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The Hostess City's new 'it' hotel: JW Marriott Savannah Plant Riverside District

Feb. 04, 2022
21 min read
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The JW Marriott Savannah Plant Riverside District won me and my husband over in short order. It anchors an entertainment complex that opened in the summer of 2020 and skillfully blends a remodeled historical building with two new mixed-use facilities, live music venues and a fabulously vibrant riverwalk that's lined with art galleries, cute boutiques and restaurants.

While there's a lot to do in the artsy city of Savannah, Georgia, you can easily — and happily — spend a weekend at this JW Marriott without ever wanting to leave. That's especially true on warm-weather weekends and holidays when management packs the activity schedule with special food and wine events, concerts and more.

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Quick take

I should have gone into my stay at the JW Marriott Savannah Plant Riverside District with higher expectations. This was part of a five-day, four-night getaway — drivable from our home base along Florida's "First Coast" — where we planned two nights at the JW Marriott and two at the brand-new Thompson Savannah. I thought the latter would beguile me, but it didn't.

Instead, this trip reminded me that, every now and then, a destination and a particular hotel can surprise you. When all was said and done, we were absolutely charmed by the historic city, the Savannah River, this Kessler Collection hotel and the people we met along the way.

The hotel appealed to my love of repurposed historical buildings through spaces like the lobby, which sits in the main anchor building, the city's former power plant for nearly 100 years.

For my husband, the hotel complex checked his appetite for excellent dining, comfortable spots for people-watching and plenty of music and entertainment.

After all, the property is just that: an entertainment district that's a destination in its own right. We have every expectation of returning to this hotel again and again.

Getting there

Savannah, Georgia. (Photo by Adam Goldberg Photography/Getty Images)

Savannah is a popular destination for drive-in vacations since it's easily accessible from Interstate 95 on the Eastern Seaboard. We drove from Florida, but we saw many cars with license plates from Georgia and other nearby states.

You can also fly into Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport (SAV) via various airlines.

  • American Airlines flies here from Charlotte (CLT), Chicago (ORD), Dallas (DFW), Miami (MIA), Philadelphia (PHL) and Washington, D.C. (DCA).
  • United offers service from Chicago (ORD), Denver (DEN), Houston (IAH), Newark (EWR) and Washington (IAD).
  • Delta can get you to Savannah from Atlanta (ALT), Boston (BOS), Detroit (DTW), Minneapolis (MSP) and New York (JFK and LGA).
  • JetBlue has routes from two destinations: Boston (BOS) and New York (JFK and LGA).
  • Southwest flies to Savannah from Baltimore (BWI), Chicago (MDW), Dallas (DAL), Houston (HOU), Nashville (BNA) and New York (LGA).
  • Allegiant brings travelers to Savannah from nearly a dozen U.S. cities, including Pittsburg (PIT), Indianapolis (IND) and Akron, Ohio (CAK).
  • Frontier and Silver Airways also have limited service to SAV.

At the airport, you can rent cars from Alamo, Avis, Dollar, Enterprise, Payless, National, Budget, Hertz and Thrifty. Note that the rental car lot is temporarily located inside the economy parking area, so allow extra time to pick up and drop off cars.

You can also use ride-hailing services, such as Uber and Lyft, in Savannah. Expect to pay $15-$25 for the 20-minute trip from the airport to the JW Marriott Savannah Plant Riverside District.

Booking details

Since I was angling to hit Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite status in 2021 (mission accomplished), I booked directly on Marriott's website for this stay.

The property's 374 guest rooms and 45 suites are spread throughout three buildings: the refurbished Power Plant, the modern Atlantic and the elegant Three Muses.

I selected an Atrium View King room in the Power Plant building, which came to $1,052.73 for two nights. (While we didn't need it, you can reserve a rollaway bed for $25 per night in any room with a listed maximum occupancy of three guests.)

I was psyched about that particular room since rather than looking out on the city it overlooks the Power Plant's lobby, which features a mix of old-timey details like exposed brick walls and eye-catching dual smokestacks alongside a contemporary chrome-plated dinosaur and a gallery of geodes.

