You can have a great time exploring Washington and its wide range of art and historical museums, plus its top-notch zoo, national monuments, wide variety of restaurants and things to entertain your kids.
Security considerations have put restrictions on visits to the White House -- www.whitehouse.gov/ -- but clicking on "History & Tours" will take you to information on what groups can visit, and a wealth of photos, videos, 360-degree panoramas and articles. Look under "Resources" for a link to the White House Historical Association, which has its own exhibits.
See historic documents, photos and other treasures at the Library of Congress -- www.loc.gov/ -- where you can enjoy the online exhibitions before clicking on "Visit/Tour" to learn what there is to see in person.
Right in the middle of the city, the National Zoological Park -- www.natzoo.si.edu/ -- has lions, tigers and bears, plus pygmy marmosets, various marsupials and bald eagles.
And the Smithsonian -- www.si.edu/ -- comprises diverse institutions such as the Air and Space Museum, the African Art Museum and the Portrait Gallery. Until May, you can see "Nature's Jewels," an exhibit of orchids and butterflies at the Arts and Industries Building.
Stock up on information on other things to do and see at Washington's official tourism site -- www.washington.org/ -- where you might want to start with "Travel Update," which outlines hours and group requirements for sites such as the Capitol. Click on "Getting Around" for detailed maps and help with the transit system and taxis.
Then click on the city's "Visitor Information" to learn about neighborhoods, suggested itineraries, places to stay categorized by neighborhood, restaurants, and "What to Do" which includes links to museums.
If you're planning to take the kids, go to the Chamber of Commerce's DC Visitor Information Center -- www.dcvisit.com/ -- and click on "Traveling with Children" for things they'll like, including the Capital Children's Museum -- www.ccm.org/. For adults, there's a section of tips on photographing your visit.
Clicking on "What to Do" at the Chamber of Commerce will get you to more links to museums, including the Folger Shakespeare Library and the National Air & Space Museum. If their link to the International Spy Museum doesn't work, try the direct link -- www.spymuseum.org/siteintro.asp. And if you have time to get outside the city, look for "Surrounding Attractions" for links to spots such as Mount Vernon.
Don't spend all your time in the big museums. DC Heritage -- www.dcheritage.org/ -- suggests you "Discover a Different Washington," of historic neighborhoods, historic houses and tours.
Check the Web site of your senator or representative to see if they provide any additional visitors' information or Web links. For example, Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island has a "Visiting Washington" Web page -- http://chafee.senate.gov/visitingdc.htm -- with "Fun for Kids" links.
You don't have to spend all your time walking or fighting traffic. Climb on two wheels with help from Bike Washington -- http://bikewashington.org/ -- which tells you about trails and has links to companies that rent bicycles.
The Internet has a number of Web sites offering hotel reservations in Washington. Typing "Washington," "DC" and "hotels" into any Web search engine such as Alta Vista -- www.altavista.com/ -- or Google -- www.google.com/ -- will turn up services such as City Visitors Guide -- http://washingtondc.cityvisitorsguide.co... -- where you can specify dates, prices and smoking or nonsmoking.