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¤ Gray Line Washington (DC) Tour With Discounts & 'Two-for-One' Summer Offer
The 3-hour "DC After Dark" tour is a terrific way to experience the capital in the quiet of the night. You'll visit the memorials on the National Mall on foot and then take a coach tour to the Kennedy Center, U.S. Capitol, Library of Congress, Supreme Court, House and Senate Office Buildings, Federal Triangle, Pennsylvania Avenue, White House, Capitol Reflecting Pool, Georgetown and Marine Corps (Iwo Jima) Memorial. Hotel pick up and refreshments are included!
The discount price is $33.15 (normally $39) for adults and $16.15 (normally $19) for children 3 - 11.
Book online for the discounted price and a free ticket for the 2-hour day-time "Taste of DC" coach tour.
Note: Tickets are available at Gray Line's Union Station kiosk located on the second floor bus level or at any Gray Line retail location throughout the city.
¤ Brandywine Valley & Sweetwater Farm B&B
Our "Checking In" columnist, Ward Morehouse, recently stayed at this charming inn, nestled on 50 rolling acres of meadows midway between Philadelphia and Wilmington. The beautifully decorated rooms are located in an 1815 Georgian manor house and 7 adjacent secluded guest cottages. All have private baths and AC.
Rates start at just $150 per night (for a dormer room) and include a 3-course gourmet breakfast, served in the manor house or on the outdoor patio.
Ward recommends having dinner at the historic Pace One Restaurant (610-459-3702) several miles away, in Thornton.
Note: Sweetwater Farm is ideal for fall foliage visits and for its proximity to the Brandywine River Museum (www.brandywinemuseum.org), home of three generations of Wyeth paintings, and the magnificent 1,050 acre Longwood Gardens (www.longwoodgardens.org).
Longwood, formerly a historic arboretum, was purchased by Pierre S. DuPont in 1906 to save it from being sold for lumber. Today it has 11,000 different types of plants, magnificent fountains, four acres of heated greenhouses and a great gift shop and cafe.
¤ Dining Near The Empire State Building: Meli Melo
Sooner or later, everyone winds up at the Empire State Building in New York City –- or they should because the views are spectacular.
That's a no brainer. But where to have lunch or dinner afterwards presents a dilemma, especially for out-of-town visitors. New Yorkers, however, know about Meli Melo, the delightful bistro on Madison Avenue, near 30th Street. Here chef/owner Bernard Ros, who was born in France near the Italian border, presents sophisticated French dishes with a Mediterranean accent in an elegant yet casual atmosphere.
There's a great long bar, a full dining room, plus tables by the windows in the front where you can watch the crowds pass by. The flowers and art are especially appealing.
Everything, and we mean everything, is fresh. The fish, pasta and Angus steak are excellent, as are the vegetables. On our most recent visit, we dined on tomato soup, asparagus salad, and swordfish with spinach. This was followed by New York City's best crème brulee. The house Chardonnay was way, way above average. And, Bernard gives you a generous amount of wine in a generous size glass -- not just a paltry inch of liquid, which is always irritating.
No loud music. No shrieking diners. Only fine food and fine service.
Meli Melo, 110 Madison Avenue @ 30th Street, 212-686-5551.
Lunch: Daily, 11:30-4:30
Dinner: Daily, 4:40-11:30
Check out the menu and other details at: www.MeliMeloRestaurant.com.
$ Tip: Show your copy of TravelSmart for a free glass of wine with dinner.
Empire State Building, Fifth Avenue @ 34th Street.
Designed by Shreve, Lamb & Harmon, the 1,050 ft tall building is open daily from 9:30am to midnight. Last elevator going up leaves the lobby at 11:15pm. Military in uniform and kids under age 6, free. Buy tickets on the spot or, to avoid standing in line at www.esbnyc.com.
Bring quarters for the binoculars mounted on the outside Observation Deck on the 86th floor. Most spectacular times: Sunset and when the stars are out.