When we arrived, however, the representative at the front desk suggested that I'd be happier in an upgraded room across the street in the Atlantic building. A large wedding party had booked most of the other Atrium rooms, so we decided to take the upgrade to avoid some wedding revelry. We ended up in room 1250, which had a view of the river and the Power Plant.

(Photo by Andrea Rotondo/The Points Guy)

While I ultimately used cash to pay for our stay, I could have booked using points. The Category 7 hotel costs 50,000 points per night for off-peak dates like mine, 60,000 points on standard dates and 70,000 points during peak times of the year.

Should you find yourself short on Marriott Bonvoy points, you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to your Marriott account on a 1:1 basis. Or, if you have the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card, you can redeem your annual Marriott 85,000-point free night certificate to cover a night at the property.

Standout features

(Photo by Andrea Rotondo/The Points Guy)
  • The riverfront location is the place to be in spring, summer and fall, as you can stroll along the boardwalk; enjoy all the bars, restaurants and shops; listen to live music; and even dance through some splash fountains.
  • History buffs will love the main Power Plant building, which was an actual energy plant that powered Savannah and its environs from 1912 until 2004. Guests can learn more about the structure's past life and restoration by checking out the displays and audio clips available in the lobby.
  • The property offers three distinct accommodation options across multiple buildings, providing a room style for every type of guest.
  • For a relatively small brand-affiliated hotel, food and beverage options abound. From the excellent Stone & Webster Chophouse to a casual pizzeria to two rooftop venues with cocktails and light bites, you are guaranteed to never go hungry or thirsty.
  • Dogs are welcome at this riverfront hotel. You can bring up to two pets per room for a nonrefundable fee of $150 for the first dog and $50 for the second.

Drawbacks

  • At $45 per day, parking is expensive.
  • If you like taking advantage of room service while staying at a hotel, you may want to consider a different property. The amenity is not available here — likely due to the logistics of delivering to three separate buildings.
  • The property's Poseidon Spa is only open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, meaning you'll have to pencil in time for an on-site treatment during the day when you may otherwise be sightseeing or exploring the area.
  • Live music plays in and around the hotel at different times of the day and night, so if you prefer a quiet location, this may not be where you want to stay.

The vibe

(Photo by Andrea Rotondo/The Points Guy)

The moment you arrive at the JW Marriott Savannah Plant Riverside District, you'll notice just how inclusive and upbeat the atmosphere is here. During our stay, we saw plenty of families, couples (including interracial and same-sex couples) and solo travelers (sometimes accompanied by a canine companion). The mix of guests created a buzzy setting without feeling pretentious.

No matter when you visit, odds are you'll spot people walking or running along the quarter-mile riverwalk, perusing the various shops and art galleries, dining at the riverfront restaurants and enjoying the day's planned entertainment. This complex always has something of interest going on.

The room

The entrance to the Atlantic building. (Photo by Andrea Rotondo/The Points Guy)

When you drive up to the valet stand, you'll find yourself between the Power Plant (with reception, the lobby, restaurants, shops and the spa) and the Atlantic building, making it easy to reach the accommodations in either building.

After checking in and using our keycard to buzz into the Atlantic building — you'll also need to do the same for the Three Muses section of the property — we made our way to our room.

When you get upgraded, it's sometimes tough to know exactly which room type you've been given. This was the case for us, though we suspect ours was one of the hotel's River View King guest rooms.

The panoramas from our room were fantastic. In addition to overlooking the river, the space offered a view of the Power Plant. Since it had a balcony with two chairs and a cocktail table, we spent a fair bit of time people-watching from our room. In the evenings, we could listen to music from the Electric Moon Skytop Lounge, a venue on the Power Plant's rooftop.

Inside, our accommodation felt brand-new, as if we were the first people to stay there. Everything was incredibly clean, and we liked the modern take on nautical decor, which included glass and brass accents and a color palette of white and blue hues.

The king-size bed was dressed in white linens and had a comfy pillow-top mattress. We both slept well here. There was a nightstand on each side of the bed, with inset outlets for electronic devices.

