By Hope S. Philbrick
Whether you prefer to stay where you’ll have easy access to everything the city of Savannah, Georgia, has to offer, or you’d rather retreat into a hotel property and never leave, The DeSoto has what you’re looking for.
There’s no real need to leave the hotel. Book a corner king guestroom and the city is literally right outside the window. If the weather’s nice, you can step outside on the balcony, sit down, perhaps sip some wine, and just gaze at the glorious view—but you don’t even have to go that far, you can just sprawl across in bed and stare. I’m no stranger to Savannah: This view is arguably the best available.
Room With A View + A Past
Once upon a time, The DeSoto was the heartbeat of Savannah. It was THE place at the center of Savannah society and was known as the ‘Dowager Empress of the South.’ The original structure was built in 1834, purchased by Savannah Hotel Corporation in 1879, transformed into a resort that opened in 1890, thrived as the city’s hub, then closed in 1965 after a New Year’s Gala so impressive that some folks are still talking about it.
New owners transformed the place into Hilton Savannah DeSoto, which opened in 1968. The new design appealed to the modern tastes of that time, but if you look at a side-by-side comparison of the “before” vs. “after” you may wonder what they were thinking. At least they had the foresight to save several details from the original Hotel DeSoto, such as the terra cotta bas reliefs, wrought iron details, a fountain with a lion that squirts water out of its mouth, crystal chandeliers, and other tidbits, which are incorporated into the current hotel.
The Hilton contract expired and in 2004 the hotel was acquired by Sotherly. In 2008 the new owners invested $12 million in renovations and rebranding; in 2017 another $9.4 million was spent to refresh all guestrooms and public spaces including restaurants. The now independent hotel opened August 1, 2017. It’s part of Sotherly Hotels as well as a member of Historic Hotels of America (as is The Georgian Terrace in Atlanta). It is also affiliated with Preferred Hotels & Resorts.
It’s hard to look away from the breathtaking view, but glance around the corner king guestroom and you’ll find it’s spacious and clean. The luxe bedding is crisp white and super soft, walls and floors are soothing neutral grays, and pops of blue liven things up. There’s a useful desk, convenient dresser, cozy chair, and an extra sink, which makes it even easier to share the bathroom if you happen to be traveling with someone.
Savannah has a reputation as a haunted city, and the art hanging on the guestroom walls plays with that. Look at the framed works one way and you’ll see a festive mix of blues and greens. Look at them from another angle and an outline of a building or a drawing of a fountain or some other locally-recognizable structure is lurking among the colors. Look at them sideways or reflected in a mirror and the building is suddenly a lady’s face or a figure is rising up out of that fountain. Cool!
The public spaces in the hotel are spacious and lovely. Several accent pieces nod to the hotel’s past.
We walked past a banquet room as hotel staffers were busily setting it up for what the sign by the door promised would be a pastry demonstration later that evening—a tempting offer to crash if ever there was one, but we aren’t that sort plus already had evening plans—and the table settings and floral arrangements looked fancy enough for a wedding or award ceremony.
For a dose of genuine Southern hospitality, just interact with any staff member at The DeSoto. From check-in to check-out, from the barista making your morning coffee to the bartender mixing your nightcap, and every opportunity in-between whether you’re standing on an elevator or sitting in the dining room, the people who work here seem sincere in their hope that you’re enjoying your stay and will do whatever they can to make it so.
Sip & Stroll
Take time to book a “Sip & Stroll” tour. Meet up with the concierge and with drink in hand—a coffee or cocktail, whatever you prefer, because in Savannah you can legally walk around with an adult drink in hand as long as it’s in a plastic cup!—enjoy an informative 45-minute tour.
First you’ll hear about the hotel’s history and then you’ll step out the back door for stroll through the neighborhood and nearby squares to Forsyth Park and back, passing by several boutique shops you’ll want to return to later.
The lively neighborhood vibe in front of the hotel is starkly different from the relaxed one out back, and it’s eye-opening to have a local’s informed, insightful introduction.
Our “Sip & Stroll” tour was the highlight of our trip: It’s the best Savannah tour I’ve had, and I’ve had several different tours of various sizes, types and themes over the years.
Treat Taste Buds
Three dining venues at the hotel are ready to satisfy any craving.
Buffalo Bayou is a coffee shop and snack bar where specialty coffee drinks are made to order. Get your regular, e.g., a vanilla latte, and it will meet or surpass expectations. Better yet, try something different like the Savannah honey latte. Creative yet simple and thoroughly delicious, it’s a tasty introduction to local flavors.
Edgar’s Proof & Provision is a bar where you can get drinks as well as soups, sandwiches, snacks and drink-friendly fare. Its dark décor lends the space a cozy vibe. Fish and chips is made featuring a fresh catch of the day, which at the time of our visit was grouper. Lightly fried to perfection in a crispy batter, it was finger-licking yum. Cocktails are well balanced and creative. Odds are several menu descriptions will sound appealing; we settled upon a cinnamon-spiced bourbon-based concoction. “This place is sooooo good,” one lady at the bar said while my husband and I sat perusing the lunch menu. “It’s so good that I’ve eaten here three days in a row!”
The 1540 Room is the hotel’s main dining room and it buzzes with a vibrant yet refined energy. The space feels elegant with high ceilings, white walls, and an open kitchen so clean it gleams. At breakfast the menu ranges from yogurt parfait to Belgian waffle, both satisfying options. At dinner the menu again aims to have something for everyone, presenting at least one seafood, vegetarian, chicken, beef, pork and pasta option in the entrée mix. Making a decision about what to order can be a challenge since temptations abound. Creativity drives each dish and every bite delivers bold flavors. Service is friendly and attentive. In fact, don’t be surprised if a friendly chef stops by your table.
- 246 guestrooms including suites, king and standard rooms; some rooms have balconies
- Check-in 4 p.m.; check out by 11 a.m. or pay a late check-out fee
- 21 Plus Salute! Guests are required to be 21 years or older with photo ID to check in
- On-site dining
- On-site bar
- On-site coffee shop
- Business Center
- Complimentary Wi-Fi
- Only some rooms have mini-refrigerators, but you can request one (just plan ahead or it won’t be cold enough for your restaurant leftovers)
- Fitness Center
- Gift Shop
- Outdoor pool open seasonally; enjoy from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
- Accessible rooms are available
- Self-parking at the hotel is not available though you can find public lots in Savannah; valet parking at the hotel is $34 per night with in/out privileges
- Service animals with official documentation are allowed, no other pets permitted
- Non-smoking hotel
- Walk-in showers
- Odds of Encountering Children: Possible but relatively low. The hotel bills itself as “family friendly,” but Savannah appeals most to adult travelers. We saw two children riding the elevator to the pool during our two-night weekend stay.
The DeSoto by Sotherly
15 East Liberty St.
Savannah GA 31401
- Read other stories about Savannah.
– Photo Credits: property images courtesy The DeSoto by Sotherly; lion fountain & food © HSP Media LLC; forsyth fountain by David Lee Thompson
Featured products, services and/or travel arrangements may have been complimentary in part or in full; this affords the research opportunity but does not sway opinion. Thanks to DeSoto Hotel Savannah for hosting my visit.