Savannah is a town one has to experience in person. Words and pictures fail to capture the true essence of this amazing historic city, although I will give it my best. It is the oldest city in Georgia, established in 1733, on the banks of the Savannah river. In the main historic district, there are over 20 huge squares, with massive oaks towering overhead, each tree festooned with Spanish moss. Walking through the historic district is really like taking a step back in time. If you want a feel for it, read the exceptional non-fiction book “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” by John Berendt or watch the serviceable movie directed by Clint Eastwood. Of course, the best way to fully experience Savannah is to visit it, something I highly recommend.
One of the many squares of Savannah’s Historic District.
There are amazing buildings with impressive architecture, charming bed and breakfasts, and ominous (and very photogenic) cemeteries with graves dating back hundreds of years.
One of my favorite cathedrals in the US is also in the historic district, the gorgeous cathedral of St John the Baptist.
Cathedral of St John the Baptist
The Savannah/Hilton Head airport is a small one, but easy to navigate. It is only about 20 minutes to downtown from the airport, and is a flat cost via taxi of 28 dollars (35 if going to the Westin). If one were to go to Hilton Head, it is about 45 minutes away from the airport.
I had the chance to do site visits at several hotels in Savannah. There are four major hotels in Savannah. The Hyatt Regency has arguably the best locations in Savannah, right in the heart of River Street, at the head of the historic district. The Hyatt has 350 rooms and their largest ballroom is 11,000 square feet. All of the rooms will complete a renovation by early 2015. Their meeting space is on a couple of levels, but it makes for a pretty easy flow, thanks to their escalators. A good size group for them would be 300-400 people, which would take over the hotel. They have a great fourth floor roof top terrace with river views. This would be an ideal reception location.
New rooms at the Hyatt Regency Savannah.
At the end of River street, is the 391 room Marriott hotel. Their largest ballroom is about 15,000 square feet, and they have an excellent atrium that is perfect for large meals or receptions. The wall of the hotel atrium facing the river has massive six story windows, giving exceptional river views to almost all atrium rooms. The Marriott also owns a large river side terrace outside the hotel that is perfect for events and receptions.
In the heart of the Historic District, is the 246 room Hilton Savannah DeSoto. I have used this hotel successfully for groups up to about 150 people, but any more than that becomes too large for the hotel, as their largest space is just over 5000 square feet. This hotel is an upscale property, but in a historic building.
Lobby of the Hilton Savannah DeSoto
On the other side of the river, is the Westin. This is a nice property, but one must go over a huge bridge to get to it, or take a water taxi over to the main area of Savannah. They have 403 rooms and their largest ballroom is 11,500 square feet. They are also attached to the convention center, which has space for thousands of people.
Westin Savannah, with the attached convention center, on the opposite side of the Savannah river.
If Savannah were a cocktail, it would be comprised of two parts New Orleans, one part Key West, and three parts sweet tea, shaken and garnished with some Spanish moss. I really enjoyed seeing the hotels and experiencing this unique and historic city.
**Guest Written by Timothy Arnold, CMP, CMM – Regional Vice President of HPN Global