If you’ve done any research about Savannah, you’ve probably heard about the new Plant Riverside District. It’s the city’s current hotspot, so it’s getting plenty of press. But is it really worth visiting?

There’s a lot to cover in the area, from the JW Marriott Plant Riverside hotel to District Live to the many shops, bars, and restaurants that fill Savannah’s “Entertainment District”.

I’m going to give you the scoop on all of it, including a few reviews from tourists who have recently visited the area for the first time. That way, when you’re trying to decide where to stay in Savannah, you can make an informed decision!

Mural of colorful flowers on a black background with text that reads The Beauty of Plant Riverside

Note: This guide contains affiliate links to my trusted travel partners.

If you’re new around here, first of all…welcome! My name is Erin, and I authored the Savannah First-Timer’s Guide.

I live in Savannah, and I’m known for sharing both the pretty and the gritty sides of the city.

Where is the Plant Riverside District?

Plant Riverside is located on the far west end of River Street. If you’re walking along River Street and head west towards the Talmadge Bridge, you’ll run right into it.

Just look for the two brightly lit smokestacks illuminating the sky on top of the JW Marriott Plant Riverside. They’re very hard to miss — especially at night.

The JW Marriott Plant Riverside building with two smokestacks and a bridge in the distance
Plant Riverside District sign on the side of a white building that has a rooftop bar and two smokestacks on the roof
Plant Riverside District sign and smokestacks at night illuminated with purple and red neon lights
Old-timey lamppost in the foreground with a neon sign for Plant Riverside in the background
Trust me, you’ll know when you reach the Plant Riverside District; the branding is ubiquitous. | All photos ©ErinClarkson

What is Savannah’s “Entertainment District”?

The marketing team at Plant Riverside has dubbed the area an Entertainment District because it’s considered a hub for live music, performances, bars, and restaurants. The terms “Plant Riverside District” and “Entertainment District” are often used interchangeably.

Plant Riverside doesn’t have a lock on entertainment in Savannah, though!

A few other areas known as entertainment zones in Savannah include the entire length of River Street, plus much of Bay Street, City Market, W. Congress Street, parts of Broughton Street, and a few pockets along Bull Street in the Starland District.

I freely admit that Plant Riverside isn’t my favorite section of the city, so I feel it’s only fair to admit my bias from the start. New and shiny isn’t my thing; I prefer Savannah a little rough around the edges.

However, I always do my best to discover gems in the area that are worth seeing, so that’s what I’m going to cover in this post.

Ready? Let’s get into it!

Things To Do in the Entertainment District

True to its “Entertainment District” nickname, there’s almost always something going on at Plant Riverside.

Here are a few things to check out if you decide to investigate the area…

Explore the Lobby of the JW Marriott Plant Riverside

First things first, you’re going to want to explore the lobby of the JW Marriott Plant Riverside! It’s not just any old hotel lobby; the JW is set up like a combination of a natural history museum, an art gallery, and a rare gemstones exhibit.

You can wander through the lobby on your own or opt for a guided, interactive experience.

Is the lobby worth seeing? I’d say it’s worth stopping by once while you’re in Savannah.

While I wouldn’t prioritize it over the city’s incredible historic landmarks, it’s a unique place to spend some time.

The building itself is historic, and the renovation was incredibly well done. I recommend it as a nice — and free — rainy day activity.

Colorfully lit lobby of the JW Marriott Plant Riverside

A few neat things to note inside the building include a massive 45-ton crane and its system of pulleys that hang from the ceiling (they were in use when the property originally operated as a power plant), the old signage on the doors to the smokestacks, and the power plant’s original flipboard station, which is located in the lobby near the check-in desk.

Case Crane Co. Crane #1377 hanging in the lobby of the JW Marriott Plant Riverside and lit with rainbow-colored lighting
Oversized red and black pulley hanging in the lobby of the JW Marriott Plant Riverside
Old pipework from an electric plant now housed inside the JW Marriott Plant Riverside
Grey metal wall with old electric switchboards from a former power plant
The old flipboard station is so unique. I love that you can still see so many remnants from the building’s prior use as an electric plant. | All photos ©ErinClarkson

You’ll also find plenty of unique art scattered throughout the lobby, as well as a large collection of gemstones, geodes, and fossils. Plant Riverside is a sparkly place!

