When asked what Americans could do for New York City in the wake of Sept. 11, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani replied: "Come here and spend money. Go to a restaurant, a famous store, a play--you might actually have a better chance of getting tickets to 'The Producers' now."
Except for "The Producers," the same plea might be applicable to Washington, D.C.
So far, from the looks of things, tourism to New York is still down. Thousands of hotel rooms are vacant, several major Broadway shows are closing or struggling (except for "The Producers," which still sells out) and midtown restaurants are half-empty.
This despite the fact that the city has otherwise bounced back remarkably well. Except in the World Trade Center area at the southern tip of Manhattan, New York still throbs with the vibrant energy, cultural riches and exciting night life for which it is known. And there is an unprecedented mood of unity and fellowship. There's probably never been a better time to visit the city. The lines are gone, and visitors are welcomed with warmth and gratitude.
Hotels, theater groups and other businesses have sweetened the deal with even lower prices. Example: A midtown stalwart, the Woolcott Hotel (4 W. 31st St., between Fifth Avenue and Broadway, telephone  268-2900), has lowered the rate for a standard room from $150 to $99 a night until Oct. 28. During that same period, it's selling junior suites for $109, triples for $119 per night.
Another valuable resource for visitors seeking value, in good times and bad, is the New York Convention and Visitors Bureau at 810 7th Ave., between 52nd and 53rd streets. On its Web site (http://www.nycvisit.com), click on "Hotel Discounts" in the upper left-hand corner of the page (or call the bureau's hotel hotline at  846-7666) and you will find that dozens of hotels in prime locations have plenty of availability and have dramatically reduced their rates.
If, in particular, you've dreamed of staying at a luxury hotel in Manhattan, now might be your best chance. Several four-star midtown establishments are charging well under $175 a night.
Note: The Convention and Visitors Bureau guarantees that its rates are the lowest available, so book online the moment you spot an attractive offer.
Many top-notch Broadway and off-Broadway productions are struggling to fill their seats. Off-Broadway theater, more edgy and provocative than the usual Broadway fare, is offering special discounts for anyone willing to see a minimum of two shows. Just go to one of 30 or so participating off-Broadway productions and remember to keep your ticket stub. Show the stub when purchasing your ticket at another participating show through the end of October, and the latter ticket will be 50% off.
Participating productions include "Hello Muddah! Hello Fadduh!" "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change," "Forbidden Broadway 2001: A Spoof Odyssey," "Love, Janis" and "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)." Check with individual theaters for information.
At 2 World Trade Center, a TKTS booth for reduced-price theater seats was destroyed by the terrorist attacks. But the main TKTS location remains open at 47th and Broadway in Times Square, and a temporary booth in Bowling Green Park Plaza, at Manhattan's southern tip, was scheduled to open this past Thursday. Visit TKTS online at http://www.tkts.com.
You can also get reduced-price Broadway tickets in advance by visiting http://www.playbill.com. Simply join (it's free) for discounted tickets to such hits as "Beauty and the Beast" and "Rent."
Our nation's capital isn't nearly as tourist-dependent as New York City, but its economy has suffered almost as much in the wake of the Sept. 11 attack on the Pentagon. Like the Big Apple, D.C. is offering some big hotel discounts to entice visitors to its historic precincts.
Is D.C. ready for tourists? The city's Convention and Tourism Corp. replies with an emphatic yes. "Every feature that has made our area such a viable place to live, visit, work and do business in is intact and as strong as ever," one representative said.
Using the DC Visitors Web site (http://www.washington.org), we found greatly reduced hotel rates. Individual hotels and chains are also offering sensational discounts. After a multimillion-dollar renovation, the Virginian Suites in Arlington, Va. (just across the Potomac from downtown Washington), is open, and with some great prices to boot. Weekend packages ( 275-2866 or http://www.virginiansuites.com/docs/pac-weekend.html) start at $69 per night for a single-or double-occupancy standard suite, or $109 for a deluxe suite. (The offer is valid on Friday and Saturday nights, and you must stay at least two nights to get the special rate.)
The River Inn in Foggy Bottom is also offering a special weekend rate, and for its luxury suites: $89 per night for single or double occupancy if you stay two nights (all Fridays and Saturdays and some Sundays). Continental breakfast is included. Inquire about special parking rates, and check out the details at http://www.theriverinn.com or call (800) 424-2741.
Most of Washington's usual attractions are open to visitors. Metro trains and buses are on a regular schedule, and most museums--including the National Gallery, the Smithsonian Museums and the Holocaust Memorial Museum--are open.
Not sure what you would do with yourself once you arrive in D.C.? The city's tourism Web site is filled with information, including suggested itineraries and calendars of events. You might also want to look at an online guide to the city at http://www.frommers.com/destinations/washingtondc.