Preventing the government shutdown from ruining your D.C. vacation

October 2, 2013

So, you came to D.C. this week expecting to have a grand family vacation: sightseeing at the Smithsonians, touring the Capitol, taking photos of your kids on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The government shutdown has ruined all of that, of course, but you're still here, still on vacation and still hoping to make the best of it. Welcome to This Town.


A US Park Police officer watches at left as a National Park Service employee posts a sign on a barricade closing access to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013. Congress plunged the nation into a partial government shutdown Tuesday as a long-running dispute over President Barack Obama's health care law stalled a temporary funding bill, forcing about 800, 000 federal workers off the job and suspending most non-essential federal programs and services. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Don't panic: Your vacation won't be the same, but it won't be ruined. There are alternatives to every museum that you're missing out on. They may not have the Hope Diamond, but the Hope Diamond is kind of a letdown anyway, to be honest. You could get your hands on one of these guides, or rely upon these few quick substitutions:

• The National Building Museum has an interactive kids' exhibit geared towards building blocks and plenty of architecture for interested grown-ups. If you have a government ID, admission is free during the shutdown.
• The Corcoran Gallery of Art ($10) and the Phillips Collection (free admission to the permanent collection through Friday) are proper substitutes for the National Gallery, with contemporary and historical American artwork.
• The National Geographic Museum, with its exhibits on exploration and biodiversity, could sub in for the Natural History Museum. Government workers can get in for free during the shutdown.
• The Spy Museum and the National Museum of Crime and Punishment can be expensive -- admission is more than $20 for adults at each museum -- but kids love 'em.
• The Newseum, while also on the pricier side at $22, will give you a look at American history through the eyes of journalists.

Prioritize: Are you just trying to keep your kids entertained? We have a guide to kids' activities in the shutdown here. Are you here to see patriotic and historic sites? There are many, like the monuments, that you'll still be able to see from the street -- you just won't be able to get up close (unless you're an elderly WWII veteran). Not every historic site is under the National Park Service: Mount Vernon and Lincoln's Cottage, for example, are still open. Want to take in the sights, even if you won't be able to visit them? Head to the top of the W Hotel or the Kennedy Center, where you can enjoy beautiful vistas of our now-shuttered city -- and maybe get that photo op you were hoping for.

Have a drink: Because a drink always makes everything better. There are special happy hour deals for government workers that extend to the rest of us, too. Here are some of our picks for the best bars in D.C.

Get outdoors: You may not be able to go paddle boating in the Tidal Basin, but you can still spend quality time outdoors, as long as you go to municipal parks. A few accessible hidden gems include the Georgetown Waterfront Park and Yards Park. The weather is supposed to be gorgeous this week, and there are plenty of options for al fresco dining nearby.

Get a good meal: Have you heard that D.C. is an up-and-coming city for foodies? Many tourists who are in town for the usual Mall-'n-monuments march never get to experience some of our best restaurants, since they aren't in the same vicinity. Because you won't be spending as much time at the Mall this week, check out some of our neighborhood guides for tips on good eats and drinks. We also have dozens of lists of the best restaurants within every category -- brunch, dim sum, seafood -- right here. Try Ethiopian food while you're here -- D.C. has a vibrant Ethiopian community and you likely don't have anything like their cuisine in your hometown. Eating with your hands is fun.

Get out of the city: The further you move away from the epicenter of the shutdown, the less likely you are to find things that are affected. Cross the river and take in the historic charm of Old Town Alexandria. How about a day trip to Annapolis or Harper's Ferry? Or a jaunt down to Virginia wine country?

Your trip to D.C. may not be what you expected. But it'll be a fun weekend, we swear.

Maura Judkis covers culture, food, and the arts for the Weekend section and Going Out Guide.
Comments
Show Comments
Most Read Entertainment
Next Story
Fritz Hahn · October 2, 2013