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The nation's capital comes alive in the fall. Congress goes back to session. The President and his cabinet return from summer breaks, and the business of running the government continues. The energy turns up a notch, and the tourists begin to arrive in hordes. School buses pull up to the Smithsonian and the White House, foreign and American visitors gather around the monuments and shop-lined trees of Georgetown. It is truly a fine time to see Washington, D.C.

To take advantage of all Washington, D.C. has to offer, ATA (tel. 800/225-2995; www.ata.com) has flights at very low fares. Travel is good through February 1, 2006, and must be booked by September 20, 2005. A seven-day advance booking is required to lock in fares. Roundtrip fares start from:

  • Atlanta $118
  • Charlotte $158
  • Dallas/Ft. Worth $198
  • Denver $218
  • Ft. Lauderdale $158
  • Ft. Myers $138
  • Houston $218
  • Kansas City $178
  • Los Angeles (LAX) $258
  • Tampa $158

These fares are into Dulles. Security fees and air taxes are not included in the price. A note to you Washingtonians looking for a quick trip, fares are also good out of the Washington, D.C. area.

For hotels in the District of Columbia, Hotels.com (tel. 800/219-4606; www.hotels.com) has a strong listing of accommodations in the area. For a night at the Loews L'Enfant Hotel, a large centrally located hotel with amenities for business and family travelers (and a great breakfast), expect to pay around $139 for a midweek stay in late September, just when the Washington Redskins kick into high gear. You can see the Washington Monument and much of the spreading city from some of the hotel's large windows. A night at the Braxton Inn, a small hotel on Rhode Island Avenue just ten blocks from the Smithsonian and a five block walk from the White House, starts at just $139 per night. The hotel is also near most of the embassies so with a short walk you can see flags flying and the parade of interesting characters coming to and from the architecturally diverse buildings. The no-frills hotel with very small but comfortable rooms is in a stately brick building.

If you're a romantic and want to experience Washington, D.C. by night when the city lights up like a romantic paradise (experience a kiss under the shadow of the Lincoln Monument), the Hotel Monaco (tel. 800/649-1202; www.monaco-dc.com/html/specialsPackages.htm) has a one-night "Bed and Breakfast" special costing approximately $189 per night with complimentary wine hour, a full American breakfast and deluxe accommodations. The more expensive "Monuments by Moonlight" package starts at $419 per night but includes deluxe accommodations for two, a private limousine tour of the monuments, a free bottle of champagne, his and her cashmere scarves for those cool fall nights, morning coffee and evening wine. Not a bad way to see the Capital sites.

Travelocity (tel. 888/872-8356; www.travelocity.com) has some "Last Minute Deals" to the District of Columbia that include air and hotel. A weekend jaunt leaving on Friday, September 16, 2005, and returning Sunday, September 18, 2005 starts at just $196 from the New York area. For just $95 dollars extra, you can improve your address with a stay at the Holiday Inn Georgetown, located near all the shops and sites of perhaps Washington's youngest and most electric neighborhood. Who knows, maybe you'll catch a Hillary Clinton sighting. See Travelocity's editor's picks for a list of bars and pubs in the area. Cheers.

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