Here we are…coming into the weekend of the biggest party in the District. It only happens once every four years and the last one brought two million people to town…and Jay-Z.
It’s time for Inauguration.
Don’t call this a definitive guide to the weekend and the event, but as part of my full-time job I’ve been obsessively covering the build up to the event. And so my plan is to pass on some pretty common sense knowledge and maybe a bit of trivia.
First thing’s first. If you haven’t made plans to come into town to see President Barack Obama sworn into office again, don’t worry. There’s still time. As this article in the LA Times points out there are still affordable lodging options. A quick search of my own turned up some pretty nice places to crash for a fraction of the forecasted price a few months ago. Airbnb offers up apartments throughout the District for prices ranging from $93/night for a futon on Capitol Hill to $1019/night for a luxury apartment in downtown DC. The average price was in the $250-300/night range. A little advice here: don’t get fleeced on a place close to the National Mall when neighborhoods like Adams Morgan and Cleveland Park and Mount Pleasant are far cheaper. Those spots are close enough for walking or biking to the Mall for the festivities. Some of the offers also throw in tickets to the parade or swearing-in, that might be a way to get a better deal. But remember, there are plenty of spots to watch both for free if you’re fine with being a bit further away.
So let’s talk about the parade and swearing-in. Again tickets will get you into specific zones closer to the Capitol or seating on bleachers along the Pennsylvania Avenue parade route. The only way to get these tickets legitimately is through your senator or representative or through the Presidential Inauguration Committee…but guess what? Yeah…they’re all gone. You can get them on some re-selling sites but most big sites like StubHub.com have taken down their listings at the request of guys like Chuck Schumer.
With that said, I don’t really recommend the secondary purchase market. There are too many shadesters in places like Craigslist trying to scam you. That and there’s something to be said about paying $250 for something that was free to begin with. Also keep in mind that there will be jumbotrons set up along the Mall between 4th street and 12th street. Either way, it’s not like you’re going to get to high-five the president…unless you’re Joe Biden(and Joe…if you’re reading this, thanks, and please high-five Obama…that would be awesome!). The advice applies to the official inaugural balls, but there are a bunch of unofficial galas still offering tickets.
Now you’ve either got a ticket, or you’re fine with standing with the common folk. You’ve still got a lot of planning to do. How are you getting to the Mall?? Well Metro is the way to go and it’s going to be super-busy. In 2009 the system was annoyingly congested, but this year they say they’ve got the glitches sorted out. It also helps that they are expecting a million fewer people. Metro has a great site set up telling you everything you need to know in advance. They’ll be opening early…really early, at 4am. But the earlier you go the better things will be for you. And they are offering a commemorative Smartrip card pre-loaded with a one-day pass. Please, please, please, please…pretty…please do not drive into the District. Traffic’s already gonna be a nightmare and we don’t need anymore tourists trying to figure out the difference between NW and SW while behind the wheel. Not to mention the people who live in town still need somewhere to park. Metro offers a bunch of parking options…that’s the way to go.
Also don’t forget about your legs. America’s got an obesity problem, do the country a service and walk.
Now that you’re down on the Mall, I hope you wore some really comfortable shoes. You are going to be standing for an absurdly long time. Also plan on freezing. The average high on Inauguration Day is 43 degrees Fahrenheit (6 C)…but it’s been as cold as 7 F (-14 C) and as warm as 55 F (13 C) coincidentally the high and low both happened for Ronald Reagan’s inaugurations in 1981 and 1985. The forecast is calling for 40 F (4 C). The rule of thumb is to dress for weather ten degrees colder than forecasted. Yeah it sucks carrying an extra jacket around if things warm up, but it sucks way more to get hypothermia. Also you can’t take backpacks into the secure zone (btw here’s a list of what can’t be taken), so your extra jacket becomes a de facto backpack for cameras and water bottles and phones. Another tip: if it’s really cold keep your phone or battery in an interior pocket close to your chest…it’ll keep your battery from dying.
Ok, so comfortable shoes…check. Extra layers…check. Camera…check. Water…check. But don’t drink too much! There will be 2500 porta-potties, but some are saying that’s not enough and the National Park Service frowns upon peeing on trees (don’t ask how I know that).
Now you’re ready to watch Barack Obama swear an oath to four more years in office…but, wait. He already did. Yes, according to the 20th Amendment of the Constitution the president’s term officially starts on the 20th of January. And on Sunday, the president and vice president will go through a smaller swearing-in ceremony at the White House. This makes Monday a bit anti-climatic, right? Well, not so much. You see it’s only the 7th time this has ever happened, and it’s only the second time that Inauguration Day has coincided with Martin Luther King, Jr. day…and certainly the symbolism of this confluence of historic events is lost on no one. And perhaps while you’re down on the Mall for the swearing-in, you can stop and pay your respects to Dr. King at his majestic memorial.
Of course everyone’s going to be straining to see what Michelle Obama has on, and what her hair looks like, and whether President Obama will give a fist-bump to Chief Justice John Roberts after the swearing-in. But don’t forget to pay attention to the Bibles. Yes, Bibles. The president is taking the oath on two Bibles, one was Abraham Lincoln’s, the other belonged to the aforementioned Dr. King.
And the swearing-in is just a piece of the program…there will be an invocation given by Myrlie Evers-Williams, the widow of Medgar Evers who was gunned down in his Jackson, Mississippi driveway in 1963. Some poetry read by Richard Blanco and the National Anthem sung by Beyonce.
Once that wraps…make your way to Pennsylvania Avenue for the Inaugural Parade. Crowds will have lined up starting at 7am so it’s kind of an either/or thing, but you might catch a good spot. And if you do, please for
the love of all-things-Marion-Barry pay attention to the presidential limousine license plates. The DC Council spent an unreal amount of time getting the president to change out his plates to the one’s that read “Taxation without Representation” so do them a favor and pay attention and then pester your lawmaker about DC statehood. Thanks.
A record 2800 groups applied to be a part of the Inaugural Parade…and just about 70 were selected. Some are high school marching bands selling pies and washing cars to make the trip. Others are community organizations displaying the cultural diversity of America. Whoever they are, they worked hard to get onto Pennsylvania Avenue so cheer them on! And of course there will be well-trained military units marching along to start the parade…this is kind of their party.
The big question is whether, and when and where the president will walk along the parade route. I can’t help you there, although if you manage to be on the stretch of Penn between 15th and 17th you have a decent chance of seeing the presidential strut.
Now the parade’s over and the mass exodus begins. My advice: chill the F*&% out. Head into a museum, go to a memorial, find a place to people watch. There’s no point in getting stuck in the madness when the museums will be open and warm. I’m sure they’ll be super busy too. I’d say take a walk up to the American Art Museum, they’re open til 7pm, and they tend to be less crowded than the others. It’s adjacent to the National Portrait Gallery, which is open until 6pm, and they have portraits of president’s past to satisfy your newfound presidential curiosity. And you’ll be right across the street from the Chinatown Metro stop.
Now there will be parties…lots of them. Except we call them Balls (not that kind of party, sicko). The official Inaugural Balls are hosted by the PIC and are sold out, but there’s a ton of other parties on the agenda throughout the city. So here’s the best way to party with En Vogue. Seriously, search around and you’ll find a party if you want to keep it going long into the night…speaking of which, bars throughout the District will be staying open until 4am throughout the weekend …so much for New Year’s resolutions.
There is so, so much more…if you need an answer you’ll find it. But we just figured this would be our public service for the weekend. Oh and if you want some great twitter feeds for the inauguration here you go: