A Guide to St. Patrick's Day Celebrations in Savannah, with videos
St. Patrick's Day in Savannah
Can you all believe that lil’ ol’ Savannah, Georgia hosts the second largest St. Patrick’s Day celebration in the whole United States?? That’s right! The city is swamped with almost half a million visitors every March 17th, plus all the locals. That’s a heap o’ honorary Irishmen! Savannah’s been doing this since 1813, so they’ve had almost two centuries to get it right. If you don’t mind crowds and crave something different, this is for you. If you’ve never been to Savannah before, and you're planning to visit Savannah, I suggest you read all my Savannah hubs before making the trip. I used to live near this beautiful city, and I can offer you lots of advice and tips. The links to the articles are found below this one.
What's so special about Savannah's St. Patrick's Day?
So what all goes on in the fair Savannah to commemorate the patron saint of Ireland? Lots of things! For one, the famous fountain in Forsyth Park begins to spout green water several days in advance of the all-important day. Then, on the weekend before St. Patrick’s Day, the Tara Feis Irish Celebration is held at Emmet Park, on East Bay Street. This is a kid-friendly even that features Irish music, Irish foods, Irish dancing, Irish games, and Irish arts and crafts. Sample some authentic cuisine while you’re enjoying the live entertainment!
A couple of days before St. Patrick’s Day and on St. Paddy’s Day itself, River Street is one big Irish party! Basically, this strip of bars, art galleries, antique stores, gift shops, dance clubs, restaurants, and boutiques is party central on any given weekend, but during the St. Patrick’s Day celebration, it’s totally crazy! If you’re not into zany crowds, better sit this one out. People show up in wild costumes, looking for fun. River Street and the nearby lanes are filled with the sounds of all kinds of music – Celtic, rock, country, pop – you name it! There’s also all kinds of food available, along with games, contests, and street vendors. The green beer, wine, and wonderful frozen drinks flow freely, but you need to be at least 21 to partake. Show your ID, and you’ll get an armband. Seriously, this madness is a lot like Mardi Gras in New Orleans!
Party hard on River Street on the 16th, then get up the next morning and attend the eight a.m. mass at the oldest Roman Catholic church in Georgia – the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. It’s located just off Lafayette Square. It’s a gorgeous building, with vaulted Gothic arches, spires, more than fifty Austrian stained-glass windows, and hand-painted murals.
After mass, head on over to the parade route. Forget about finding a parking place anywhere near the fun. Hopefully, you’ve booked a room nearby so that you can walk to all the activities. Savannah’s parade is the second-largest in the nation. What can you expect to see in the parade? Jesters, drum and fife bands, marching bagpipes bands, floats, step dancers, Irish societies, soldiers, balloons, costumed characters, local dignitaries, brass marching bands, color guards, dance troops, racecars, horses, leprechauns, beauty queens, flags, pirates, pirate ships on wheels, and antique cars.
The parade route sometimes changes slightly from year to year, but it usually begins on Abercorn Street, near Forsyth Park. It runs down Abercorn to Bay Street, then up Bull Street past Johnson Square, Wright Square, and Chippewa Square. It ends between Liberty and Charleston Streets.
If you don’t have a room downtown near the parade route, park at the Oglethorpe Mall. There’s a shuttle that will take you downtown and return you to the mall after the parade is over. You can also park at one of the parking garages or at the Visitor Information Center, which is on MLK Boulevard. You can watch the parade from one of the squares on the route, and you can bring along a cooler and a camp chair, but get there early – like three hours early!
After the parade is over, head over to City Market, a trendy spot for dining, snacking, shopping, art, history, and drinking, made up of four blocks. City Market is located between Bay Street and Broughton Street. On St. Patrick’s Day, outdoor booths and vendors will be selling all kinds of things: food, drinks, souvenirs, etc. There will also be live entertainment, and there’s no admission charged. Grab a bite to eat and hang out for a while!
If you still have any energy left, head back to River Street for more fun and excitement, but leave behind your cooler, your kids, and family pooch. It’s closed to vehicle traffic on St. Paddy’s Day, and the bars and restaurants stay open until three a.m.! Enjoy the live music, the food, and the folks. In my opinion, nighttime is the best time to enjoy River Street. The Savannah River runs adjacent to the street, and the dark water reflects all the lights from the businesses. Boats, yachts, and old fashioned riverboats travel up and down the river, and some are festooned with St. Patrick’s Day decorations.
What will people be wearing?
You’ll see people in shorts, jeans, tee shirts, suits and ties, sundresses, capris, and dressy dresses. Of course, it will be a sea of green. I strongly recommend wearing comfortable shoes. You’ll be doing a lot of walking, and parts of River Street are paved with large cobblestones. High heels won’t work!
Just about anything else goes: shamrock antennae, green derbies, wild sunglasses, green hair, green wigs, painted faces – you get the picture.
Also, although the celebration here is often compared to Mardi Gras, nudity is not allowed. Don’t flash someone for a string or two of beads – you’ll get a lot more than you bargained for, and it won’t be pleasant.
What will the weather be like?
Savannah weather in mid-March is like the rest of South Georgia weather – unpredictable, except in summer. On March 17th, it’s usually spring-like, with daytime temperatures in the seventies. On the other hand, it might be in the eighties, or it could even be raining and in the fifties.
My advice is to go prepared. Even on warm days, the early mornings might have a bit of a nip. Wear a lightweight jacket or windbreaker that you can shed after lunch when it warms up. You can always tie the jacket around your waist.
Savannah lodging – Savannah hotels, Savannah bed-and-breakfast inns
There are several great hotels, inns, and bed-and-breakfasts in downtown Savannah near all the celebrations. My favorite is the Hyatt Regency. Take the elevator down, and you’ll wind up slap-dab on River Street. Other lodgings on or very near River Street include River Street Inn, the Mulberry Inn, the Hampton Inn, the Ballastone Inn, the Doubletree Hotel, Staybridge Suites, The Marshall House, East Bay Inn, Olde Harbour Inn, Hilton Garden Inn, Country Inn and Suites, Quality Inn Heart of Savannah, the Hilton Savannah DeSoto, the Bohemian Hotel, Springhill Suites, Best Western Promenade, Planters Inn, and Days Inn at Ellis Square.
The Savannah Marriott Riverfront is across the river from River Street, but there’s a convenient walkway that crosses the river.
When to make Savannah hotel reservations
If you’re planning a trip to Savannah to join in the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, you need to book your room early. If you plan to stay in the Savannah "historic district, you’ll need to make reservations months in advance. In fact, some people make reservations for their accommodations a year in advance. Some Savannah hotels, however, won’t book that far in advance. If you can’t find a Savannah suite, or a hotel or a bed and breakfast in historic Savannah, try to get a room on the south side.
Read more about Savannah and St. Patrick's Day
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