Across from the bed was a flat-screen TV, plus a desk with storage drawers, a lamp that reminded me of Murano glass and a chair. Additional outlets were available on the desk. Although the desk chair was comfortable, it was surprisingly heavy, making it a bit challenging to move.

The entryway to the room was wide, providing plenty of space to access the wet bar, bathroom and closet, the latter of which came outfitted with a safe, bathrobes and extra pillows. Overall, I liked the design and amenities, though I was a bit disappointed by the plastic cups on the wet bar. At a high-end property like this, I would expect to find glass stemware in the rooms.

The minifridge was empty with the exception of two bottles of water, but on the counter above it there was a selection of Starbucks coffee (regular and decaffeinated) and Taylors of Harrogate tea bags.

The marble and chrome bathroom was spotless, but it had one significant design flaw: The throw rug in front of the vanity got scrunched up every time we opened the door to the separate toilet area. It's impractical to have to move it every time you want to go in or out of the toilet room, so the property should have chosen a thinner rug.

Other than this missed detail, we loved the bathroom. There were ample Aromatherapy Associates toiletries available, including body wash and lotion, mouthwash, shampoo, conditioner and bar soap, and we had an adequate number of towels stored beneath the sink.

Food and drink

(Photo by Andrea Rotondo/The Points Guy)

The JW Marriott Savannah Plant Riverside District is an ideal hotel for foodies. There are more than 10 on-site dining venues, ranging from a high-end, sit-down steakhouse to two rooftop lounges with inventive menu items to outdoor eateries serving delicious German food, sushi, seafood and barbecue. While there were too many options to sample during our short stay, we did visit a few spots.

Turbine Market + Cafe

Located right off the lobby in the Power Plant, Turbine Market + Cafe is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. This will be your go-to spot for breakfast, especially if you get it free as a Marriott Bonvoy member with Platinum Elite status or higher.

Morning menu items, which are available between 7 and 11 a.m., include avocado toast ($15-$23), eggs Benedict ($21), omelets (starting at $19), steel-cut oatmeal ($12) and a range of smoothies (from $11 up).

For most of the day, though, there's an all-day dining menu, which features everything from standard lunch items like sandwiches, paninis, wraps and salads to gourmet bowls, such as one made with macaroni and cheese and another offering farro and roasted squash. Every dish on the all-day dining menu costs less than $20.

There's also a grab-and-go counter available, should you crave a drink or snack to-go. The only downside to the quick-service counter is that it closes by 7 p.m.

Baobab Lounge

Even if you don't plan on ordering a bite to eat, you'll want to visit Baobab Lounge at least once during your stay. The interior offers a visually stunning juxtaposition of exposed brick and colorful sculptures and paintings.

The snack menu offers a variety of African-inspired small plates, including biltong (coriander-spiced beef) for $13, sliders made with smoked house sausage for $14, lamb meatballs for $15 and a flatbread topped with harissa-coated steak for $15. For dessert, you have to try the malva pudding ($10), an Amarula cream-based concoction with pistachio toffee crumble and roasted peaches.

Stone & Webster Chophouse

Stone & Webster Chophouse dining room. (Photo by Andrea Rotondo/The Points Guy)

My husband and I always joke that a steakhouse doesn't go the whole mile unless it offers an incredible shellfish tower. Stone & Webster, which resides in the hotel's Power Plant building, does just that. While we didn't try one during our meal, the towers ($95 each) that we saw — seafood masterpieces featuring a half-dozen oysters, a half of a lobster and a half-pound of shrimp and crab claws — looked amazing as they left the kitchen.

The starters and sides were also impressive, offering much more variety than the usual blue cheese wedge salad and creamed spinach you'll find at most steakhouses. In addition to serving classics like steak tartare, Caesar salad, mushroom bisque, shrimp cocktail and foie gras, the restaurant offers more inventive appetizers such as pork belly cooked with apples, farro and pecans in a brown butter sauce and grilled octopus with squash, pumpkin seeds and chili seasoning. Starters cost anywhere from $15 to $28.

