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A Complete Guide to Celebrating: St. Patrick's Day in Savannah, Georgia

A complete guide to celebrating St. Patrick's Day in Savannah, Georgia, and all the traditions that lead up to the historically festive day.


I figured I'd start this blog off with a bang, and what better way than with Saint Patrick's Day in Savannah, Georgia. If you plan on celebrating St. Patrick's Day in Savannah, GA, you need to figure out your plans well in advance. It is one of the biggest St. Patrick's Day celebrations and parades in the country, drawing more than 300,000 people. Many people make their plans at least a year in advance to fully appreciate all this green holiday has to offer –everything you need to know about spending the day, or week in Savannah, Georgia to celebrate Saint Patrick's Day is here for you.


Green Forsyth Park Fountain
Green Forsyth Park Fountain, Savannah, Georgia

The St. Patrick's Day festivities celebrated throughout Savannah, Georgia make up a well planned, culturally deep, and beautiful season that dates back 200 years. Having experienced many years of this historic celebration, the 2024 St. Patrick's Day Season was truly one for the books. With restrictions and cancelations around 2020 and the following years and with the 200th Anniversary of the parade, this year the celebrations were back at full speed and the crowds were there to match.


As this festive season is a tradition for many people every year, planning starts early and as it's a huge money making season for local businesses, it's best to make your plans early if you're coming from out of town. Your options will be limited if you wait too long and you won't be able to enjoy your stay to the max!


Check out our suggestions and run down of the festivities below and start planning for your own Savannah, GA St. Patrick's Day extravaganza!


Have A Plan and Get There Early!


The “St. Patrick’s Day Season” starts weeks before the actual day in Savannah, Georgia.  This historical town grows as the crowds start flooding in the week before.  The Savannah Hilton Head International Airport gets busier than ever as people from all over the world fly in to be a part of the magic that happens during this special season.  Not only are the azaleas usually in full bloom, but it is often the first real peek at Spring and a declaration that the short Savannah winter is over and Spring is coming full speed ahead.  Then a few weeks later the Spring thunderstorms begin and the humidity starts to rise and Summer takes over. But the short Spring that is, is wonderful. Bonaventure is a great place to see the azaleas in full bloom, in addition to around the squares downtown, but it is sure to be packed - as will most things around town.


Not only is the weather delightful this time of year, but there is historically a large Irish Catholic community in Savannah and there are many events that the Savannah St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee have been arranging for many, many years.  This year (2024) was the 200th Anniversary of these celebrations and, new this year, the city of Savannah lit up multiple buildings and landmarks with green lights at night for the whole month of March to celebrate this milestone of 200 years.  Some of these buildings and iconic landmarks included City Hall, Forsyth Park, Plant Riverside District, the Basilica Cathedral of St. John the Baptist and many others.  The Committee puts together many events that involve locals and visitors alike.  There is a children's coloring contest, a new historical marker was revealed in honor of the first St. Patrick’s Day parade two hundred years ago, and the Celtic Heritage Festival, among others. You can find more information and the years schedule of events on the Savannah St. Patrick's Day Parade Committee's website.



 

Greening of the Forsyth Park Fountain: The Kick-Off


The official events kick off the week before St. Patrick’s Day with the annual “Greening of the Fountain” in Forsyth Park.  It is usually on a Friday afternoon and is always broadcasted on the local news channels for those who are at work or could not see beyond the crowds.  Forsyth Park is a large centralized park (not to be confused with the squares) that is famous for it’s fountain, among other things.  This historical fountain has been an iconic landmark in Savannah’s history and persona since it was erected in 1858 (even though it was ordered from a catalog).  The view of the Forsyth Park Fountain is magnificent when approaching it going south on Bull Street.  The fountain is centered on the road and is quite breath-taking as it is framed by the beautiful historical architecture and the live oak trees with hanging Spanish Moss.  Quintessential Savannah.


At the Greening of the Fountain ceremony, speeches are made, bagpipes are played, and everyone wears green as appointed children pour the green dye into the fountain via green garden watering cans.  It is quite a sight to see as the water turns from clear to bright kelly green. At the same time, the other fountains throughout the historic district downtown are also dyed green.


The same day of the greening of the Fountain was also the March of Dimes Shamrock Run 5k Race, which also includes road closures and crowds, but at night. The race adds to the array of festive activities that lead up to parade day.


That same weekend before St. Patrick’s Day is the Celtic Cross Mass & Ceremony at the Basilica Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, followed by a ceremony at the Celtic Cross monument in Emmet Park.  There are lots of traditional Irish Catholic ceremonial displays made as the season provides a source of remembrance of the foundation of faith and culture that spread through Ireland with the help of Saint Patrick.  The day before the official parade and festivities is the Sergeant Jasper Green Ceremony at Madison Square with a salute to our military.  The festivities are family friendly and oriented to celebrate Saint Patrick and Irish-American Heritage. Many of the celebrations are weather dependent and are subject to changes, so stay informed if you plan on attending.



