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VALUE TRAVEL D.C. weekend getaway ideas
by Bill Malcolm

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Fall is the perfect time to visit Washington, D.C.. The temperatures are cooler and fall lingers. The fall colors in the mountains west of D.C. ( Skyline Drive ) are great if you have a car ( or you can go with the LGBT hiking club, Adventuring ) or take a stroll through Rock Creek Park with the Frontrunners ( Saturdays at 9:30 a.m. for the walkers, 10 a.m. for the runners ).

All the Smithsonian museums are free. Don't miss the re-opened America's Presidents exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery. They also have an exhibit on film start Marlene Dietrich entitled "Dressed for the Image"—and a butch image it was. ( Metro Staton Gallery Place Chinatown )

The U.S. Botanical Garden ( 100 Maryland Ave. SW ) has an interesting display of native plants outside inclduding fall asters in full bloom. Indoors you will find the orchids and cacti as well as tropical plants. Across the street stop for lunch at the Native Foods Cafe at the Native American Museum which has the best salmon in town.

The Museum of Natural History and the new African American Museum are also musts. ( The latter requires you to obtain a free ticket in advance, as it is so popular. )

The National Geogrpahic Museum ( while not free ) has an interesting exhibits on sharks that you will find at 17th and M.

Take in a book signing and speech by an author at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut. The MSNBC author who wrote a book about the 2016 Presidential campaign spoke the night I was there. Entitled Unbelievable: My Front Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History, by Katy Tur, the presentation was, indeed, insighful. You can grab a drink at their bar downstairs or enjoy Sri Lankan food across the street at Bananna Leaf ( 5014 Conneticut ).

Get around on the new Lime Bikes or Mobike smart bike sharing. Your first ride is free when you download the app and you can pick up and leave your bike anywhere ( unlike B Cycles which use docking stations ).

Enjoy a cup of java at Compass Coffee including the one across from Verizon Center ( Metro Galley Place Chinatown ) and take in the nearby Smithsonian Buidling Museum ( also free ) while you are in the neighborhood.

When night falls, head to the Trade Bar for the daily happy hour that runs until 10 p.m. and features half off drinks. The Number 9 is another great choice ( two-for-one drinks until 9 p.m. ), as is the Green Lantern. Town Bar ( 2009 8th Street ) is also fun as is Cobalt. Freddie's Beach Bar in nearby Arlington is also fun and has a Drag Queen Broadway Brunch on Sunday. You will find the gayborhood on 17th Street in the Dupont Circle area which has some good restaurants and bars. I like Annie's Paramount Steakhouse ( 1609 17th Street NW at Corcoran and Q Streets ). JRs is also fun and they also have Showtunes nights.

D.C. is an expensive place to stay but weekends are especially affordable at the very handy Comfort Inn on 13th Avenue NW near Massachusetts Ave. You can walk everywhere from there, including the very hip 14th Street, which is full of shops and restaurants. The new Street Store has everything you need for a snack or libation. I also like the Washington Plaza, Beacon House, and Tabard Inn—all unique affordable non-chain options for lodging.

Metro is a quick ride into D.C. from Reagan Airport ( `15 minutes, $2.45 ). I like Southwest which has bargain fares, no bag fees, and no ticket change fees. Baltimore airport is another option as is Dulles although both are farther away.

You can work out at LA Fitness ( Faragut North Metro on Connecticut Avenue ).

Nearby Old Town Alexandria is worth a visit. King Street is packed with shops and you can also take a boat ride on the Potomac River. ( Metro King Street ).

In short, you won't run out of things to do in this most interesting, walkable city.

For more information on D.C., read the D.C. Blade or Metro Weekly ( or the weekly, Washington City Pages ). The Hill and Politico are also must-reads if you are into politics, as is the Washington Post.

Bill Malcolm is a syndicated LGBT travel columnist whose column appears in publications in Indianapolis, Chicago, Detroit and Seattle. He also writes Round the Ripple for The Broad Ripple Gazette in Indiana as well as for All Aboard Indiana. He receives no compensation from these publications nor from the places he writes about. You can find him on Facebook. He resides in Indianapolis. He welcomes reader feedback and story ideas; email .

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