Frankly, I could have happily survived on just the side dishes, which include spaghetti squash with pumpkin seeds, coffee and brown butter; pureed Yukon potatoes with crispy shallots, bacon lardons and chives; and heirloom cauliflower with chili and lemon. Some of our favorites were the blistered shishito peppers, the Japanese eggplant covered in a Shoyu caramel sauce and the pommes frites with garlic and Parmesan. Sides are priced at $10-$14 per item.

For entrees, the restaurant offers a wide range of steaks, some of which are prime aged for up to 45 days. Pick from options like a New York strip, a Delmonico ribeye, a filet mignon, a short rib and Japanese wagyu. Expect to pay up for top cuts, including the 34-ounce Allen Brothers prime tomahawk chop with black truffle butter, which was pricey at $175 but worth the splurge, according to the table next to us.

You'll also have to pay between $4 and $8 more for sauces and special meat treatments — a pet peeve of mine.

Beyond beef, the steakhouse serves other proteins, such as a smoked duck breast with plum, kohlrabi and tarragon ($45); Faroe Island salmon with citrus, fennel and a beurre blanc ($42); and diver sea scallops with grains, almonds and watercress ($49). Desserts are also available. We loved the carrot cake with pineapple jam and rum raisin gelato for $14.

Myrtle & Rose Rooftop Garden

Before our trip to Savannah, our neighbors suggested visiting Myrtle & Rose on the JW's rooftop, and we're glad we did. We had a late lunch here that consisted of a platter of cured meats, cheeses, honey and house pickles with bread ($19). We also ordered shrimp polenta ($17) and a Milanese sandwich with toasted brioche and tenderloin covered in Dijon mustard ($19). Everything was delicious.

Additionally, my husband ordered an absinthe drink from France ($12) that we watched drip before it was poured.

While the food and drinks were noteworthy, the view from the rooftop deck really stood out. From the eatery, you can look quite a distance down the river and over the rooftops of many of Savannah's historical buildings.

The vibe at lunchtime was great, too, though I could see it being even more amazing at night when the lighting is soft. The intimate seating areas are ideal for quiet conversations among friends or couples.

Riverside Biergarten

Of all the dining venues we tried, the hotel's riverside beer garden turned out to be one of our favorites. I'm a huge fan of German-style pretzels, so we had to stop here. During our visit, an amazing accordion player was just starting a set. We talked with another couple that drove up from Florida's Panhandle just for the music — after all, there are not many places in the South that offer traditional German songs. The musician, who played a mix of traditional folk songs and modern tunes with a polka twist, was so entertaining that we stayed for two sets.

As we listened to the musician, we savored traditional German fare such as Bavarian pretzels ($5-$14); sausages like bratwurst, smoked bratwurst, kielbasa and knockwurst (you can choose one for $12, two for $15 or three for $18); and a smoked brat dog in a pretzel bun ($12). The currywurst ($10) and smothered fries ($10) seemed to be very popular.

Drinkwise, this outpost offers a nice beer selection, including Gun Bunny Belgian Witbier, Bohemian Citra IPA and Teufel Hunden Oktoberfest-style Märzen, all of which cost $10 for 16 ounces. German schnapps is also on the menu for $8.

Other dining venues

All along the JW Marriott's riverfront are additional dining options. Some are in the form of indoor/outdoor kiosks where you walk up to a counter to order and then seat yourself. Others are sit-down restaurants in the Power Plant, Three Muses and Atlantic buildings.

Additional dining venues on the river:

  • District Seafood: Staples here include dishes made with fried and blackened fish, shrimp and oysters.
  • District Smokehouse: At the smokehouse, you'll find all kinds of barbecue items, including hot wings, Brunswick stew, pulled pork, brisket, pork ribs and smoked sausage and chicken.
  • Riverside Sushi: Specializing in sushi rolls, this Japanese-inspired eatery also serves miso soup, poke bowls and tuna nachos.
  • Starbucks: Your go-to fix for caffeinated beverages and morning pastries.

Additional dining at the Power Plant Building:

  • Graffito Pizza: While pizza is what this restaurant is known for, you can enjoy other kinds of Italian fare here, including baked bucatini and meatballs, various salads and orecchiette and pesto pasta.
  • Electric Moon Skytop Lounge & The Moon Deck: Everything from tuna poke tacos to loaded waffle fries to fried shrimp boa buns can be found in shareable portions at this rooftop eatery.

