Economy-minded can still capitalize on Washington visit

Economy-minded can still capitalize on Washington visit

Economy-minded can still capitalize on Washington visit – A tourist mecca, Washington, D.C., has something for just about everyone. For the culture vulture, there are excellent museums such as the Smithsonian Institution, the Phillips Gallery and the Corcoran Gallery, as well as high-quality drama and opera at the Kennedy Centre.

Anyone with an interest in urban planning will find the new Metro, which links the downtown with National Airport, a delight. It is quiet, efficient and – amazing for crime-ridden Washington – relatively safe.

old town alexandriaFor the architectural restoration fan, there are first-class restorations of neighborhoods such as Georgetown, Capitol Hill and Old Town Alexandria, and the ongoing redevelopment of Dupont Circle. Even the notorious 14th Street corridor, burned out during rioting, is slowly coming back to life.

Washington is, of course, a must for anyone interested in American history. Torontonians may remember that it, like Toronto, was burned down during the War of 1812. It is also a physically beautiful city, with broad avenues, extensive green spaces, and no high-rise buildings except the Washington Monument. Pierre L’Enfant, its architect, fashioned it after the Paris obelisk.

It is a city that depends almost entirely on government for its livelihood. Because the District and its suburbs are populated mainly by civil servants, many of whom are highly paid (some would say overpaid), prices are high.

Still, it is possible to visit Washington on a budget. Almost all the sights are free. All of the following major attractions can be visited at no cost: the White House; Capitol Hill; the Smithsonian Institution, with its new Air and Space Museum; the National Gallery of Art; the Phillips Gallery, with its extensive Impressionist collection; the National Zoo, with its pandas; and Georgetown, the lovely eighteenth-century neighborhood that is home to the rich and powerful.

Georgetown is also a bar and boutique area, and the locale of a number of budget-priced restaurants. A long-standing favorite with locals is Chez Odette, a small French restaurant where a good meal with a glass of wine and coffee still goes for less than $10. (All prices are in U.S. dollars.) The Maison des Crepes offers reasonably priced salads and crepes.

Nathan’s, at Georgetown’s crossroads, Wisconsin and M Street, provides good burgers and brunch fare – a bloody Mary and eggs benedict for about $8.

Other budget restaurants are located near Dupont Circle: the Astor, which serves inexpensive Greek food; the Bali Indonesian Restaurant, where the rijstaffel is a bargain-priced splurge for about $10; the Szechuan East Restaurant, with good, spicy, Chinese fare.

One of the best deals in town is lunch or (in summer) dinner at the Associates Court of the Smithsonian Institution. An excellent all-you-can eat buffet runs $4.75 or $4.95 for adults, $3.50 for children. Beverage, dessert and tax are extra.

If you plan to spend a lot of time at the Smithsonian (and it’s well worth it), the yearly national associate membership fee of $14, which includes a subscription to the Smithsonian magazine, could be a bargain.

Government building cafeterias are another money-saving idea for lunch. Cafeterias in the House and Senate office buildings and the Library of Congress, among others, are open to the public.

In Washington, bargain hotels are more difficult to find than bargain restaurants, but they do exist. The Hotel Presidential offers acceptable rooms ranging from about $25 for a single to about $31 for a triple. The Harrington Hotel, located in the shopping district, charges somewhat higher rates of from $28 for a single to $36 for a double, plus a slightly more than 10 per cent tax, but with free parking. The Rock Creek Hotel in the Embassy area charges from $27 for a single to $33 for a triple, plus tax. The Windsor Park South, in the same area, is a pleasant hotel with rates ranging from $24 for a single to $36 for a triple, plus tax.

Looking for something cheaper? The International Guest House, run by the Mennonite Church, offers bed and breakfast for $10 a person with shared bath. It is located near the 16th Street bus line and Carter Barron amphitheatre.

Across the river in Old Town Alexandria is the Econo-Lodge, a pleasant, inn-style motel with charges ranging from about $32 single to $37 double, including tax and parking. Anyone visiting or staying in Old Town Alexandria should try the Taverna Cretekou, which offers reasonable and authentic Greek food in very attractive surroundings.

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