MOVE over New York - Washington DC is catching up as a destination for short breaks with oodles of history, free museums and hip restaurants. And there's rarely been a cheaper time to go as you get almost $2 to the pounds 1. DEBORAH SHERWOOD shows you how to make the most of your time.
Picture the scene after a hard day's work in The West Wing - CJ, Josh and Sam are hanging out in one of Washington's ultra-hip bars. These bars are as cool and trendy as any in New York, which is one of the many reasons why Washington is on the up as a destination for long weekend breaks.
This is a foodie town where eating and drinking and being seen in the right places is very important for your career. Bars and restaurants are always under pressure to keep coming up with new cocktails and changing menus to satisfy their demanding customers.
Flights land late in the day and the best way to get over jetlag is by heading straight out for a night on the town. One of the coolest places to hang out is the Hotel Helix in the Logan Circle neighbourhood - a funky boutique hotel where everyone gets their 15 minutes of fame and you're made to feel like a celebrity. As you arrive at the Helix you walk down a catwalk style entrance into reception with pop music blaring out. Curtains automatically swish open and you are surrounded by pop art, like being in an Austin Powers movie. Cost of a drink: pounds 4. (Details: 001 202 462 9001, www.hotelhelix.com).
WAKE up the next morning to coffee and bagels. Then take a tour, the best way to start any city break. A tour gives you a feel for the place before you start to explore alone. Climb aboard a tram - Americans call them trolleys - for a ride back in time, tracing America's history from the time it gained its independence in 1776. The Old Town Trolley tours take you all around the city. Buy your ticket from the main booth at Union Station, 50 Massachusetts Ave. You can stay on board for the full two hours or hop on and off at 17 stops. You'll visit the Lincoln Memorial, honouring the president who put an end to slavery. You'll chug through Georgetown, an historic neighbourhood and a favourite hangout for senators and supermodels.
The trolleys take you past the White House. This year it is closed to the public, George Dubya being too busy with other affairs to take in guests. Cool off on a summer's day with a boat trip along the Potomac River. Some of the best views of the city are from the water, drifting past the Kennedy Center, Washington Monument, the Watergate Hotel and the Lincoln Memorial. The cruises take about 45 minutes and cost about pounds 5.50 for adults and pounds 2.60 for kids. Details: 001 301 460 7447, www.capitolrivercruises.com.
Alternatively, see Washington by DC Duck.These World War II landing craft have been brought into service as amphibious tour buses. The tours last one and a half hours and cost about pounds 14. (www. historictours.com)
SLIP on your cloak and dagger for a trip to the International Spy Museum - the world's largest collection of espionage memorabilia (www.spymuseum.org). Entry costs pounds 10 for adults and pounds 7 for kids. Allow at least two hours.
Then start exploring the Smithsonian. You're spoilt for choice - there are 15 museums in the collection and they're all free. …