July 8, 2010 at 1:58 pm EDT | by Steve Kilar
Your next vacation is a Metro stop away

(Photo by Steve Kilar)

Time and money are short. Here are some ideas to use both effectively when you have a bit of each this summer. Washington offers plenty for people who cannot get away to Rehoboth. Start at the Smithsonian Metro station. Pretend you’re a tourist and walk toward the Jefferson Memorial. Take a Tidal Basin paddle-boat break, if you like.

But hang a left before the memorial, walk beneath an underpass and behold more than 300 acres of recreation.

Hains Point, also known as East Potomac Park, is a man-made island that offers golf, tennis, a public pool and mini-golf all within the District’s limits.

Although the mini-golf course is no frills, a game can be followed with a pitcher of brew at the Potomac Grille, inside the club house. There are tables outside that look out onto the practice green and a driving range.

If you would actually like to play golf, instead of just putt-putting, take a lesson from Capital City Golf School. For $99, you can enroll in the “Get Golf Ready in 5 Days” group class, six hours of instruction that will teach you the basics of driving, putting and course etiquette.

The price includes the use of clubs and range balls. No equipment investment needed.

If golf does not suit you, the East Potomac Tennis Center offers individual lessons year-round on its indoor and outdoor courts.

When you finish enriching the athlete within, head back toward Southwest and stop off at the Maine Avenue Fish Market for a bite.

Vendors at the Wharf, as it is also known, have been selling fresh seafood in nearly the same place for more than 200 years. The storefronts are actually floating barges and a live blue crab on ice can quickly tip toe over the edge and drop into tidal waters.

Crabs can be bought by the bushel and sellers will season and steam them on site, while you wait. If you would rather not go home with bulk seafood, some stores also sell lunches you can eat on location, overlooking the river.

While you’re near the waterfront, walk south by the docks until you reach Cantina Marina, a watering hole for sailors who have weighed anchor alongside D.C.’s famous boathouse colony.

The restaurant’s colorful upper-deck boasts views of the Jefferson Memorial, the Washington Monument and marinas crowded with yachts.

If the Cantina’s margaritas make you want to raise a jib, then take a sailing lesson next door at the National Maritime Heritage Foundation. Beginner lessons for adults, which can be completed in two consecutive weekends, cost $350.

Prefer your ship to have a motor? Then take a cruise on the Spirit of Mount Vernon, a two-hour river tour that ends at George Washington’s homestead. You’ll have three and a half hours to enjoy the estate before you cruise back to Pier 4, about three blocks from the Waterfront Metro stop.

Round-trip cruises run Tuesday through Sunday until Aug. 22. They leave Washington at 8 a.m. and return at 3 p.m. The cost is approximately $45 per adult.

Spokes and spandex are also welcome at George Washington’s home. The Mount Vernon Bike Trail allows for comfortable car-free pedaling almost all of the way from Roosevelt Island to Mount Vernon.

The only portion of the trail where bikers share the road with motorized vehicles is passing through charming Old Town Alexandria.

The bike path is 36 miles round trip but bike time can be shortened by starting at either the Braddock Road or King Street Metro stations.

If the outdoors don’t agree with you, check out the house that cereal built, the Hillwood Estate. Marjorie Merriweather Post, of Grape-Nuts fame (and fortune), amassed an impressive collection of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century decorative arts that are now on display in her Washington home, east of Van Ness. The house is surrounded by manicured gardens and ornate statuary.

When you’ve finished examining Hillwood’s Fabergé eggs, stop into the nearby Acacia Bistro, sip wine and learn from the knowledgeable staff about each bottle you enjoy.

If you have a day and want to get out of town, try these options: kayak or tube down the Potomac or Shenandoah Rivers from Harpers Ferry, W. Va.; hike or mountain bike in Lost River State Park, W. Va.; taste local flavors at one or more of Virginia’s vineyards near Monticello; or visit the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore.

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