In Washington, where you can't throw a rock without hitting a blockbuster Smithsonian museum, there are plenty of non-federal cultural alternatives, although the free admission offered by most Smithsonian properties is hard to beat.
The Corcoran Gallery of Art ($10 for adults) and The Phillips Collection ($12 for adults) both offer impressive permanent and rotating special exhibitions. For spy thrills, try the popular International Spy Museum ($20.95 for adults).
And just across the state lines in Maryland and Virginia, there's plenty of history and nature to explore. In Virginia, George Washington's privately-owned Mount Vernon is open as usual and it now boasts an underground visitor center and education center. Maryland's Greenbrier State Park has lovely camp sites, canoes and paddle boats. And the Appalachian trail crosses the eastern end of the park.
But sometimes there's no alternative to a headliner attraction.
Sue Michaud of Germantown, Tennessee, is on the brink of 60. She and her husband are planning to celebrate her birthday hiking and exploring the Grand Canyon.
Only their second child-free vacation ever together, they've purchased plane tickets, rented an SUV, pre-paid for their lodging and arranged for a full week off from work for their upcoming trip.
Michaud says she's waited 59 years to see the Grand Canyon.
"Yes, there will be other things we can do there, but the highlight was to finally see the GRAND CANYON!," she wrote in an e-mail.
"Everything else we were going to do, really doesn't mean much to me, at this point. Thanks government. Thanks for ruining our vacation. And a lot of other people's too."