The Brancatelli File By Joe Brancatelli
Your Weekend Getaway Guide for 1995
February 22, 1995 -- So how about we plan some weekend getaways for the rest of the year. You can throw darts at a map, draw circles from the nearest hub city--or let me do the planning for you.

Here are eight cool big-city getaways that will get you from March through to Christmas. There'll be brunches and craft shows and lots of local color.

Much of Seattle's enduring popularity comes from the abundant street life on Alaskan Way along Puget Sound. Among the attractions: the Seattle Aquarium (206-386-4320) and the Bay Pavilion (206-623-8600), an 1890s-era pier that now houses shops, restaurants, and a vintage carousel. On weekends, Argosy Cruises (206-623-4252) offers guided harbor tours. ... The Pike Place Market (206-682-7453) started in 1907 as a collection of grocery stalls, but it now has some excellent restaurants amid the gourmet-food stores, coffee bars and crafts shops. One favorite is Chez Shea (206-467-9990), which specializes in Northwest cookery. For a Pacific Rim blend of local ingredients and Asian flavors, try Wild Ginger (206-623-4450). ... At the stylish, 54-room Alexis Hotel, some suites have wood-burning fireplaces. Through June, special rates start at $125 per night.

One of the nation's best-preserved urban historic districts is at the heart of modern-day Savannah. It encompasses Forsyth Park, a cemetery, 21 leafy squares laid out in the 18th century and about 1,100 homes, churches, and commercial buildings. ... River Street winds along the Savannah River, and old cotton warehouses have been converted into museums, shops, and eateries. There's no better time to visit than the spring. ... Savannah specializes in old-style inns and charming guest homes. One of the best, Magnolia Place Inn (912-236-7674), is an 1878 Victorian mansion. Many of its guestrooms have verandas overlooking Forsyth Park. ... Pirates' House (912-233-5757), which sprawls over 18 rooms, offers one of the city's most bountiful Sunday brunches. ... Mrs. Wilkes' Boarding House (912-232-5997) is known for copious southern breakfasts and lunches served family style at communal tables.

Philadelphia comes to life in the spring with a panoply of special events. Lovers of French paintings have until April 9 to view highlights of the exquisite Barnes Collection at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (215-763-8100). The Philadelphia Antiques Show (215-387-3500), April 8-12, specializes in Americana. The Philadelphia Open House (215-928- 1188), April 27óMay 14, offers guided tours of private homes and gardens. ... Noshers can feast on the snacks sold at the food stalls of the famous Reading Terminal Market (215-925-6238). ... Philadelphia boasts a number of well-known, locally owned hotels, but a weekend at the swanky Ritz-Carlton Philadelphia is an extraordinary bargain at $149 per night.

Montreal's cultural calendar is crowded in the summer. The International Jazz Festival (June 29-July 9) draws 1.5 million people for 350 performances. The Just for Laughs Festival (July 19-30) is the world's largest comedy event. And the Festival International de Lanaudiere (June 30-Aug. 6) will feature about 40 classical-music events. ... The strength of the U.S. dollar in Canada means discounts of about 30 percent. The Great Canadian Summer Rate at the Montreal Bonaventure Hilton (800-445-8667) runs C$129 a night or about U.S. $95. ...After Paris, Montreal is the world's largest French-speaking city. The dining scene also has a French accent and features cuisines from many of France's former Asian and Middle Eastern possessions. Try Restaurant Claude Postel (514-875-5067), where the chef, Claude Postel, is the star.

Visitors flock to Nashville for the music and no place has more of the country sound than Opryland (615-889-6611). It can host a dozen live shows at one time. The 120-acre park also boasts museums dedicated to country musicians; the Grand Ole Opry; a railroad; roller coasters; and water rides. It's open through October and the one-day admission is $27.95 for one day. ... It's called the Loveless Motel & Cafe (615-646-9700), but locals are so enamored of the cooking that they don't even mind the 25-minute drive from downtown. A breakfast feast of eggs, biscuits and gravy and a six-ounce slab of country ham costs $7.95. Make a reservation, especially for weekend mornings. ... The smartest hotel is the Loews Vanderbilt Plaza (800-235-6397), within walking distance of Vanderbilt University. The weekend rate is $119 a room.

The Boston Pops (617-266-1200) holds forth through July 2 at Symphony Hall. Tickets start at $11.50. On July 3-9 the show moves to the banks of the Charles River for the "Pops on the Esplanade" free concerts. Take a picnic, and go early to stake out a spot on the grass. ... Head to the Cambridge side of the Charles for Boston's best lodgings values. At the Royal Sonesta Hotel (617-491-3600), Summerfest rates start at $105 a night, including a river cruise and bicycle rental. ... Legal Sea Food is where locals go for fresh, tasty fish at reasonable prices. And now there are branches all over town. ... Walk the 1.5-mile Freedom Trail from the Boston Common past 16 historic sites. Or explore the waterfront on the Harbor Walk. Pick up free maps for both at the information center on the Common.

Once dismissed as "The Mistake by the Lake," Cleveland has transformed itself. Two examples: swanky shops downtown at The Avenue at Tower City Center (216-771-0033) and the nightlife in the Flats, along the Cuyahoga River. ... The latest jewel in the Cleveland crown is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum (216-781-1832). Housed in a whimsical building designed by I. M. Pei, the museum offers interactive exhibits. ... The Cleveland Indians (216-861-1200) suddenly are a baseball juggernaut. Maybe it's the new ballpark: Pastoral Jacobs Field is the toast of baseball purists everywhere. Lucky Wells, owner of West Side Tickets (800-860-9378) expects seats for Cleveland's first playoff appearance in 41 years to fetch $200 each. ... The intimate Ritz-Carlton is at the center of modern Cleveland: adjacent to The Avenue and Jacobs Field. Weekend rates begin at $150 a room.

Chicago takes its end-of-the-year holidays seriously. Nowhere is that more obvious than on North Michigan Avenue, the city's swanky "Magnificent Mile." Until the end of January, more than 600,000 lights illuminate 150 trees on the avenue. There are elaborate Christmas displays in department-store windows and fabulous shopping at Water Tower Place and the Mile's three other large retail centers. ... Locals have a special affection for the Drake (800-553-7253), the grande dame of Chicagohotels. During the holidays, its lobby is dominated by the "Village of Sweets," where model trains wend their way past sugar and marzipan houses. Weekend rates begin at $165. ... High above the Magnificent Mile, on the 95th floor of the John Hancock Center, the Signature Room offers stunning views of Chicago and Lake Michigan. The Sunday brunch buffet costs $25 a person.

This column originally appeared in Travel Holiday magazine.

This column is Copyright © 1995 - 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.