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Southern City Smackdown New Orleans vs. Savannah

Southern City Smackdown New Orleans vs. Savannah

Author’s note: While I know that the cities of Savannah, Georgia and Charleston, South Carolina are commonly “pitted” against each other due to their close proximity, since I haven’t been to the latter, I’m writing about New Orleans instead. I never write about or offer my opinions on places I haven’t been although Charleston is high on my list of places I would love to see.

While nearly 700 miles separate the two cities of Savannah, Georgia and New Orleans, Louisiana, in many ways they are quite similar. They are both found in what’s commonly referred to as America’s “Deep South,” and have rich, incredible histories dating back hundreds of years. But for as much as they are alike, they’re also quite different, each in possession of its own unique identity, and story. So if you only have time to visit one city (although hopefully you’ll eventually make it to both), find out which spot is right for you.

Southern City Smackdown New Orleans vs. Savannah

Savannah, Georgia (the slumbering Southern belle)

Best for couples seeking a romantic getaway, families wanting to add on some beach time, road trip enthusiasts, travelers wanting a more sedate visit.

Couples seeking a romantic getaway: There’s no denying that Savannah just oozes the romance. Turn down any street in its historic district and between its gorgeous buildings and the ever seductive Spanish moss, you will have the perfect romantic setting. I also found that unlike in bigger cities, both in the United States and abroad, many areas of Savannah were pleasantly deserted (and I was there over a holiday weekend in the summer!), so if you want a quiet moment to sit with your partner in one of the city’s many squares, you’ll probably have it to yourself. If you want to keep the romance going, just avoid the crowded and romance buzz kill Bay Street which is chock full of individuals toting their plastic cups since Savannah is an open container city.

Southern City Smackdown New Orleans vs. Savannah

Families wanting some beach time: Okay, while most kids will probably not be too entranced with Savannah’s history and its buildings, they will be happy to hear that it’s less than an hour’s drive from the popular and well-known Hilton Head beach. Too often, city trips are never logistically convenient to pair with beach time, but that’s not the case with Savannah. And being so close to the Georgia coast, there are obviously other beaches too, I’m just not as familiar.

Southern City Smackdown New Orleans vs. Savannah

Travelers in search of a sedate visit: In Savannah, you get the feeling that time has stood still. Sure, you see signs of the 21st century everywhere-cars, individuals too busy to look up from their cell phones, women showing enough skin than would have been simply unfathomable for 19th century society-and yet, you can also easily picture Savannah from the Civil War era, the Savannah during the 1920s, and so forth. I still remember my parents saying that when they visited there in the 1983, my dad came across a man who was driving a horse drawn wagon down a dirt road! Now granted, that was a bit of time ago, but Savannah is a city that truly cares about preserving its past, not just rushing ahead. So if not rushing ahead meshes with your own personal travel style, Savannah is probably the place for you.

Southern City Smackdown New Orleans vs. Savannah

New Orleans (let the good times roll)

Best for families, travelers short on time, nightlife lovers, day tripper enthusiasts.

Families: Being a major city, New Orleans literally has something to offer for everyone, but especially children. Typical New Orleans favorites like the famous beignets from Cafe du Monde, swamp tours, and riding on a streetcar will entrance children but so will the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, the Audubon Zoo, and the Louisiana Children’s Museum. New Orleans is definitely the perfect city where both the parents and kids are happy. Just avoid going in the summer months when the heat and humidity are utterly oppressive.

Southern City Smackdown New Orleans vs. Savannah

Beignets-a little bit of heaven in a fried piece of dough.

Travelers short on time: Unlike Savannah, which is home to a small (but very charming) airport, New Orleans Louis Armstrong airport is huge, with direct flights to countless American cities and even a few international destinations. So if you only have a weekend to work with in terms of how long you can visit and you want to maximize your time as much as possible (i.e. not having to connect and put up with potential delays), and you can fly direct, New Orleans is definitely the way to go.

Southern City Smackdown New Orleans vs. Savannah

Nightlife lovers: New Orleans’ nightlife is world famous; I mean its Mardi Gras celebration is America’s answer to Brazil’s carnaval. Because honestly, the good times seem to be rolling 365 days there. Whether you’re looking for a classy, nightlife experience, or are content with getting your fill of hurricanes from the legendary Pat O’Briens, you will find it all there. And let’s not forget about jazz music. While walking through the French Quarter will undoubtedly uncover random music being performed on the streets, try to get tickets to hear some live at Preservation Hall too. It will definitely be worth it.

