Savannah, the city of genteel, beautifully preserved antebellum quads, is anything but square. Even its prettiest, most proper attributes come rigged with a deliciously seedy underbelly. It's a city so lovely Sherman famously spared it on his devastating March to the Sea -- though rumor has it his mercy had more to do with appeasing a local mistress. It's a city whose mood is best suited to summer, when the Spanish moss hangs heaviest from tree limbs, local ladies murmur gossip behind their hand fans, and you can all but sense the ghosts sweating in their 19th-century mansions. For those who can't take the heat, though, spring is a fine as time as any, when the magnolias are still in bloom, and the Savannah Music Festival (tel. 912/234-3378; www.savannahmusicfestival.org) takes over town, from March 18 to April 3.
For 16 years, the Savannah Music Festival has been presenting one-time performances and world premieres of works by nationally renowned musicians, such as jazz saxophonist and Savannah native James Moody, or pianist Uri Caine, on this year's roster. Concerts take place in 17 days, over the course of three weekends, in concert halls, churches and the city's public squares.
Savannah's many walking tours are especially worthwhile, devoted to Civil War history, the city's purported ghosts, and historic buildings. Historic Savannah Foundation, since its founding in 1955, has served as a national model for architectural preservation, and the Savannah Tour of Homes and Gardens (www.savannahtourofhomes.org) is excellent, featuring a different landmark neighborhood every day, in the city Le Monde named the "most beautiful in North America." The house tours also coincide with the music festival, from March 31 to April 3.
Train travel seems especially suited to a city as romantic as this one, and a superior alternative to driving I-95 from the Northeast. Amtrak (tel. 800-USA-RAIL; www.amtrak.com) is promoting round-trip fares to Savannah from New York for $180, through its Great Getaways promotion. Fares must be booked by March 4 for travel through May 31.
If you're more interested in convenience than romance, though, consider flying. Through Mobissimo (tel. 650/577-2306; www.mobissimo.com), airfare is only slightly more expensive, at $194 from New York on USAir, $202 on Air Tran, and $222 on Delta. From Chicago, it's $226 on USAir, $228 on Air Tran, and $251 on United. From Los Angeles, flights are $280 on Continental.
Though you'd save money by staying outside the landmark district, you'd also be denying yourself of one of the city's greatest pleasures, as Savannah's architecture and street layout are prime reasons for a visit. If you decide to splurge on a historic inn or B&B, though, you'll have to book early for spring travel. For a list of historic properties, see the Convention and Visitor's Bureau website (www.savcvb.com), which also lists tours and a schedule of events for March and April. It's also useful to consult the Official Savannah Guide (www.officialsavannahguide.com) before you go.
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