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The District of Columbia was designed as a showpiece to rival the greatest European capitals and built to embody the ideals of the enlightenment in the which the nation was conceived. With sprawling avenues, large parks and wide swaths of greenery, classically inspired buildings to house the government, and monuments dedicated to its great architects of ideas, the district is never short on sights. Along with the usual, you can also add major league baseball to the list as D.C. recently welcomed back a professional baseball team to its borders -- the Washington Nationals (www.nationals.com).

The official tourism site of the capital, www.washington.org, has all the information fit to print about the city. From restaurants to bars to events to museum and monument information to current temperature and weather forecasts, the site takes a detailed look at the city. Currently, the big event in D.C. is "Paris on the Potomac," a citywide celebration focusing on all things French. Through May 31, hotel deals and discounts at some of the French-inspired businesses are available. Check out http://washington.org/parisonthepotomac or call 800/422-8644 for details on the offerings about town. Through the sites hotel engine, we found a two-night stay at the newly renovated Beacon Hotel on Rhode Island Avenue Northwest costing approximately $149 per night with double occupancy for a standard room with a King-sized bed, a continental breakfast and 10 percent off of dinner. Other hotels are also available, including the five-star Four Seasons Hotel for $530 per night (with two large queen-sized beds) and a full breakfast. While this might seem a bit pricey, the hotel boasts the city's most elegant and beautiful guest rooms. For $189, the Georgetown Holiday Inn smack in the middle of the city's pretty Georgetown section with cobblestone streets and great shopping has a king-sized bed in a standard room with free parking.

While Washington, D.C. has a list of museums to rival anY city, the Smithsonian (tel. 202/633-1000, www.si.edu) is the granddaddy of them all. The Smithsonian is not just a museum, it's an institute comprised of 16 museums, the city zoo, a great magazine and more. Most of the museums affiliated with the institute are open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. One of the more popular of the museums is the National Air and Space Museum on the great National Mall, just steps away from the Washington Monument and the Capital Building. Filled with vast information and installations to America's discovery of flight by the Wright Brothers to our quest to go where no man has gone before, the museum is a children's intellectual playground with touch and feel exhibits and a host of film and video exhibits built to engage and inspire viewers and museum visitors.

If government interests you, tours of several government buildings are available. You can tour the halls of the Library of Congress and see and read the vast collections of national resources including the personal papers of most of our presidents and congressional leaders. Go to www.loc.gov/loc/visit for tour info on how to arrange a tour of the library and to see what's available for viewing. One current exhibit is a celebration of Bob Hope's legacy that includes Hope's personal photographs of dealing and joking with politicians all the funny-man's life long.

While that's just a smattering of what to do in Washington, D.C., getting there might be easier than deciding on how to schedule the many sites to see in a weekend trip. As you read this, American Airlines (tel. 800/433-7300; www.aa.com) is having a special Mother's Day fire sale with tickets to the capital available. Round-trip from Dallas/Ft. Worth costs approximately $236; from Miami or Boston, $164; Nashville, $129 and only $112 from Chicago. All flights are into Reagan National Airport. Security fees and departure taxes are not additional. See the website for sale restrictions but these amazing fares are available for next weekend with a Saturday departure. Check back for future web specials as we go into the summer months. Heck, if you can't be with Mom, at least send her a postcard of the Jefferson Memorial.

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