St. Patrick's Day Parade: 200th Anniversary


The day starts off early as all the parade participants and attendees line up and try to find parking and spots to watch the parade.  If you are able to, many people show up and claim their spots with lawn chairs the day before (this year was after 6pm Friday - check with current news outlets and the official website for current times) and get to their spots way early.  There are also bleachers around town that can be reserved ahead of time. The city also starts towing cars along the parade route the night before, so make sure not to park along the designated route. Parking is rough, so unless you come in the day before or super early, and if you are not staying somewhere that you can park your car, it is highly advised that you look into the multiple shuttle options throughout the Savannah area.  Plan ahead - there’s limited garage parking. They open presale for garage parking but close it a week before. This year there were multiple shuttles to Tybee Island, Midtown, and the Islands as well as other areas which can greatly expand your accommodation options if staying downtown is not in your plans. The roads started to close this year at 10:15am along the parade route. Not having to worry about driving around the city with hundreds of thousands of extra people walking around is definitely something to consider. 


While it is a family friendly event, it has also developed a reputation for being a highly intoxicated atmosphere (mostly after the parade - but many people start drinking early).  If you are not looking to be a part of the party crowds, once you have had your fill of the parade, which is not a short one (it can go for 3-4 hours) I would call it quits and head home before it gets too rambunctious.  Make sure you are on the side of the parade you want to be on, it can be hard to find a place to get to the other side or cross the barricades, so if you don't plan on staying for the full parade or want to wander to other local businesses during the parade, make sure you're on the correct side of the street. It is extremely crowded, busy and a very long parade so it can be hard to find an end or a break to make your way to the other side if needed, always better to plan ahead and make your life a little easier.


There are so many exciting things that add to the famous Savannah Saint Patrick's Day experience. Going to see the Budweiser Clydesdale horses in the Kroger Parking lot after the parade has been a cool side trek we have loved.  If the Clydesdales are going to be at the parade the year you are planning to come, sometimes, like this year, they set up at places like Grayson Stadium (Home of the Savannah Bananas Baseball Teams) where you could come visit the horses at different times.  Sometimes they are “hitched“ and others they are there for “stable viewing”.  They also made an appearance at the new Enmarket Arena. I highly recommend you check and see what their schedule is and where you might be able to find them! There are always lots of Savannah favorites throughout the parade.

The Savannah Bananas are always a hit and the occasional celebrity appearances are always a surprise.  Last year, 2023, Connor McGregor rode in the parade and met with fans along the route. It is always exciting to see who will make an appearance each year.



Clydesdale Horses in the Savannah St. Patrick's Day Parade

Stay Safe and Be Smart


As always, using common sense is important and paying attention to your surroundings is necessary when you are in crowded and busy places. As Savannah is a city, it is important you keep that in mind as you're traveling around. The road closures and colorful decorations may throw you off, but it's important to stay safe and aware. With Savannah's "Open Container Policy" no matter what time of year, you are allowed to walk around the streets with an open container of alcohol (no glass allowed). There are specific parameters to the open container zone and you must stick to them. During certain holidays, like St. Patrick's Day, the city often expands the zone to include areas like the Starland District. Be aware of what is current and how far you can go!

There are fines strictly enforced throughout the day so if you find yourself drinking, keep them in mind. Things like littering, drinking from a can, bottle, or glass, drinking in a parked car, underage drinking, public urination, disorderly conduct, public indecency, swimming in prohibited waters, among others, can land you with a citation you might not be expecting. Again, common sense will be helpful in preventing these situations.


Have fun, be aware, and leave enough time to stand in line for the porta-potties!


Port-a-Potty Lines

Seasoned Savannah St. Patrick's Day celebrants often come prepared with their own private port-a-potties in the back of pick up trucks or on trailers, parked in parking spots along the parade route, not in the tow zone. That way they don't have to wait in the crazy long lines for the public toilets and have their own private, clean bathrooms. If you don't have the means to make those arrangements or if it's your first time, there are plenty of other options, including grabbing a bite to eat for lunch at a local restaurant, bar, or hotel and using their restrooms. Whatever you do, make sure not to wait until the last minute, expect a wait anywhere you go. Have fun and plan ahead when you can!


More Port-a-Potty Lines

Lighting Up the City: A Sea of Green


It truly is a beautiful time of year in Savannah. From the rich history, to the blooming azaleas, there really is no where like it, especially at St. Patrick's Day. As you wind down from the excitement of the parade, the fun menus of local bars and restaurants, the emerald specials downtown, and the steps you'll surely rack up, take some time to find your own special spots that you can enjoy and maybe even watch the sunset (nap most likely required). The rooftop at the Peregrin is one of my favorite sunset views. This year we enjoyed pizza on the river at Eastern Warf on our way back to catch our shuttle and it was a great way to enjoy the day and the beautiful weather. It was quite a site to see the city all lit up green for the month as we continued to celebrate the festive season.


Pizza on the River

So my advice to you would be, plan ahead if you can, avoid driving, pick an area you want to stay in (Downtown vs. Tybee Island, etc.), and enjoy all the city has to offer!


City Hall Lit Up Green


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