People may write songs about Paris in the springtime, but the streets of Savannah, Ga. are filled with the sounds of music and the scent of magnolias during its annual Music Festival. Kicking off on Thursday, March 22, and running for two weeks, this festival is famous for its eclectic line-up, drawing performers in an astounding array of musical styles. There are few other festivals where you can catch a bluegrass concert at noon, choose from chamber music or a Cajun at six, and then move on to hear New Orlean’s Preservation Hall Jazz Band before bed.
The festival is 17 days long, so even if you can’t make if for this week you should consider heading south sometime soon. The musical smorgasbord of over 100 performances is truly one of a kind, and you’re likely to snag better seats at this event than you would if you were to try to catch one of the performers in concert elsewhere. A full calendar can be found here.
When you’re dreaming rather than dancing, the famous 24 squares (which date to 1733, when the English gentleman James Oglethorpe laid out the city’s plan) are home to B&Bs that range from modest to luxurious, as well as several larger properties. The 126-room Mansion on Forsyth Park is arguably the city’s most luxe option, located in the city’s historic district and, as its name implies, facing downtown Savannah’s largest park. The décor is a mix of antiques and contemporary pieces, and old pieces given a contemporary makeover with a coat of eye-popping color. It’s a jumble that feels appropriate for this city that is at once stately and eccentric, the unique atmosphere famously captured in “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.“ The 17-room Hamilton-Turner Inn is more intimate, found in an appealingly atmospheric Second Empire mansion on Lafayette Square. The decor includes four-poster beds, potted palms, and Oriental rugs. They pile on the Victoriana but stop becfore it gets cloying.
Savannah isn’t especially known as a culinary capital, but they know how to fry up catfish. The Olde Pink House on Reynolds Square (adjacent to the Planters Inn) serves sophisticated Southern fare (hush puppies with a peach remoulade; Vidalia onion and sweet potato ravoli) in an elegant 18th-century mansion. Winos and seafood lovers will relish a meal at 700 Drayton, a fine eatery located in the aforemntioned Mansion on Forsyth Park. Allow your eyes to feast on chic artwork as you enjoy the best of local cuisine. Dessert seekers should seek out long-standing Savannah fixture Leopold’s Ice Cream, a classic old-school soda fountain that first opened in 1919 but then closed in 1969. In 2004 the store reopened at a new location, on East Broughton Street, a short walk from Reynolds Square and Oglethorpe Squares. Many of the furnishings are original, while the flavors range from traditional (butter pecan and their signature tutti frutti) to new-fangled (Japanese cherry blossom). If an ice cream shake doesn’t pack enough punch for you, head to River Street, which runs parallel to the Savannah River and is packed with jazz bars, nightclubs and lounges.
Finally, and especially if you are headed to Savannah after the heat of summer has settled in, consider a detour to Tybee Island, 20 minutes from downtown. The seven-room Tybee Island Inn has gardens draped in Spanish moss, and is a perfect base for exploring the quiet three square miles of sandy beaches and salt marshes.