While a lot of the big ticket items will be closed, there's still plenty to do and see in DC. Frankly, some of these less visited venues are more interesting that the high-draw options, and you could plan a perfectly good trip around them alone. So let's take a look at a few:
- Other "National" options: Just because it has National in the title, doesn't mean it is operated by US government. The National Cathedral, while it was given a charter by Congress over a century ago, was entirely privately built and recieves no government funds. The National Building Museum, which I maintain is the best children's museum in DC, will be unaffected by the shutdown. The National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is well off the beaten path for most people, but gets good reviews when I take visitors there, especially Catholic ones. And, of course, the National Geographic is hosting the excellent America I AM exhibit. Don't be fooled by the word "National", take a look to see if it's still open.
- Historic Congressional Cemetery: Bummed by missing Arlington National Cemetery? Well you should be, but all is not lost. I've already suggested Congressional as an alternative, and its a wonderful place to pick up many threads of American history. Big ticket names such as J. Edgar Hoover and John Phillip Sousa are at rest there, but there's really a lot more to talk about than this brief segment can go into.
- Other art museums: Sure, you may have had your heart set on the Da Vinci at the National Gallery of Art, but they're not the only show in town. In the last government shutdown, many of Washington's private art museums experienced a mini-boom. The Corcoran tippled their weekly attendance rate with offers of free coffee and donuts, the Phillips Collection more than doubled their visitors, and the National Museum of Women in the Arts found that they were full up not just with tourists, but with furloughed government workers as well. These people were all on to something. Go find out what is was.
- Pay Museums: In the 16 years since the last shutdown, Washington, DC has seen quite a few new for-profit (or non-profit but pay museums) open up. While the free museums are one of the nation's best deals, these guys offer a good time for your money. If you're not very careful, you just might learn something too. The Newseum has been my favorite, but that's no reflection on the ever-popular International Spy Museum or the relatively new National Museum of Crime and Punishment. And Madame Tussauds has opened a new Presidential Gallery with all 44 Presidents, which I'm looking forward to seeing. I hear the Warren G. Harding is so realistic it actually tries to hit on young women.
- Neighborhoods: Why do you want to be so cooped up on a glorious spring day! Get out and check out all that the real DC has to offer. Wander down U Street and get a half-smoke at Ben's. Go to Kramerbooks in Dupont Circle, put your name in for a table for brunch, and enjoy checking out the books for the hour or so until its ready (not being sarcastic!). Wander around historic Eastern Market and do a little shopping. If you don't need inch thick pork chops or thirty differnt kids of sausage, swing by nearby Labyrinth Game Shop and Hill's Kitchen and get a DC puzzle or a Washington Monument cookie cutter for the folks back home.
Honestly, the more I go into this, the less I think you're going to be missing during a government shut down. If I had to pick an itinerary between the things that I mentioned yesterday the items above, I'd go with today's list.
And hey, local folks, let's help our visitors out. Leave some suggestions in the comments of your favorite non-Federal DC attractions.