Ride the Golden Rails

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Sunday, July 3, 2005

WHERE: The Yellow Line, from Huntington to Mount Vernon Square Seventh Street-Convention Center.

WHY: Bunny piñatas, an animatronic president and funky furniture.

HOW FAR: 9.46 miles, 26 minutes without stopping -- or a full day if you explore all 12 mini-destinations.

The Metro is the common man's Orient Express: It's fast, cheap and the air conditioning is a few degrees short of a meat locker. And, as we discovered on the Yellow Line during the first of an occasional series on Metro-tripping, the train's use isn't limited to commuting, running errands or squiring around out-of-town visitors. You can spend hours exploring each station's neighborhood until you reach the end -- or is it the beginning?

We started at Huntington, home to the United Nations of strip malls. In its mini-shopping center, you can find 75-cent tacos at Tippy's Taco House (all day Sunday and Wednesday, 5 to 9 p.m.); Macedonian soft drinks and Slavic vampire movies at Plava Laguna European Food Store; Vietnamese cuisine and Peruvian-style rotisserie chicken at El Pollo Peruano; and Virgin of Guadeloupe candles and frighteningly large bunny piñatas at La Latina Market.

Two stops later at King Street, you might feel more American than apple pie. The first president of the United States is the star attraction at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial. Inside, George is just waiting for someone to press his button. Seriously, push the switch, and an animatronic president rises creakily from his chair, says a few words and blinks like he needs Visine, before he folds himself back into dormancy. Do it again. And again. And again. You'll tire of his Mr. Roboto voice long before his legs give out.

When it's time to cool your own heels -- remember, you won't be sitting for very long, as most train stops are only minutes apart -- dip your toes (and maybe ankles) into the Crystal City Water Park's splashy oasis. No water slides to swoosh down, but there is enough refreshing spray to be sufficiently misted.

Enjoy more water views -- boats, monuments and leafy landscape -- as you cross into the District, where you can find home decor for any space, large or crammed, at Apartment Zero. The shop, by Archives-Navy Memorial, may not have the most functional wares (a white leather sofa, a leaning tower of flower vases), but it does have flair. Also striking: the Greater New Hope Baptist Church, where you should look up, up, up. Stone towers soar from what was a synagogue more than 50 years ago. Just a few blocks up, people stream in and out of the Warehouse gallery and theater, near the new Convention Center. If you're not in the mood for a band, a play or an art exhibit, grab the kick-back couch in the gallery's window alcove, order a cocktail and some snacks, and settle in for the evening sidewalk show. Andrea Sachs

Metrorail's One Day Pass costs $6.50 and is valid weekdays after 9:30 a.m. and all day on weekends and federal holidays, until the last trains depart. Passes are available online ( http://www.wmata.com ) or at the electronic kiosks in all Metro stations.

Road Trip maps are available online at www.washingtonpost.com/roadtrip, as are addresses and hours of operation (be sure to check before you go). Have an idea for a trip? E-mail roadtrip@washpost.com.


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