The countdown to doom started Monday on the National Mall as tourists scrambled to jam in as many Smithsonian museums as they could before the almost certain government shutdown Tuesday that would close all of the federally funded museums.
“I’ve waited all my life and wasted all my money to get here,” said Kayla Martin, 65, a teacher from Texas who arrived in D.C. via car Sunday night with some family members. “This would be terribly disappointing.”
Martin and her family were planning to visit three Smithsonian museums and the Arlington National Cemetery Monday in case everything was closed Tuesday. (Update, 1:54 p.m. A spokeswoman for Arlington National Cemetery says the cemetery would remain open during a government shutdown for people to walk around, although guided tours, which are run by the National Park Service, won’t occur.)
Lisa Luster of Arkansas was also aiming for three museums. On Tuesday, she said, she’d be going far away from D.C., opting to check out Annapolis instead.
Johnnie Looney and his family, visiting from South Carolina, had already visited the Bureau of Printing and Engraving earlier in the morning and were going to try get their three young boys through the American History Museum and Air and Space Museum today.
“We’re mad,” Looney said.
If Congress doesn’t pass legislation to fund the federal government in the fiscal year that starts tomorrow, Looney said he’d be taking his family to the International Spy Museum, which costs $20.95 to enter for anyone older than 12 and $14.95 for kids ages 7 to 14.
Private museums like the Spy Museum are expecting a boom in visitors tomorrow if the government shuts down.
“We can look at the advantage of what is a confounding situation with the government on the Hill,” said Jason Werden, public relations manager at the International Spy Museum. “We are lucky that we get to stay open and our doors are open.”
If their museum- and monument-hopping itineraries have to be scrapped, tourists may be forced to explore other parts of town.
“I like the city,” says Martin, the teacher from Texas. “I can understand why a rich person would want to be a senator here.”
Photo by Perry Stein.