With President Donald Trump and the Congress seemingly on a collision course this week over funding for the President’s border wall, a partial funding lapse for the federal government could occur on Friday night at midnight, which would lead to a shutdown for certain federal agencies, and could have an impact on tourists in the nation’s capital and in national parks around the nation.
“Hey Jamie, we were planning a trip to DC between Christmas and New Year’s,” one listener wrote to me over the weekend.
“We are trying to decide if we should cancel our trip if all the sites will be closed.”
For people who are visiting Washington, D.C., if there is a partial shutdown, it would be a mixed bag for tourists.
The 2019 spending plan for the Congress is finished already, so if there is a partial government shutdown, that won’t impact the Legislative Branch.
That means the U.S. Capitol would be open for regular tours and visitors, as would the Library of Congress, and the Botanical Gardens.
But after that in Washinton, things would get a little trickier, in terms of the museums.
Normally, when there is a lapse in funding, the Smithsonian Museums close, but there are exceptions.
“Should the lapse in appropriations occur at midnight on a Friday or Saturday, the Institution will use prior year appropriations to sustain normal operations during the weekend,” the Smithsonian contingency plan for a shutdown in 2017 stated. “The shutdown would occur on Monday.”
That would describe this shutdown threat, which would mean the Smithsonian would certainly be closed starting on Monday, Christmas Eve.
The Smithsonian Museums are normally closed on Christmas, December 25.
In terms of monuments in the District of Columbia, while those were closed by the Obama Administration during a shutdown, the Trump Administration has not taken such measures, so tourists would be able to go to the World War II memorial, the Lincoln, the Jefferson, and other outdoor monuments around the Tidal Basin and reflecting pool.
But other tourist attractions along and near the National Mall, like the art galleries, the National Archives, and more – would be closed.
Outside of Washington, a shutdown would have a big impact on the National Park Service – the parks will stay open, but services will be curtailed.
“Parks must notify visitors that the NPS will cease providing visitor services, including restrooms, trash collection, facilities and roads maintenance (including plowing), campground reservation and check-in/check-out services, back country and other permits, and public information,” the Park Service wrote in its contingency planning memo from earlier this year.
“Staffing levels will be based on the assumption that no visitor services will be provided,” the guidance states.
“Visitors in campgrounds will not be asked to leave but should be advised that no services will be available,” the Park Service stated.
Here are some examples of what happened during the short shutdown back in January of 2018.
While larger monuments and parks would be open – without services – something like the Statue of Liberty might be treated differently, which would imperil travel plans for thousands of people who already have tickets over next weekend and during Christmas week.