Backlit geode in the lobby of the JW Marriott Plant Riverside
Glass display cases filled with fossils and illuminated by purple lighting in the lobby of the JW Marriott Plant Riverside

The lobby itself holds an odd assortment of items, and I sometimes tell people it’s perfectly suited for anyone with a short attention span who likes to flit from one shiny object to the next.

See the Plant Riverside District Dinosaur

Make sure to look up while you’re in the lobby, since many of the coolest features are overhead!

In addition to the massive crane hanging from the ceiling, the JW Marriott’s lobby features a chrome dinosaur skeleton measuring in at 135 feet long. It’s an impressive sight for kids and adults.

The scientific name for this dino is Amphicoelias Fragillimus, but the only thing you really need to know is that it’s the largest dinosaur ever discovered. Pretty cool, right?

You’ll also spot numerous giant pterodactyls flying overhead.

Full shot of the chrome dinosaur hanging in the lobby of the JW Marriott Plant in the Plant Riverside District
Front-facing shot of the Plant Riverside District's chrome dinosaur lit by rainbow-colored lighting
Large metal pterodactyl statues hanging from the ceiling of the JW Marriott Plant Riverside

The hotel used to offer a fun weekend activity for kids called “The Ultimate Dinosaur Adventure” led by Dusty the Dinosaur Ranger. I’m not sure they’re still doing it, though.

The kiddos could learn all kinds of neat facts about dinosaurs via a scavenger hunt through Generator Hall. Make note that there was a fee associated with with the dinosaur hunt.

Catch a Cirque Divina Show

Cirque Divina is Savannah’s local version of Cirque du Soleil. Prepare yourself for a fantastic show that will leave you wondering how the heck they move their bodies like that.

Aerialist dangling upside down from a hoop while yellow spotlights highlight the scene
This is a stock photo because I’ve yet to have my good camera with me when I’ve stumbled upon one of Cirque Davina’s performances. I guess I need to start keeping it on me at all times!

The shows are often performed outside along the riverwalk, and having giant container ships as a backdrop makes it all the more impressive. Savannah’s aerialists and acrobats are really talented!

There are typically two showings every Friday and Saturday night, and best of all — they’re free. The show is good entertainment for kids and adults.

Watch the Cargo Ships Sail into Port

One of the coolest things you can do in Savannah is to watch the massive cargo ships come into the port.

I go for walks along River Street pretty frequently, and I still stop to gawk whenever I see one! (What can I say? I’ll always be a kid at heart.)

Savannah is one of the largest ports on the East Coast, so the ships that come in aren’t just your average ships. These are massive container ships that are sometimes taller than the buildings themselves.

A massive cargo ship overshadows the Talmadge bridge at sunset along River Street in Savannah
It’s mind-blowing to see how close they come to the bridge when they pass beneath it! | ©ErinClarkson

When I say impressive, I mean jaw-droppingly impressive. It’s fun to just hang out along the riverfront to see what comes by. (By the way, you can do this anywhere along River Street, you don’t have to visit Plant Riverside specifically to see the cargo ships.)

If you’re on a tight schedule and want to make sure you see a ship, you can check the port of Savannah on the marine traffic website to see all the ships currently in the area and their arrival/departure times.

Related Reading: The Ultimate Guide to Watching the Cargo Ships on River Street

Go Shopping in the Plant Riverside District

Plant Riverside is so small that it’s easy to wander around and check out all the stores in a couple hours’ worth of time (or less). Here are a few of my personal favorites…

If you’ve hung around this site for any length of time at all, then you know how much I love the cookie selection at Byrd’s! They have a tasting section in the store where you can stop in to sample every flavor they sell.

My favorites change frequently based on my mood, but the Key Lime Cooler, Georgia Peach, and Salted Caramel flavors consistently rank in my top five.

Byrd’s Cookie Co. was founded right here in Savannah, GA, and it’s still run by members of the Byrd family. Support Local!

Nourish has long been my favorite shop in Savannah for natural soap and bath fizzy products. Their little 6-pack collection of bath fizzies makes a great souvenir or gift!

