September 30, 2013 by toursbybecca
It has been a busy summer here in Washington, DC! As September comes to a close, a slight crisp has filled the air and we sit here, Monday evening, honoring a very strange holiday. It’s fiscal year eve in DC! This may not be a holiday as well known as Memorial Day or Thanksgiving but it’s one that has an important impact on life here in the District – if the federal government cannot come to an agreement on a spending bill (or if the President vetoes the bill that’s sent to him), the government will shut down at midnight tonight.
District denizens have been facing a threat of shutdown almost every year in recent imagination but an actual shutdown has not occurred since 1995. That shutdown was our longest in history – stretching 21 long days! While I’ve already covered the frustrations caused by sequestration earlier this year, it may seem as though a shutdown won’t change much – but it will!
The Bad News
If the government shuts down tonight and continues for the foreseeable future, the shutdown will have an impact on visitors who may be arriving this week or next week to DC. The biggest shock for the unprepared will be closures – all Smithsonian museums, including the National Zoo, the Holocaust Museum, and the National Archives. Additionally, all government buildings (like the Library of Congress, Capitol Visitor Center, and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing) will be closed – even if you had a Capitol tour scheduled in advance, you will not be able to access the building at all. As a general rule of thumb, if it’s a museum or site that is usually free, it will probably be closed during the shutdown.
Update: Right now, as per the latest update from the Washington Post, the memorials and monuments on the National Mall will have barricades in place to limit visitor access to this sites. This includes the closure of associated facilities – no restrooms, gift shops, or refreshment stands will be open. However, based on my latest conversation with two Park Rangers, this barricades may not actually prevent your entry to the site – it will likely just result in a less than ideal photo! Depending on how many barricades are able to go up tonight, you might not even notice that the National Park Service has been affected by the shutdown!
The Good News
There’s actually more good news than bad for visitors! The city of D.C. will be open for business and tourism as usual, including Metro rail and bus service. All private museums will remain open – that includes such fantastic sites as the Spy Museum, the Newseum, the National Building Museum (thanks to Liz for pointing out this great museum!) and Mount Vernon (a full list of museums that will remain open can be found here.) One of my favorite gems of the city, Washington National Cathedral will be open – they are free but ask for a small donation. Arlington National Cemetery has also announced their intention to remain open as usual.
One small benefit of a government shutdown is that many restaurants and bars will start to run Shutdown Specials! Be sure to utilize social media to find out what eateries near your accommodations may be offering discounted drinks, appetizers, and treats during the shutdown.
Most Importantly: Don’t Cancel Your Trip!
While a government shutdown will certainly affect both residents and visitors alike, there is still so much to see and do in our nation’s capital. You discover a vacation and the city is here to help make sure you get one! Tour guides, like myself, will still be sharing the city with those who want to discover its history and stories. Walking tours, like those offered by DC By Foot, are a great option for folks who need some guidance for navigating the city during a shutdown.
If you have any questions about how the shutdown will affect your upcoming trip or would like to take advantage of my own Shutdown Special, contact me at toursbybecca [at] gmail [dot] com or visit me on Facebook!