Traveling from DuPont Circle to Georgetown, we sat near a local guitarist, who provided narration and color commentary as our Metrobus drove through the streets of Washington, D.C. Public trains and buses provide a frugal way to tour the city and travel from place to place.
Food: Pauline Frommer, author of Pauline Frommer's Washington, D.C., loves the Ethiopian scene along the U Street corridor for frugal food, and points specifically to The Dukem Restaurant, which offers a cultural show most evenings for only $1 more than the regular dining cost. For cheap, basic food and a bit of history, she recommends Ben's Chili Bowl. Having served the likes of Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald and Nat King Cole, the establishment offers basic breakfast and lunch options for less than $5.
Andrea Poe, author of The Red Thread — a popular adoption column — and editor for The Washington Times Communities, names happy hour as her strategy for enjoying great deals in D.C. Her top picks? The tapas and $4 house-made sangria at Jaleo, and the free sushi, shrimp tempura and other snacks during the Buddha Bar's Monday-Thursday happy hour from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. "For the price of a cocktail, you can have a free meal in a hip downtown location," says Poe.
Lodging: For affordable family accommodations, Poe picks The Eldon Suites. Conveniently located, Eldon Suites offers full kitchens, which allow travelers to save on meal costs. The spacious suites make it easy for families to relax at the end of a busy day. Summer rates are as low as $144, and even the smallest suite can easily handle a family of four. For an old-fashioned inn experience, Frommer recommends the Kalorama Guest House at Woodley Park, with rooms starting at less than $80. This hotel offers complimentary sherry in a cut glass decanter, and afternoon lemonade or hot cider with cookies. She also loves the Taft Bridge Inn, which offers antique-decorated rooms with a full breakfast. Rooms with a shared bath start at $93.
Fun: Jan Schroder, managing editor of Travelgirl magazine (www.travelgirlinc.com), recommends DC by Foot, which offers free walking tours. The excursions are hilarious and informative, according to Schroder. Check out Destination, D.C. (Washington.org), a nonprofit tourism association that represents more than 1,000 travel-related organizations and businesses in the Greater Washington Metropolitan Area. Destination DC provides a list of 100 no-cost or low-cost activities for visitors. Divided into categories, the list features free entertainment for families, history fans and theater goers, with a directory of "Economical Eats and Cheap Happy Hours." Freebies include the Sunday evening concert series at the National Gallery of Art.