The end of the shutdown means the Washington area can get back to museum hopping, drum circling, ballroom dancing, cinemagoing and even marrying - all activities that were easy to take for granted before the shutdown took them away. Here's another batch of things we missed most.
Early morning at the National Zoo
The National Zoo, which is scheduled to reopen Friday at 10 a.m., serves as the back yard for many area parents and their children. The ability to roll a stroller onto the zoo grounds with an early riser while the sun is still rising, for free, cannot be overestimated. Children left wondering what the seals are up to, or whether the elephants are still getting their baths, can finally return and see for themselves. And hey, the Panda Cam is back! I remember returning to the zoo with my two little ones after digging out from Snowmageddon 2010. "We're so glad to have you all back," a zoo employee said to my 3-year-old. Well, we are excited to get back again. National Zoo, 3001 Connecticut Ave. NW. 202-633-2614. nationalzoosi.edu. Free.
-- Amy Joyce
What good is a day off -- even an involuntarily, government-imposed furlough -- without the possibility of playing 18, or at least hitting through a bucket at the driving range? All three of the District's public courses, which sit on National Park Service property, were closed during the shutdown, forcing regulars at East Potomac, Langston and Rock Creek golf courses to tee off elsewhere. The courses might not be the most pristine or challenging, but there's nowhere else in the world where you can use the Washington Monument to aim your tee shot, as you can at East Potomac - even if that tee shot lands in a fairway puddle. East Potomac Golf Course, 972 Ohio Dr. SW. 202-554-7660. Langston Golf Course, 2600 Benning Rd. NE. 202-397-8638. Rock Creek Golf Course, 6100 16th St. NW. 202-882-7332. golfdc.com. Prices vary by course and tee time.
-- Alex Baldinger
Art House Cinema at the National Gallery of Art
For years, I've engaged in a kind of rainy-day escapism in the dim light of the National Gallery of Art's giant movie screen. I took a date to the East Building's dated, dusky auditorium to see long-lost documentary footage of John Lennon (a screening at which I found myself seated near a member of Fugazi). I hobbled there in a cast in the rain (and probably against the advice of my doctor) so I might catch a glimpse of the artists Christo and Jean-Claude and the legendary filmmaker Albert Maysles when they attended a screening of "The Gates." I marveled at how the theater landed Alfred Hitchcock's "lost" silent films and screened them this summer accompanied by an instrumentalist.
It's the city's most happening art-house movie theater, the place to find the avant-garde, the foreign and the long-forgotten, the place I go to remind myself that mind-altering ideas about art can indeed be exchanged in this buttoned-up town. And through it all, the admission for this intellectual nourishment has remained a steady and very affordable zilch. nga.govNational Gallery of Art, East Building, Sixth Street and Constitution Avenue NW. 202-842-6799. . Free.
-- Lavanya Ramanathan
Educational eats at Mitsitam Cafe
The Mall is a food desert. So it is with a sigh of relief that we welcome back our nation's government workers - including those who staff the National Museum of the American Indian's Mitsitam Cafe.
Mitsitam, which won "Casual Restaurant of the Year" at last year's RAMMY Awards, teaches diners that Native Americans of the Northern Woodlands feast on game birds, for example, while those from the Great Plains hunt big game. It's the only place on the Mall where you can find squid ink calamari seviche, strawberry-and-corn-stuffed roast duck or Aji-spiced wild greens. In fact, it's pretty much the only eatery on the Mall that the Going Out Guide ever recommends when tourists ask us for a place to get a quick bite.
So welcome back, Mitsitam, and thanks for feeding our tourists -- and maybe teaching them a thing or two. Mitsitam Cafe, National Museum of the American Indian, Fourth Street and Independence Avenue SW (Metro: Federal Center). 202-633-1000. nmai.si.edu.
-- Maura Judkis