Table display with multicolored bath fizzies

Urban Poppy is a floral shop, and they create arrangements for weddings and photo shoots. They also have a selection of succulents, plants, and gift items in the store that are available for sale.

During the holiday season, you’ll find the charming Savannah Christmas Market set up on the grounds of the Plant Riverside District.

Browse the Art Galleries

Plant Riverside’s founder, Richard Kessler, is quite an art aficionado, so there are a few art galleries located within the property’s boundaries. Here are the three primary art stores:

  • Grand Bohemian Gallery
  • 18Loves Art
  • Savion Gallery
Artwork in the Grand Bohemian Gallery in the Plant Riverside District

These three galleries couldn’t be more different if they tried. Grand Bohemian contains an eclectic mix of art and art services and is located inside the JW Marriott. Some of the artwork in the gallery is created by locals.

18Loves’ talented artist/owner, Amelia Jamerson, can usually be found on-site in her little glass-enclosed jewelbox of a shop. Amelia calls herself a “heart-ist” and focuses on spreading positivity through her designs.

Her work is playful and always makes me smile, so her shop gets my pick as one worth seeing.

Savion is classified as a fine art gallery, and it features a wide variety of artists and mediums. You’ll find everything from photography to sculpture to a unique “fire and smoke” style of creation.

Discover a New Artist

You’ll also find art scattered throughout the grounds of the Plant Riverside District, including a rather large collection of unique sculptures.

“The Immortal” statue shows Ludwig von Beethoven atop a globe with trails of musical notes encircling his body. The statue is illuminated by blue lighting and surrounded by concert chairs
Statue of a windblown woman overlooking the Savannah River at Plant Riverside
Large face sculpture carved out of a black stone
Large face sculpture carved out of a chunk of white and black stone

Restaurants in the Plant Riverside District

The restaurants in the Plant Riverside District are plentiful, but I admit I haven’t tried any of them. Like many locals, I often avoid restaurants along the riverfront because there are so many excellent ones closer to my house — where I can avoid parking fees.

Here are Plant Riverside’s restaurant options:

  • Stone & Webster Chophouse
  • District Smokehouse
  • District Seafood
  • Riverside Sushi
  • Graffito Pizza

Members in my Savannah FB group have visited Stone & Webster and absolutely raved about it, so that might be a good one to try first.

It’s more of an upscale spot, so it would be ideal for a steak and seafood date night or client meals.

Insider Tip: Two incredible alternatives I’ll toss out there are Common Thread and Husk. They’re located inside beautifully restored historic Savannah homes, and they each serve tender and cooked-to-perfection steaks.

Entrance to a smokestack in Plant Riverside District with a restaurant visible inside

If you’re feeling fancy, you can dine inside one of the smokestacks at Stone & Webster. The space holds less than 20 people, so it’s meant for intimate and upscale occasions. If you’ve ever been to Hotel Emma in San Antonio, it’s similar to that experience.

Speaking of Hotel Emma, that’s how I wish Plant Riverside had been developed!! Both hotels are housed inside beautiful historic buildings (Hotel Emma was originally Pearl Brewery, while Plant Riverside formerly operated as the Riverside Station — Savannah’s primary electric power plant during the early 1900s), but that’s where the comparison ends.

Hotel Emma exudes class and luxury, with comfortably worn leather seating strategically placed throughout the lobby to inspire intimate conversations, warm-toned lighting, and a collection of rare local books that would make any bibliophile feel as if they’d entered literary heaven.

On the flip side, the JW Marriott Plant Riverside feels a bit garish to me with its neon lighting and Jurassic Park-themed lobby — not to mention its controversial MLK statue and African-inspired trophy lounge.

That’s just my opinion, though! The hotel draws crowds on a regular basis, and many of the members in my private Facebook group rave about the property. Differing viewpoints make life interesting, right?

Savannah has a little something for everyone!

Nightlife in the Plant Riverside District

There are a couple bar options in the Plant Riverside District.

First up is Myrtle & Rose. It’s a rooftop garden bar with a relaxed vibe, botanical-inspired cocktails, and a range of small plate options. They also serve brunch.

