While official Washington began its summer sleep this week, the part of the city that has little to do with Republicans and Democrats seemed to wake up.

More people ride Metrorail in July than during any other month, and the Smithsonian museums attract their largest crowds this month: more than 3 million visitors.

While commuter traffic does lighten up in summer -- with this holiday week being the lightest -- overall traffic in the region increases.

Auto travel in the District peaks in summer because of the increase in visitors, while beach traffic adds to the congestion on Maryland roads, local engineers say. Summer is also prime time for the Mall, the region's parks and outdoor entertainment centers such as Wolf Trap.

"I know that in the days before air conditioning, Washington emptied out," said Tara Hamilton, spokeswoman for the D.C. Department of Public Works. "But that's not the case now."

Around the Fourth of July, the nation's capital traditionally cedes its place in the nation's headlines as Supreme Court justices stop issuing opinions, members of Congress return to their home districts and the president flies off to his summer retreat.

And for political Washington, this year is no different than the slowdown following William Howard Taft's summertime departure after he unsuccessfully tried to cool the White House by pointing electric fans toward large bins of ice in the attic.

Gregory Perry, the man in charge of the 14 food stations serving the House of Representatives, can tell you how slow it is on Capitol Hill right now: he usually orders 300 pizzas weekly; this week he hasn't ordered one.

"It's definitely not the busiest," Perry said, slicing the usual order for 25,000 salads in half this week.

"There is no senator in town, so we can't schedule anything," said Mary Beth Caviness, a spokeswoman for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "No, there are no meetings at all."

"Summertime slow? Are you kidding?" said D.C. police spokesman Quentin Peterson. "We've got plenty of work. There are more demonstrations and parades."

There are more homicides, too, statistics show. In general, the number of major crimes and brawls rises with the heat.

Spokesmen for several area hotels said they are 90 percent full, well above the year-round average of 67 percent. Restaurant and shop owners say tourist dollars more than make up for business lost because of vacationing Hill staff members. And the Kennedy Center is packing audiences in.

"I know a lot {local residents} leave -- kids want to go see Mickey Mouse. Families go away," said Martin Marius, who manages Moonlight Travel, a local travel agency. "But a lot of people like to come here. This is a very popular summer spot."

The 5,000 high school students attending Future Business Leaders of America meetings at the Washington Convention Center will help keep the city bustling. Managers of area restaurants, hotels and shops can't understand why some people retain the notion that all of Washington is sluggish in summer.

"I think people have the perception that summer is slower" because Congress adjourns and school lets out, said Dianne Welch, a marketing director for Marriott. "But the fact is, a lot of us are working as hard as ever."

Just in case anyone looking for a job at the Convention Center thinks summer business is slack, Alan Grip, the center's director of sales and marketing, said the record is set straight before anyone is hired.

"We make it clear right during the orientation that there is no down time in summer. We work seven days a week," he said, noting that after the Future Business Leaders leave town, the chemists arrive, followed by a sporting goods trade show.