MAYBE IT WAS because we had a young, growing family, or possibly because our career choices were such that we had to work in summer to make ends meet. Sure, we would take overnight trips to the beach or nearby cities, but the times I remember most vividly are the long days taking in the sights of one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Washington, D.C.

During spring we begin with long, lazy days at the National Arboretum--the winding paths through the azaleas and dogwoods, around the towering Capitol columns, the bonsai museum . . . At the Museum of American History, we visit the "From Fields to Factories" exhibit and marvel at the lifelike figures who tell the story of the migration of America's Negro population. The home of Washington's greatest son, Frederick Douglass, at Cedar Hill towers over all of southeast Washington. In Lincoln Park, there's the beautiful statue of Mary McLeod Bethune and her children facing the humble yet magnificent statue of Abraham Lincoln. We always have lunch at Union Station to watch the people running to catch trains. Sometimes we cross the street and tour the Postal Museum to mail a postcard or travel the mail route exhibit through time. We also visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall and identify our cousin's name, Andrew Melvin Duncan, and my husband's best friend, Capt. Robert James Thomas.

A day of reflection like this is not complete unless we stop at either the Washington National Cathedral and tour the gothic sanctuary, or visit the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception at Catholic University.

There are so many places to spend your summer days at free or little cost that a Washingtonian does not need to travel far to have a wonderful vacation.

PATRICIA D. BRADFORD

Washington

Washington, D.C., Convention and Visitors Bureau, 202-789-7000, www.washington.org; www.washingtonpost.com.