GETTING THERE: New York is about a four-hour drive from Washington, but driving and parking a car in New York is likely to prove more of a headache than a convenience. (Although free parking is available at some hotels.)

Amtrak has hourly rail service to New York City. The trip takes about 3 1/2 hours and costs $60 round trip except on Fridays and Sundays between 1 p.m. and 7 p.m., when the fare is $80 round trip. Fares on the Metroliner, which has fewer stops and takes about three hours, are $100 round trip. Excursion fares are available on weekends for only $56 round trip, but they are not valid between noon and midnight on Friday and between 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Sunday.

By air, on Eastern or New York Air, the hour-long flight costs $150 round trip on weekdays, $100 round trip on weekends -- until noon on Sunday. ENTERTAINMENT: Half-price tickets for Broadway shows can be purchased on the day of performance at the TKTS (Times Square Theatre Centre) booth at 47th Street and Broadway. If you don't mind waiting in line this is an affordable way to enjoy Broadway. Tickets for evening performances go on sale at 3 p.m., for matinee shows after noon. Same-day evening tickets are also available at the mezzanine of 2 World Trade Center, Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Half-price tickets for music and dance concerts are available on the day of performance at a special booth in Bryant Park, on 42nd Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues. Call (212) 382-2323 for times and daily listings.

For details on current runs at off and off-off Broadway theaters, call (212) 302-4412. LINCOLN CENTER: The 20th season of the Mostly Mozart Festival, featuring choral reviews, chamber orchestras and recital artists, begins on July 7 and runs through Aug. 23. Tickets range from $8 to $15 and can be purchased at the box office (212-874-2424) or by calling Center Charge (212-874-6770).

The Goldman Memorial Band performs at Damrosch Park's band shell every Wednesday through Friday and Sunday at 8 p.m. from June 23 to Aug. 4.

A special Salute to France takes place July 7-16, featuring the Paris Opera Ballet at the Metropolitan Opera House; free performances by Urban Sax, a popular European group of 52 saxophonists and 12 dancers; and the 55-member military marching band, La Garde Republicaine.

Lincoln Center's Out of Doors Festival, which features as many as three free music and dance performances a day, begins on Aug. 5 and runs through Sept. 1. Call (212) 877-2011 for daily listings. CENTRAL PARK: The New York Philharmonic is scheduled to perform on the Great Lawn in the park July 5, 14, 28 and Aug. 4 at 8 p.m. The last concert will feature conductor Leonard Bernstein.

The Shakespeare festival, produced by Joseph Papp at the Delacorte Theatre, will feature F. Murray Abraham and Peter MacNicol in "Twelfth Night" through July 20. The performances are daily at 8 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday. Tickets for plays are distributed at the theater the day of the performance, beginning at 6:15 p.m. "Festival Latino," a celebration of theater, dance and song, will play in the outdoor theater from Aug. 6-25. For more information, call (212) 861-PAPP.

Rowboats ($5 an hour) and bikes ($4 an hour) can be rented from the Loeb Boathouse, which is near East 75th Street at the edge of the lake. But take extra cash because a $20 refundable deposit is required.

For a listing of scheduled free activities in the park, rain dates and confirmation of events, call (212) 360-1333. SOUTH STREET SEAPORT: A full calendar of activities is planned throughout the summer. Some of the tall ships that will participate in the Liberty Weekend festivities will also be docked here. Summerpier concerts, focusing on American ethnic music this year, will begin on July 19. Take a blanket and a picnic to Pier 16. Shows begin at 9 p.m., but get there early. Call (212) 699-9424 for a listing of daily activities.

WHERE TO STAY: A wide range of accommodations, beginning at just under $100 a night, is available, ranging from deluxe hotels to bed-and-breakfast rooms in residential East Side brownstones. More than 200 tour packages are offered by New York City hotels and major tour operators. Some include tickets to a show, dinners at fine restaurants and guided bus tours. A brochure that lists hotel rates and a free copy of the 1986 New York City Tour Package Directory are available from the New York City Visitors Bureau. INFORMATION: The New York City Visitors Bureau (2 Columbus Circle, New York, N.Y. 10019, 212-397-8222) has a variety of literature about the city. The bureau also offers free tickets to television shows on a day-to-day basis, and always has discount coupons for plays, trade shows and special exhibits. Always check local papers for the most current listings of events. -- Dody Tsiantar