GETTING THERE: Take the train from D.C.'s Union Station to Manhattan's Penn Station. Amtrak's Acela starts at about $147 each way; other trains cost less (from $75 one way). Having a car in New York City can be difficult and expensive.

STAYING THERE: Three blocks south of Grand Central Station is the W New York -- The Court (130 E. 39th St., 888-625-5144, www.starwood.com/whotels), voted one of the most romantic hotels in the city by readers of Citysearch, an online travel guide. It has a swank lounge in which any pop star of the moment would feel right at home, with drink prices to match. This did much to ameliorate a day spent on the subway for my traveling companion. Rates begin in the low $200s and climb quickly. There are myriad other options; see the tourism office info below.

EATING THERE: South and east of the Transit Museum, Atlantic Avenue is a strongly Middle Eastern district with a number of restaurants and, for a cheap snack, many bakeries selling $2 spinach pies. Sahadi's (187 Atlantic Ave.) sells olives, fruits, grains and prepared foods from the Middle East. It's closed on Sundays and is a mob scene on Saturdays.

SUBWAY EVENTS: The subway officially turns 100 on Oct. 27. A variety of events and tours are planned for the fall and into next year (go to www.mta.info and click on the centennial banner for a full events calendar).

The New York Transit Museum (718-694-1600, http://mta.info/mta/museum), at the corner of Boerum Place and Schermerhorn Street in Brooklyn Heights, is offering the "City Beneath Us" exhibit until January as well as a number of children's programs. Museum admission is $5.

A tour on Dec. 5 will look at how the city integrated its three subway lines into one system. It begins at Times Square and goes behind the scenes of some operating facilities to see how tracks and trains were knit together. (Reservations required, 718-694-1867. $20 for non-members, $15 for museum members.)

The museum also has an annex at Grand Central Station exhibiting architectural and design elements of the system. Also at Grand Central, the annual holiday model train show this year features a mockup of the subway system (Nov. 22 - Jan. 9).

INFORMATION: NYC & Co., 212- 484-1200, www.nycvisit.com.

-- David Jackson