The Brancatelli File



October 14, 1999 -- Now that "leaf peeping" season has passed--hard-core color freaks can check for the final reports--it's time to concentrate on the best of the rest of the fall's travel attractions.

The glory of the fall is always America's big cities. Beach destinations dominate summer, ski resorts are the stars of the winter and the spring belongs to the countryside. But fall belongs to America's urban centers. The weather is usually perfect: not too hot, not too cold, with warm days and crisp nights. Cultural attractions are in full swing: arts, theater, and dance happenings abound and the museums are mounting their new shows. Sports venues and restaurants are humming and autumn is when locals tend to love and use their cities best.

Here's a quick look at what's hot in the big towns this fall.

New York is serving up two hot fall music specials. One boasts Celia Cruz and Willie Colon atop a heavyweight lineup of "fania" (a fusion of jazz and salsa) performers booked for The Fania All-Stars. It takes place Oct. 23 at Madison Square Garden. Meanwhile, Luciano Pavarotti, the biggest of the Three Tenors, stars in Puccini's Tosca on various dates at the Metropolitan Opera. Music is also driving this fall's most anticipated play, Saturday Night Fever. It's inspired by the John Travolta/BeeGees movie extravaganza of the 1970s. The show is now in previews at the Minskoff Theater and scheduled to open October 21. For everything else that New York has to offer, get an ExplorePass. For $20, it gives two people a wide array of discounts on sites, shops, transportation and restaurants.

In Lotusland, where television and movies rule, even the theater is saturated with film types. Take the revival of Beth Henley's Crimes of the Heart, due to open October 15 at Burbank's Falcon Theater. The stars are television staples: Morgan Fairchild, Faith Ford (she played Corky on Murphy Brown) and Crystal Bernard, best known as Helen from Wings. The show is directed by Garry Marshall, who created Laverne & Shirley and Mork & Mindy before moving on to movies such as Pretty Woman and Runaway Bride. If you're more interested in the sporting life, then LA is still the place to be this fall. The world's newest sports arena, the Staples Center, opens in time to host all the home games of the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers basketball teams and the Los Angeles Kings hockey unit.

Speaking of sports, you'll finally be able to get tickets for Chicago Bulls basketball games. But the only way to see Michael Jordan, star of the Bulls' six championships, is to pay a pre-game visit to his statue outside the arena. Or you could try for a glimpse of His Airness at Michael Jordan's Restaurant, a popular Windy City steakhouse. Meanwhile, the big news on the Chicago dining scene is out in the suburbs of Wheeling, where legendary chef Jean Banchet has returned to Le Francais, the restaurant that made him famous. After 10 years in Atlanta, Banchet is once again turning out what many critics believe is the best French cuisine in North America.

Leave it to the Bay Area to draw the heavyweights of rock--and then put them all on one bill. The mega-shows are scheduled for October 30 and 31 at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in the San Francisco exurb of Mountain View. Among the acts: Neil Young, The Who, Brian Wilson, Tom Waits, Pearl Jam, Sheryl Crow, Green Day and Smashing Pumpkins. Ron Rifkin, who won a Tony award for his performance in Cabaret, heads the cast of Wrong Mountain, a new comedy by David Hirson that premieres October 21 at San Francisco's American Conservatory Theatre. But hurry: the show closes November 21 and then moves to New York for its Broadway debut.

Besides Washington's regular autumn attractions--politics, monuments and the Washington Redskins--this fall brings an unusually rich roster of museum and art shows. Two examples: Beginning October 22, the National Museum of American Art offers 60 watercolors by Edward Hopper. And on October 27, the Corcoran Art Gallery opens an exhibit of 70 photos of extraordinary women made by Annie Leibovitz.

This column originally appeared at

Copyright 1993-2004 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.