Detours expected on DC’s tourist trail as shutdown affects popular attractions

WASHINGTON — If the partial government shutdown continues into the new year, popular Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo will be closed to the public starting Wednesday.

The National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of Natural History and the National Museum of American History will be closed, along with other well-visited sites, including the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the National Portrait Gallery.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and city tourism officials, however, are highlighting the positives, pointing out the many private museums, galleries and other attractions that will remain open despite the shutdown.

“While the federal government might be closed, D.C. is open for business,” Bowser said in a written statement, listing special exhibits and performances that are unaffected by the stalemate.

“The Museum of the Bible, the Law Enforcement Museum, the new Spy Museum…Women in the Arts museum and all the other museums will be a part of the things individuals can do when they come to Washington,” said Elliott Ferguson, president and CEO of Destination DC, the city’s official tourism organization. 

Unlike the Smithsonian sites, most of the private museums and attractions charge entrance fees, including the National Geographic Museum, the Newseum, the Phillips Collection and Madame Tussauds. Other sites still open include, but are not limited to:

  • National Building Museum
  • Artechouse
  • Kreeger Museum
  • Hillwood Estate, Museum and Garden
  • Washington National Cathedral

People will still be able to see the city’s monuments and memorials and the National Mall, but visitor centers and park ranger talks won’t be available.

“You’ll still have access to the those things. You’ll still have an opportunity to get on a Segway, get on a bicycle or walk through the city,” Ferguson said.

The winter months tend to be a slow period for major conventions and meetings in the nation’s capital, but Ferguson could not rule out the possibility that some visitors to D.C. may have postponed trips because of the partial shutdown.

“We’re keeping our fingers crossed that this government shutdown will be a short-term thing, and we’ll be able to get back to business as usual,” Ferguson said.

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