Things to Do in DC Beyond the Smithsonian

Things to Do, Travel Tips, What's New — By Melanie Renzulli on February 28, 2011 at 4:39 pm

The recent budget discussions between the White House and the U.S. Congress has brought up the specter of a government shutdown, an event that could see U.S. national parks, the Smithsonian Institution, and all other facilities managed by the U.S. government locking their gates and closing their doors until a budget agreement is reached. While the prospect of a shutdown is looking less likely, it’s important for tourists coming to the DC area to know that there is still much to do beyond the museums on the National Mall.

While the Smithsonian Museums are star attractions in DC, in no small part due to their free admissions, there are plenty of other activities, attractions, and neighborhoods to explore. Here are a few ideas of things to do in Washington if you’re visiting during a shutdown.

Non-Smithsonian Museums and Galleries
DC is overflowing with museums, and not just the ones run by the Smithsonian. In fact, our guide to Washington’s best art museums lists galleries like the Corcoran Gallery and the Phillips Collection, two world-class museums that are not under the Smithsonian umbrella. Other private museums in the city include the Newseum, the International Spy Museum, and many more.

Enjoy the Performing Arts
The Kennedy Center is known for putting on high caliber operas, plays, and ballets. But many tourists – and even locals – do not know that the Kennedy Center also offers entertainment on the cheap. Every day at 6pm, the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage puts on shows for free. No tickets are required. Just show up in the Grand Foyer at the designated hour and you could be enjoying performances by some of up and coming stars of dance, music, and theater.

Take a Stroll Through the Neighborhood
It is a shame that many tourists leave Washington without having seen some of its wonderful neighborhoods. Washington’s neighborhoods range from the historic, such as Georgetown, to the eclectic, such as Dupont Circle and Adams Morgan. Even Capitol Hill, which lies ┬áin the shadow of the U.S. Government, deserves exploration, in particular its Eastern Market, an old-style covered meat and vegetable market that sees arts and craft vendors move in on the weekend.

Image by laura padgett

Tags: government shutdown, Smithsonian museums