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A new approach to doing D.C.

If you don't want to spend your vacation in the nation's capital looking out bus windows as you pass by tourist attractions, the new Michelin Green Guide for Washington, D.C., may be your ticket off the bus.

The guide, published by Michelin Travel Publications, which has long done similar guides for Europe, gets you out onto the streets for a personalized tour of Washington and the surrounding areas. Priced at $14.95, it includes maps, history and travel information.

"Washington is rich in tradition and has a great history," D.C. Mayor Sharon Pratt Dixon said in welcoming the guides to the United States. "It celebrates, promotes and highlights the many dimensions of Washington, D.C."

Michelin suggests a two-day or four-day itinerary at the beginning of the book that requires a good pair of walking shoes and enough energy to last from early morning until late into the night.

But if your time in the capital is limited, it's a good source for seeing the major attractions in town.

Fold-out maps, essays on the city's history and architecture and the Michelin star-rating system comprise the bulk of the touring guide.

It is complete with descriptions of 150 selected sights and includes a 30-page atlas of central Washington. There also is a 25-page "Practical Information" section that includes a calendar of events for the area, the best times to visit the District, where to shop and where to mail your postcards.

The "Getting Around Town" section encourages leaving your car at the hotel and using public transportation. Fares are listed for the Metrorail subway system, city buses and taxis, and there are phone numbers to obtain route schedules.

A good way to pass the time on the Metro in between stops is to read the history and information essays about the attractions.

The guide is divided into "Sights" sections, including Capitol Hill, the Mall, the White House, downtown, Foggy Bottom, Georgetown, Arlington, Dupont Circle, embassy row and Anacostia and the eastern riverfront areas.

Within these sections are listings of other sights in the general area and valuable information on sight locations, the closest Metro stop, hours and any costs associated with the attraction.

Symbols also show the availability of handicap facilities, restaurants and whether you're likely to encounter a long line.

A star-rating system is used to rate the attractions. The Capitol, National Air and Space Museum, National Gallery of Art, the memorials, the White House and Mount Vernon all get the top triple-star rating.

The fold-out map at the beginning of the guide and the detailed atlas will help you get around the city without getting lost. Visual aids, including labels of Metro stops and one-way streets, and drawings of buildings, provide enough information to lead you in the right direction.

Pay attention to the trivia and famous quotations highlighted in green throughout the guide. These little-known facts often lead you to new areas to discover.

For example, under the Georgetown heading is a bit of film trivia concerning the staircase made famous in the 1973 movie The Exorcist. And under the DuPont Circle section is information about a neighborhood festival.

The Green Guides are not known for suggesting restaurants or hotels, but the Washington guide offers general areas to visit for lunch and dinner, and a hotel reservation number will provide a list of hotels and prices around the city.

The Washington guide adds to the existing North American guides in New York City, New England, Canada and Mexico. The company has plans to expand the guides to Quebec Province, California and Florida.

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