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St. Patrick's Day: Savannah, Ga., a true green spot in the South

March 15, 2012|By Mary Forgione | Los Angeles Times Daily Travel & Deal blogger
  • The city of Savannah has hosted a St. Patrick's Day parade since 1824.
The city of Savannah has hosted a St. Patrick's Day parade since 1824. (Savannah Convention and…)

When it comes to St. Patrick's Day, we know that Chicago and New York are big names. But who would have dreamed that Savannah, Ga., hit No. 3 in Orbitz's picks for the top 10 St. Patrick's Day destinations? And with good reason.

Savannah starts its celebrations in earnest in mid-February with an Irish festival, a Celtic cross ceremony on March 1 and many lesser parades and events leading up to its big St. Patrick's Day Parade, said to be the second-largest in the U.S.

This year, hotels are booked, and the city of 125,000 is expecting 1 million spectators to line its historic streets. The parade, which has been a fixture since 1824, lasts 3 1/2 hours, snaking its way around squares and streets abloom with dogwood, magnolia and azaleas, says parade Chairman Michael Foran. "Do people stay for the parade? My goodness, you can't run them off," he says. "They're even there after the parade."

Indeed, Foran has dreams of unseating New York City as the biggest parade in the nation. Savannah's parade has 15,000 marchers and 400 units. Hilary Beirne, executive secretary of New York City's parade, says it is clearly the largest, with 200 units (each with a band, adding 200 bands to the mix), 200,000-plus marchers and an approximately seven-hour procession along 5th Avenue.

But Savannah has something else that sets it apart on St. Patrick's Day: the William Jasper Green ceremony at 5 p.m. Friday (the day before ). The event honors the Irishman who came to fight the British in the Revolutionary War and lost his life in the Siege of Savannah in 1779. It has become a ceremony that honors all who have served in the military.

The city starts its day with an 8 a.m. St. Patrick's Day Mass at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, and the parade follows at 10:15 a.m. Check out all of Savannah's St. Patrick's Day events.

And here's the top 10 list of St. Patrick's Day destinations from online travel company Orbitz, whose editors weighed events, parade, history, creative celebrations and values on hotel rates in making their selections:

  1. Chicago
  2. New York
  3. Savannah
  4. Washington, D.C.
  5. Boston
  6. San Francisco
  7. Philadelphia
  8. St. Louis
  9. Kansas City, Mo.
  10. Dublin, Ohio

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