8 Washington Tourist Attractions That Are Open During The Government Shutdown

Normally, if you were a government employee with an unexpected (and unpaid) day off work, visiting a Smithsonian museum or a National Park Service memorial would be a good way to kill time. Unfortunately, those aren’t options this week; they’re closed due to the government shutdown.

But not everything in Washington is closed. Here are eight attractions that are staying open, either because they’re private institutions or because they’re operated by parts of the government that are still functioning.

1. Bureau of Engraving and Printing

What is it?The government agency that produces paper currency. It offers tours.

What’s there? According to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing website, “You’ll see millions of dollars being printed during a tour of the BEP. The tour features the various steps of currency production, beginning with large, blank sheets of paper, and ending with wallet-ready bills!”

Why is it open? The BEP literally prints money, so it’s not at the mercy of congressional appropriations.

How much does it cost? Free.

When can I go? Tour hours are listed here. A BEP employee told me they weren’t unusually busy today but she expects traffic to pick up later in the week.

2. The Phillips Collection

What is it? “America’s first museum of modern art.”

What’s there? Modern art. Right now, the Phillips is preparing to launch Washington D.C.’s first Van Gogh exhibition in 15 years. It will open on Oct. 11, even if the federal government hasn’t.

Why is it open? It’s a private museum.

How much does it cost? Normally $US12, but the museum has free admission through Friday and is offering a 50% discount to federal employees with valid identification at its cafe.

When can I go? Daily except Mondays; hours vary.

3. The Corcoran Gallery of Art
What is it? Probably Washington D.C.’s most significant non-government art museum.

What’s there? The Corcoran is “recognised internationally for a distinguished collection of historic and modern American art as well as contemporary art, photography, European painting, sculpture, and decorative arts.”

Why is it open? Because it’s not part of the government. That didn’t stop politicians from demanding the cancellation of an exhibition of sexually explicit Robert Mapplethorpe photographs in 1989, but at least it does mean the shutdown isn’t affecting operations today.

How much does it cost? $US10.

When can I go? Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with hours extended to 9 p.m. on Wednesdays. Visitor information is here.

4. National Building Museum
What is it? “America’s leading cultural institution devoted to the history and impact of the built environment.”

What’s there? Unfortunately, the NBM’s indoor miniature golf season ended on Labour Day. But you can still see the exhibition on Green Schools, which “will look at several examples of what is possible in green school design and provide resources for all of us to consider as we look toward constructing the next generation of school buildings.” That’s what you really were after, right?

Why is it open? Though it was chartered by Congress, the museum is a private non-profit.

How much does it cost? Normally $US8, but admission is free for government workers during the shutdown. Score!

When can I go? Daily, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., except Sundays 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. More information here.

Federal ReserveEccles Building

5. The Eccles Building, Headquarters of the Federal Reserve Board

What is it? The place Jack Lew will have to bring the platinum coin if Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling by Oct. 17.

What’s there? Tours of the Fed headquarters that are “designed for college students and adults with a research interest in the Federal Reserve.” Unfortunately, you have to assemble a group of at least 10 people and arrange the tour at least two weeks in advance, so this is only a good option if you expect a long shutdown.
Art exhibitions in the Eccles Building are also open to the public with just one-week advance reservation; information here.

Why is it open? The Federal Reserve is funded from its own investment activities and not dependent on congressional appropriations.

How much does it cost? Free with advance reservations.

NewseumSam Kittner / NewseumHP New Media Gallery at the Newseum

6. Newseum
What is it? A museum that “offers visitors an experience that blends five centuries of news history with up-to-the-second technology and hands-on exhibits.”

What’s there? A variety of news-related exhibits, many of them interactive. You can read about them here.

Why is it open? It’s a private non-profit.

How much does it cost? $US22

When can I go? Daily, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. More information here.

Fords theatre

7. Ford’s Theatre

What is it?The theatre where President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, which is still actively used as a performance space.

What’s there? Currently, The Laramie Project is showing most nights at 7:30 p.m. There are also walking tours every Saturday that take you inside Lincoln’s assassination.

Why is it open? It’s actually only partially open right now. The theatre is owned by a private non-profit but it’s operated in partnership with the National Park Service, and any NPS-related programs are suspended. As such, you can’t tour the theatre during the day like you normally would.

How much does it cost? That depends on what you’re going for; showtimes and prices here.

8. Arlington National Cemetery

What is it?The largest cemetery for U.S. military veterans and their families, built on the former estate of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

What’s there? 624 acres of grounds, including Lee’s former home (Arlington House) and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Why is it open? Military facilities generally stay open during government shutdowns. However, some aspects of ANC are closed: you can’t visit Arlington House and there are no tours.

How much does it cost? Free admission.

When can I go? Daily, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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