A Budget-Friendly Savannah Weekend

by  Laura Motta | Apr 24, 2014
Savannah, Georgia
Savannah, Georgia / Sean Pavone/iStock

When JetBlue added regular flights to Savannah from its hubs in Boston and New York this past winter, this flight route became instantly more accessible (and affordable) for Northeasterners -- and for those connecting through the Northeast – looking for a fast, warm weekend away.

And as a quick getaway, Savannah delivers in spades. With its moss-hung trees, postage-stamp-sized museums, formidable local art scene, and some of the most meticulously preserved architecture in the U.S., you’ll more than fill two days. Here’s a breakdown of how you could structure a weekend, and what it would cost.

The Flights:
Those new JetBlue flights are hard to beat. This June and July, we found round-trip air from Boston to Savannah hovering around $280 for weekend flights, and from New York City for as little as $182. Outside of JetBlue, flights on other airlines to Savannah from major cities like Chicago, Orlando, and Minneapolis cost about $400. West Coasters can fly there for more – about $400-$700 in summer.

The Hotel:
On a recent trip to Savannah, we fell for Marriott’s Autograph Collection offering in the city – the 4-star Bohemian Hotel. It’s a splurge at about $300 per night through  summer, but its unbeatable location in the historic district overlooking the river means that many of its 75 rooms have water views. Plus, you’ll have direct access to the shops and bars on cobblestone River Street. Design details like colored-glass sconces, fur throws on the beds, and paintings by local artists make this feel like anything but a chain hotel. For less-expensive lodging, try the Hyatt Regency, which is also a 4-star property and has weekend rates this summer for $169 per night.

The Meal of Meals:
While many visitors to Savannah flock to Paula Deen’s signature restaurant, The Lady and Sons, for southern home cooking, we suggest heading to Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room. Line up with dozens of other hungry patrons who regularly wait outside until 11:00 a.m. for the doors to open for lunch. Meals are served family style in a cozy dining room with lace curtains and personal photographs on the walls. The menu changes each day, but you’ll always find staples like macaroni and cheese and fried chicken on the menu, along with a host of sides like okra, pickled cabbage, collard greens, and baked beans. Lunch costs $18 and you won’t leave hungry.

The Sophisticated Walking Tour:
Guests with even the remotest interest in architecture will take something away from the walking tour presented by Architectural Tours of Savannah, which brings visitors through the city’s historic district. Led by owner Jonathan Stalcup, the tour offers a wealth of technical detail about home styles and building materials, but also about the area’s rich history. You can walk the tree-hung squares, peek through the windows of its mansions, and squint into a guidebook on your own, but this experience offers an incredible level of detail at a reasonable price. Tours cost $20.

The Inevitable Ghost Tour:
Savannah has landed at the top of many a “Most Haunted Cities” list. Whether this reputation is warranted likely depends on your personal feelings about ghosts and hauntings. But whether you take it seriously or not, almost anyone can enjoy Savannah’s ghost tours. After you complete your educational architecture walk, book Savannah’s zaniest – and possibly most fun – city tour with Hearse Ghost Tours. The tour is thusly named because you’ll actually tour the city at night... in a hearse. It’s a converted hearse, of course, with its top removed and seats added for prime viewing. You’ll hear about ghosts, but also about the more sordid parts of the city’s history. It’s a good foil for any touring that you’ll do during the day, and there’s no denying the atmospheric lure of Savannah’s empty squares and shuttered homes after dark. Tours cost $15.

Odds and Ends:
You can tour its grand mansions or wander around its colonial-era cemetery, but some of Savannah's more interesting sites aren’t its most obvious or easy to reach. If you’re a fan of the book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (or the subsequent movie, which starred Kevin Spacey and was filmed in town), a pilgrimage to see the “bird girl,” which was featured on the book’s jacket, is probably on your to-do list. The statue of a young girl holding two bowls has been relocated from its original spot in the Bonaventure Cemetery (about a 10-minute drive from downtown; free to visit) and is now housed in the Telfair Museum ($12). If your literary leanings go beyond that, a small museum located in the childhood home of Flannery O’Connor is open for visits ($6) and often hosts events. Likewise open for tours ($12.50) is the Mercer Williams House, which is steeped in town lore. Originally owned by the wealthy ancestors of songwriter and Savannah native Johnny Mercer, the home was later the site of the murder that’s described in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Of course, the museum’s guides won’t answer questions about that in the official tour – but that adds to the charm.

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