chris DiNello is outstanding. If you have never experienced a chefs tasting menu this is the place to do so. “Tastings began in the late 1990s when diners were not as timid and willing to try new things ” says DiNello. His tasting menus include seasonal items such as blackened dayboat snapper with crawfish gratin and Thai sauted local softshell crabs with fried baby turnip greens and apple chutney.

Vics On The River Restaurant and Bar is another great choice for lunch or dinner.

Housed in an old warehouse that was used by General Shermans officers during the Civil War one room in the restaurant showcases a map that was handdrawn by Union soldiers detailing Shermans march from Tennessee through Georgia.

The best tables overlooking the river go fast so reserve early. Enjoy one of Vics signature entrees such as the wild Georgia shrimp and stone ground grits or pan-seared jumbo scallops.

Of course when youre in Savannah food is an experience any time of day. Stop by River Street Sweets for melt-in-your-mouth gourmet Southern pralines glazed pecans or bear claws made on site since 1973. If youre a chocolate lover dont miss Lulus Chocolate Bar which offers decadent desserts and chocolate drinks in a nightclub setting.

Find Out More

General Information

Savannah Area Convention and Visitors Bureau:

Historic District Tours:

Old Savannah Tours Inc:

Oglethorpe Trolley Tours:

The Savannah Walks Inc:


Foley House Inn:

Hyatt Regency Savannah:

Restaurants & Food:

Six Pence Pub: (912) 233-3156

Churchills Pub:

Alligator Soul Restaurant:

Vics on the River:

River Street Sweets:

Lulus Chocolate Bar:

The Telfair Museum of Art:

Telfair Academy: (912) 790-8800

Telfairs Jepson Center for the Arts: (912) 790-8800

Telfairs Owens-Thomas House:
(912) 233-9743