Most any touristy plans you had this week are totally useless. The Smithsonian museums are closed. The monuments along that National Mall are barricaded. And the zoo is off-limits. How can you show your visiting family members that your life is more than just your local bar? And what will you do with your own time during your federal staycation?
Luckily, you can still be a tourist in D.C. even if federal Washington is closed. Pull up this guide on your smartphone or print it out and stuff it in your fanny pack—-and if you have any other ideas, drop them in the comments section.
Space Travel: So you can’t go to the National Air and Space Museum. Bikes are trendier than spaceships, anyway. Follow this legend’s lead, and try to hit up the nearly 250 Capital Bikeshare stations. It took him three weekends to complete the mission, but since you don’t have the federal government to distract you, you could push yourself to hit them all in one day.
New Wave Monuments: Forget Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson. There are plenty of underappreciated American heroes in impressive stone form lurking around D.C. Stop by Thomas Circle and take a look at the statute of Civil War hero George Thomas on a huge horse, one of the top equestrian statues in the city. And if you’re sick of America, go to the Indian Embassy and see the statue of Mahatma Gandhi. Now, if Gandhi were speaker of the House…
Avante-Garde: The Smithsonian’s currently shuttered Hirshhorn Museum is a prominent contemporary art museum, but the streets of D.C. are plenty post-modern on their own. See how many pop-up row houses you can find, or better yet, go to 14th Street NW and see if you can spot the restaurant that makes its own vermouth or the one with the pop tart ice cream sandwiches. Or you could just get your contemporary-art fix by going to this weekend’s (e)merge art fair.
Aquatics: It’s a bummer you won’t be able to go paddle-boating in the Tidal Basin. So build your own raft and go boating in the Anacostia.
Hometown Pride: Local D.C. politics get a bad rap. Yes, we’ve affectionately dubbed Marion Barry mayor-for-life, and yes, a number of our elected officials are under federal investigation. Which is sort of funny, since today the federal government is shut down and the D.C. government is kicking. Stop sulking over your canceled Capitol tour and go to the Wilson Building to see functioning bureaucracy in action.
Activism: The Smithsonian museums are free, and so is protesting. And only one of those activities is available to the public during the shutdown, so go find a demonstration. Why not join veteran protestor Connie Picciotto at her peace vigil, which has sat in front of the White House since the Reagan adminstration. She’s already survived a couple of shutdowns, so you’ll be in good hands.
Companionship: Missing the panda cam? Try a city-owned dog park.
Cool Runnings: The monuments may be shutdown, but D.C.’s Segways are still humming. All the usual tour stops are closed, but the weather is just right for a pure, unadulterated Segway ride.
Working Together: Has Congress made you lose all faith in the ability of humans to work together? Then visit the Lamont Street Collective in Mount Pleasant and see how politics and cooperative living can go hand-in-hand.
Correction: Due to a reporting error, this post originally misspelled Mahatma Gandhi’s last name.
Graphic by Brooke Hatfield