(CNN)For years, Nikeland Nichols has traveled hundreds of miles to march on the streets of Atlanta with his children, sing at the church where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once preached and tour the civil rights figure's birth home.
It's a week to honor MLK but the government shutdown is messing up people's plans
"This is a family thing, this is something that I bring my entire family to," said Nichols, 42, of Mobile, Alabama, of traveling for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. "It's one of the highlights of our year."
But this year, Nichols' cherished tradition is in jeopardy.
The historic Ebenezer Baptist Church and King's birth home are sitting empty and dark behind locked doors as most of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park in Atlanta is closed.
"Because of a lapse in federal appropriations, this National Park facility is closed for the safety of visitors and park resources," said several signs on the landmarks run by the National Park Service.
With the partial government shutdown in its fourth week, many travelers will miss their chance to relive part of King's legacy and teach children about the civil rights movement in the days leading to the federal holiday.
Visitors unaware of the closures were wandering around the park's grounds reading the historic plaques, taking photos at the tomb of King and his wife, Coretta Scott King, and buying a few souvenirs at a gift shop, which remain open.
"It's disheartening and disappointing," Nichols said. "For us, it's very important to see the places that made this man (King) be such a change agent and a front-runner at a time when we were not accepted because of our skin."
The absence of National Park Service rangers in Atlanta brought tears to Bernice King's eyes, the youngest child of the slain civil rights leader and CEO of the King Center.
"I feel a little bit of sadness because our main partner in this area, in this district, is the National Park Service ... and they are not here with us today," King told reporters last week. "I didn't expect to cry over this."