However, you can find dozens of safe ways to avoid this frustration going forward. For example, try state parks, or private museums, or whatever is not tied to Congress and its seemingly endless infighting.
For instance, although we honor Orville and Wilbur Wright with a national park in Dayton, Ohio, that site was a no-go during the shutdown. Nonetheless, it was business-as-usual just sixty minutes to the west, at the Wilbur Wright Birthplace and Museum near Millville, Indiana. This privately run museum (http://www.wwbirthplace.com/#) features the still-standing birthplace home (c. 1867) of Wilbur Wright, along with a mockup of the Dayton neighborhood where the brothers built their airplane. You can also visit various static displays of their adventures in North Carolina, including a model of their airplane. There’s even an airfield out back where model airplane enthusiasts regularly gather to put their planes through their spins and turns.
In Dearborn, Michigan, you’ll find still more homage to the Wright Brothers at the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village, likewise both privately run. These places feature a lot of impressive collectibles gathered by Henry Ford, such as a camp bed used by George Washington (yep, he actually slept here!), the rocking chair in which Abe Lincoln was sitting when he was murdered, and the home of Noah Webster.
You can spend hours viewing massive displays of everything from washing and sewing machines to light bulbs, all of which are meant to mark the economic and cultural development of America. You can devour a good dose of transportation items, such as Model T’s (you can even ride in one), locomotives, and airplanes. Stop to read the 1934 letter from bank robber Clyde Barrow, thanking Mr. Ford for building peppy engines. “For sustained speed and freedom from trouble the Ford has got every other car skinned,” he bragged of the V-8 that he favored for getaways.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park that straddles Tennessee and North Carolina may have been closed, but numerous public highways pass through it, and you can take in the wonderful scenery from them or the byways just outside the park. You can enjoy plenty of places to camp or lodge just outside of the park.
Out West, the infamous former federal prison at Alcatraz Island is part of the Golden Gate Bridge National Recreation Area. Closed due to Congressional bickering? Then head to Angel Island, which also is in San Francisco Bay, and is run as a state park – and didn’t miss a beat during the shutdown! Angel Island (www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=468) served as the Ellis Island of the West Coast from 1910 to 1940, mostly for Chinese immigrants. It later served as a Nike missile base. The view of San Francisco is just as spectacular from there as it is from Alcatraz.
So get out there and enjoy the land and all it has to offer. Ignore that wet blanket called Congress.