Additional dining at Three Muses:

  • Savannah Tequila Company: Come here to dine on Mexican favorites such as nachos, guacamole, empanadas, quesadillas, carne asada, pork carnitas and tacos.

Additional dining at Atlantic:

  • Compass Pool Lounge: Only open for lunch, this casual lounge is ideal for grabbing drinks and nibbles poolside.

The retail shopping area of the riverfront also offers some drop-in snack shops, including Byrd's Famous Cookies and District Gelato.

Amenities and service

Although I could have easily spent my entire visit trying out the property's food and beverage outlets, I made sure I saved time for a peek at other on-site amenities.

Rooftop pool and lounge

Open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, the pool is the perfect place to cool off on a hot summer day. I hadn't expected such a large swimming pool on the roof of the Atlantic building, so I was surprised to see there was plenty of space to accommodate swimmers. There's also a nice selection of loungers for sun-seekers and pool cabanas for those desiring shade, plus a bar that offers drinks and snacks.

Fitness centers

Fitness buffs will have not one but three gyms to choose from during their stay, each of which is accessible 24 hours a day with your room keycard. The larger gym is on a lower floor of the Power Plant, while smaller offerings can be found in the Three Muses and Atlantic buildings. You'll discover a range of cardiovascular gear and free weights in each facility.

Out and about

(Photo by Andrea Rotondo/The Points Guy)

One of this JW Marriott's greatest assets is its walkability to many points of interest. From the JW Marriott, you can walk to can't-miss spots like The Grey, where chef Mashama Bailey serves up soulful Southern food in a 1938 art deco Greyhound bus terminal, and Savannah City Market, which offers multiple indoor and outdoor shops, galleries and restaurants. It's also a very short walk to the Ellis Square stop on the Old Town Trolley tour.

However, there truly is a lot to do right on the riverwalk, so you may find little reason to venture even a few blocks away.

Live music venues

  • Plant Riverside Amphitheater at Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park.
  • District Live.
  • Generator Hall.
  • Electric Moon Skytop Lounge & The Moon Deck (visitors must be at least 21 years old after 6 p.m.).

During our visit, we were able to watch live performances by several rock bands, plus the accordionist I mentioned earlier and a guitarist. Consult the daily schedule in the lobby for event locations and times.

Live Nation programs the shows that are staged at District Live. Upcoming shows include performances by Zach Deputy, Jamestown Revival, Matt Rogers, Paul Thorn, Joan Osborne and Ben Folds.

We didn't attend any events at the music venue in the Atlantic building, but its entryway was fun to explore thanks to its display of Gretsch guitars.

Shops

Right on the riverwalk, you'll also find an array of shops selling souvenirs, jewelry, art, clothing and more.

Accessibility

Many of the hotel's most important amenities are accessible from the front entrance, which has both a staircase and two access ramps. From there, you can reach the reception area, the concierge desk, the business center, the main gym, meeting spaces and event ballrooms, restaurants, the spa and public restrooms. Accessing some amenities will require using an elevator.

Book an accessible guest room for 32-inch-wide doorways, bathroom/bathtub grab bars, a bathtub seat, an adjustable shower wand, a toilet seat at wheelchair height, accessible vanities, transfer showers, lowered deadbolt locks and electrical outlets, flashing door knockers and a TV with closed captions. TTY/TTD is available, as are hearing-accessible rooms and/or kits.

Checking out

It's safe to say that we will return to the JW Marriott Savannah Plant Riverside District. In fact, if we hadn't had house guests during the holidays, we would have spent New Year's Eve there to attend the complex's Poseidon's New Year's Eve Gala, which features an open bar, hors d'oeuvres, a four-course meal, Veuve Clicquot pairings, live entertainment and a gift from Santa.

This isn't the only special event you can expect, though. You'll find all kinds of events hosted here throughout the year, making the South's newest and most vibrant riverfront entertainment area — and its exceptional hotel — a must-visit destination in and of itself, regardless of when you head to Savannah.

Featured image by (Photo by Andrea Rotondo/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
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    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

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Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

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  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases