The shutdown hasn’t shut down D.C.
There’s no doubt that tourist attractions in Washington, D.C., are especially hard hit by the partial federal government shutdown.
The nation’s capital is home to the Smithsonian museums, galleries and National Zoo, as well as the memorials on the National Mall — all operated by the federal government.
But that’s not all that Washington has to offer.
Ask any resident, and they will tell you there is so much more to enjoying the District of Columbia than visiting federally funded sites. And some of these businesses and nonprofits need you to travel here more than ever, since many locals aren’t getting a paycheck and aren’t spending as much money on extras.
“Even though the partial federal government shutdown has closed signature DC experiences like the Smithsonian Institution museums and the National Zoo, the National Gallery of Art and the National Archives, there are still plenty of options for visitors,” says Elliott Ferguson, president and CEO of Destination DC. “We have amazing restaurants, theater, concerts, shopping and seasonal favorites.”
Museums and historic sites
There are so many museums beyond the famous spots operated by the Smithsonian, whether you care about the media (Newseum) or the US military (the African American Civil War Museum) or architecture (the National Building Museum).
The US Holocaust Memorial Museum may have already been on your list, and it’s thankfully still open, as are the National Museum of Women in the Arts (the Rodarte exhibition runs through February 10), Washington National Cathedral (look for the Darth Vader Gargoyle) and Folger Shakespeare Library.
The US Botanic Garden already received its funding for the year, so it’s open for visitors (although the weather might keep you focused on the greenhouses).
There’s plenty to see stage, too.
While the city may be best known for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, it also has a bustling theater scene, including Arena Stage, the Shakespeare Theatre and the Woolly Mammoth Theater. While the historic site at Ford’s Theatre, where President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, is closed, performances at the theater will go on.
“D.C.’s theaters are like D.C.’s restaurants — they range from cheap to pricey, homey to haute, adventurous to comfort-foodie,” said Trey Graham, a longtime D.C. arts journalist who hosts a weekend show on Classical WETA.
“On a given night. you can see anything from a world-class Richard III — the Shakespeare Theatre is producing it starting February 5, in fact — to a brand-new drama from a Washington-based playwright with a national reputation.”
Let’s get outside
Bundle up and head outside to explore the National Mall, where visitors can see many federal monuments even though there are limited services. (The District of Columbia government took over picking up trash and clearing snow from the roads for the first 20 days of the shutdown, until National Park Service visitor fees were shifted to cover those services.)
The nation’s capital is beautiful at night, so take advantage of a nighttime trolley or bus tour to see the city.
A table at one of Washington’s best restaurants is probably easier to get these days, so why not try Amy Brandwein’s Centrolina or Jose Andreas’ longtime Spanish tapas spot, Jaleo? If you need more choices, The Washington Post’s Tom Sietsema has a terrific dining guide.
Didn’t like any of those options? Check out Destination DC’s site for more ideas, and you can sort the list by preferences.