Add contemporary glitz to historical grandeur by planning a long weekend in Savannah at the waterfront JW Marriott Plant Riverside District.
Opened in late 2021, this snazzy spot on Georgia’s Savannah River immerses guests in culture and heritage. The district draws art and music lovers, architecture and history buffs, paleontology fans, and culinary travelers.
Savannah’s noted hotelier Richard Kessler, chairman and CEO of The Kessler Collection, brought his latest vision of luxury hotels to life here, focusing it on three themes: water, beauty and natural sciences. Juxtaposed against the hotel’s modern structural design is a free museum with art and historical objects. And the jaw-dropping centerpiece, a chrome-dipped, life-size dinosaur installation, graces the JW Marriott lobby.
The hotel’s location is just steps from the new district’s performance and food venues.
A decade in the making
Kessler had eyed this aging, circa 1912, electric power plant nearly for a decade. He envisioned creating upscale accommodations and lighting its twin towers in his signature red and purple, like a phoenix in the night sky. Designers retained the plant’s architectural identity in bringing that vision to life. And Kessler honored its history by keeping plant in the hotel name.
That realized dream has enhanced Savannah’s reputation as America’s Most Romantic City. This newest destination adds to the city’s existing Kessler Collection’s sultry properties. Kessler’s hip Bohemian Savannah Riverfront is distinguished by its cool rooftop bar. And the stunning Mansion on Forsyth Park displays wow-factor, museum-quality art everywhere, another Kessler signature.
Kessler’s 13 luxury hotels include Grand Bohemian Hotel Charlotte (which opened in 2020) and the newest under construction in Greenville, South Carolina, slated to launch in fall 2022. (The Kessler Collection is a founding member of Marriott’s Autograph Collection now totaling 113 properties.)
An engaging luxury property
After checking-in in the Power Plant Building’s Generator Hall, we joined young visitors at a section of the plant wall left intact. This interactive learning spot demonstrates functionality. And kids love pulling knobs, pushing levers and turning handles. Overhead video screens, also interactive, highlight the construction transformation. Another thoughtful touch: The audio is delivered via overhead cones that target the listener without interrupting passersby.
But Generator Hall offers more than construction and functionality exhibits. Also here, amidst fossils of ancient creatures and geological antiquities, are hands-on paleontology activities for the young and the inquisitive. And if that’s not enough, massive geodes — some taller than the guests checking in — gleam with sparkling crystals in purples, teal and brown. Special lighting enhances their shimmer.
A perfect perch for our long weekend in Savannah
The JW Marriott Plant Riverside District complex offers three unique accommodation options, each situated in a different building. Guests may choose from chic architecture in the Power Plant, romantic styling in the Three Muses, and contemporary maritime details in the Atlantic. The floor-to-ceiling windows in our Atlantic suite provided a perfect perch for watching the parade of cargo ships on the Savannah River by day and a full moon rising by night.
With 419 luxurious guest rooms and suites, bars and lounges, a pool, the Poseidon Spa, and two fitness centers on the property, we had no reason to leave.
Plentiful options for drinking and dining
The District brings a plethora of dining options to the waterside area, long popular with visitors. Baobab Lounge, inside the JW Marriott, features stunning African art and décor paired with African-inspired cocktails and light bites.
Also in the Power Plant Building is the upscale Stone & Webster Chophouse. Nearby food and drink spots include Byrd’s Famous Cookies (reception offered us complimentary key lime coolers at check-in) and the Compass Pool Lounge, with a cool pool and cabanas vibe, atop the Atlantic building.
And at street level we found District Gelato, District Seafood, District Smokehouse and Graffito Pizza, as well as Riverside Biergarten, Riverside Sushi and Savannah Tequila Company.
But the river views from Myrtle & Rose Rooftop Garden, located atop the Three Muses Building, stole our hearts. The romantic setting blends fuchsia and greens with music and cocktails. And it also offers Sunday Brunch.
Music of the day and night
This newly developed city district charms visitors and offers enough to entertain them during a long weekend in Savannah. Hit the dance floor at Electric Moon Skytop Lounge + The Moon Deck, located on the top level of the Power Plant Building. Our day outing here offered the chance to videotape our plunge down its slide, squeals included, to the level below.
And don’t miss the Atlantic building’s District Live powered by Live Nation, Savannah’s newest hot spot for live music. Here, we especially enjoyed an evening of songs by Savannah native Johnny Mercer, who found success in Hollywood in the late 1930s. He penned such hits as Moon River and Days of Wine and Roses. These songs earned him two of his four Academy Awards for Best Original Song.
The space is part of an impressive museum featuring the “Gretsch Sound.” Exhibits here include popular guitars used by well-known musicians, archival pieces and photographs. The project is a partnership between the Fred and Dinah Gretsch School of Music at Georgia Southern University and The Kessler Collection.
Music and magic
Even the Plant Riverside District fountains between the Atlantic and JW Marriott buildings dance. These custom-choreographed music and light shows are staged to the timeless music of Bach as well as to an original, international percussion piece written specifically for Plant Riverside District.
During our long weekend in Savannah, we witnessed a rousing, foot-stomping set by The Equinox Orchestra one night, and a sampling of the Streetmosphere Circus show with Cirque Divina on another. That’s an ongoing Friday and Saturday night performance.
And Wednesday through Saturday nights, in addition to live music, a resident magician performs.
As if the Plant Riverside District wasn’t magical enough.
IF YOU GO
Get the lay of the land at the Savannah Visitors Center or visit the official tourism website, VisitSavannah.com.
What’s appealing to the over-50 luxury traveler?
- Location: During a weekend in Savannah, this riverfront complex allows staying put with plenty to do. But, since Savannah is very walkable, it also serves as a home base for venturing among the 22 squares at the heart of the city’s grid pattern layout.
- History, art and culture: Varied museums offer unique takes on many topics. These include Gullah Geechee heritage, the country’s only Prohibition Museum, and the Green-Meldrim House, which was Sherman’s headquarters after the Union captured Savannah in 1864.
- Renowned Savannah College of the Art and Design (SCAD) venues, spread throughout the city in different interesting buildings, offer visitors the opportunity to view or purchase an array of art.
- The city’s abundant natural resources explode with spring blooms of dogwoods, camellias and azaleas. Perhaps the most romantic green spot year-round is Forsyth Park, enchanting from every angle with its massive fountain centerpiece.
- Moss-draped oaks, 19th-century houses and intriguing venues line Savannah’s cobblestone streets. Among these are the 1926 Scottish Rite architecture and stained glass panels at Gryphon Tea Room; the Congregation Mickve Israel, one of North America’s oldest synagogues; and the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace (founder of the Girl Scouts of America).
- From riverboats to trolleys, horse-drawn carriages to bikes, hearses to Segways, there are myriad ways to tour Savannah. Tour topics include history and haunts, ghosts and gardens, Civil War and cemeteries (Bonaventure especially), dining and distilleries and so much more.
- Comfortable, sturdy shoes are a good idea on cobblestone streets.
COVID-19 Update: What You Need to Know
For information on COVID rates and health and safety precautions, visit the Chatham County page of the Georgia Department of Health.
The JW Marriott Plant Riverside District follows cleaning and safety standards developed by the Marriott Cleanliness Council.
Disclosure: The authors were guests of JW Marriott Plant Riverside District but any options expressed in this post are their own.
All photo credits: Plant Riverside District (unless otherwise noted)
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