WASHINGTON - Cancellations and delays caused by the federal government shutdown spread across the United States on Wednesday, ruining dream vacations, upending carefully laid wedding plans and complicating the lives of millions of people.
From blood drives to daycare programs, musical performances to research projects, the disruptions caused by the political stalemate in Washington sparked growing frustrations and left people scrambling to make alternative plans.
Scores of weddings planned at national parks and monuments around the country were moved or postponed, and vacationers hustled to change their itineraries after finding popular sites from the Statue of Liberty to the Lincoln Memorial closed.
"We're really disappointed. We spent a lot of days waiting for tickets so we just want to go inside the statue," said Gaelle Masse, a tourist from Paris who was startled to discover the Statue of Liberty was closed.
Thousands of tourists with prepaid tickets to visit Alcatraz Island, the famed prison site in San Francisco Bay, were unable to tour the former penitentiary.
In Boston, Italian tourist Federico Paliero and his girlfriend Claudia Costato peered through a closed metal gate to catch a glimpse of the USS Constitution, a wooden, three-masted US Navy ship from the 18th century docked in Boston Harbor that serves as one of the city's major attractions.
Normally buzzing with tourists, the site was nearly abandoned on Wednesday, except for a handful of people looking lost and dismayed as they gawked at a sign explaining the closure.
"Italy is not the only state with money problems," Paliero said, rubbing his thumb and forefingers together.
At Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee, park staff said nearly 30 weddings scheduled for the next two weeks are threatened by the shutdown, which also sent hundreds of campers packing.