A visit to the nation's capital brings history to life. Museums house art and memorabilia -- showcasing everything from sculptures to spaceships -- while nearby parks and plazas provide open space to picnic or relax.
Sights to see: The National Mall stretches from the Capitol steps to the Lincoln Memorial and affords picturesque views of the Washington Monument. Most of D.C.'s landmarks and museums are free, including the impressive United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, America's thought-provoking memorial to the victims of Nazi Germany. (The permanent exhibits require timed-entry passes, so get there early.) Then head to Georgetown to stroll through Georgetown University's campus and browse the clothing stores that line the area's European-style streets.
Family fun: Beat the heat -- and the crowds: Go on a nighttime bicycle tour with Bike the Sites (from $35 for adults, $25 for children). Or, on weekends from September through April, the National Theatre has free Saturday morning programs; families can catch spooky Halloween stories or classics like A Christmas Carol.
Off the expense account: The funky Hotel Helix is near Logan Circle and features bunk-bedded rooms (Mom and Dad get a king bed), free board games, and packages that include a pizza dinner with ice cream, from $179. Info: 202-789-7000