Southern City Smackdown New Orleans vs. Savannah

Day tripper enthusiasts: Some of the most famous antebellum plantations in the United States are within an easy driving distance from New Orleans. Oak Alley, which has been featured in more Hollywood films than one can count, and Laura, which is a prime examples of a Louisiana Creole plantation, are less than an hour from the Big Easy and only a couple of miles apart from each other. There are numerous other day trips to spark just about anyone’s fancy including the Bayou Teche Experience, which allows you to become immersed in the heart of Cajun country.

Southern City Smackdown New Orleans vs. Savannah

My final thoughts?

I preferred Savannah to New Orleans namely due to its smaller size, its better preserved historic district, and its overall look. I’m also not a nightlife person at all so that just doesn’t really interest me. However, with that said, I did visit New Orleans almost a decade ago and now being older with other interests (namely food), I would love to return and also rent a car to see Laura Plantation (when I visited Oak Alley, I was on a guided tour).

In short, I feel it all boils down to where you’re coming from, how much time you have to work with, and what things interest you the most.

Southern City Smackdown New Orleans vs. Savannah

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5 Comments

  • Reply
    Bridget @ A Traveling B
    January 28, 2016 at 10:04 am

    Great comparison, Julie! I visited these cities in consecutive years with my mom as back-to-back Mother-Daughter trips and fell in love with both of them. I had been to Charleston before and heard that Savannah was a quieter, smaller version and already knew before I got there that I was going to love it! New Orleans completely blew me away though. It probably had something to do with me thinking that it was more of a “party city” (and I was going with my mom) and finding out that it has great charm, amazing food and a fantastic music scene! I’m heading back to New Orleans in March with my husband and a group of friends and cannot wait to explore again (one of those “return trips” we talked about). Savannah definitely needs a return trip too though!

    • Reply
      Julie
      January 28, 2016 at 6:40 pm

      Thanks Bridget! I had been wanting to do this post for a while but never got around to doing it until recently 🙂 I just really wish I could have added Charleston into the mix. I visited New Orleans my senior year of college with a friend and while neither of us were the partier types, I was definitely impressed. However, I’d love to return as a full fledged adult now that my tastes have expanded along with my wallet too! What a great return trip to look forward to, especially being able to enjoy it with other familiar faces 🙂 I wouldn’t mind returning to Savannah again, just not in the deep heat of summer!

  • Reply
    Charleston and Savannah-a tale of two cities - The Red Headed Traveler
    July 10, 2016 at 8:59 am

    […] a Southern cities smackdown post between Savannah and New Orleans which you can access by clicking here, I’m not going to do a new one for Charleston and Savannah now that I’ve been to the former. […]

  • Reply
    Bill
    February 23, 2017 at 1:21 pm

    Savannah is pretty and is the only American city that somewhat feels like New Orleans, but New Orleans takes it by a landslide. New Orleans has both a beautiful lake and river, bicycle/running trails galore, one of the largest and most beautiful city parks in the country (even larger than Central Park in NYC!) and is a VERY diverse place… so there is something for everyone there. You can hang out in the suburbs of Metairie, and in fact there is Lafreniere Park there which is great for kids (soccer fields, an little lake in the middle, paddle boats, an outdoor performance center, a 2 mile paved running path around the perimeter for the exercise enthusiasts, etc. There are a lot of cool off the beaten path restaurants in Metairie too. Then there is Old Metairie, which is niche all of its own. Mid-City is now an upcoming place that is being revitalized thanks to the incoming money, with lots of great bars, parks, restaurants and hangouts in the area. And then there is Lakeview, which is a fairly old and upscale area of the city right up on the lake. You have access to the beautiful lakefront which all connects with the bicycle path that goes 20 miles along the beautiful lake Ponchartrain. There are a lot of niche areas in this neighborhood too. There is a marina with a park of its own that goes out along a piece of land into the lake, a hangout for those into beach volleyball, plenty of outdoor music, drinks, etc. Almost like a piece of the Florida coast in New Orleans. Then there is New Orleans East, a really cool Vietnamese neighborhood out further, ninth ward, westbank, etc. etc. etc. Another great thing about New Orleans is that it is very easy to walk, cycle or otherwise go from neighborhood to neighborhood. For example, though Metairie is technically a “suburb” you don’t have to have a car to go from Metairie to downtown New Orleans or the Quarter. Anyway, I have hardly scratched the surface here of New Orleans, which is really a unique blend of Carribean, African, Spanish, French and American. Savannah is beautiful too, but it is much one-dimensional and small IMHO.

    • Reply
      Julie
      March 7, 2017 at 8:33 pm

      Thanks for commenting Bill! I agree, you can’t really compare the two cities fairly considering the immense differences in size and population between them. I visited New Orleans a decade ago, long before I was a foodie so I should very much love to return one day. As for Savannah, I’d like to return when the heat and humidity are not so oppressive.

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