Myrtle & Rose offers live music and has a relaxed, laid-back vibe. Make note that you must be 21+ to enter.

If you’re looking for less relaxation and more energy, then be sure to check out Electric Moon. It’s the spot for bachelorette parties and celebrations, and not the place for quiet, intimate drinks.

They have a nice outdoor seating area that includes a slide on the roof. (Yes, an actual slide!)

Electric Moon is 21+ after 6pm, but families with kids are welcome during the daytime hours. They have a small menu of shareables, plus a large drink selection.

District Live at Plant Riverside

If live music is your thing, then make sure you check the schedule for District Live. The indoor venue brings regional musicians and national artists to Savannah.

District Live is standing room only, so it provides somewhat of an intimate setting. Capacity for the building is only 440 people. Larger events are held at the new Enmark Arena.

Insider Tip: Victory North and Starland Yard, both in the Starland District, are popular alternative spots for live music. Wormhole is another small option in Starland.

The lobby for District Live is worth checking out if you’re in the area and have any interest in music.

You’ll find glass display cases featuring a variety of instruments and a vertical display area along the ceiling featuring a collection of about 50 famous guitars.

Make note that the display is so high up that you can’t really see many details on the guitars.

Curved guitar display with B&W signage at District Live
Glass-enclosed display of musical instruments
Glass-enclosed drum set

If you wander through the section of District Live’s lobby that faces the waterfront you’ll find pirate-themed art and an impressive collection of model ships in glass display cases.

Oil painting of a shirtless pirate sitting on suitcases on the beach while holding a bottle of rum
Close-up of a collection of model ships
Display case full of intricate model sailboats

Fireworks at Plant Riverside

If you want to see fireworks over the river, check out Plant Riverside District during the holiday season, on the 4th of July, and a few other random days throughout the year.

It’s always pretty to see fireworks displays reflected in the water!

Professional fireworks display at night
Ha…another stock photo because I’m terrible at fireworks shots. Trust me, the reflection is pretty over the water! I’ll get a good shot one of these days.

Make note that the rooftop bars typically charge an additional cover fee on fireworks nights. The view is just as nice (and free) along the riverwalk.

Insider Tip: You might want to stake out your spot early, since firework events tend to draw a crowd! You can also watch from across the river on Hutchinson Island.

Hotels in the Plant Riverside District

If you’re trying to decide where to stay in Savannah and are considering the Plant Riverside District, there are a few hotels worth mentioning.

The JW Marriott Plant Riverside is the most expensive option, but it’s the anchor hotel in the Plant Riverside District. It’s the one with the cool lobby that includes the chrome dinosaur and all the gemstones.

My personal favorite is The Alida. The classic decor, cozy bar spaces, and extra perks they offer (free breakfast, free bike rentals, evening wine reception for guests) are all welcome touches.

The DoubleTree by Hilton gets my vote as the best bargain option in the Plant Riverside area. It’s located along busy Bay Street, but the rates are reasonable and it has a pool.

I’ve written a very in-depth post about the various districts in Savannah — including the Plant Riverside District. You can read it here: Where to Stay in Savannah, Georgia.

It breaks down the pros and cons of staying in each district.

Fading sunset view of the Plant Riverside District in Savannah with the Talmadge Bridge, Savannah River, a cargo ship, and the JW Marriott Plant Riverside silhouetted against lavender and peach-toned skies

Savannah Travel Blog

If you’re ready to start planning a trip to Savannah, I’ve created a few resources that will help you out.

  • Savannah Georgia Vacation Guide: This is the place to start if you don’t know much about Savannah and want a brief overview of the city.
  • Savannah First-Timer’s Guide: If you’re the type of traveler who wants all of your information in one handy guide, my ebook is the best way to go. It’s the easiest way to start planning your trip!

If you have any questions about the Plant Riverside District, please let me know in the comments below.

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Colorfully lit Pterodactyl statue hanging in the lobby of the JW Marriott in Plant Riverside District
Pinnable graphic of a building at night with brightly lit purple and pink smokestacks. Text overlay reads Savannah's Plant Riverside District
Plant Riverside District sign on the side of a white building that has a rooftop bar and two smokestacks on the roof