The Brancatelli File By Joe Brancatelli
Four Places for a Weekend Away This Fall
September 1, 1994 -- Now that summer's almost over, it's time to think about some autumn getaways. You know, nothing gigantic. Just a weekend away for a little color column.

You can get to any of these places--New York, Miami, Phoenix and Acapulco--quickly thanks to the cities' frequent flights. And I think I've uncovered some lodging bargains to go with the cultural, gastronomic, architectural and other man-made attractions.

Miami is a sprawling stew of cultural sensibilities and architectural styles, but one good way to get your bearings is to take a walking tour sponsored by the Historical Museum of Southern Florida (305-375-1492). The tours cost $15 per person and itineraries vary.

Eat at Joe's The original Joe's Stone Crabs (305-673-0365) opened in 1913 and stone-crab addicts have been waiting in lines to get in ever since. The standard order: a mound of cracked crabs with mustard sauce, coleslaw, creamed spinach and fried potatoes.

Best at the Beach The Fontainebleau made a big splash when it opened 40 years ago and locals say the property, now the Fontainebleau Hilton Resort and Spa, is still about the best beachfront hotel on storied Collins Avenue. BounceBack Weekend rates (800-445-8667) start at $190 per room and include continental breakfast.

Stay Away Day Miami hosts the Super Bowl on Sunday, January 29, at Joe Robbie Stadium. Unless you've already got tickets, hotel reservations and plane tickets, might as well forget it.

Phoenix has a multitude of extraordinary attractions on the ground, but locals look to the heavens during the Thunderbird Balloon Classic and Air Show (602-978-7208). This year's event, held at Glendale Municipal Airport from November 3-6, boasts races between more than 135 hot-air balloons, daily air shows, food booths and crafts exhibits. There are also three stages for entertainment. Tickets cost $5 in advance and $7 at the gate.

Putting on the Ritz The elegant Ritz-Carlton Phoenix (800-241-3333) is across the street from the swanky Biltmore Fashion Park shopping mall (602-955-8400) and midway between downtown Phoenix and the tony suburb of Scottsdale. Until December 31, weekend rates start at $145 per room.

Southwest Sustenance When Phoenicians want the city's best Southwestern cuisine and most refined dining experience, they head for Vincent on Camelback (602-224-0225). When they want good value, great fajitas and murderous margaritas, they wait in line at Fajitas (602-870-4030).

New York is always hectic, so go where the New Yorkers aren't: Lower Manhattan. The financial district swarms with humanity on weekdays, but its urban canyons are quiet on weekends. And Lower Manhattan is where you catch the ferries to the Statue of Liberty (212-363-3200) and Ellis Island (212-269-5755). It's home to the South Street Seaport (212-669-9400), and it's within easy walking distance of the eateries and galleries of Chinatown, Little Italy, Soho and Tribeca.

Only in New York The skyscraping Millenium Hilton (800-445-8667) next to the World Trade Center offers two things you can get only in New York: spectacular views of the Hudson and East Rivers and room-service delivery of Brooks Brothers clothing. The two-year-old Millenium also offers two things you almost never get in New York: an indoor pool and a bargain on a spacious guest room. BounceBack Weekend rates begin at $129 per night.

Bargain City New Yorkers hate paying retail, shopping instead at Lower Manhattan discount emporiums such as J&R Music World (212-238-9000) for electronics and computers and Century 21 (212-227-9092) for designer clothing. Meanwhile, substantial discounts on many Broadway shows are available through the Hit Show Club (212-581-4211).

The international jet set has moved on, but Acapulco remains a favored hideaway for Mexico's rich and powerful. Las Brisas (800-228-3000) endures, too. The 110-acre hillside resort overlooking Acapulco Bay is as luxurious as ever. Until December 17, guests can book a casita (bungalow) with a pool for $150 per night. The rate includes breakfast, fruit and flowers.

Amazing Grace Every afternoon at 1 p.m., the graceful cliff divers of La Quebrada (The Broken Cliffs) plunge 136 feet into an impossibly narrow and shallow inlet. For a small admission charge, you can catch the show from a front-row seat at La Terrace Bar in the El Mirador Plaza Las Glorias hotel (413-448-2829).

Colorful Collectibles The Parazal Artist's Market overflows with touristy kitsch, but De La Cruz (Stands 95 and 96) offers colorful, authentic Mexican ceramics and stoneware. Prices start at about $5 and rise to about $150 for platters decorated with hand-painted historical tableaux.

Delightful Dining La Hacienda in the Acapulco Princess Hotel (800-223-1818) specializes in meat and fish dishes barbecued Acapulco style. Mexican musicians stroll the rustic dining room, which offers both indoor and outdoor seating.

This column originally appeared in Travel Holiday magazine.

This column is Copyright 1994-2017 by Joe Brancatelli. is Copyright 2017 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved. All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property and responsibility of Joe Brancatelli. This material may not be reproduced in any form without his express written permission.